Ecommerce: How do I do it and how much will it cost?

30th March 2012

Or: How to sell stuff from your website

There are many secure and effective options for selling goods online. Which one is best for you will depend on the size of your business, the products you sell, your brand and your plans for the future.

We have put together this handy guide as a starting point to help you think through the issues and the options. It is by no means exhaustive, but if you are thinking of starting a new sales enterprise online, then give us a call, or drop in for a coffee and a chat. We have designed and built many ecommerce websites over the years, for all types of businesses large and small, and we will be happy to help if we can. 

Buy now
Cost : £    
Suitable for: Low value items and / or low volume sales 

This is a great solution for someone selling low value items or dealing with low volumes. PayPal and Google Checkout offer buy now buttons which can be added to any web page easily, and there are no set up costs. 

Product catalogue with hosted checkout and payment system
Cost: ££
Suitable for: Start-ups and new brands with multiple products

We like this option, as it involves two of our favourite systems, MODX and Foxycart. It's an evolution of the buy now concept, except that products are added to a shopping cart held on the Foxycart system. This way you get an ecommerce system that is maintained, secure and fully PCI compliant with a minimal ongoing fee. We get complete creative control over the look and feel of the product pages so you get a design that has not been compromised. Foxycart allows you to sell digital downloadable as well as physical products and has some great features such as discount codes, gift vouchers, bulk order discounts and many more. You can see this combination of technologies in action at the MyMindWorks website (one of ours of course!).

Hosted store
Cost: ££
Suitable for: Start-ups and new brands with multiple products

If you are setting up an on-line business, this is a good way to get started because you get all the advantages of a ready-made store, plus the ability to have your designer customise templates to your brand.  Our favourite is Shopify as it offers a great feature set and good flexibility in their templating system, allowing the likes of us to create a well designed store. Others include ekmPowershop, Shop Maker, Sellro and Volusion.  They all charge a subscription, and all of them have their quirks and limitations on functionality, but it is a great way to get started.

Custom store with hosted payment processing
Cost: £££
Suitable for: New and established on-line brands

This solution is the best for any on-line business where design really matters; either because of the unique nature of the product or buying process, or as a brand statement. You and your designer have complete control over the layout, look and feel of your store. The payment itself is done through a secure gateway but even this can be customised to your brand.

Fully bespoke ecommerce solution
Cost: ££££
Suitable for: High volume stores with a wide and fast-moving product range 

If you are you the next Amazon, then this is for you. It is a complete, custom design built around your business model and integrated seamlessly with your merchant bank account, your accountancy system and your distribution centre.  This big business approach to online selling requires serious planning and investment. Your choice of web partner is crucial, but well designed and implemented, you will have a robust and truly scalable website for long-term return.