Tell me how to sell things on the internet.
October 19, 2005 10:18 AM   Subscribe

Tell me how to sell things on the internet.

I have some products I am interested in selling online. I've got a thorough knowledge of marketing and promotion (no spamming, I promise), but I would like to know what the best resources are for learning about the business end, such as getting a secure site with a "shopping cart" and a merchant account to accept credit cards, that sort of thing. I'm not interested in eBay or PayPal. I imagine there are quite a few people on MeFi who do just this. Suggestions? I'm happy to be pointed to both online and offline books and materials, as long as it's not Don LaPre's "MAKE BIG MONEY ON THE INTERNET NOW!" Thanks!
posted by Optimus Chyme to Work & Money (18 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: You might look into a Yahoo store. I think they do much of the work for you on the "e" part of e-commerce.
posted by caddis at 11:14 AM on October 19, 2005

Response by poster: That's pretty good, caddis. Thanks.

I'd love to hear more options or advice from other people. Come out to play, lurkers!
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:28 AM on October 19, 2005

Reading material on affiliate programs.
posted by Rothko at 11:46 AM on October 19, 2005

Response by poster: Cafepress allows you to add custom logos on predefined products.
posted by webmeta at 11:45 AM PST on October 19 [mark as best answer]

Not the business I'd be in, but thank you anyway. :)

Thanks for the link, Rothko.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 11:49 AM on October 19, 2005

Best answer: If you're running this on your own hardware, an overview of popular open source commerce software.
posted by Rothko at 11:54 AM on October 19, 2005

Best answer: Both oscommerce and Mals-e are free and customizable. Mals-e is especially easy to use. You will have to pay to process credit cards if you don't like paypal.
posted by Alison at 12:14 PM on October 19, 2005

I have both developed an e-commerce site, and helped someone set up and maintain a Yahoo store.

Unless there's some particular customization you absolutely need that a Yahoo store can't provide, or the size of your catalog or the volume of your sales makes it cost-ineffective (in which case you'd probably be hard pressed to hire someone to develop it, too,) I'd recommend just going with the Yahoo store.

Among other things, if you have your own merchant account and receive customer credit cards personally, then you have to be drop-dead responsible for keeping that data secure (including, depending where you are, complying with state laws to notify all users if there's any chance their data has been compromised.) A Yahoo Store makes all this Someone Else's Problem.

But I say all this without familiarity with the open source commerce software Rothko links to -- it didn't exist when I rolled my own.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:15 PM on October 19, 2005

What does a yahoo store look like to the user? Can someone point to examples of yahoo stores in operation? Is there a way to do the same thing cheaper if you're willing to learn how to (or steal some) code?
posted by TurkishGolds at 12:28 PM on October 19, 2005

Response by poster: What does a yahoo store look like to the user?

I'm also interested in this. If I'm paying for it, I don't want it to be Yahoo-branded all over the goddamn place. From what I can tell it's the eBay store that are heavily plasted with eBay shit.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 12:47 PM on October 19, 2005

Here's one that was featured on the Yahoo small business page: Eat Gourmet.
posted by caddis at 1:17 PM on October 19, 2005

For my venture I buy a lot from Stained Glass Warehouse and it's run through a Yahoo store.

While I like them, I find the setup kinda eh. If nothing else, their system always insists I'm going to get my stuff shipped UPS and it actually goes FedEx. I realize that seems petty to whine about but it makes using tracking numbers difficult if you don't know about it or recognize styles.

If in the course of your research you come across anything targeted at selling unique items (vs osCommerce which seems more to lend itself to mass-manufactured stuff) I'd be very interested in hearing about it.
posted by phearlez at 1:20 PM on October 19, 2005

I am currently building a Yahoo store and it seems to be incredibly easy. I haven't gotten my merchant account yet, though - I should have that within 3-5 days and then I will try to get them to play nicely together. (If anyone has any tips on that, please let me know).

Overall, I have been happy with the Yahoo store experience so far. You can use one of their templates are go as custom as you want.
posted by Ostara at 1:22 PM on October 19, 2005

Yahoo stores are things like the H*R store, justdeals, and several others - basically, if it looks like those two it's probably a Yahoo store.
posted by mrg at 1:33 PM on October 19, 2005

Why are you not interested in ebay? And can you say what products you plan to sell?
posted by fire&wings at 1:50 PM on October 19, 2005

Response by poster: I'm not interested in eBay because I don't feel the product line lends itself to individual auctions and because eBay is a cesspool of scammers and rip-off artists.

I cannot reveal my products for a variety of reasons.

Finally, this thread has been really good and helpful and I will mark best answers tomorrow around this time so keep 'em coming! I genuinely appreciate you all taking time out of your day to help me out. :)
posted by Optimus Chyme at 2:03 PM on October 19, 2005

Best answer: Okay. I tried a shopping cart on my purpose built site, then found eBay and never looked back. I had spent moderate amounts of money on advertising, and spent a lot of time fretting over search engine rankings to bring people to my site, all for little return. I moved to eBay and made a relative fortune without really lifting a finger. I left my old shop up for a while, but after that 95% of my traffic was coming through my eBay sales anyway. Now I use eBay on the side to indulge my passion and make some pocket money, while earning my main wage solely from work for clients that found me on eBay.

IMO for a lot of products there is very little point building a small to medium e-commerce site on the internet when eBay exists. It's like building a shop 100km out of town, on a raft in a lake, rather than in the high street. Difficult and pointless. Ebay is fully customisable and makes everything easy. There is a massive userbase on eBay waiting to spend. For a lot of the users eBay is the first port of call (even before google) for buying almost anything. It's no coincidence that large companies like Canon, Swatch, Linguaphone, Oxfam etc use eBay stores instead of, or in conjunction with their own online stores. It's the easiest way to reach people, and it's easy to brand so you are not lost in amongst "regular joe" who is also selling your product.

My product is not tailor made for auctions, but in the end I made more (sometimes wildly more) auctioning items than pricing them myself. eBay does a lot more than straight ahead auctions, in fact it will do almost everything for you, and is certainly not a cesspool. I am not going to start quoting figures, but you can go and look yourself at any statistics relating to rip offs on there, it amounts to less than a percent or something. Whatever the current headlines about eBay there will always be a greater level of public trust with them than with any 3rd party checkout system asking for your credit card details, and rightly so because for anyone with common sense eBay allows for comeback against the merchant, and purchase protection.

There are instances when eBay isn't suitable. For instance if you plan on selling highly customisable items than need complicated interfaces or items with exceptional prestige that won't stand the dilution of association with ebay (pointless when your product will end up there anyway, new and second hand.) Obviously if you plan on starting the next then eBay is pointless.. Whatever, your reasons for writing it off are shaky and uninformed and if you're willing to consider Yahoo stores then you should take a look at ebay.
posted by fire&wings at 2:43 PM on October 19, 2005

Response by poster: your reasons for writing it off are shaky and uninformed

Hell, you should see my post history.

I'll check out the eBay program as well.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 3:23 PM on October 19, 2005

Response by poster: Thanks everyone for kickass answers and introducing me to a whole host of options.
posted by Optimus Chyme at 8:36 AM on October 20, 2005

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