The highly competitive ecommerce arena has begun to see an evolution in the paradigm of packages prices and shopping cart platforms. Many ecommerce management software providers are successfully bundling their ecommerce software with storefront templates, shopping carts, and complete marketing services making it easy for the inspired entrepreneur to start an online retail business.
While the internet itself always provided a revitalized, virtually unlimited opportunity for making money, there still existed – as with most pursuits – numerous challenges and a somewhat slippery learning curve. Foremost among the obstacles for excited proprietors and transitioning companies, was adapting an existing local retail business to the web: stores without stores, displays without bulky shelving comprised solely of pixels, customers service departments replaced by phone agents, and the unending yearning to create significant brand awareness in a market that had no regional boundaries.
However, the advantage of the internet was the profusion of readily available information, and the game began to change slowly, and then rapidly, in a historically unrivaled communication of knowledge in the form of everything internet, from html tutorials to shopping cart solutions, all for the taking for those willing to eager to learn – and to pay. And, so the future and ecommerce were born, fast and unrelenting. The merchants of small town life often seen sweeping the steps of their shops each morning, tidying their stores for the days traffic, spent more time in front of their computers, changing the graphic on their banner ads, as the first, obvious element of online business was recognized. Though online retailers would still require consistently reputable customer service departments and quality products to sustain repeat buying and avoid dangerous complaints from newly sprung online review sites, proprietors foremost need was for a presentable online location – a good website – and ten thousand web design companies responded on cue in a Starbucks-sustaining din, accented by the sound of fingers-flying across Dell keyboards and the exuberance of freshman classes filling the seats of newly-created college web classes.
A good web design, a user friendly shopping cart, the right niche products, and successful SEO and cost-per-click marketing quickly arose as ingredients of a winning web formula that companies had to struggle to discover, understand, and master. And, inevitably, as the necessary components of online business become more clearly defined, the opportunity to make money servicing those trying to make money selling was handsomely seized by ecommerce programmers, web developers, and web marketers.
It is somewhat dizzying and mathematically staggering, looking back now in 2010, to remember just how fast the internet rose since its dawn, first cresting the technological mountains. Now those musing starting an online business over their cappuccino the morning after graduation can sign up with a monstrous drop-shipping conglomerate offering thousands of products, carefully select a design company promising exceptional custom work for a few hundred bucks, hire an inexpensive SEO firm promising first page results, and barrel head long into an unknown, optimism-laden online business future.
Unfortunately, like falling stars on an August night, the sight of once-bright entrepreneurs burning out from their web dreams has become a regular statistical vision, and the reality considered by this article. Namely, how viable is creating an online business? And specifically, have ecommerce companies succeeded in delivering the services that give you a better chance of succeeding than failing?
Sure, we’re way past the early ’90’s when everybody was jumping on the internet as it sailed away from it’s brick-and-mortar harbor, but ecommerce still has no end in sight and is, perhaps, more appealing possibility than ever for Americans analyzing the future of their financial well-being in a lengthening recession.
Online adaption has taken place though, and while early internet pioneers faced a more uncertain journey – having less affordable options available for web services – modern web mavericks will face a different primary problem: themselves. There’s just too many people doing the same thing and the competition can be fiscally suffocating. It’s in the choices made during that critical growing stage that will play the largest role in being able to jump to the next milestone without drowning out. Like everything, to succeed online will, without question, require some investment, but spending little enough to put all the pieces in place – a dependable hosting solution, an appealing, dependable site, successful CPC and SEO marketing strategies, efficient ecommerce management tools, etc. – and getting a large enough return in the form of purchasing consumer traffic while make or break a new generation of potential web tycoons.
Enter the aggressive arena of ecommerce and you’ll find numerous ecommerce software providers and web development companies standing by the gate ready to equip you for the battle for a nominal fee, themselves engaging in a tense contest to earn your money as you pass by. But choose wisely, young maverick, because paying too much for the wrong service could leave you strapped when you get the marketing gauntlet and have no padding left. There are specialized web designers, shopping cart providers, SEO gurus, custom programmers, and hosting giants all dangling their goods before you with appealing phrases like “scalable”, “custom”, and “#1”, vying for your selection. Other companies promise to do it all for peanuts, and while tempting, leave you with a nagging anxiety that may be getting less than you paid for, which is very little. Then there is an aisle of ecommerce giants that are well adorned, and seem stronger and more experienced, holding a long list of previous champions they’ve supplied, and they would likely be an excellent choice except that the young business warrior would suffer a debilitating loss just paying for the goods, before ever seeing their brand’s flag waiving in the arena.
Though some may come to the ecommerce table with a sizeable sum and a wealth of business management experience, I am most interested in the plight of those who do not. For those weary occupational travelers, business confidence may fall sharply as hard earned start-up capital diminishes, and success will be carefully garnered by monitoring spending.
For sake of those e-commerce combatants, we’re most interested in the growing breed of ecommerce providers who offer complete services – hosting, design, shopping cart, store management tools, analytics, seo marketing, ssl certificates – basically everything you need – at an affordable price. These vendors bring a ray of hope to the prospect of starting an online business, and can certainly bring forth operational proof of other companies they’ve assisted numbering in the tens of thousands. Which begs the question, with so many advanced yet simplified tools available and so many companies already enjoying success, how easy is it really? Does anyone with a desire, some cash, and a willingness to succeed really have a shot at the modern American dream – making a viable income working from home as an internet retail proprietor? A home-brewed latte, some checkered pajames, and a picture window for office adornments are the stuff of dreams for many office-scorched blue collar Americans.
So, just how well do total ecommerce providers succeed at helping you succeed?
There are numerous good ecommerce players out there – Volusion, BigCommerce, Shopify, and 3DCart are a few notables – that can provide your store with a site, hosting, ecommerce platform system, shopping cart, customer support, etc., however, they can vary significantly in quality, ease-of-use, and price – all factors that can affect the reality of online success.
The question is, in a rush of e-commerce competition, have packages become like so many package products, appearing to include everything you need but lacking in fundamental quality. Children’s fishing sets are available at discount retailers that provide a pole, reel, lures, weight, bobbers, and an assortment of neon-colored tackle for under $15, but many Dad has faced crying toddlers after arriving at the vacation destination to discover that the reel jambs and the lures don’t work. When it comes to your ecommerce provider, you don’t want to be a victim of that old adage, getting only what you paid for. After all with competition and technology increases, can’t we demand that the functional value of our purchases exceed their cost, or at least exceed another product of the some price.
Some ecommerce companies offer relatively cheap shopping carts and management tools, but their site templates are crudely commercial – replicas with differing color schemes – and obtaining a custom design is an additional service costing hundreds or thousands more. Once you enter into a deep-digging, nuts and bolts comparison you’ll discover the variety in price, quality, service, usability, is great even among competitors. Ultimately, selecting the right company will depend upon your particular business, target market, product catalog, knowledge level, experience and budget, with the latter likely holding more weight than all others.
One of my favorite new ecommerce comapnies this year is AWDCommerce, (http://www.awdcommerce.com) an emerging Montana based e commerce software developer and a subsidiary of American Web Design, for their quality, cost, and small-town style customer support. They offer over 500 customized storefront designs for numerous industries of very high quality for a professional site, robust ecommerce management tools, exceptional small-town style customer service, shopping cart, unlimited products, support, and hosting for $39.99/mo. What I liked most is AWDCommerce combination of price, quality, and support – they provide everything, with friendly small town support to back it up, for under $40 a month. The storefront designs offered a superb quality against comparable templates – providing entrepreneurs with a truly, professional appearance – plus they offer agent-assisted assimilation and customization of logos and graphics, making the site formation easy for the unsavvy. Rather than offering “scalable” plans labeled like Olympic medals, they allow up to 10,000 products so you have room to grow without seeing a higher monthly bill. AWDCommerce developed ecommerce platform didn’t look as nice as some, but was very easy to use and offered a strong array of professional management features. The company also offers custom programming for any required app development and organic SEO and cost-per-click marketing services to help spread your brand wings.
I wouldn’t be surprised to see AWDCommerce show significant growth in the e-commerce market this year, and are a good example of a smart, all-inclusive provider for proprietors with limited pockets seeking to get the most bang for their buck.
There are many good companies out there able to provide a website, hosting, shopping cart, web-based management tools, analytics, and marketing and I would assert that, more than ever before, they do indeed make it possible for proprietor’s with the right niche product and work ethic to successfully launch an online business with as little as a few hundred bucks. One things remains certain though: choosing carefully in the selection of web services will have a measurable impact on your business once you enter the arena and find yourself before the cheering crowd, with internet royalty like Google and Yahoo watching your emergence with a robotic efficiency.
So be encouraged. The merchant games have always been tough, and though the intensity may have make a daunting plateau, there may have never been as much help available or potential gain as now.
As a previous cash-strapped, green-footed web proprietor myself, I wish all a happy deployment and good showing in the games.