How to Use a Marketplace to Build Your Webstore
Several free web hosting services make things easy and affordable for would-be ontrepreneurs (online entrepreneurs). These sites act as both a web host and a web page creation tool. You connect to the site, sign up for service, and fill out a series of forms. Submitting the completed forms activates a script on the host site that automatically generates your web pages based on the data you entered.
After you have a site, you can expand to have a storefront in a specialty marketplace. Or you can open a storefront in place of a full-fledged website. Such storefronts include
CafePress allows you to easily create and sell music CDs, photos, or artwork online for free. The hard part is deciding what you want to sell, how best to describe your sales items, and how to promote your site.
Babylon Mall caters to vintage-clothing sellers, charges $15 per month and gives members software that helps them design their storefronts.
Most storefront options provide you with predesigned web pages, called templates, that you customize for your particular business. Some types of storefront options provide you with shopping cart systems that enable customers to select items and tally the cost at checkout.
You choose a template and customize it with your own photos, store name and logo, and sales information.
Storefront options may also provide an electronic payment option, such as credit card purchases. Usually, you purchase a monthly package and follow a series of steps that mirror the primary aspects of an offline business:
The storefront: This is represented by the web pages that you create. Most options include predesigned web pages that you can copy and customize with your own content.
The inventory: You can stock your virtual storefront shelves by presenting your wares in the form of an online catalog or product list.
The delivery truck: Some storefront packages streamline the process of transferring your files from your computer to the server. Rather than use FTP software, you publish information simply by clicking a button in your web editor or web browser.
The checkout counter: Most electronic storefront packages give you the option of accepting orders by phone, fax, or online with a credit card.
Besides providing you with the software you need to create web pages and get them online, electronic storefronts instruct you on how to market your site and present your goods and services in a positive way. In addition, some programs provide a back room for your business where you can record customer information, orders, and fulfillment.
ShopSite, by ShopSite, Inc., isn’t software that you purchase and install on your computer. Rather, you find a web hosting service, such as Verio, that runs ShopSite on its servers. You then set up an account with the host and use the ShopSite software over the Internet, using your web browser.
With this kind of setup, which is a hosted application, you don’t have to worry about having enough memory or hard drive space to run the program yourself. You also don’t have to bother with updating or troubleshooting the software; that, too, is the hosting service’s responsibility.
To find a hosting service that runs ShopSite, go to the ShopSite website and scan a list of hosts. You pick a company and arrange for an account. Pricing varies, depending on the host and the version of the service that you want. ShopSite comes in three varieties:
Starter: Lets you create a catalog of only 15 items for sale and 5 web pages. Fees start at $5 per month.
Manager: Gives you an unlimited number of pages, plus templates, themes, a shopping cart, and real-time credit card processing. Fees start at $30 per month.
Pro: Adds the ability to track inventory as products are purchased for about $60 per month.
The actual cost for hosting your site plus the additional cost for ShopSite ranges from $5 to $35 per month (Starter) to $60 to $120 per month (Pro).
Miva Merchant, a competitor of ShopSite, handles all the basics required for an e-commerce storefront, including website templates, a product catalog, electronic payments, inventory tracking, and shipping. It’s available on web hosts such as Hostasaurus.com. The package lets you go beyond the basics and set up an affiliate program or a mailing list. Find out more at mivacentral.com.
You can also sign up with a host that includes e-commerce software among the services it gives you for a monthly fee. Easyhosting includes Easy StoreMaker shopping cart/catalog builder software with its Intermediate and Advanced hosting packages, which start at $49.99 per month.