There are many options for creating an online store, at varying levels of ease and expense. I’ll be going through some of them today that I think are good to use for different purposes.
1. Selling one item
If, for example, you have a book or a cd and you just want to sell that, you can implement this via a “contact form” method.
This is where Gravity Forms comes in.This contact form tool has add-ons which allow you to customise it to accept payments through PayPal and other methods, so you can capture your customer’s address and details, receive payment, and then all you need to do is ship the item.
You can make the form conditional, which means that you can potentially create different shipping rates or allow postage only in certain countries.
Best bits: Extremely customisable, also very lightweight and useful for selling individual products.
Cost: The license for 1 year for the functions you’d need is about $200. I keep a license for the form however, and provide this to my clients as part of their web design for no extra charge.
Ease of use: Easy to manage – emails/orders come straight to your inbox. Set-up is a little more involved if you don’t have experience setting up WordPress plugins, but it’s visually-based and easy to understand.
2. Making Appointments
If you provide appointments, such as lessons, tutoring, coaching or any other service that requires the client to book in a time with you, there are helpful ways of automating this process.
vCita is a tool I have used on different occasions which can integrate into your website, social media, and other online platforms. You can have it allow appointments automatically within certain timeframes and rules, or double check with you. It also manages invoicing, payments, correspondence with clients and allows you to add a range of services and prices that people can book.
Best bits: It integrates with social media, your website, it has pop-up contact forms and really helps engagement with your clients/visitors.
Cost: Starting at Free, and being full-featured at $19.90/month, it’s very cheap compared to similar services.
Ease of use: Easy to use after initial set-up. Entering into social media and website is well-commented or you can ask your Handy Web Designer to help.
3. Selling a Course or Subscription to Online Content
If you provide lessons, an online course, or would like to have a paid-members-only area to your website, CoursePress can really help you out. (This is for anyone with a WordPress site.)
It separates your site into areas that are public or members-only, and from there you can set up all the details such as payments, price, interval of subscription renewal… and then you enter all the content for your course in the usual way of adding new pages in WordPress.
It’s a full-featured system, with live chat systems, completion certificates, payments, quizzes… you can read more about it on this page.
Best bits: It looks like a really useful, all-in-one, secure system for your online course content.
Cost: It starts at free, or $20 for the pro version for 12 months. I’m not yet sure of the differences. May be extra cost if you need your Handy Web Designer to set it up for you. 🙂
Ease of use: I haven’t used it yet but from experience of its creators, it should be really good to use and easy to maintain, after a thorough set-up process.
4. Selling a product range, or a mix of physical and online products
This is probably what most people think of when they think of an online store. A website that sells many things, or a combination of different things you can filter and sort, buy for digital delivery or postal, and customise options for postage, taxes, confirmation/shipping emails and everything else.
There are lots of options here so I’ll go into some sub-sections. These are all options that you can embed or work from inside your own website, so I’ll leave out options like Etsy and RedBubble here.
If you have a WordPress website:
WooCommerce is a really handy tool, it’s free and works with most themes, although some adjustments may need to be made. The setup takes a little while, with lots of specifics, but it’s easy to run and has lots of extensions so you can do extra things like sell customisable products. (For example, different colours or optional features for the product). The extra plugins can be around $50 – $100.
WooCommerce is popular and works well, especially if you want to add a shop into your existing WordPress website.
MarketPress E-Commerce is another that does similar things to WooCommerce and one I just found as I was writing this article. It actually mentions it doesn’t charge for extra features and works well with more themes, so it may become a better option than WooCommerce. It is $20/year, plus any set-up fees if you decide to employ your Handy Web Designer to help you out.
With any of these tools there is usually an option to try out the features for free first so we can decide which is the best for your situation.
If you don’t yet have a website, or want your store to be located on a different site to your current website:
BigCommerce is another tool I have used for a client in the past to create her online store. It is more automated than WooCommerce above, and I think it is simpler to manage. Adding products and keeping track of inventory is made easy. However, you can’t customise the design as much.
You do have to pay a monthly fee but you don’t have to pay the hosting separately. It does have transaction fees. However, the ease of use for novice computer people and 24/7 support may be helpful and make BigCommerce appealing.