Anyone here own an online store? Not etsy, but your own store.

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Posted 2/4/2013 by scrapulous in NSBR Board

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 118,732
December 2003
Posts: 7,528
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Posted: 2/4/2013 10:43:39 PM
I'm trying to gather information to see if I want to open an online store. I've googled, but it's hard to tell what info is reliable and what is not.

If you own an online store, can you tell me where I can look to find reliable information and advice? I know the type of store I want and the type of products I want to carry (if I do this at all).

My main questions are:

1. If you want to carry a specific product, how do you contact the manufacturer to see about carrying that product in your store?

2. How do you figure out how much inventory of each item to have on hand?

3. Are there any tips or tricks to packaging an order to make it go faster or be more efficient?

I know about merchant accounts and websites/hosting, etc., but any info or advice you want to share would be much appreciated.


Pea All You Can Pea!

PeaNut 36,843
April 2002
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Posted: 2/4/2013 10:47:36 PM
I'm wondering if you've answered an important question with respect to having an online store.

How will you get traffic to your website (and convert that traffic to sales?) Until you can answer that question with confidence, the other questions won't matter.


Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 288,459
December 2006
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Posted: 2/4/2013 10:53:19 PM
Actually, I was just thinking the same thing as Runner5. The real question is, Why will someone buy something from your website? Rather than another existing website, or a brick and mortar storefront, or rather than whatever new website opens up in another month.

I don't mean that in a snotty way, but the rest is the easy part.

1. Call or email and just ask.

2. It will depend on how much you can afford to spend, and considering volume discounts, cost of interest on holding that inventory, anticipated sales levels, length of time required to restock.

3. I've seen lots of different inventory systems. As long as it makes sense to you, you will probably be fine. The time savings seems to be more in how quickly you can accurately gather the order, rather than how quickly you can package it.


PeaNut 399,301
November 2008
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Posted: 2/4/2013 11:24:26 PM
My husband opened a brick and mortar store first and eventually branched out online.

Runner5 has made an excellent point. It's natural to assume that your traffic will build over time, but this question is as important to answer (if not more) than the others you posed. How will you initially drive traffic to your store?

1. Contact the manufacturers you are interested in representing and ask to set up an account. You'll usually be forwarded to an account rep who can help you answer your second question.

2. Inventory depends on how much capital you have and what each manufacturer offers and expects in terms of order minimums and volume discounts. My advice would be to start with as little inventory as possible, especially because you don't have physical shelves to fill. Your sales will help you figure out how much to order, and when, as your business grows.

3. Packaging orders is very dependent on the nature of the product you're packing. Packing fragile items, for example, is very different than shipping bowling balls. Again, this is something you will figure out as your business grows.

My biggest advice to you would be to devise an actual business plan and do your best to follow it. The SBA has some great resources to help you do this:

SBA Business Plan Help

This will help answer many of the questions you already have, and will probably highlight many issues you haven't even considered.

Finally, be sure that your website provides accurate and excellent descriptions of the products you are selling. Excellent photos are important, as well. A good web designer is worth investing in. SEO (search engine optimization) is also something worth investing in. This will help drive traffic to that excellent site you've built

Good luck to you!

blue tulip

PeaNut 390,473
September 2008
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Loc: right behind you!

Posted: 2/5/2013 5:18:45 AM
i have a website and an etsy store. websites are hard.. you're one of a hundred million shops on the internet, and customers won't just find you. you need to do a lot of marketing, and that can get expensive! might want to check that out ahead of time so you know what you're looking at. is there a forum/online group you can join for support? i'm a member of an awesome stationer's forum where we can all compare notes on marketing campaigns, what worked, what didn't, etc.

there are lots of distributors/companies that you can request a wholesale catalog from, find out their minimum quanitites and how often you have to order from them to keep in good standing. if there is a trade show for the type of items you want to sell (home goods, gifts, etc) they can be a great place to go and check out a lot of stock at once.

other things to think about: have you considered where you will store all the inventory? if in your home, are you zoned for this and carry enough insurance? will you be getting commercial shipping discounts, or using retail? what will your payment format be, who has the lowest fees, how do they deal with chargebacks and refunds, etc?

you sound like you've thought a bit about this, but i would get a book about how to start up and that will really help you begin to lay the structure and see if this is what you really want! good luck!

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 118,732
December 2003
Posts: 7,528
Layouts: 2

Posted: 2/5/2013 8:12:45 AM
Thanks everyone. I have thought about how to drive traffic and SEO, but the links provided are always helpful.

Still a lot to think about before we decide for sure if we want to do this or not.

Leads a Charmed Life

PeaNut 43,843
July 2002
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Loc: East Coast

Posted: 2/5/2013 8:14:46 AM
Cakediva had a thread a week ago about her friend's online store that kept getting hacked and the payments redirected elsewhere and how her IT guy was charging her $5000 to fix it.

Ancient Ancestor of Pea

PeaNut 118,732
December 2003
Posts: 7,528
Layouts: 2

Posted: 2/5/2013 5:36:49 PM
That stinks! Everything has risks, and it's good to know what they are ahead of time, so thank you.


PeaNut 399,301
November 2008
Posts: 915
Layouts: 0

Posted: 2/5/2013 5:47:14 PM

Cakediva had a thread a week ago about her friend's online store that kept getting hacked and the payments redirected elsewhere and how her IT guy was charging her $5000 to fix it

I think the IT guy's actions and claims in this case were suspect.

I spent about $2500 to have my website built from scratch and still have about $500 credit with the gentleman who did the work for me. It cost me about $1,750 for him to build my site and then I just left the rest with him as a retainer. I've had to use him for some updates, problems with my shopping cart and to address a hacking issue I had. His services are reasonable, his work is impeccable and I trust him implicitly.

It cost about $3500 (same gentleman who designed my site) to have my husband's site built. His design was far more complex (different businesses and his had a huge inventory database to integrate) and required more work.

We found our web guy through other friends and made sure to check other references. A lot of people with lay knowledge of building sites and SEO issues claim to be web designers without much knowledge or experience.
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