Web stores for a small business
Most small businesses now appreciate that selling on the Web isnt as difficult or dangerous as they might have thought two or three years ago. However building an E-Commerce site is still a problem - there are so many options to consider. By far the best solution is to hire a consultant or Web-designer to do the job for you, but unfortunately this is beyond the budget of many small businesses. If you have to do the job yourself, one of your first tasks will be to find a service or software package that will meet your requirements. To get you started heres a list of popular solutions Ive looked at in the last year or so (in no particular order).
Yahoo! Store has been around for ages (well in Internet time anyway). Yahoo! Store is an integrated Web-based service. It is robust, easy to use, and can produce quality E-Commerce Web sites. A whole industry has evolved around producing and customising Yahoo! Stores, so if you get into difficulties it should be easy to find help. This should be one of the first sites to look at if you've never built a Web store before. The downside (and there has to be one) is that it is relatively expensive.
Probably the cheapest and easiest way to set up an E-Commerce site. PayPal is usually associated with transferring funds over the Net, but it also allows merchants to accept credit card payments. PayPal is now used by over 3 million businesses worldwide. A free shopping cart is available and there is also support for single item purchases, donations and subscriptions. Multiple currencies are also supported, and a certain amount of customisation can be done to integrate the payment buttons and shopping cart with a Web site. So why use anything else? Well if your needs are simple you may not need anything else. PayPal offers a basic payment service and it does this very well. However, it lacks the advanced facilities (stock control, CRM etc) that larger Web-based businesses may require.
An old favourite. QuickEStore is a server-based solution that can be used to develop basic Web Stores or complex E-Commerce applications linked to Access or SQL databases. It costs just $99 for a license that permits an unlimited number of storefronts. Maybe too complex for complete beginners as it requires installation on a Web server (which must be running ColdFusion 4.51+).