Glad to find these forums & look forward to researching them & learning. Hopefully someday I'll have something to contribute to help someone else out as well - but for now I am admittedly a neophyte.
This is a bit lengthy, but I want to provide all the info up-front so hopefully some on here will be able to provide advice/direction.
I am a silent (financial) partner in a small business that sells about 500 stock products, many of which are personalized with customer submitted text, art, logos, etc either laser-engraved, printed, or embossed upon them. My partner's business has traditionally sold products wholesale direct to a retailer customer base at approximately a 50% discount. The retailers take the orders from the customers and send the order to my partner's business via fax &/or e-mail. My partner customizes/personalizes the stock items, packages the products, & ships them to the retailer or drop-ships to the retailer's customer. (mostly UPS) This business has not been on the internet and suffered the last five years or so due to increasing internet competition (and the current recession).
I have recently retired from my former non-related career & committed to helping out / joining my partner's business through targeting certain niche retail customer groups directly via e-commerce. I have taken enough tutorials in HTML, CSS, etc to realize I will not be building any websites from the ground up without some kind of CMS - shopping cart software, etc. I know I have a lot to learn..... but fortunately, being retired, I have a lot of time to work on this.
This business already has a tax-ID, credit card processor, etc, all of which I will be able to use & integrate into several e-commerce websites that will be targeted toward different niche retail customers. I would like to start with one site, but be able to duplicate and modify the appearance of that site to target different customer niches, eventually building up to about ten or twelve sites. Most of the sites would be featuring products from the same product stock my partner carries, just a limited number of them (10 to 30) for each website targeted at just those customers. I would like to use the same website template for all sites, just rearranged, with different themes/logos, and different pricing schemes) So I'm guessing there's a way to have the different sites all on the same host & pulling their images, prices, product descriptions from the same folders?, databases?
I have explored several e-commerce solution providers & found some of them have locked down systems whereby I use their proprietary software to build my site, but apparently can't take that site (or sites?) to another host later on if I want to. I also would have to pay separate fees for each site I put up, regardless of the bandwidth/server space I would be using. I definitely want to avoid this, as I plan to have multiple sites. I want to register my domain(s) with a registrar, host my site(s) with a separate host from the registrar, and build/maintain the sites myself with CMS I can use pretty much anywhere.
So now that I have described basically what I am trying to do, what I am looking for is a kind of a road-map to get to where I want to be, and what I should be looking for in a host & CMS software.
Is this somewhat correct?
1. Register Domains with a Registrar
2. Purchase Server Space with a Host
3. Use CMS software to create websites on host, pointing domains to different websites.
Another problem I am anticipating from my brief research is finding a CMS program (free open-source preferably) that will allow the customer to write text (with a choice of fonts/colors) & upload image files of logos, art, etc to be included with their order (since many of the products are personalized). This feature would also need to have a "preview" feature so the customer could see how the layout of their text/image will look before submitting the order. (I am getting the sense from some of my reading that OSCommerce is a dinosaur?)
Thanks in advance for any advice/direction anyone has, and again... glad to be here.