eBusiness in a Box Solutions Reviewed
Several companies have popped up recently offering eBusiness sites in a box. These boxed sites include shopping carts, templates to build your site from, the use of your own domain name, an email account, and in many cases credit card processing.
These services should meet the needs of most small business owners who simply want to sell a few products online.
These companies provide an excellent way for the less technically inclined to create a great web presence. These services virtually eliminate the learning curve about issues such as HTML, Shopping Carts and accepting credit cards. They also remove the needs of expensive consultants and Web design companies. It’s just pay, point, click and your business is online.
Here’s a quick look of some of the services currently available:
Vista allows you to create a store, take appointments or reservations, schedule a chat, and put surveys and local weather maps on your site. You can accept credit cards, access reports to let you know where your business stands, and promote your site. This is all done through a browser-based administration console which makes the entire process very intuitive. With prices starting at $19.95, Vista looks like an excellent choice for small business owners.
BigStep provides many of the same services that Vista does, only for free. If you want to accept credit cards you’ll pay monthly and per-transaction fees, which are in-line with what others are charging for processing credit card orders. BigStep’s feature list includes things like email newsletter publishing, search engine submission, customer database, a shopping cart, and statistics about your traffic. BigStep’s well-rounded offerings and pricing make it a top contender in this category.
BIZ Free Ride claims that it will will let you build your business website, in three steps, absolutely free for 90 days. After that period, you’ll have to upgrade to http://www.e-bizinabox.com/ whose features include catalog publishing, shopping cart, newsletter distribution, sales order tracking, inventory management, support chat room, traffic stats among others. They charge $169 per year for the deluxe version of their services, which include credit card processing. I couldn’t locate any information on the per-transaction fees for credit card processing.
With a three step setup process, no setup fees, support for over 1000 items, extensive tax and shipping options and more, MyCart.net is a company that you should be taking a good look at. MyCart.net has a partnership with Nova which allows you to accept credit card orders after a $95 application fee and $50 setup fee, both of which are very reasonable. Among the cool features that MyCart.net offers are pager notification of orders, creation of packing slips and single-click re-ordering much like Amazon.com’s highly-touted 1-Click order technology. You’ll find a comparison chart between MyCart.net and Yahoo store at: http://www.mycart.net/html/comparison.htm.
Yahoo, one of the best known brands on the net, has its own online store service which offers extremely easy setup and credit card processing through its partner, Bank One. Bank One charges a $175 setup fee for new merchant account (charged only if your application is accepted), plus a monthly service fee of $45. On a per transaction basis, they charge 30 cents plus a percentage depending on the type of credit card used. All this is in addition to the $100 per month you’ll be paying to sell up to 50 items through your Yahoo store. In my opinion, the companies listed above offer a lot more bang for the buck than Yahoo.
AuctionWatch differs from all the other services listed above. Rather than helping you create your own website, AuctionWatch helps you sell your products through online auctions. Its toolset includes inventory management, professional listings at the auction sites, auction launching, post-sale management, shipping and payment. Most of these tools are provided absolutely free while others like shipping and payment processing are handled by AuctionWatch’s partners for a fee.
FreeMerchant offers: Internet store hosting, secure shopping cart, internet store builder, unlimited catalog size, traffic logs, email account, shipping and tax calculators, coupon creator and much more. At the moment they do not allow you to have your own domain name, although they can re-direct a domain name to the actual location of your site. FreeMerchant makes all its money from referrals and partnerships with value-added service providers.
Being associated with one of the biggest brands on the Internet, Amazon.com, is no doubt a good way to get started. Amazon.com zShops allows you to list up to 3000 products for sale on their site for $9.99 a month. If you want to accept payment via credit cards, Amazon.com asks for 2.5% + $0.25 per transaction.
Please note that this article isn’t meant to endorse any single company. It is up to you to practice due diligence before outsourcing your Web presence to any one company.