New To E-Commerce

Hello All,

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. :slight_smile:

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.

Capt Ralls

OK - no replies… perhaps I’ve posted under the wrong topic, or perhaps it’s just the holidays.

In any case, a little more research indicates that since I am looking at setting up ten or twelve websites I may need to look for a host account with multiple domain hosting and that offers “wild card” SS certs?

G’Day Capt!
I’d venture a guess that it wasn’t the holidays… just the fact that your ask was a huge one! I think you’ll find that most forums questions are short and specific about particular problems.
A few thoughts for you that may help…
You can use any domain registrar for your domains - just check ones that have a good reputation. We use ShopSmartDomains or Godaddy, depending on the latest deal, but there are others.
Hostgator is excellent as a host with a good support desk. We have a lot of sites and found it better to become a re-seller. Do your sums on individual hosting charges compared to being a re-seller. If you’d like to check out ours as a comparison, it’s ShopSmartHosting.
We looked at Ozcommerce plus a few others such as Presta Shop(?). They are very comprehensive and take quite some time to set up so we gave up on them and now use A Worpress plugin for our digital products.
I don’t think there is a script to cover your requirements without having a programmer develop one just for you - which could be a costly exercise. You’ll find stacks of freelancers at elancedotcom. Just be very specific about your needs and ask for quotes.
You might need to look at 2 systems ie 1. an ordering system 2.billing system.
Good luck with it all.

Hi there captain rails.
I’d recommend going w/ an open source ecommerce platform like Magento. Magento is a successor to OsCommerce, so its much better in terms of technology.

The order I’d go about it is.

  1. Purchase domain name
  2. read up/research magento to figure out what sort of hosting provider you need.
  3. based on your needs, get a hosting provider.
  4. set up magento on your new hosting provider’s servers (or get someone to help you do that)
  5. hire programmers to do custom development for you to customize the store based on your additional requirements (writeup/preview/images etc)
  6. start selling!

A point of information that you probably already know but is always good to reiterate: Selling on the internet is not something where if you just put up a store, people will magically find you and start buying stuff. You will have to do marketing and sales just like in any brick and mortar business.

Good luck!

Thanks for the responses Christine & Jaedong

@Christine: It’s looking like a reseller account might be right for me as I hope/plan to have about a dozen sites set up before the end of this year. Reseller accounts allow more “separation” between the sites, do they not?

@Jaedong - thanks, I didn’t know that about Magento as to being careful to get a host that meets Magento requirements.

btw - any reason relating to my specific purposes why I should look at Magento as opposed to some other e-commerce software?

It appears there’s an outfit called Zeta-prints offers a Magento based software service for customer personalization/preview that would probably work for me, but they want a cut of each sale to have the software installed & use it … NOT!

I’m still researching software solutions for the personalization/preview feature I would like to have in the ordering process and haven’t had much luck … any/all suggestions appreciated

Magento is a good choice for their wide range of features the software provides. It’s also been a very popular choice for e-commerce sites. With that being said, since it’s popular, there will be a pretty active community that you can go to ask questions or suggestions on how to go about setting up and maintaining your shopping cart.

There are a lot of hosting providers that will offer Magento and several other shopping cart application on “one-click install,” allowing a straightforward and smooth installation process that is done in minutes. This also allow you to test out other shopping cart application with minimal effort. It’s always good to test drive different cart solutions to know which one you feel fits for you.

The reseller option is certain a good direction for multiple websites and will provide a greater degree of separate between websites you are running. At a lot of hosting companies, to migrate from a single hosting account to a reseller account shouldn’t be much of an issue.

If you’re looking for additional development assistance for a particular program, your best bet is to find them here or at the application’s website. They usually have support forums that allow you interact with other developers that may specialize in developing that specific software.

Also, Wildcard SSL certificates are only good if you plan on securing multiple subdomain names. Example:, They are also pretty costly

Single domain SSL certificates would be the best way to go.

Hopefully this was of some help to you. :slight_smile:

Thanks Tin, I was wondering about that … so, as I understand Wildcard SSL doesn’t really work if I have “separate” websites via a re-seller account?

(I want my sites to appear as independent as possible to the average user, as some of them will be competing for the same niche customer as another, just with different pricing structures.)

Yeah, you are better off going with a separate SSL for each website, which usually is cheaper anyway.

Here is a list of open source ecommerce software:

See here more:

Avoid Oscommerce + Zen Cart like the plague (really old and out-dated ).

A big part of your decision will come down to your level of tech knowledge (e.g. are you comfortable editing HTML/CSS/PHP etc).

In other words, one cart might be fantastic if you’re PHP gun - but will have the typical newbie pulling their hair out.

Hi Capt Ralls, what solutions is best for you: SaaS hosted or self hosted solution?

Thanks for the continued interest in my thread, guys…

No - I’m not PHP gun & I’m new to HTML/CSS/PHP, so there is a learning curve going on. (I have thick hair & lot’s of it, so it won’t be too bad if I lose a few here & there :lol:)

I did play with OSCommerce & ZenCart a bit, but it looks like Prestashop may work for me & I’m working with it now. It comes already with a feature so the cust can specify text & upload an image file for product personalization, which is one of my requirements. Anybody have any experience with that?

I have a shared hosting account with NameCheap right now. SaaS goes against my grain a lil bit, I’m a do-it-yourself kinda guy (sometimes even when I know somebody else can do it better/cheaper … hardheaded I guess)

Personally I’d recommend Magento (the most popular shopping cart application) hosted with [URL=“”]Nexcess (one of their official partners)

Thanks for your response, but … Why?

Why do you recommend those for my particular need?

capt rall,

please write short but sweet because we can understand easily and we can give you reply your answers

Thanks for your helpful response.


That’s a fair question. I’ve used most of the options mentioned in mg1313’s reply (I operated a major hosting company for 6 years). The fact is that pretty much all of them could be made to do what you’ve described, but Magento is the most popular of those options for eCommerce, and I’ve found to be for pretty good reason. By all means try others on the list though, especially the free ones- there’s no reason not to experiment a bit beforehand to see what you like best.

Nexcess, I recommended out of some personal bias (I do have working experience with them), but also because they’ve been partnered with Varien/Magento for over 10 years and are one of the few “Enterprise Partners” that Magento themselves recommend… in short, they just know what they’re doing with hosting the software, and hosting can be a much more major factor that a lot of people realize.

Hi everyone, I’m back - I have my shop up & running now. Decided to to go with Prestashop 1.3.6 and using PayPal. (Although I do have the ability to process credit cards through my supplier/shipper/partner, I’m concerned about PCI Compliance at this point & so don’t want to go that route just yet)

Almost no traffic yet, just a few visitors perused the site but no orders ---- I’ve done a little bit of free promotion on Craigslist and a couple other places.

The shop is still a bit clunky & I’m still working on that. I don’t like Prestashop’s requirement that the customer has to create an account to proceed to purchase, since the checkout process takes them to PayPal in the end anyway & PayPal dumps the customer/shipping data back into Prestashop. I’ve found there is a Prestashop module I could buy for sale around $60 that would “express” the customer through the cart to PayPal, but I’m reluctant to fork out the money for it till I see more traffic.

My product is targeted to the pre-teen to mid-20’s age group … males & females and kind of unique. It’s customizable so you can’t get it just anywhere, you can have one made at other places but nobody else is promoting this particular idea, and even if they did ask another vendor to make them one, my pricing & shipping is more than competitive (around $15 total). It’s not something anyone would ever think of wanting until they saw it - not anything that anyone would enter into a search engine either.

I’m looking for ideas to promote the product to this niche of customer. Facebook is obvious & I have a little bit of idea on how to do that, but still trying to work out the details of how it’s done.

Ideas on how to promote via Facebook or other ways would be greatly appreciated. Has anyone had any luck with infomercial type videos on YouTube? I could make one, but then back to how to promote it?

Magento is a better choice for their wide range of features the software provides. It’s also been a very big choice for e-commerce sites. There are a lot of hosting suppliers that will offer Magento as well as several other shopping cart application on “one-click install,” allowing for straight as well as smooth installation process that is done in minutes.

I want to have purchase and domain and hosting service, I am collecting information and learning strategies and I think this post is an addition to my ideas to get my domain registered easily. Thanks for this nice thread.