Volume 12, Issue 3 - May/June 2008

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Creating an Online Store

Statistics support the fact that more and more people are making online purchases. If you’re like most Americans, you’re already familiar with websites such as Amazon.com®, Zappos.com, and iTunes. It seems as if the procurement of books, shoes and music has changed forever because of these sites.

If you’re a window film dealer, you may be wondering how having an online store will help you grow your business. The answer is that it may not. There may be limited applicability to having an online store since window film is priced on an individual job basis and you’re selling labor along with the sale of material. However, if you’re a film distributor, then having an online store may improve your top line by facilitating the purchasing process for those who stumble onto your website.

Creating and maintaining an online store is easy and there are multiple software packages that require little to no programming experience. These solutions handle all aspects of the sale, ranging from inventory management to integrating with your accounting system. Many hosting companies offer eCommerce solutions free with a package. For example, GoDaddy® offers osCommerce and Zen Cart as a courtesy to its customers. Simply push a button in your hosting control panel and the solution of your choice will automatically install. A little programming experience may be necessary for full functionality.

For those without programming experience, GoDaddy offers a solution called Quick Cart. Quick Cart asks you a few questions through its wizard and your store will be functional within a matter of hours.

If you want an online store, yet want nothing to do with its creation, consider using a third party such as startmystore.com, which charges as little as $100 per month to build and maintain.

Stocking the Shelves
As you are creating your store, give consideration as to what products (and even generic services) you are going to sell, what payment options you will accept and how you will ship those products. Bulk rolls, film tools, paint protection film kits and installation training are but a few of the goods and services you can offer through your store. (Please make sure that you are not in violation of any manufacturer’s agreement by online selling.) Most online purchasers are used to paying by credit card. Even if you do not accept credit cards currently, your eCommerce software will handle the transactions for you and deposit the funds into the bank account of your choosing. Finally, most shopping cart solutions integrate with UPS, FedEx, DHL and USPS shipping software.

Online shopping is not reserved for the big titans of the Internet. In fact, many of the online stores that you have visited may be powered by the solutions that I mentioned above. Just like your website, your store will require careful planning, yet you may soon learn that it provides a new revenue stream from customers who never knew that your company existed. 

Manny Hondroulis is marketing manager for Energy Products Distribution in Baltimore. Mr. Hondroulis’ opinions are solely his own and not necessarily those of this magazine. If you have questions, e-mail Manny at mhondroulis@epdwindowfilm.com.

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