It is no secret, that commerce and customers are changing extensively and rapidly. Due to the rising poularity of online commerce but also due to the new demands and expectations of consumers. Therefore, the small and medium sized business (SMB) must change rapidly to build a resilience by developing a make mindset, to be brave, creative and agile.
Especially in our challenging Corona crisis, it is of utmost importance to have a plan B to to remain existent.
They also have to understand, that the internet and the online providers are no enemies. The internet is another, for some retailers new, tool to enhance the service for their customers. Extending their “workbench” by setting-up an online shop, will enable an entrepreneur to provide a broader service and customer journey.
As it is called “a seamless customer experience“.
But there are still many small and medium-sized businesses which owners stick to their one-channel approach. It might be, because they are lacking creativity, braveness or even fear to start something new, due to lack of knowledge. Another reason might be that there is a monetary hurdle.
In this post I will describe that a shop doesn’t neccessarily mean complicated or costly.
And this post is not about what to do, to engange customers. This can be found in my other posts 😉
Hint: I don’t get paid by the companies I mention below. They are just examples of possible solutions. The prices I show here, are the current ones (22 September 2020). Visit the websites to find out if a change has occured, because this information is provided without warranty.
First of all, get yourself a domain name (an URL like https://robvanlinda.de 🙂 ) You can check if the domain you like is available on one.com. This is just an example. There are countless sites which offer the same function. The prices for an URL is based on the TLD (Top Level Domain) like .de, .shop, .digital, .berlin, .store, .online etc.
You can buy them and than the URL is your property and unique. You can say that it is your “fingerprint”. Most hosters offer multiple domains in their packages. But you can also buy one or more URLs without a hosting package.
You need to have an SSL Certificate! What is a SSL certificate? Look here:
This video is DSGVO compliant, no data will be forwarded to Youtube (Google), untill you click the play button. By doing this, you agree to the terms of YoTube (Google) . The preview image is stored on the local server and therefore has no connection to external servers. More information about YouTube Videos on this site can be found here.
You can get a free one from letsencrypt, or get a paid certificate. It depends on which hoster you choose. Some offter the free letsencrypt and some offer additional premium packages. IMHO I would buy a premium one with your company name, because it offers more options and it is a professional sign to your customers which gives them a good feeling of trust when they are buying and paying on your site. So please don’t try to save money, by picking the most inexpensive package, because it is about security for your customers! A good SSL certificate starts at € 150/year.
If a customer experiences problems due to lacking security on your site, you will pay way more than € 100/€200 a year! But also by getting a bad reputation!!!
Now you have two options:
The platform based shop solution
Use a platform based solution line wix.com, shopify.com, jimdo.com or another provider. DON’T pick the cheapest package, because you’ll find out that you won’t be happy with it, for they’re quite restricted in the included features. Buying cheap can be very expensive and will cause more work when you upgrade.
Here some price examples
- Shopify.com: € 79/month yearly payment
- Wix.com: € 40/month yearly payment (click the button “Business & eCommerce”)
- Jimdo.com: € 39/month yearly payment (including GDPR package)
The premium packages offer a custom URL for free. This looks more professional than i.e. “https://robvanlinda.wixsite.com/myawesomeshop”.
The self-hosted, do it yourself, solution
You want total freedom, you want to present your products and your company in an individual creative way excatly the way YOU want it?
Than a self hosted solution is the approach you will have to go. And it is not as difficult as you might expect. It takes some time, but to envolve a platform based shop also takes time… If it is done right. No pain, no gain 🙂
In this case you will need a hoster where you rent a server space on which your shop will be installed. I have a less-known hoster with great ratings from well-known institutes. I chose this one, after having my porblems with some well-known providers. It is a German company named Alfahosting and it provides a great service and therefore a great customer experience. They have 24/7 support. I have sent tickets on Sunday Morning at 2 am, when I had problems during a project (I am a night guy) and at 3 am I received their answer. I loved it!
Their best package costs € 19,99/month on a base of a yearly payment. Letsencrypt SSl is included, so o need to take care about a certificate.
Unlimited traffic which means the following:
Every time a file is retrieved from your website, data traffic is generated. If, for example, you call up a large graphic with a size of 40 KB, there will be 400 KB traffic for 10 visitors, about 4 MB for 100 visitors, etc. For offers with data transfer Traffic-Flat (unlimited/unlimited) the entire traffic volume is included. There are no additional costs.
Some hosters have a traffic limit and when the traffic exceeds this limits, you will have to pay.
Two top levels domains are included: 1x de and 1x de, com, net, org, biz, online, store. Have alook at the site (German) for more details: https://alfahosting.de/eshop-hosting/.
The solution, which I would like to present is based on WordPress. Yes I know, that there are specific ecommerce software solutions, but they can be quite complicated to set-up and to maintain and often they are not responding tot the European legal requirements (GDPR). And THAT can be a REAL pain!
I was doing research for a long time, to find a German solution for one of my customers and it was quite enervating. But I have a strong perserverance and I did find a solution. It is even a German one! 🙂 It is called WPShopGermany® and it is based on WordPress®. But before I start to write about all the goodies and the amazing price (remember, I don’t get money! It is just my honest and personal opinion!),I want to start at the base.
Of course you need perfect productphotos, to make your customers become hungry to buy your items 😉 I am quite sure, that everybody has heard about Photoshop®. This software is THE standard for graphic designers, photographers and other creative professionals. But this solution requires an account at Photoshop’s Creative Cloud which costs for SMB companies € 29,99/month when using Photoshop only. That makes € 155,88/year.
But some clever people have developed a software, which is as good, or even better, as Photoshop®. The software is called Affinity® Photo and the price is € 54,99 one time payment (quite a difference, right?). I have used this Software and it took me a day or two toget fammiliar with the application’s interface, because I was used to Photoshop®. But Affinity® Photo is a perfect alternative for users which need to perform standard optimizations. It is highly recommended in the community.
Key Differences Between Photoshop and Affinity Photo
Both are popular choices in the market; let us discuss some of the major differences:
- The main difference between Photoshop vs Affinity Photo application is the price of the product. Affinity photo is much cheaper as compared to Photoshop. Also, affinity is subscription free software. Users can buy affinity photo at a cost of $49.9 as a one-time payment. At the same time, Photoshop costs $29.90 as a monthly plan and $239.88 for an annual subscription.
- Move tool in Affinity photo is way better than Photoshop. For example, if we want to resize an object, too many steps are needed in Photoshop at the same time in affinity we just need to grab the move tool and resize the object. Also, there is no need to make the layer as a smart object, Affinity automatically resize its layers in a non-destructive manner.
- Affinity photo has live brush previews whereas Adobe Photoshop does not. Live brush previews helps to save time and reduce the work.
- Another major difference in the interface of both the software is the five personas present in Affinity photo. Personas are the useful features that giving you the ability to control software interface based on your product. But Photoshop has a standard workflow.
- Some of the features of Photoshop which Affinity photo misses are 3D features, 3D printing features, animation, video timeline, and scripting.
- Smart objects and live smart filters are available in Affinity photo and at the same time, these are missing in Photoshop.
WordPress® is a, so called, Open Source Software which used to be a simple blog system. But due to it’s rising popularity, it has become a mature CMS (Content Manageent System). This website is based on WordPress®. This software is open source. Open Source means that it is a free software. So there are no costs when using the basic WordPress for a website. There are countless plugins which add funtionality to a WordPress® site. No need to say, that there are plugins which are free and some which are developed by companies and which costs money 😉
Luckily most Hosters offer WordPress® as an included feature in their packages, which means that a WordPress® Site can be installed with a few clicks under your own custom URL. Awesome! 🙂 The installation routine is simple and comfortable. Even if your are not familiar with web techniques.
wpShopGermany is one of the plugins which gives more functionality to a basic WordPress®. In this case, it turns a simple WordPress into a full-blown webshop. The best is, that the developer have taken care that the software, and therefore the shop, is accodring to the data protextion laws in Germany and Europe.
And the price is just unbelievable!
Just to proof, that I am not kidding, I made a screenshot of the page with the price. And there are loads of features included. Here they are (translated to English, because the product es developed in Germany):
- Various VAT rates per product
- Integration of shopping cart via widget
- Overview of all orders, including protocol
- Overview of all customers (customer administration)
- Overview of all products (product overview)
- Freely configurable articles
- Unlimited number of products
- Unlimited product photos (also slideshows)
- Inserting a product into an article/page using RTE (Rich Text Editor)
- CSV export/import of products
- Staggered shipping costs
- Multiple suppliers
- Freely adjustable shipping countries, including VAT and shipping zones
- Template system for free adaptation via HTML/PHP (Also for Invoices. I have done that myself)
- Multilingual support with WPML (premium plugin)
- Customer login in front end
- User management in the backend
- Legal texts Integration
- Voucher system
Have a look at the , quite basic, demo here. And you are allowed to try it for free during a 14 days trial period. Complete with all functionalities, before you buy it.
There is another package with a higher price, but there is absolutely no need to buy this, because it has just one extra feature, which enables wpShopGermany to be installed on a multiple Page WordPress® site. With WordPress® it is possible to run muttliple websites with different URLs in one installation. This would only make sense when you would like to run multiple shops like an Multi Vendor Platform (i.e. Amazon®).
Of course, it is possible to enhance the functionality of the shop and there are some extensions which you need toby additionally, to be able to act according tot he EU law. Below I will list the extensions from which I thinkt that they are important to enhance the service towards your customers abd which may give more comfort towards you as a shop owner:
wpShopGermany® module invoice module | € 39
This one is a must, because it creates invoices automatically into PDF format. Due to the EU Law, invoices must be in PDF.
Description of wpShopGermany®
With the module Invoices, you have the possibility to create an invoice automatically from the order. This invoice is sent to the customer as a PDF file by e-mail.
wpShopGermany® module statistics | €15
The module serves for the statistical evaluation of various shop data in graphical and tabular form. As an additional feature, it contains the possibility to connect to the web analytics programme Piwik.
Evaluation of the shop turnover.
Turnover per hour
Evaluation of the hourly distribution of the shop turnover.
Top x products (turnover/volume)
Display of the top-selling products (number of top products as defined under Settings), sales quantity and their percentage distribution in relation to all shop products.
Sales by payment method
Display of the payment types with the highest turnover and their percentage distribution within all available payment types.
Display of customer locations.
Statistics can be based on predefined periods (today, this week, this month, etc.) or on a user-defined period (from – to).
The WordPress Dashboard also offers a small mini summary.
Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)
To enable the customer to deactivate tracking, an additional page is required.
A direct example for google can be found here.
However, if you work with Piwik, use the procedure on piwik.org.
wpShopGermany® module single page checkout | Free 🙂
The OnePageCheckout module allows the entire order process to be combined on one order page.
What is the use of the module
- Simplification of the ordering process
- Selection of payment and shipping method via customer data
- Fewer order cancellations
wpShopGermany® module package tracking | €5
With the module package tracking you have the possibility to manage and send tracking codes for package tracking.
After a successful activation a list of providers and corresponding addresses is displayed. The names of the respective providers can be changed at will.
If the customer places an order, it is possible to call up the order in the order management, enter the tracking ID and select the supplier under the item “Package tracking”. It is important that the item “Inform customer” is activated, otherwise no customer notification will take place. In addition, the link will only be sent when the status changes to “Goods dispatched”.
wpShopGermany® module delivery note | €15
With the module delivery note you have the possibility to create a delivery note from the order. This delivery note is saved as PDF.
wpShopGerman®y module customer groups | €15
The module contains various functions:
- Management of customer groups (create, edit and delete)
- Filtering of customers by customer group
- Assignment of customers to customer groups
- Price display adjustable for customer groups
- With the discount module activated, a discount can be set for each customer group (percentage or absolute)
The following options can be specified in the configuration of the module:
Customer group at registration (checkout)
Here the customer group can be defined, the new customers will be created during an order.
Customer group during registration (Registration)
The customer group can be defined here, the new customers who register via the optional registration page
There are more extensions, like different paymentn options, downloadable products, adress verification, customer contact, product-/package variations, and so on. Here you can find all the extensions (German language): https://wpshopgermany.maennchen1.de/download/
There are also different options to get your legal texts like GTC, Data Protection, Imprint and Return policy automatically updated, by connecting the shop to the server of a lawyer. The law firm will take a single price which will be really affordable and you will be protected 24/7. They often solve problems extra-judicial.
Now let’s compare the cost of both solutions, based on yearly payments.
|Jimdo (incl GDPR)||€ 468/yr|
|Affinity® Photo||€ 54,99 one time|
|Custom Domain||+/- € 60/yr|
|Total 1st year||€ 582,99|
|Total following years (no Affinity® Photo)||€ 528|
|Affinity® Photo||€ 54,99/yr|
|wpShopGermany®||€ 45/yr (optional to get updates)|
|Legal requirements provided by Lawyers (Legal texts are automatically updated in real time in the shop)||€ 598/yr|
|Total 1st year||€786,99|
|Total following years (no Affinity® Photo)||€ 732|
|Total follwing years without updating wpShopGermany®|
The examples above are just two possibilities to go online and enhance the offline business. The self-hosted solution costs € 61 per month and the platform based one costs €44 (both from year two).
Self-hosting may cost € 17 more per month, but it will give ou all the freedom you want. A platform always restricts you by their rules and requirements.
Ready? Start to Promote your online shop
When your site is set up, you should start to promote your site. Add a QR code to your shopwindow and tell the people that you are available online. If you don’t have social accounts yet, create them! Instagram is a great way to start. There you can post product photos and link them to your website. It is for free.
Of course you can create a profile on Facebook and add a Facebook Page to your Profile, In both you can post about your new shop and present products. If you are creative and if you love videos, you can also present products and your store on YouTube with clickable Links, which forward your viewers directly to your online store. Dont forget Pinterest 😉
There are sevral posts about this subject here on my blog.
As you can see, there are countless possibilities and the sky is the limit 🙂