Well, what does EC stand for?
Today, Easy Commerce
Yes, you can launch an online store for under $300. In fact, with the barrier to entry so low, anyone can build an e-business.
E-commerce doesn’t have to be expensive commerce. More and more companies – some of them with very big names – are offering services that let you quickly and easily set up shop on the Web in a matter of hours. Their secret? They make the construction process as simple as plugging your sales information into a pre-designed site template. Then they take care of the rest – hosting your online store and processing your transactions – all for a fee that can be as low as a dollar a day.
Tony Hodge thinks it’s a bargain few businesspeople can afford to miss. Hodge, vice president of Hodge Products Inc., an El Cajon, Calif., lock distributor, used Sitematic, a template service, to create an e-commerce site for a division of Hodge Products that sells combination locks. A The site, www.combolock.com, came together quickly. “I’ve put five to six hours into building the site,” Hodge says, “and invested under $300 over six
months.” He pays $39.95 a month for Sitematic’s catalog service, which lets him sell up to 20 products.
The results? “We get five to seven e-mail responses a day,” Hodge says, “and we’ve sold thousands of dollars’ worth of products.”
Originality Versus Economy
Make no mistake; template-based e-commerce sites are not for every business. Hodge himself maintains another site (www.lockpeople.com) that he had custom-designed by an outside firm for about $4,000. That site, he says, is slightly more sophisticated than the Sitematic-designed site, but both bring in revenue and inquiries.
So, what’s the advantage of a custom site over a template-based store? Doug Rice, president, and CEO of Interactive8, a 47-employee New York interactive agency, says that no matter how sophisticated the template is, you still fit your material into somebody else’s pattern.
“The real proposition,” Rice says, “is whether or not your site measures up to the standards you would apply to a store in the real world. You have to ask yourself not only whether a template can provide 100 percent functionality but also whether it differentiates your site from others. It’s that differentiation that draws customers and invites them to transact.” (For a sample of Interactive8’s e-commerce work, check out A&E; Network’s Biography store at www.biography.com.)
Hodge doesn’t disagree, but he says that the template route is a good one for businesses to take to experiment with an e-commerce site without investing much time or money. If the site enjoys some success, you can step up to a custom-designed store.
“I can implement a new idea in a few minutes,” Hodge says of his Sitematic site. “If it doesn’t work, all it costs me is a little time. In fact, I’m constantly changing and adjusting the site for that very reason – to experiment with various response and sales tools without spending a fortune.”