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Set up an Eshop?


MAJ

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A mate of mine owns a shop, and he has asked me to look into setting up his website so that he can sell his products online. I suggested an eshop, but it's not something I have looked into before. His hosting, on my recommendation a few years ago, is with Heart Internet, so that was my first port of call. Unfortunately I couldn't find the information I needed but after using 'Live Chat' on the HI site, I was told that eshops were third-party applications and to Google something like "Cubecart", I did so and saw that, in itself, Cubecart is fairly easy to install and configure (famous last words), but what I need to know is: Is this sort of thing easy to do, what problems should I look out for, etc. My mate can take credit card payments in his shop, I assume this will help when setting up the eshop as to take payments online I think he needs, what is called, a Merchants Account, is that correct? I guess I'm looking for an idiots guide to doing this sort of thing. Can anyone shed some light on the subject for me? It would be much appreciated.

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MAJ

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I'll have a look at Zen, it's surprising Heart Internet's "Leeanne" didn't mention that when I contacted them on 'Live Chat'.

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ajm

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I have assisted someone in setup of online shop using ZenCart and found the process easy. We had to outsource the design and layout part to a 3rd party company. Fairly easy to setup, but the backend system was a little confusing to navigate.

Actinic also do something called Actinic Express, whcih is fairly basic and costs under £20 a month. I volunteer for a charity organisation and look after their online bookshop whcih is running on Actinic Express. Fairly easy, but no advanced settings.

Currently, I am am playing with OPENCART, and first impressions seem very good. I initially had a little problem with installation and SQL database. A quick email to Heart Internet resulted in the support people sorting it out for me in 2 minutes!

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Ansolan

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Hi

The Zencart recommendation isn't a bad one as free software goes, particularly if you don't have a great deal of experience in the area. Have a look through these to give you an idea of what is required:

Tutorials

Whatever you use, a key question is your intentions. If your friend is largely looking to set up an online catalogue for his customers, or to promote directly in other ways, the main focus is naturally on good user facilities. Should he be looking to draw traffic via search, that needs significant additional effort for most e-commerce fields.

Both main search engines, Google in particular demand more than has been the case in the past. The search aspect will need planning and unique, in depth content well beyond an online catalogue. Plus good structure, technical control, such as avoiding duplication in terms of content itself or serving this on different URLs.

Appreciate you are just researching to find the right tool at present, good to see but with an e-commerce site more than most others, time spent looking beyond the actual build before you start can pay dividends.

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Forum Editor

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I completely endorse what Ansolan has said.

You can set up a shopping cart operation fairly rapidly, but to do it well you'll need to spend time. One aspect alone - decent images of products in the catalogue - is something to which many people pay too little attention.

In a commercial context your home-page is very much a shop window, and time spent on planning the look and content will be well rewarded - once you can get people to visit. Sit down with your friend and think the project through from a commercial standpoint - forget about the details of website design at that stage, and concentrate on what it is about his operation and/or products that will appeal to internet shoppers. Make sure he realises that with on-line retailing fulfilment is everything; there's no point in offering goods for sale on the web if you can't deliver them to an Australian customer pretty quickly. If you're going to restrict sales to the UK mainland you must say so, loud and clear, on the homepage so potential foreign customers aren't frustrated.

Consider currency issues, and think about after-sales service. Your friend will have to comply with all relevant UK and EU legislation relating to retail sales in general, and internet sales in particular.

If your friend is going to store his customers' personal information he may be required to register as a data processor with the UK Information Commissioner - there's a simple step-through test on the website.

Good luck with the project - feel free to come back to your thread for more help and/or advice as you need it.

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MAJ

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That's all good advice and is much appreciated, a lot of information I can pass on to him. I don't think he does, or will be doing, much overseas selling, his business is mostly done in the UK and Ireland, so will be be working in Sterling and Euros only. I agree that decent images of the products is very important and I have already broached that subject with him as part of our initial discussion, as some of his smaller products can be difficult to photograph well, I suppose that's something I will probably end up doing.

"Your friend will have to comply with all relevant UK and EU legislation relating to retail sales in general, and internet sales in particular."

He is aware of the regulations I'm sure, he's been in business for about 15 years, but I will point him to the regs. for selling online, distance selling regulations etc.

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