November 15, 1999
Store on a Shoestring
If you plan to do limited e-commerce, shopping cart sites will get you started for little or no cash
If you've contacted a Web design firm about building an e-commerce site, you probably already know how expensive it can be. Here are a few services that give you alternatives for selling on-line.
Companies such as Freemerchant.com and BigStep.com are competing with higher-priced e-commerce providers by giving away services and supporting themselves with partnerships and advertising. You can set up a storefront on their servers and get a subdomain name (jewelrystore.safeshopper.com, for instance). You then can customize the content on your page, design a catalog and choose transaction options. Once set up, your site can accept on-line orders, and you can coordinate your merchant account to work with one of three processing interfaces.
Other sites work the same way; they may allow you to customize your design, get usage statistics or process orders more easily for a monthly fee. These sites include Shopbuilder.com ($20 per month) and Yahoo! Store ($100 month for a limited number of items). Like with Freemerchant, the sites are fairly uncomplicated and can't be completely customized.
Packages such as ShopSite and Merchant Stuff cost several hundred dollars, but they allow you to create more sophisticated Web sites. Internet service providers that partner with ShopSite's creator Open Market (www.openmarket.com) will often tack on the use of ShopSite to Web site hosting services for a monthly fee. If you purchase the software for yourself, you don't actually get disks or CD-ROMs it runs on a Web server, which you access with your Web browser, similar to the other services.
- by Stacey King