Shopping carts

From my mail:

We currently have an online shopping cart type store which has been probably a little too successful, hence the push to change our method of manufacture and go to the retail market – we have just been maxed out. My concern is, do I put a lot of energy into developing a nice new redesigned shopping cart website to coincide with the collection relaunch next year, or should I put my energy into creating a non-selling website whose aim is to support the product/image, list retailers and support sales that way?

Regarding whether you should or should not retail and the conflicts you may have with retailers, I defer to Miracle’s advice in Hangtags, labels & domain names- competing with your customers? and The battle of retailers vs manufacturers. Personally, if you’re asking what I would do, if I were to sell consumer direct with some wholesale accounts, I wouldn’t put my web address on my hang tags that I sent to stores. Under no circumstances (if I had retail accounts) would I sell less than MSRP. I wouldn’t want to compete with my stores, I don’t think it’s fair. A lot of stores don’t want to carry you if they know you sell on the internet. But again, read Miracle’s posts.

Speaking of shopping carts, other people have asked about it but I don’t know anything about it. Miracle is a better choice but because the question is so complex, she hasn’t written about it in part because she’s hung up on describing the closely related topic of help desk software for customer service and support (she’s using Kayako). Miracle also says she’s not sure if she understands your question because her impression is that you’re putting the cart before the horse and you don’t need to. She’s seen other situations in which people have completely redone their sites for no good reason other than that they can. In general, she says shopping cart software is often a problem because it isn’t set up to manage inventory by size. Mike C -a regular visitor here- is someone who will also know a lot about shopping carts because he sells a line on the web and he’s also quite technically astute. In the absence of in house experts, I found reference to Tom Antion who’s written a free ebook (pdf) on selecting a shopping cart. Or maybe you’d prefer to read his series (pt.1 pt.2 pt.3) describing the “22 questions to ask when buying a shopping cart system. Tom recommends 1ShoppingCart software.

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10 comments

  1. Oxanna says:

    This is *somewhat* off-topic, but it’s a related question that I’d be interested in hearing further about. Say I decide not to sell directly to the consumer on my site, but I still want to reach the consumer who doesn’t live close to a brick-and-mortar shop. Could one get a retailer to place your items on their own website? This would, of course, necessitate that said retailer *has* a website. I’m thinking larger chains/stores as opposed to boutiques – using JCPenney or the like for an example. I’ve always wondered why certain clothes are featured on these sites, and not others. Any thoughts?

    Also, would your recommendation to not sell directly to the consumer also eliminate selling to online-only businesses?

  2. Jan says:

    Shopping carts vary in subtlety but not so much in implementation & execution. Basically, if you know enough of the technicalities, you can “get” your shopping cart to work/track as little or as much as you like. A lot of shopping carts come with basic installation packages, which you can then customize without too much trouble. BUT then there are literally thousands of specific contributions written by savvy techno-driven individuals you can add to soup-up your shopping cart. Most contribs. require some knowledge of the software language. There are shopping cart forums, like the one here, where issues/problems, etc. are discussed and resolved. You can find people thru the forums that can help you individually as well. (I wish I didn’t know as much about this b/c the flip side is that, while I’ve been educating myself on this, I’ve not been designing/sewing. The opportunity cost.)

    I have been selling from my website BUT do not have my website on my hangtags (I have just a few wholesale accounts). There’s a time trade-off with this, too. Shopping cart sites require a good deal of babysitting. I used to love it, now it’s just something that takes me away from what I should be doing. Positive side: I have found great ways to keep my name out there in the virtual world & have steady traffic from meta tag analysis/google rankings. Tracking traffic geographically provides a targeted nugget of information I can use to approach potential retailers….a backwards approach, I know, but I’m trying to take advantage of what having a website has yielded for me, in addition to revenue.

    I realize NOW that I was much too eager to get out there with my wares; that I should have slowed down, planned a little bit more methodically; focused on design/manufacturing and finding sales reps. (Thanks to FI.) So, I’m trying to transition now from web-based retail to b&m wholesale. Slow going….hope this helps someone out there.

  3. Kathleen says:

    Could one get a retailer to place your items on their own website? This would, of course, necessitate that said retailer *has* a website. I’m thinking larger chains/stores as opposed to boutiques – using JCPenney or the like for an example. I’ve always wondered why certain clothes are featured on these sites, and not others. Any thoughts?

    I don’t know the ins and outs of why or what clothes pop up on Penney’s site but do keep in mind that if you sold to them, then you’d get bogged down into the whole 6 months payables thing. As I’ve said many times, it may be prestigious to sell to department stores but you may not want to.

    Also, would your recommendation to not sell directly to the consumer also eliminate selling to online-only businesses?

    I don’t think I said I wouldn’t sell directly to consumers, just that I would’nt take advantage of my retailers in doing it.

  4. Esther says:

    Just thought I would add my two cents about what clothes appear on the JCPenney website. JCP has separate buyers for their internet store and catalog. Some merchandise may overlap with the department store, but not all. The internet store buyers are just as responsible for sales and merchandising as their department store peers. I had one design sell to the JCP internet buyer. Unfortunately, it never appeared for various reasons.

    As far as shopping cart software – I am not sure what this person is asking. An internet store has three basic components – a web page, database (catalog), and secure checkout pages. I would assume the shopping cart software handles the database and checkout pages. The web page should be redesigned or updated on a frequent basis so that visitors do not get bored and surf past it.

  5. Miracle says:

    Re: JC Penny:

    Many large department store websites have many of their manufacturers drop ship for them. Their standards are set across the board so that all shipments comply with the same specs. Honestly, as a consumer you may never have noticed since the department stores have locations in nearly every state, you may have just thought that the website had different distribution centers.

    As far as shopping cart software – I am not sure what this person is asking. An internet store has three basic components – a web page, database (catalog), and secure checkout pages. I would assume the shopping cart software handles the database and checkout pages. The web page should be redesigned or updated on a frequent basis so that visitors do not get bored and surf past it.

    The guy who asked the question is way past that point. He’s not a newbie, he’s dealing with more of a strategic issue.

    I know you don’t have the frame of reference that I do, but they already have a pretty good ecommerce website and he’s basically at the crossroads of deciding if they should redevelop the B2C side, or focus on the B2B side.

    Honestly, I would tack on retailer support to the existing website. Add the obligataory stuff, contact info, sales rep and trade show info, maybe a password protected area to download line sheets, a media contact, that kind of thing.

    My concern was that they would technologically overhaul the website just because they could, not because their business necessitated it. I think they suffer from the “everything-has-to-be-in-place-itis” (don’t be offended, I do too) where you overthink and overestimate what you need to provide.

    Here’s the thing: what if it took 1 year or more for retailers to even use the retailer portion of your website? Would it have been worth it? That’s likely to happen. Honestly, I think you need a better website to impress consumers than you do retailers. Why? Well it’s still a bit old school. Most line sheets aren’t even in color, a full color website, well that’s like the Escalade when everyone else is driving the Ford Focus.

    Snazzy sites are great for media, consumers and trade show jury panels. I have just heard too many reps say that they can get only a few of their buyers to use the internet to encourage someone to just go whole hog on an internet B2B strategy.

  6. Laurel Wells says:

    yeah, why do retailers insist on living in the dark ages?!!!

    As for competing with them by selling online…I sell to my customers directly via my site, although I never compete with my retailers prices. I don’t see how I could survive without selling direct, and I like to think that my wholesale accounts understand that. If they love my product, they’ll want me to succeed and they’ve got to know that an internet store could never in a million years compare to a boutique. The bottom line is that people really prefer to try something on before they buy!

  7. Esther says:

    I had forgotten about the drop ship part of the JCP catalog/internet deal. If I remember right, it was rather expensive to comply with the packaging requirements. Nordstrom, on the other hand, was rather easy to deal with in placing product on their ecommerce site.

  8. Frocked.co.uk is a B2C Website, & I am currently looking at upgrading to make changes to the present Site to hopefully help with things like ‘checkout abandonment’s’, colours/contrast etc, but have also been researching into having a B2B Site. (Or a ‘Log In’ section on the current Site specifically for retailers.) & so thanks Miracle & to all who posted, this has been quite illuminating & ever so helpful to me right now.

    Our Website pricing keeps the retailers end price in mind so as not to be in direct competition, but I am looking into whether to only sell part of our range to retailers, with the other designs selling exclusively online…but then this limits sales!…any feedback/experience on this one??

    Our Site Stats do not state what country/state/county visitors are located; do others have Stats that show this? This would help us by knowing where to research further to market to a more targeted audience, especially overseas.

    I agree with Jan, E-commerce Sites do take up a lot of time; I tried to do too many things (hmm…I still do!!) & thus did not have a fully populated or search-engine-friendly Website in the beginning. I have now taught myself some SEO etc, & make the time to work & update the Site – Frocked can now be found at the top of Google, but this does take time away from other things in the business. Jan’s final paragraph is so apt…one of those ‘I-wish-I-knew-then-what-I-know-now’; newbie’s take note, that is such real-experience advice that I definitely relate to!

    Q: Does anyone have any experience of selling higher-priced womenswear online? Any info would be gratefully received!

  9. James Cook says:

    RagCart.com (my company) might be of interest, it’s based on OSCommerce and has many bells and whistles specific to selling online in the apparel trade. There is also a fully working demo site (with a default design)… sites can be unique in design but if you want to review the administration side of the demo site you will need to contact me via RagCart and ask for access.

    James

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