Maybe not the most exciting topic but I feel like it’s important enough considering online sales are how most folks are earning money here.
I’m in the process of setting up an website/webstore for a bike importing and distruibution business. Wondering if folks here have much advice or expericence with the different eCommerce platforms availible? This is not something I have any experience with so choosing the right one seems to be the biggest hurdle right now. I’ve added a poll below with what seems to be the most common options. Would love to hear your opinions.
- Big Cartel
- Other (Please Comment)
Also, for some more context. My business is just a one person operation—which I imagine is pretty common here—so I’m looking to prioritize ease of setup and ongoing management. Inventory will be in the tens of items, not the hundreds. And ideally I’d want to maintain inventory/product descriptions for both wholesale (password protected pricing) and retail sales in the one site. And I not have to pay and arm and a leg for the service! I’m also based in Australia but it seems like this stuff is universal enough so hopefully this info could be of use to othere folks here. Cheers!
We use Squarespace, which has the easiest UI to make good-looking pages. Shopify has SLIGHTLY better e-commerce and inventory management but at the cost of the clunky webpage and UI.
Both have a fatal flaw for bikes: the lack of inventory configurations
For example, let’s say you sell a bike as a frame only, frame+parts, or complete.
Ideally, you have a store page for a frame, that allows you to add a fork, wheels, etc… on a pull-down menu. This is not possible in Squarespace or Shopify (unless you use some weird 3rd party apps) Instead of one item with 3 configurations, you end up with 3 separate inventory items ( frame, frame+parts, complete bike) even though you may only have 1 frame to sell.
I use big cartel, from what I recall it seemed to offer the most when comparing all of the free plans from various sites. The UI management is pretty clunky and painful, but free is free. My site is mainly used for selling t-bar racks, all of my frame sales happen via direct communication
A couple of cool integrations that can work with it:
Pirate ship - imports all my orders and can purchase and print shipping labels for all orders with one click
MailChimp - allows for popup email subscriber form, keeps contact info from all purchases for future email marketing
Shipstation - this is connected to my local screen printer, when i get t-shirt orders, they go directly to the printer, they print and ship them for me and send me a monthly invoice.
Slightly related, I use another freeware called Wave Financial. Free invoicing, book keeping and all that jazz. Can connect to your business bank account and lets you categorize all the transactions
I run liberationfab.com on Squarespace. It was super easy to set up last minute before last year’s Philly Bike Expo and has been extensible enough to grow with me as I’ve started handling more ecommerce transactions. It’s by no means perfect and I find myself annoyed at some of its quirks, but I’m sure that would happen with any platform. It fit my main requirements of being super simple to operate, maintain, and make pretty. One thing that I didn’t realize at the time of setup was how important phone-optimized layout would be - it turns out almost 80% of my web traffic is from mobile browsers.
I use Wave for accounting and invoicing, Sortly for inventory, and roll my own website to keep overhead costs down, but I do pretty low volume sales.
Appreciate the feedback so far everyone.
@Daniel_Y the situation you decribe is exactly what I’m trying to set up for. To give retail customers the choice between framsets and complete builds and then to offer the same choices to dealers but at bulk with wholesale pricing. And ideally to have the stock update in one place as orders come through. By the time you add in difference colours/sizes/models it all get quite confusing.
I’m currently working through some ideas with folks who use WooCommerce as it seems to have the flexibility to do what I want. Just looks to be a lot of work to setup. Will update things here with how I go. Cheers!
I use Shopify for the Forager Cycles website, and that’s what I’d recommend. I chose it because I spoke with a couple other small - medium size business owners (not all in the bike world) who had initially started on Squarespace because it was a simple set up, and then found it to be a headache as the business grew, and had an even larger headache migrating their store from Squarespace to Shopify later on. The Shopify basic plan, I’ve found is also a lot of bang for the buck and there’s not a big push to continually upgrade plans.
My biggest complaint about Shopify is the lack of inventory configurations that Daniel mentioned, though I haven’t found the webpage and UI to be clunky at all. But maybe my standards aren’t high enough? lol. I’m not a big computer web design guy, and have found it relatively easy to navigate.
Shopify definitely does rely on apps to do more specialized stuff like complex inventory configurations, so there’s a lot of pretty proven apps out there and I’m sure you could could find something to build what you want. I’m guessing it would be a lot of work on any platform to setup, so I’d look closely at how the platform would scale with your long term goals and how pricing would evolve. Also, worth looking into how the site integrates with shipping software like shipstation or shippo (I use shipstation and it works fine, but know folks who have used both and prefer shippo). Hope that helps!
Cheers Dan. Some really useful info there. I now leaning towards Shopify for the reasons you’ve stated. WooCommerce looks like too much upkeep for a one person operation and the idea of having to swap platforms in the future is kinda terrifyling . Love what you’re doing with Forager Cycles too, so keep up the good work!
I use Woocommerce because it’s the most flexible I could find. There’s tons of plugins and varying quality of each, but it’s very likely there’s a plugin that will do what you want it to, you just have to wade through the ocean that is Wordpress.