Nov 18, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 1 Comments

Hosted VS Self Hosted Shopping Carts

This is another never ending debate you see online – whether to go with Hosted or Self-Hosted shopping carts. Some people see no point in the monthly payment while others swear by the advantages hosted shopping carts offer. So what’s the truth? Probably somewhere in the middle but I personally only use hosted carts for the reasons I’ll outline in this blog post.

Here are the most popular types of shopping carts:

Paid Shopping Carts:

  • Hosted
  • Self-Hosted

Free Shopping Carts:

  • Self Hosted

With free carts you don’t have any other option than to go with your own, self-hosted set up (as no one will host a free shopping cart for free). Paid shopping carts can be divided into two large groups – hosted and self-hosted. What does this mean?

Hosted Shopping carts – when I use this term, I’m referring to shopping carts that are hosted on the shopping cart company’s servers. Hosted shopping carts usually have a monthly fee that covers the software licence, hosting, support and updates.

Self-Hosted shopping carts – these are free and paid carts that you host on your own hosting account. For example, you download the free Open Cart software and install it on your Host Gator hosting account. This would be a self-hosted set-up as you’re hosting the cart on your own account.

What are the major advantages and disadvantages to each? (more…)

Oct 8, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments

Info Products – A GOLDMINE for eCommerce Shop Owners!

There’s a misconception out there that these two business models – physical products and information (info) products – should be run separately. Well, let me tell you now – that’s absolutely NOT TRUE! You can take the best of both worlds and run them simultaneously.

And actually, adding some info products to a physical products business can be a fast and easy way to increase your sales and profit. In this blog post I’ll show you exactly how to do this.

If we abstract ourselves from the myths surrounding info products, we can come up with 3 business models that involve incorporating both physical products and information products:

1) Mixed – you sell both physical and info products and they generate equal profit in your business. A classic example of this would be a shop selling beauty or craft items but also offering classes/courses or selling home-study materials on the topic.

2) Info product led – you sell mostly information products with some occasional physical products. For example Beachbody.com, their primary income comes from selling various fitness info products (DVDs etc.) but they also sell fitness equipment and supplements.

3) Physical product led – you sell mostly physical products and use info products as a lead generation tool or even sell an eBook, service or how to guide along with your physical products. An example of such a business model would be Amazon! The majority of their income comes from physical products but they also sell digital products such as music, eBooks and videos.

The last model will apply to most eCommerce Shop owners and is by far the easiest to integrate! You already have a shop (or plan to build one), physical products to sell and all you need to do to increase your profit is add some sort of highly valued information product you can make massive profit on.

I’m talking about strategies like: (more…)

Sep 5, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 18 Comments

Which shopping cart is the BEST?

That’s a good question and one that requires an in-depth answer. In today’s post I’ll cover my story on how I ended up with Big Commerce after trialling more than 30 shopping carts!

When I first started out in eCommerce, my cart of choice was Open Cart. It was simple to use, completely free and has a big community built around it… but I soon realised that function and feature wise, it’s very limited. And even though you can get hundreds of plugins, both free and paid ones, to work with Open Cart, in essence that just creates even bigger compatibility issues…

So I started to look for something more robust and feature-rich.

I knew that I wanted to go with a hosted shopping cart as I simply don’t have enough time to deal with all the technical problems that come with self-hosted carts. There are many advantages hosted carts offer over traditional, self-hosted solutions like:

Super-fast page loading times.

Most modern hosted carts use high speed, professional hosting and something called content delivery network (CDN). CDN is a way of distributing photos and other files from your shop to data centres all around the world. This means your shop loads fast no matter where your site visitors are and that’s hugely important for an eCommerce store, where you can get loads of international traffic and sales.

On-going support.

Live chat, email and phone support – I know that if something goes wrong with my shop, there will be professionals working 24/7 to help me fix it. I don’t want to have to rely on forums to help me find out what’s going on! I want to get professional help QUICKLY! And this is something most hosted carts offer.

On-going, hassle free updates.

This is what I love most about hosted carts – they do all the hard work for you in the background and just keep working on new features. We all know how fast eCommerce changes nowadays – there are new tools and marketing channels popping up every year – with hosted carts we don’t have to worry about making manual updates or compatibility issues as everything is taken care of for us.

Security, PCI compliance.

To take direct card payments on your shop, it must be PCI compliant. Now, to do this by yourself, with your own website, takes a lot of money and time plus you always have to stay updated with the latest changes. Hosted carts do this for you so you can spend your time on what matters most – traffic generation and sales. 

Security of your site is another issue. Sure, you can pay a £1000+ per year on Mc Affee services (or similar) to secure your site but why do that when you can get almost the same service practically for free? (more…)

Apr 15, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 6 Comments

Good Old Trade Shows!

In the age of the internet, B2B websites, forums and Google it’s all too easy to forget that often, some of the old classic business methods are still very effective. I’d say one of these is Trade Shows. It’s a completely overlooked product sourcing concept, especially for online retailers who are too lazy to get out of their office or house to meet actual suppliers face to face.

Many people think that trade shows are not accessible to them, that you need a special invitation and what not. But in reality, that couldn’t be further from the truth. While there are trade shows that are open only to professionals, most will happily welcome ANY interested people!

Ticket prices are also not as high as some people think and in many cases are even free. Also, some trade shows are open only for professionals on DAY ONE but the general public are welcome on the following days. You can always find this information specifically for a trade show that you’re interested in on the official website.

I think trade shows are still one of the best & easiest ways to find suppliers and while not many new eBay sellers can afford a trip to China’s Canton fair, there are still loads of local options available. Such local trade shows are the perfect place to find wholesalers & new, emerging brands that are looking for exclusive distributors in a region. And this can be very powerful…

If you get in talks with a company that is looking for a distributor in the UK for a new product and you present yourself well and get the contract, it’s a fast track to success! Having exclusive distribution over an in-demand brand opens your door to wholesale opportunities too – then you can start supplying other retailers in the region.

So as you can see, trade shows are not only about meeting wholesalers – you can also build contacts with brand owners directly.

In the UK there are hundreds of trade shows being held each year, and many of them are business oriented. You can find a comprehensive list and calendar here: (more…)

Apr 8, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 5 Comments

Royal Mail Alternative – Fulfillment Houses!

The concept of using Fulfilment Houses for an eCommerce business may not be new BUT after the Royal Mail price update on 2nd April this year, using a Fulfilment House may be the ONLY way to survive for many small time eBay sellers.

My Hermes is already a good alternative to Royal Mail and cheaper in many price ranges but what if you still want to offer TRUE Courier delivery service for your customers?

Royal Mail’s new prices for packages are not competitive at all. For many eBay traders this can be a business killer especially in Autumn, when new TRS requirements kick in asking you to provide at least one FREE shipping option.

That’s why this is a perfect time to look for Royal Mail alternatives. I have briefly covered the concept of Fulfilment Houses in one of my previous blog posts but today, I invited Scott McGinley (scott.mcginley@dalepak.ltd.uk) from Dalepak Ltd., to share his story and explain what benefits small time eBay traders can expect from services provided by Dalepak Ltd.:

Scott McGinley, Dalepak Ltd.

At the end of 2012 I left play.com to join Dalepak Logistics, one of things I noticed when at play was that Merchants have thriving businesses but their Supply Chain and Logistics can hinder growth, I also saw that with the services and costs that companies like Amazon enjoy that the smaller business was struggling to compete broadly and were being confined to mostly a Niche market. (more…)

Feb 21, 2013 by Andrew Minalto - 32 Comments

Complete Warehousing Guide for eBay Sellers!

One of the first things you face when starting an eBay business is where and how to store the goods you plan to sell. Most people don’t have access to a warehouse, so they have to set up their own goods storage system. In this blog post I’ll try to cover the warehouse set up options available to small-time online traders.

If you don’t want to store and dispatch goods on your own, you can always take a look at fulfilment houses and the services they offer.

But in most cases, when you are just starting out and want to save every penny, having a storage system in-house is the best way to go.

The best, most suitable set up will depend on what type of goods you’re selling.

For small items (like jewellery, craft supplies and similar), these would be the most suitable options:

1) Linbins – one of the most popular and oldest ways to store small items. Linbins are affordable, come in a variety of sizes and can be stacked on top of each other or attached to special wall panels to create gigantic storage units. The downside of Linbins is that they don’t close so expect dust to get onto products in the long run. You can protect your products from getting dirty by placing them in plastic bags first.

Linbins from Plastor.co.uk

2) Storage bins with cabinets – these will be more expensive, but they close fully so no dust problem here. These storage bins are very durable but the downside is the cost – they’re really quite expensive.

Storage Bins from from Plastor.co.uk

(more…)

Aug 1, 2012 by Andrew Minalto - 6 Comments

9 Ways to Come up with a Great Domain Name!

When you start a brand new online business, one of the first tasks you face is coming up with a name for your company. Be it an online shop, eBay account or Amazon shop – you need a name for your business. This also means that you want to register a domain name to create e-mail accounts and set-up a website.

Back in 1995 it was an easy task as there were only 71 000 domains registered! Fast forward to year 2012 and you’re facing a real battle as most common names are already registered, especially if we talk about .com domains. With more than 200 million domain names already registered, you really have to be creative to come up with something unique and suitable for your business.

Even if you start selling only on eBay ALWAYS register a domain name for your eBay business! First of all, this will give you opportunity to use a professional e-mail address (e.g. info@yourcompany.com), secondly – you want to secure your future business plans, launching an online shop, or at least a blog to stay connected with your customers.

Here are my TOP 9 ways to come up with a perfect domain name for your new business: (more…)

Nov 9, 2011 by Andrew Minalto - 2 Comments

How to Handle Black Friday’s Orders?

Wow, it’s already November and Christmas is right around the corner!

Before we start gift wrapping up our Christmas orders, another important day of the year is coming along – Black Friday (this year it’s on 25th November). If you don’t know what Black Friday means to online retailers, check out Black Friday’s page on Wikipedia. Obviously, this is more important for people selling to the US market BUT I believe that anyone can learn a thing or two from year’s hottest online shopping day.

For us, online retailers, it’s important that we’re well prepared for Black Friday and can handle un-expected, large volume of orders. I can’t imagine a bigger disaster than to see customers who want to buy something from you but you can’t serve them for one or another reason! So let’s get started and prepare our online shops for Black Friday’s & Christmas shopping madness!

As an example, I can use one of my online shops – recently, we got some un-expected media coverage and from usual 10 orders a day, we went to 80+ orders, in a matter of few hours time. This is how it looked in real time:

Now, we were totally prepared for this so it didn’t cause any problems for us That’s why I want to share with you a list of things that you should implement in your online business to be ready for such large number of un-expected orders. It can happen to any of you – someone could mention your online shop in a blog or your press release could get featured in Yahoo News or Google News. If you’re not ready for this, your reputation can suffer greatly and you can waste great, FREE marketing campaign! (more…)

Nov 3, 2011 by Andrew Minalto - 29 Comments

Fulfilment Houses: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly!

Hey Everyone!

After last week’s post about how to start from scratch, I’m back with a new and quite lengthy post about fulfilment houses – something every online shop owner should consider using (if it’s suitable for the business model of course).

Just what exactly are fulfilment houses?

Fulfilment houses such as Shipwire and Amazon Fulfilment Web Service are third party services that take care of fulfilling client orders on the business owner’s behalf. Fulfilment houses take charge of receiving the products from the supplier, housing the said inventory, receiving the orders from the business owner’s clients, and packaging and shipping said orders to the latter.

And depending upon the agreement between the business owner and the fulfilment house, the latter can very well take care of processing payments and the after-sale support such as handling customer complaints and accepting, even re-stocking, of undamaged return items as well.

The Good

Fulfilment houses certainly offer a lot of advantages for the small business owner: (more…)

Aug 25, 2011 by Andrew Minalto - 0 Comments

How To Choose a Good Shopping Cart?

With shopping carts it really is – You Get What You Pay For.

Free or open source shopping carts will never offer you range of tools and features more sophisticated, hosted solutions offer for a reasonable monthly fee. Even then, how to know, which cart is best for your situation?

What you expect a shopping cart will do for you? This will be a unique list, based on your business specifics, size, location etc. There are hundreds of functions to think about. However, I believe these 13 are crucial to ANY online shop:

http://eCommerceMagnates.com/13-must-have-shopping-cart-features/

In this month’s eCommerce Magnates video newsletter I undercover 13, must have shopping cart features! Yes, there should be 23 or even 33 but we have to start somewhere, right? If your shopping cart lacks any of these 13, you should seriously consider alternative shopping carts.

Enjoy your Bank Holiday Weekend!!!

Thanks,
Andrew