One-hundred-and-forty-four! That's how many shopping cart vendors would love to have you as a customer. Don't let the size of that number discourage you. By the time you've weeded out the obvious misfits, your list will be down to maybe ten. In the next couple of FlyBy's, we'll help you narrow that even more.
For print service providers, the selection process is dramatically shortened by one single factor: If the cart doesn't play nice with product variations, it's out of contention before leaving the gate.
Take Shopify. With a claimed user base of 60,000+ active stores, Shopify may well be the most popular shopping cart on the planet. We had a live demo store running in an afternoon. Our conclusion? You'd have to look long and hard to find another cart so simple, and at $14.00 per month, so reasonably priced. But here's the catch: Shopify calls it quits after giving you just three product variations. That makes it difficult to recommend for a typical print shop.
The MorningSkyMall has advanced from proof of concept to a working prototype for BigCommerce, so we'll have much more to say about shopping carts in future FlyBy's.
Unitac International Inc.
e-Commerce for the Little Printer
On the surface, finding an e-Commerce provider to host your new webstore is as easy as finding an ISP to host your website. The difference is what happens when you discover it's not working out.
With a website, you simply cancel the old account, find a new ISP, upload your existing content into the new site, and move on. Relocating a webstore, on the other hand, that's like going through a divorce without a prenup. Lots of knots, big and little, to untangle. In e-Commerce, as in real life, it's a really good idea to start out with what you hope will be a lasting relationship.
To begin with, stay away from self-hosting. Small print shops (five million dollars in annual sales or less) have neither the time nor the resources to maintain the back end of a webstore.
Next, make sure the program can accommodate custom product configurations. At a bare minimum, you'll need to offer a choice of quantities, paper, and finishing options. Nearly all carts can handle tee-shirts, but will they get stumped by a simple newsletter?
Finally, templates, lots of 'em. Free, preferably, and easy to customize to instill your own look and feel. If you want to hire a designer later on, that should be an option, not a requirement.
SkyMall Demo Store: BigCommerce
Through the Eyes of a Search Engine
It's not often that we recommend third party software, and when we do we don't get paid for it. What's more, we only recommend stuff we use ourselves.
Website Insight from CoffeeCup Software turned out to be a surprisingly capable little utility to have in our SEO tool box. The $79 program analyzes more than 70 factors that influence website usability and search rank.
Tip of the Month
Pricing Makeready for Booklets
When you price a simple business form instead of a catalog sheet, Morning Flight knows it needs to reduce makeready. The same is true when there is more than one signature in a booklet.
What the program can't possibly know is the complexity of that booklet. For offset in particular where makeready can represent a big chunk of the total run cost, the degree of complexity becomes a critical factor. Remember that you can fine-tune makeready for offset and digital.
When pricing a booklet, even a booklet of medium complexity, keep an eye on the hours and minutes the program calculates for makeready. When necessary, lend it a hand.
Pricing Bookbinding - when Perfect needs to be Custom
It's hard to stay on top of things, it really is. Just when we thought we had perfect binding all wrapped up, along comes new equipment like the Sterling Digibinder and punches a hole into our carefully crafted pricing model.
That hole is bound to get even bigger because what now passes for perfect binding is as far from conventional perfect binding as a hop in a commuter is from a ride in the Concord.
Yes, we know what happened to the Concord so we're offering up both. Find out when to quote perfect binding and when to quote custom by following this link to the Morning Flight Archives.