Setting Up An Online Store Is Still Hard

For the past couple of days I've been looking at different online solutions to setup a very simple online storefront to sell one physical item on behalf of our rugby club. While it may seem an easy and a quick task to do, it's surprised me with the amount of things I have to look into, not to mention the amount of insufficient solutions on the market. The work of setting up this storefront has opened my eyes to the fact that there's still a lot of room to set up a startup in the e-commerce space.

I'm not saying there aren't good solutions on the market, but most of them are aimed at those who want to run e-commerce sites full time with hundreds of SKUs. My guess is that if you look at only sports clubs, there are probably thousands of them who have about 10 SKUs they'd like to sell online, just in Finland.

The biggest challenge is trying to find a store where the economics of selling something simple online work. The best alternative for us, as a club, would be to sell the item with a commission structure (instead of a monthly charge). Sports clubs aren't exactly trying to find good investment areas for their excess funds. Even 25 to 30 euros a month may seem too much for 80% of the clubs out there.

If however, you price your offering based on commissions - there's a lot less risk involved in going ahead to test the solution out, even for 6 months. Who knows, you as a solution provider, might be making more money through commissions than the monthly package. I'm sure there are other organisations where this applies as well and not just sports clubs.

Nevertheless, another point I wanted to make was the fact that many Nordic solutions still boast themselves by the amount of features they have available. They are exactly in the same spot the mobile phone industry was after the turn of the millenium. Features don't sell phones, good experiences do. It's still the case today.

Especially in the need to sell something simple, like one SKU - the amount of features you're not looking to choose the package with the maximum amount of features available. You're looking for something simple, easy and quick to use and setup. Many of the services available required me to spend endless hours in trying to setup themes, arrange the look and feel etc.

I also took a look at Shopify, a service that has been applauded for its approach and experience among people working with e-commerce sites. Based on my experience it has to be said that it's by far the most user friendly (event though they did force me to enter my credit card at the sign-up to check them out). The downside is that since they're aimed at the US market, it doesn't work as well in the EU region as I'd hope. Also they don't offer choices regarding the commission based approach.

Am I being unreasonable with my requests? Don't think so. As soon as I asked my Facebook friends and subscribers on what the best alternative for my above mention need would be, I got suggestions that didn't fit my requirements. Also, I got about 5 messages from different people asking what solutions I were looking at as they're also trying to figure something out. None of the messages said these people would be looking to do this full time, meaning they're more or less in the same situation as me.

There's still a huge long tail of people (or different organisations for that matter) who'd want to set up something similar like me. They're looking for ready made solutions and pricing offerings with very low risk.

Oh, and since some will still ask me what I settled for: I'm looking to setup Wordpress and use the Simple PayPal Shopping cart plugin. Simple and works out of the box more or less.

Image by Andy Atzert

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pavuorio October 18, 2011

Hi Antti,

Now that you ask, I guess there is space for small advertisement :). There is a solution just for your needs in Finland, check out our service at www.savalanche.com.

We offer:
- Fully functioning web store in your blog and Facebook page in less than 15 minutes.
- All finnish payment methods + paypal if needed
- Purely commission based pricing that includes payment fees. No monthly payments or any other commitments, you can shut down your store tomorrow without any costs if you like.
(- If you wish, you can sell fan merchandises designed for you directly via our partners + you can earn some money for your club via affiliate sales model)

We have already several Finnish sport clubs as our customers.

Best Regards,
Pasi Vuorio

70860bbd343f3e4e1eaa9210dd9dd188?s=48
Pasi M.P October 19, 2011

This isn't a foolproof solution, and it's definitely not the most economically viable. But if the question is more to raise awareness through logo or message visibility, there are third-party stores that you can also embed to your site, such as Spreadshirt. Pros include ease of setting up, not having to worry about manufacturing or storage of what you're selling. The cons, of course are that most of the money goes to the store enabler, not you. Plus, if your market is Finland only, then these sites are probably not for you because they usually ship from UK or Germany, and they don't accept Finnish debit cards.

Not much of a solution, but an alternative? If income isn't the main priority and there's an offchance of European fan base, I'd opt for third party solution.