Online Store Products, Services And Tools I Recommend

Since I commonly get asked what services I use for my online store, I thought it would be useful to create a resource page that details every product, tool and service I recommend. If you are thinking about starting an online store in the near future, you should bookmark this page for your reference and convenience. Enjoy!

Web Hosting

bluehost
Blue Host – Blue Host is the shared host that my wife and I used for 2 years to run our online store before we switched over to dedicated hosting. BlueHost is inexpensive, reliable and offers a wide array of free services. Highly recommended for new shop owners.

Note: MyWifeQuitHerJob.com readers are eligible to receive 29% off of Bluehost by clicking on this link

storm on demand
Storm On Demand – Storm On Demand is the dedicated webhost that I use now for every website I own including my blog and online store. Service and uptime are top notch and I haven’t had any problems yet. If you are looking for VPS or dedicated hosting, Storm On Demand is awesome.

wp engine
WP Engine – If you have a slow WordPress blog and you really don’t want to deal with any of the technical aspects of speeding up a website, then you should probably sign up for a service like WP Engine. These guys specialize in WordPress hosting and will make sure your blog runs as fast as possible. But naturally, this comes at a price.

Domain Registrar and SSL Certs

godaddy
Go Daddy – While I don’t recommend their hosting service for an online store, GoDaddy offers an excellent and easy to use interface with which to manage your domain names. In addition, they offer a very inexpensive SSL certificate as well. GoDaddy is the service I use for all of my domain management and SSL needs.

Incorporation, DBA, Business Paperwork

legal zoom
LegalZoom – For everything from registering your DBA or filing for an LLC or corporation, LegalZoom is awesome because they get the job done at a fraction of the price. Highly Recommended.

Product Sourcing

Worldwide Brands
Worldwide Brands – An incredible service that helps you locate and contact wholesale vendors for products that you want to sell. The best part is that there’s only one upfront fee that you have to pay and then you can use the service for life. If you don’t like going to tradeshows or cold calling wholesalers, then Worldwide Brands is the way to go because they will save you time.

Global Sources
Global Sources – If you want to import your goods from Asia, then Global Sources is a good place to start. Going through the massive lists of suppliers can be intimidating on this site, but it’s a good place to learn about various trade shows and get in touch with potential vendors.

Canton Fair
Canton Fair – This is the trade show that my wife and I try and make every year. It is enormous and a good way to meet vendors face to face if you don’t mind traveling to China.

Shopping Carts

Open Cart
OpenCart – OpenCart is an easy to use shopping cart that runs extremely fast on shared hosting environments. In addition, most shared hosts like BlueHost offer a 1 click install. Open Cart has most of the features you need to run a small-medium sized ecommerce business and it’s free! Watch this video to learn how to install this cart in 5 minutes!

Shopify
Shopify – If you do not know a lick of HTML or CSS, and you want to design a good looking website without a designer, then Shopify is probably the shopping cart for you. While you’ll have to pay higher fees than some of the other shopping carts, Shopify’s templates and design tools are much better than the rest.

volusion
Volusion Ecommerce – If you are not a technical person, don’t want to deal with a webhost or a server, and want to throw up your online store as fast as possible, then Volusion is a great way to go. What’s nice about Volusion is that unlike other hosted ecommerce solutions, they only charge a monthly fee based on the number of products you are selling and nothing else. Volusion also offers 24/7 technical support.

big commerce
Big Commerce – Like Volusion, BigCommerce also offers a great self hosted shopping cart solution for a fixed monthly fee. Big Commerce has a really nice drag and drop interface so you can design your shopping cart without knowing any HTML whatsoever. While they haven’t been around as long as Volusion and they don’t offer 24 hour support, they are slightly cheaper and provide you with free credit towards Google Adwords.

Prestashop
Prestashop – PrestaShop is another open source shopping cart that I recommend. PrestaShop is more feature rich than Open Cart out of the box but it is generally harder to edit and change if you are not as tech savvy. But if you are happy with the plugins and features it supports out of the box, it’s great!

Credit Cart Payment Processors

merchant plus
Merchant Plus – An Authorize.net Provider – Here’s what I like about Merchant Plus. For beginners, they offer a free plan with a flat 2.9% transaction rate with no monthly fees. And as your business grows, you can seamlessly transition to other plans with lower rates.

In other words, they have credit card processing plans that adjust and grow with your business. The other thing that I like about Merchant Plus is that they offer awesome customer service.

Unlike other free credit card processing plans like Stripe which only provide email support, Merchant Plus has a number that you can call and get a real human on the phone. Merchant Plus also integrates seamlessly with all of the open source shopping carts that I recommend.

Use coupon code:MYWIFEQUIT to get 20% off. Click here for step by step instructions on how to install SSL and credit card processing

Paypal
PayPal Website Payments Pro – Since my wife and I use Paypal for many purposes already, we decided on Paypal Website Payments Pro to process credit cards for our online store today. Paypal is nice because you can ship your packages directly from their interface which saves you from having to use a service like Stamps.com. However, their rates are higher so you have to weigh the pros/cons compared to using a service like Merchant Plus.

Communication, Internet Telephony

Google Voice
Google Voice – It’s free and it’s versatile. Google voice allows you to forward a call from one number to any phone line that you want. My wife and I use Google voice all the time and this service is completely free.

Skype
Skype – Skype is great for making international calls. If we have to contact our overseas vendors, we always use Skype because the rates are incredibly low.

Ring Central
Ring Central – Ring Central is an excellent service that is like Google Voice on steroids. With Ring Central, you can get a 1800 number with which you can send/receive calls or faxes at any time. In addition, you can create an auto-receptionist and a custom greeting that lets callers wait for an available employee. And like Google Voice, you can forward a call to any phone line of your choice or make calls from any phone using your office phone number. This service is awesome especially if you are short staffed in your customer support department.

Marketing Tools

Adwords
Google Adwords – Adwords is an incredible tool. Use it to drive very targeted traffic to your online store so you can gain new customers and improve your conversion rate. Even though most of our customers arrive at our website organically today, we still run Adwords to drive traffic because the ROI is excellent.

Aweber
Aweber – We use Aweber to manage all of our email campaigns. With easy to use templates and awesome email tracking, this service is a must have if you run a newsletter. Read my review here on MailChimp Vs Aweber

Screen Flow
ScreenFlow – Screencast videos are videos in which you display slides or whatever is on your computer screen while you narrate in the background. If you want to create screencast videos for your website, then screenflow is an excellent and well priced tool to get the job done.

Organizing and Manipulating Photos

picasa
Picasa – When you have thousands of product photos to go through, Picasa offers an easy way to breeze through your photo list and make minor edits. Best of all, it’s free.

Photo shop
Adobe Photoshop – I don’t want to say that Photoshop is a must have but it sure does save a ton of time. Sometimes when my wife and I take our photos, they aren’t perfect and we need to make minor edits. For example, if there are wrinkles in our product, we can remove them using Photoshop which saves us a ton of time. Not required but highly highly recommended.

Shipping Carriers

stamps
Stamps.com – Stamps.com allows you to easily streamline all of the shipping for your online store. Easily print labels and automatically update your shopping cart with this awesome tool that seamlessly integrates with the United States Postal Service database.

USPS
United States Postal Service – Since they are the cheapest shipping carrier and most of our items are lightweight, we use USPS for the majority of our orders. They aren’t the most reliable but are by far the cheapest if your package weighs less than 2 lbs.

fedex
FedEx – If the package exceeds 2 lbs, FedEx is our carrier of choice. As soon as you open an account, you get 15% off shipping which makes it cheaper than UPS out of the box. If you ship high volumes, then you can negotiate for better pricing.

dhl
DHL – We use DHL for all international shipments because they handle customs and everything for you. All you have to do is sit back, relax and pay the customs bill.

Bookkeeping and Finances


Quickbooks – Quickbooks has become the defacto standard for small business bookkeeping. It’s inexpensive and it’s easy to use once you get the hang of it.

Quicken – Quicken allows you to manage your personal finances so you can get a clear picture of your overall financial situation. Wouldn’t be able to save money or build wealth as effectively without it.

Turbo Tax – I’ve already shown that Turbo Tax can perform as well or better than an accountant in my article on the Outcome Of Hiring An Accountant To Do Our Taxes Vs Using Turbo Tax Or Tax Cut. Seriously, TurboTax is awesome even if you run a business and will help you maximize your tax return.

Intuit Online Payroll – Intuit Online Payroll is an excellent payroll service that is priced really well. If you have employees, then it makes sense to outsource the payroll paperwork to someone else. Since Intuit Online Payroll is so inexpensive, it’s a no brainer.

Handling Shipping and Returns – Where To Get A Physical Address

upsstore.com
UPS Store – The UPS store is awesome because you can sign up for a mailbox that has a real physical address. If you don’t want to use your own address (if you run your business out of your home) or if you just want to use a separate address, then opening a UPS store mailbox is ideal. Best of all, they will email you whenever you have mail.

USPS
USPS PO Box – A PO Box is a poor mans UPS Store mailbox. However, they are also about 10X cheaper than UPS. The disadvantage is that everyone knows that a PO Box is not a real physical address. In addition, PO Boxes can only receive mail from USPS. FedEx and UPS do not deliver to PO Boxes.

Packing Supplies

uline
ULine – ULine is awesome! We get most if not all of our packing supplies from here and they are all reasonably priced.

Website Maintenance And Backups

Site Uptime
Site Uptime – I use Site Uptime to monitor the downtime for all of our websites. Basically, Site Uptime pings your websites at specified intervals and then sends you an email if your site is down. For all mission critical websites, I highly recommend this service.

Please note that some of the links above are affiliate links to products that will earn me a commission. These are all things that I have experience with that I am recommending because they are helpful and are companies that I trust, not because of the commissions that I may earn from you using these products.

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44 thoughts on “Online Store Products, Services And Tools I Recommend”

  1. Great list Steve, it’s good to get into the mind of an online store entrepreneur. I suggest checking out Grasshopper and kall8 for great phone services as well if you need to appear to have a phone tree with several destinations. I haven’t found need of that yet. I still lean toward Mailchimp too, but I know aWeber is really popular. ReadyNAS is heavy duty for a personal computer or two, are you running servers at home? If you wished you could really figure out more on one of these tools what do you think it would be? Great stuff!

    1. @Rob
      There so much competition these days that it’s hard to do a thorough review of every service. It’s best to go with what works for you and what you have experience with. I was a ready NAS duo at home rather than a regular PC running RAID because its easier to maintain than a server. Ready NAS also offers boxes with 5 slots so you can run RAID 5. Evaluating more of these tools is not a question of time as opposed to a question of need. Decide the minimum requirements for your business and pay as little as possible.

  2. Steve, nice blog post! I would love to discuss an affiliate partnership with you. I represent Volusion’s affiliate program. Email me to discuss this. We’ll make it really interesting for you (private commission offer).

  3. Hi, I’d like to get into the online store, business advertising, and e-commerce business.
    How do I go about doing just that, safely ?
    I live in South Africa, and business opportunities here are rare if you do not have thousands in startup capitol.
    I am a 3D game designer, and also a free-lance salesman currently busy with a 3D car racing game which I’d like to use for business advertising.

    But at this current moment I am employed at a motor vehicle dealership as a parts manager(very demotivated – and depressed doing business for someone else instead of for myself), but has been dreaming of my own thing since childhood. Also had a few small businesses, which offcoarse failed due to unstable partnerships, finances and mistakes made.

    Advise please !

  4. Steve Chou,
    You have given so very much from your own experiences to others in creating this site. I, for one, have searched on line for many many months for a resource like you offer here. I have downloaded or read perhaps 10 different eBooks and gone through maybe 100 different sites about ‘On Line Marketing’, ‘Affiliate Marketing’, and ‘On Line Stores’ in my endeavour to find answers to some very ellusive questions. Mostly I am just like the many others interested in your site, I crave information which is accurate, complete, and current. What sincerly impressed me the MOST about your site is that you appear to be an HONEST man, from all that I see which you have shown. I commend you for this character trait, which is rapidly vanishing, and for being generous enough to share a great deal of valuable information with people like myself without seeking personal gain.
    Thank you,
    Dennis Simmons

    1. Terry says:

      I agree, thanks a mill Steve

  5. Michelle says:

    Hello,

    Do you know anything about SiteBuildit.com(SBI)? You would set up your name and create your website through them. They seem to be a bit more expensive but it seems they have great tutorials and help for setting up your site.

    Thank you.

  6. The sharing is marvelous! You have revealed the must-have softwares, applications, tools and elements in order to have a successful online business! Would like to know if you purchased the licensed Adobe Photoshop? It is quite expensive, right?

    1. Lisa says:

      Photoshop is WILDLY expensive [I'd been a graphic designer for almost 20 years so this is something I know a little about, and not something I'd expect Steve to know -- he can school me in electrical engineering ;) ]. While Photoshop IS the standard, there is also Corel PaintShopPro — vastly cheaper [$49.99 at Corel.com] which only professional designers could tell the difference… and only when it comes to print color matching. For online work, it will do everything you need and more.

      I promise I don’t work for them, have nothing to gain for the recommendation, but have used their software [and Adobe Photoshop as well] since 1992 and feel very confident endorsing their product.

  7. I am trying to find a product or products that I can sale in my business. Stores on line will set up my first store front. I am Looking for someone I can trust. I am about making money. I have clientele, that not the problem. The problem is when
    I visit some of the websites, they are asking for money. The problem I have is I going to sale their product in my store. They are talking about membership before I sale the product. I know it is a business and a services at the sometime. I don’t need no fraud in my life. Worldwide brands are excellent. I don’t want put my ideas out until everyone see my store front. My license #3971550 on Stores on line.

    Thank you for your help

  8. Vincent says:

    Hi Steve,

    I followed your advice and purchased a template from Algozone. I have to admit that their templates are very nice and professionally designed. However, there are 2 problems with them:

    1. It is very expensive. A decent template would cost somewhere $150 – $300. Not a biggie for those who want to really invest into their business. However…

    2. Their customer/technical support service is very horrible. The template I bought is around $200 and I was expecting some sort of excellent support. After I found out a tons of bugs with the purchased template, I contacted them for help but was either being ignored or they replied to me with some B.S. (most of the time less than 2 short sentences) and closed the support ticket right away without me indicating that the issue was resolved. So I ended up fixing all of the bugs myself, which is such a nightmare because their template is nothing like the original zen cart template (they use a lot of their own scripts and functions that could not be easily located). Nobody on the zen cart community forum was able to help me as well. Some of the bugs are very critical such as the website only display html codes but not regular text. Other bug had to do with checkout and credit card information. These will drive your customers away in the first instant, especially if your store is newly created.

    Just to let you and others know so you would think twice about buying their products. I bought some other ugly templates from different website and don’t experience such thing.

    1. Hi Vincent,
      Your comment is well timed. I’m in the midst of writing an article about why I no longer recommend Algozone for the blog. Now I’ve used and recommended many people to Algozone in the past and things have gone well. However, I had a recent run in with them which I’ll describe in more detail in my post. Thanks for sharing your experience with me.

  9. Chris L. says:

    Hi first off I want to say thank you for the wealth of info you provide on your site! Its awesome! I had a question, Since the dollar is weak do you still import from China? Or would it be cheaper for you to buy domestic with your fabrics or other products? Thank you!

    Regards,
    Chris L.

    1. Hey Chris
      Let’s just say that the dollar has to get substantially weaker for it not to be worth it to import from overseas. Prices are rising however.

  10. This is a brilliant list Steve. I owned an online store a few years ago and used some of the these services. I still use PMI for mail forwarding and incorporated with Bizfilings.

    Good resources here thanks.

  11. Over the past couple months I have enjoyed your blog so much. Thank you.

    I have a question for you. I just found out that that quickbooks for macs, or even quick books online (a possible mac option) do not integrate with big commerce nor Volusions . So with my mac there will be no seamlessly back and forth flow reducing manual entry and errors between quickbooks and my online store.

    As it has been explained my three options are:

    1) Use right networks to host quickbooks pro or premier in a cloud. Access anywhere, nightly back-ups that last 90 days, (Keep using my mac)

    2) Buy a PC and then get quick books ( Hmmmm, I am finding lots of software packages are not mac optimized). But a very unexpected cost.

    3) keep my mac and do quick books on line or for mac but no integration.

    I don’t have a clue about accounting, never used quickbooks. So maybe seamless integration would improve my organization from the start?? I haven’t sold a thing yet, are choices 1 and 2 a waste of money until I have clientele and flow?

    Also what is the cost of seamless integration as far as data, customer information security is concerned?

    All thoughts would be appreciated.

    Thanks so much!

    1. Hi Celeste,
      Despite what you read online, there is no solution that is 100% seamless. There will always be some special cases and such that you’ll need to handle manually. I wouldn’t let this accounting issue stop you from launching your store but I would definitely have a long term plan in place. If you think things are going to be slow during your first year, then you can probably get by with a spreadsheet. And perhaps if you start making some money, you’ll have more leeway to purchase a PC, quickbooks in the cloud or whatever service you deem necessary.

  12. anny says:

    Hi Steve,

    thanks for putting all this together. It is so helpful. By the way, what about website design? once you have domain name and SSL certificates, how do you design your website and to upload your product?

    Thanks

    1. Hi Anny
      Have you signed up for my newsletter and 6 day mini course yet? I cover your questions in the tutorial

      1. anny says:

        Yes, I did sign up already.
        Thank for putting it together

  13. Hello, I was wondering what you mean with the free stores. I use miiduu and bought a package they offer. I do use my own url but I dont get to host my website my self. Thanks.

    1. remone says:

      Does anyone here use doba.com

  14. kevin says:

    I contacted big commerce and got this about hosting. I am not sure what you mean in your post about it being self hosted.

    Hello Kevin,

    We host the software on our server. We provide a total eCommerce solution and have a ton of features to help drive traffic.

  15. China keeps their currency artificially low on purpose to infiltrate markets worldwide with their manufactured goods.

  16. abedin says:

    NI HAO PHANGYO ,
    i will be launching my online store in India within 2 week i find your website very useful thanks ,i will like to meet you may be in my next visit to china .

  17. Dave says:

    Hi Steve, My Name is Dave Webb I sent you another one of these messages last night but for I different question..I was just online looking at some China wholesale products just out of curiousity and I saw some things like Laptops, tablet PC and a few other electronic accessories. What do you think about those type of products that I just mentioned prior, I ask cause I noticed the names on those products are not what people from the U.S.A. are a customed to and also I was just wondering is there a some products that you would recommened staying away from? and if so Why?
    Thanks again,
    Dave

  18. Terry says:

    Hi there Steve
    My wife is in the midst of quitting her job and with 3 kids to feed I’m looking for that extra income. I’ve always wondered how to open an online store and always thought it would cost way too much to even ponder on the idea. When I came across your blog it was like hitting the lottery, literally. You basically covered all angles to the extreme and the magic word “no technical knowledge required”. I’m looking to start an online business with as little $$$ as possible. Topics like shopping cart, credit card, web hosting, web design, worldwide brands was mentioned in your videos, and basically everything you need was covered. Needless to say all the hard work has been done by your good self and sharing your experience and knowledge is without doubt very honorable and a time saver for many of us.
    I have a question:
    Having setup your online business, correct me if I’m wrong. Buyer buys say item X, I received order and place it with dropshipping company A who send item X to buyer.
    Q: Is there a way to get dropshipping company A to auto send item X to buyer without me having to inform them. I ask this question because say I go on a holiday with the family and I have no access to internet but I don’t want the business to be at a standstill with my absent

    1. Terry says:

      sorry, another question.
      the shopping cart, can i provide different type of currency depending on location?
      for example. bluehost has my webpage, naturally, i’m assuming here, that it will auto to US$ and yet a i hv a buyer in Singapore and when he view my store i wld like the system to auto detect his location n give him the equivalent in Singapore dollars instead of US$ – cheers

  19. Hi Steve,
    I’m curious as to how you handle the shipping. As my store grows (yay!) and more orders come in, I’m finding the packaging/shipping aspect very time consuming. Do you have certain days that you package and ship, or is it an everyday thing? Thanks!

    1. Packing is definitely an everyday thing. We have people who pack orders for us.

  20. Hey Steve,

    I couldn’t find your contact button. Feel free to delete this if you find it too self-promotional.

    We here at http://www.klinkle.com have a product that may help many of your readers get started. We’d love for more high profile people like yourself to suggest the product. Reach out to us if there’s anything we can do to help make your list!

    Best,

    Eric

  21. Hello Steve,
    I have really enjoyed your information. Thanks. Planning to do the full course in the near future when I finish my current project.
    My next project is for a multi-vendor site in the marine industry, in which I work.
    Can you recommend shopping cart software which supports multiple vendors?
    Regards,
    Tim

  22. nicole says:

    Hi I was just wondering what the link is to your wife’s site?

    Thanks:)

    Nicole

  23. James says:

    Nice list, Steve. This is very informative, thanks for the good info.

  24. Raluka says:

    Super helpfull article and listing of options. Thanks a lot Steve.
    I have just installed the openCart and they changed a bit how you get to the OpenCart.
    I also could not install by myself, simply because there was an issue ( the process of installing keept on freezing…) so the people hrom BlueHost were really really helpl, even if took them several attempts to do it.
    I hope it was just a glitch. Otherwise I have the cart installed in 20 minutes ( with all the issues)

    THANKS!!

  25. Joe says:

    Is it fair for you to say on your home page “The products and services that I use for my online store every single day. Highly recommended!” when I don’t believe you use either opencart or BigCommerce? Sounds like affiliate advertising instead… I didn’t think you used either of these for your online store but open source instead.

    Great site – always enjoy your newsletter.

    1. Hey Joe. That’s a fair question.

      I run a class of over 500 students and I work with them on these shopping carts every day. So while I don’t use them for myself, I do in fact “use” them all the time. Hope that clears things up.

      1. Joe says:

        Thanks for the clarification. I know you’re always looking for good articles to write…

        How about “A week in the life of Steve Chou”?

        I would be curious how you balance your full time job with this “part time” (haha) endeavour. Do you sleep? :)

  26. Janey Laine says:

    Hi Steve, thanks for this informative list. Based on your estimates, approximately how much do you think it would cost to start an online store using one of each company/site per required service? Can you provide a general figure? Thanks in advance.

  27. I can’t begin to tell you how helpful you have been, for me. You have been very generous with the advice and free coaching. I also appreciate this list, it answered a few questions.
    There’s one thing I would add or possibly change. I saw that you endorse legalzoom. Even though they do a great job, they are not the best deal by far.
    LegalShield offers those documents for free, with even their basic family membership. By the time you pay for one or two documents, you could have gotten the forms along with hours of actual consultation.
    That same membership also gets your will done and virtually unlimited legal counsel on any subject. It was one of the best deals I ever found. They impressed me so much that I bought into the company.
    Not trying to hijack this post as a spammer. But these guys have saved my hide more times than I can even tell you. They are as valuable, to me, as your site. I couldn’t do what I do without both. It’s worth looking into.
    I have a video clip that shows how it works on my site and here.
    Michaelerikmatlock.legalshieldassociate.com
    Thanks again for all you do.

  28. ljklkj lkjj klj lkjl says:

    sdfsdfsdf

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