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!
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.
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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 – 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
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
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.
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 – 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 – 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.
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 – 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 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 – 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 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 – 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.
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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 – 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 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 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.
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 – 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
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 – 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.
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.
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.
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 – 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 – 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
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 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.
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 – 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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