What are you selling?

Technically Speaking
By Tamara Nicola

Are you ready to give selling over the Internet a try? There are a host of tools available; many of them are free or very low cost.

Cleaning out the closet
Most of us remember the days when costly classified ads or yard sales were the only option. Today consider turning to kijiji.ca or craigslist.com to sell that dusty treadmill. You can list your items for sale, free of charge, on both of these very popular websites. This is an especially good solution for bulky items that you would not want to ship to a buyer. Just note, “Local pickup only” in your ad.

Crafts or small inventories
Exposure to as many potential buyers as possible is critical to successful online selling and this is especially challenging for those with limited budgets. Ebay.ca and etsy.com are both excellent solutions. Either of these services can function as the main website for your operation. Ebay.ca has a storefront feature that allows you to create a fully functioning online store. Etsy.com is set up this way by default. They have built in payment options that allow you to create a paypal.com account that can easily and securely link to your personal bank account.
If you already have a website and you want to sell items on your own web page, using tools available at paypal.com you can integrate a shopping cart and checkout feature into your existing site. This will allow you to accept major credit cards. While this is a simple solution, keep in mind that you also need plenty of visitors to your website to generate sales.

Selling large inventories
There are several tools on the market today designed for the Do It Yourself entrepreneur. While you need not be a technical expert, a good understanding of web basics is required. Whether you have an existing website or you are starting from scratch, your web hosting company should specialize in e-commerce.
Many hosting companies offer free e-commerce software as part of your monthly fee. They also provide web security, customer payment solutions and the technical support you will need. The hosting company can create a new a website address for you, for example www.bestwidgets.com, or they can transfer your existing web address to a new e-commerce account. Once your account is created you are typically provided with a web link to your new online store for customization. Usually there will be several design templates for you to choose from as you create the look and feel of your new store.
Next step is adding your inventory and product pictures. Your hosting company can assist in setting up a payment gateway. This will allow you to accept credit cards in real time as well as calculate shipping charges using carriers such as United Postal Service, UPS.

There are two web applications that I highly recommend mivamerchant.com and/or oscommerce.com. They are both full service solutions including options such as integration with your existing accounting software like QuickBooks. The options are unlimited and you will need to do your research. My best advice is to choose your e-commerce web hosting company carefully, then jump in and start selling.