Selling on the Web

6/24/2005 2:21:37 AM

Selling on the Web

Normally, I don’t like context-switching between programming tasks because of the long setup after each switch, but I am enjoying alternating between my regular programming activities and web activities. The low-intensity of the latter balances out the high-intensity of the former and adds some variety to my routine.

Content Management Systems

On the web front, I had to make some decisions on how I plan to design my website and how I plan to sell software and other items.

I previously mentioned that I was looking into some content management systems (CMS), DotNetNuke and Community Server, since those were already set up by GoDaddy.com, one of my three hosting providers. Community Server (formerly, .text) is really a community blog and forum software; it’s fast and really good at what it does.

DotNetNuke is used by a number of sites and is quite an sophisticated piece of software for building your own professional-looking portals without code. One of my concerns is that I do want to do some coding, such as when I have to later integrate the look of my site with other e-commerce services. The other two concerns are performance and reliability. Pages don’t feel springy enough. After playing around with the blog module, my test site behaved erratically as if it were in some inconsistent state; for instance, while attempting a simple “hello world” site without even writing any code, some of my pages failed to completely render and instead reported “null instance” errors. I am also having trouble finding attractive skins; and I don’t know how to create my own. Despite these issues, I am willing to experiment with it for a few more weeks based on its potential to develop a rich site quickly. 

I also obtained a free ASP.NET 2.0 beta account at MaximumAsp. The first crop of hosting providers offering free or low-cost ASP.NET 2.0 beta sites are listed in MSDN. There are more promised next month. (In the future, I will hesitate to tie my fortune to a future Microsoft software release off in the distance as I have with Whidbey.)

Selling Software

I was also anxious to ramp up on electronic commerce. My only forays so far have been through Amazon affiliate links, which generates about $5 for each blog entry I add links to. Interestingly, blog posts that contain the Amazon graphic generate more revenue than those using simple text-based links.

I sometimes wondered if developing and selling my own set of software is mathematically less profitable than some e-tailer who sells other companies third-party on the web and doesn’t need to incur development costs.

For selling my software, my options include using a registration service or relying a merchant account (with possibly shopping cart). I believe that there are four major services, Digital River (a network of site), Esellerate, ShareIt and SWReg.

I opted to go for Esellerate, which Nick Bradbury uses, because the terms seem very reasonable (better terms than other sites I examined) and the company provides a comprehensive set of features.

  • Esselerate charges 10% to 15%  royalties, no fees
  • APIs to support various level of integration inside the software as well as the website
  • Complete customization
  • Customer and order data can be exported and is not owned by the service
  • Miscellaneous: registration keys and activation, CD-shipments
  • Advanced marketing support programs—portals and affiliates

I went through a free one-month trial at Esselerate, which I don’t understand the need for except as a marketing tactic, since there are no fees to join. I played around my trial account with the multitude of options; every concern of mine was completely anticipated.

I also ordered a standard Shopping Cart system to becoming familiar with the process of selling over the web from end-to-end and to determine what value registration services provide. The shopping cart had support for listing products in eBay and Froogle, but you could just as easily do it yourself. 

With my shopping cart package, I set up catalog and product information, then purchased my own software application, and then tracked my order both from a vendor and a customer perspective. The experience was transformative: It allowed me to visualize the entire process of selling to customer completely. I got out of this whole experience the ease of actually selling a product on the Internet.

Anyhow, I concluded that the registration service was still well worth the additional money over the merchant account/shopping cart from time saved and features offered.

Selling Merchandise

I also planned to sell specialized merchandise through my site. The web makes it easier to sell items over the internet from dropshipping programs, which allow people to sell third-party products without maintaining any inventory, because the manufacturer ships the product directly to customers.

I found just the site (mentioned in the Wall Street Journal), cafepress.com, that allows one to build a website that sells specially designed merchandise such as t-shirts, cups, bags, hats, CDs—you name it. No merchant account is needed and your only responsibility is designing the products and marketing the website. All the grunt work is taken care of.

 

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My name is Wesner Moise. I am a software entrepreneur developing revolutionary AI desktop applications. I worked as a software engineer in Microsoft Excel group for six years during the 1990s. I worked on PivotTables and wrote the most lines of code in Excel 97-- about 10 times the median developer. I have a Harvard BA in applied math/computer science and a UCLA MBA in technology entrepreneurship. I am a member of the Triple Nine Society, a 99.9 percentile high-IQ society.

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