While building & managing over 150 profitable eCommerce stores, we've used MANY products & services. Some of them have been great while others left a lot to be desired. What you'll find on this page is a collection of the VERY BEST products & services that we've used for our own online stores.
Recommendations For Your Store
Shopping Cart Platform
Our #1 recommendation for your shopping cart platform, by far, is Shopify. They make everything super user-friendly and they are very affordable. Click here for more info about Shopify.
We've tried HostGator, BlueHost and all the other big-name hosting providers, but none of them have even come close to what we've experienced with BigScoots. What really sets them apart is the INSANELY HIGH level of customer service. You'll be live chatting with them in a matter of seconds, and you'll receive responses to support tickets within about 5 minutes. We can't recommend BigScoots highly enough.
Domain Name Registration
A domain name is a domain name, and it honestly doesn't matter much which registrar you use. But we've come to prefer NameCheap for a couple of reasons: 1) private registration is included free (it's usually extra with other registrars); and 2) NameCheap is hands-down the best place to get an SSL Certificate and it's convenient to have your domain name and SSL with the same registrar.
Let's be honest... Creating a logo can be done pretty easily on your own. But if you want to give your visitors (or soon-to-be customers) a good "vibe" right from the outset, you're just not going to be able to achieve that on your own. That's where CrowdSpring comes in. At CrowdSpring, you can create a project for one low cost and have dozens (or possibly even hundreds) of designers working on your design. You give feedback, they make revisions, and you choose the single design that you like best. And it gets better... Use this link and you'll get a $25 discount automatically applied to your first purchase, along with a marketing package ($99 value) that will feature your project on the site as well as social media outlets. Don't delay... give CrowdSpring a try today!
Credit Card Processing
Accepting credit cards ON-SITE is an absolute must! We recommend that you also accept PayPal Standard and/or Amazon Checkout, but it's critical for a good conversion rate that you provide a way for customers to pay with a credit card right on your website. In order to do that, you need two things: 1) a merchant account (which includes a payment gateway), and 2) an SSL certificate (see the section immediately below).
NoFraud Fraud Prevention.
Note: After clicking this link, scroll down and click the 'Compare Products' button in the Domain Validation box. Then select the 1st option: Comodo PositiveSSL.
In order to take credit card payments on-site, you MUST have an SSL Certificate. Why? Because it's the thing that encrypts the customer's personal and financial information they enter during the checkout process. It makes the transaction private and secure. Without an SSL Certificate, customers won't see the green padlock icon in the address bar and, worse, they'll likely see security pop-ups warning them that the site is not secure. Obviously, this will scare off 99% of shoppers! Having an SSL certificate will also allow you to insert a security seal (like the one in the top-right corner of this paragraph) that makes customers feel "warm and fuzzy" about shopping on your site. NameCheap's PositiveSSL product simply can't be beat. It'll set you back a whopping $9.00 per year, so we're literally talking 75 cents a month! (Please don't get duped into paying $50-200/year by your shopping cart or hosting provider.)
Toll-Free Phone Number
There's seriously no competition here... Phone.com is hands-down the best toll-free phone service provider. Here's why:
- Only $9.99/month (which includes 100 minutes - additional minutes are dirt cheap if you need them)
- True 800 number at no extra cost (other providers charge $50+ to get an 800 numbers instead of an 877/866/855 number)
- Includes all the fancies: call handling rules, scheduling, automated call forwarding, hold options, multiple extensions, custom greetings, e-fax, conferencing and so on
- Super easy set-up
(also get 10% OFF using this link)
Like a toll-free number, live chat is a must-have for looking like a professional website and boosting customer trust (and therefore increasing your conversion rate). The live chat option will be attractive to many of your customers... you'll probably have a fairly even split of extroverts who prefer talking to someone on the phone and introverts who prefer typing via live chat. There are numerous live chat options available, but our clear favorite is Zopim. It's affordable (you can probably even get away with the free version), powerful and integrates seamlessly with Skype (which is super-slick).
Let's be clear about why you would pay for a third-party customer review service when virtually every shopping cart platform on the planet includes a built-in customer review/rating system. There are two huge reasons: Reason #1: Internal, unverified reviews obtained or created through your shopping cart are NOT trusted by or syndicated to Google and therefore do NOT show up by your AdWords ads or Product Listing Ads (PLAs). Reason #2: Many online shoppers have gotten to the point where they simply don't trust internal, unverified reviews shown on websites since it's so easy for website owners to write the reviews themselves. So that's why it's a smart investment to pay for ShopperApproved merchant and product reviews. ShopperApproved is by far the most affordable review service that is approved by Google so that reviews are syndicated to Google and show up next to your search results, Google AdWords ads and PLAs. This is HUGE! And customers on your site are much more likely to trust the reviews - after all, Google does!
- Easy to set up
- Customizable surveys
- High success rate collecting reviews
- Huge distribution network
- Opportunity to resolve negative reviews
- Collects photo & video testimonials
- Risk-free 30-day trial period
Marketing & SEO Recommendations
content service recommendations link
SEO Tools for your eCommerce store
Every store should utilize a newsletter and/or auto-responder service, especially since it's completely free for most stores! Without question, our top recommendation is MailChimp. MailChimp is the epitome of user-friendly, and it integrates seamlessly with virtually every shopping cart platform and content management system. And despite being a piece of cake to use, it's very powerful in terms of creating custom lists, setting up auto-responder series and tracking open/click rates. Best of all, it's FREE until you've exceeded 2,000 subscribers or 12,000 emails per month.
For most store owners, Wave Accounting will do the job just fine. And it's FREE! Wave is basically a free, simplified, online version of QuickBooks. It lacks a handful of the bells and whistles QuickBooks offers, but hey, you can't beat free!
QuickBooks beats Wave in almost every respect, except for the fact that you have to pay for it (although it's not terribly expensive, really). QuickBooks gives the capability to track income and expenses by "class" (i.e. by website), and its reporting functions are much more robust.
US Mailing Address
If you live outside the United States but want to build a store that targets the US's HUGE online shopping marketplace, you'll definitely want a US mailing address. Failing to display a US mailing address on your site will scare off a lot of American shoppers. We recommend Earth Class Mail, which is much more than just a US mailing address. They'll also scan and give you digital access to all your mail, and they'll forward you the pieces of mail you want. We've gotten nothing but positive feedback about Earth Class Mail from our non-US members who have used their services.
Selling Your Store
We can help you get WAY MORE for your store than you'd be able to get trying to sell it on your own! And using our brokering service will take away a lot of the guesswork and actual work involved with selling a website. We've bought and sold dozens and dozens of websites over the last decade and know how to prepare the listing, drive interested parties to it, get maximum exposure, conduct the bidding/due diligence process and ensure a smooth transaction. Click here to learn more and get a no-obligation quote for our brokering services.
Store Coach is an affiliate for many (but not all) of these recommended tools and services and, as such, we earn an affiliate commission for referring customers. That being said, we don't recommend any service we don't truly believe in. These are all services that we've used ourselves.