So, you want to have your own online store. Is it going to be expensive to get started? Will you need web designers or an expensive solution to create that store? How big is the job?
If you don’t want to spend a small fortune on the software to create your online store and you do like to experiment with your own web development you might consider doing it yourself with open source shopping cart software. This can create an entire online solution for your online store and can even be integrated with other programs like your shipping software. It can manage multiple currencies, it can be multilingual, it works with many payment programs and new features and functions are added all the time because there’s a community that collectively and separately works to improve this evolving program.
There are several options here. You may choose to buy a solution, use a turnkey open source e-commerce solution or you can start from scratch yourself with something like OSCommerce. Many novice internet online entrepreneurs get started with free tools that they build up to service their needs. Open source software can be a great solution for three reasons.
1. It’s free. Got no money for startup costs? This can be a good DIY solution.
2. It’s customizable so it can be tweaked to meet your specific needs.
3. There’s a huge online community that supports other users of this tool.
The downside to open source solutions
You generally don’t get free 24/7/365 support when you have problems in the open source world. You are at the mercy of the community and the knowledge base. Unless you want to pay for expertise, it can take time to navigate through the information available on the software and trouble shooting your store can be a bit labor intensive.
There are turnkey open source solutions that you can jump into and begin using and then add on your own modules and there are an abundance of online sources and tutorials as well as community forums where you can pose questions and share your expertise as you build it. You may find that your problems are minor and easily fixable. This will depend on many factors including what version of the software you are using, how many different modules you have, outside factors and how complex your store is.
Do you know enough about technology to get started? Anyone can do some dabbling but if you are anxious, you might want to buy a turnkey solution and going it alone might not be the right choice for you.
There are also products out there with the open source mindset but designed to be easier as a point and click solution. Products like Zen Cart claim to be easier to work with for the novice and there are many resources that work with OS Commerce but that allow you the best of both worlds: to dabble on your own and to have support.
In summary, if you want a low cost or free solution and are willing to put time and effort into learning the tool and contributing to the open source community, you can use this to your advantage. Do your homework and look at your technical abilities, your requirements for your online store and your time constraints for troubleshooting, trial and error. It’s a great idea to lurk on some OSCommerce forums before taking the plunge. This can help you determine whether you have the knowledge and desire to use this e-commerce tool.