A case study on selecting, configuring and launching an e-commerce store with fulfillment from scrat
I have a hobby business, WalkJogRun.net, and we have over 100,000 members around the world who use the site to find or create running routes. We recently purchased 200 tech tee-shirts to sell to our members but had no existing store of fulfillment process. We'd worked with PayPal for some subscription capture but nothing you could call an e-commerce platform.
What we tried
As I mentioned, we had already experienced PayPal and I looked into Google Checkout too but they both only really excel at the payment part. Anything other than a flat fee shippping setup meant considerable complication. The buyer still leaves your site to go through their checkout process so that meant an analytical black hole for us too - as an analyst the idea of leaving the conversion rate of our customers in Google or PayPal's hands was scary!
Next we looked into Amazon Fulfillment. It handles both shipping and order capture and has the added benefit of product marketing on Amazon.com. However, for our t-shirts we'd fall into the approval required category and they have stringent requirements about the use of UPC codes. I'm still waiting to hear back after 2 weeks on whether they want our business...
What we picked
We went with a great e-commerce platform called Shopify instead. We picked the $99 per month plan because it includes carrier calculated shipping rates meaning fewer surprises at the post office but they offer a 30 day free trial and a basic $29 per month plan if you don't care about the shipping integration (but honestly, you should consider it).
It was very quick to setup, add products of varying sizes and genders and most importantly we were looking at a password protected preview of our store within the first hour of setup. The site is designed to make your products optimized for organic google search and with a few simple steps you're able to publish products to Google Shopping too. Being based in Illinois we have to collect sales tax on orders received in-state but the setup is just a few simple steps, all well explained by the tool.
Beyond the basics I had to sign up for and include our USPS API account details. This allows customers to see shipping options as they checkout from your providers. Full instructions were provided by the tool at every step.
We signed up for PayPal's Website Payments Pro tool at $30 per month which allows users to checkout on your site instead of leaving to go elsewhere. We could have stuck with PayPal's express solution but, as stated above, we didn't want to send our customers off somewhere else and prefer a tighter integration. Once we signed up we came back to shopify and had to configure our payment gateway, again with excellent step by step instructions.
We setup a sub-domain store.walkjogrun.net to point at our store by following the step by step guide at shopify.
The platform offers a series of free and paid apps you can add to your store to extend the features of the platform as needed. I added the OrderCup Shopify Plugin for $10 to allow us in a few clicks to print and pay for USPS postage (and other providers) all around the world. The second plugin was Jilt at $9 per month to auto-email abandoned customers 24 hours after they leave the cart to make sure nothing went wrong or simply remind them in case they just got distracted. We've already recouped the cost of the monthly fee and had some great feedback about the store through this.
As a side note if you're shipping t-shirts we went with Value Mailer Polybags 10x13 we found on Amazon at $19.38 for 200. These bags are strong, easy to seal and hold up to 5 t-shirts.
You may also want to order Printexx Laserjet shipping labels, again from Amazon at $7.89 for 200. Far better than trimming and sticking 200 shipping labels with scotch tape!
What we got
We wound up with a great shipping and fulfillment platform we could scale significantly if we needed to. At just one day of setup start to finish we were able to receive payments, pick, pack and ship 91 t-shirt orders in 2 days including international orders without the headaches of trying to mail-merge labels and waiting at the post office for hours to figure out the cost of each.
We've had great feedback from our members about how simple the e-commerce store was to use and at $148 per month (plus shipping and transaction fees) we're looking at less than $2 overhead per shirt to be on the platform excluding labor to pick, pack and ship orders. Overall, an outstanding result and the best part is that it's 100% Google Analytics tracked start to finish so we can source the marketing tools that generate our sales.
If you're interested in having Adam Howitt Consulting help you with an e-commerce project please contact us. We can help configure and integrate Google Analytics e-commerce tracking or help you optimize the existing process. We're new to Shopify of course but would be offer what we do know if you need help.