Episode 61 – Should You Sell Online?

Sep 20, 2017

This Episode

Mark Stephenson & Marc Vila

You Will Learn

  • Pros and the cons of an online store.

Resources & Links

Episode 61 – Should You Sell Online?

Show Notes

Selling online represents a HUGE opportunity for the custom t-shirt and embroidery businesses, but it may or MAY NOT be right for your particular business.

During this podcast, we’ll talk about the Pros and the Cons of on online store and how you might use one to make more money, even if you just sell to your local area.

Here are a few quick bullet points we cover during the podcast. You decide if they’re pro or con!

  • Automatic upselling
  • Surprise orders
  • Site Security
  • Team stores
  • Site Management
  • Working with contractors
  • Monthly costs
  • Regular maintenance
  • Time-Saving order processing


Welcome to the Custom Apparel Startups podcast, your best source for information, news, tips and tricks to get you off the ground running, and earn success with your custom apparel decorating business. So, get ready to soak up some knowledge!

Now, here are your hosts, Mark and Marc!

Mark: Hey, everyone! Welcome to episode 61 of the Custom Apparel Startups podcast. My name is Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc: And this is Marc Vila, from Colman and Company. Today we’re going to talk about selling online. Should you sell online? And will you fail, without an online store?

Mark: Right. The first question, we get all the time. Should I sell online, and how do I do that? And most of them are more tentative. It’s almost like “Do I have to sell online?” Because they really don’t want to, at some level. But they’re asking, because they think they might have to.

Marc: There’s a bit of an obligation, and some euphemisms, some other words. You know, should you have an ecommerce store? Should you have online checkout? Should you have a way for your customers to pay online?

Mark: A shopping cart.

Marc: A shopping cart. These are all things that you might get approached, that you should do, or you might feel that you should do, or not. And we’re going to, I guess, talk today about helping you make that decision, because it’s important to put some thought into making this decision, and not just do it one way or another. It should be calculated.

Mark: Right. And I do want to differentiate here. We’re not talking about whether or not you should have an online presence or a website, or a Facebook page. That’s a yes. You don’t have any choice, as far as we’re concerned. If you’re going to have a business, sometime now or in the future, you will need some kind of an online presence.

It could be a Facebook business page. It could be a simple website page, anything along those lines. But you’ve got to have a place where you can tell your customers to go, to kind of look you up or check you out.

Marc: Yes. People are going to want to see you online. It’s going to be a place where you’re going to be able to explain who you are, where it can easily be shared. So, somebody is going to say “Oh, yeah. Email me that company you were telling me about, that makes t-shirts.” It’s got to be easily shared. It’s got to say what you do. It’s got to have an easy way to contact you.

Bonus other things are it should be a little place where people can see reviews of your company.

Mark: That would be great.

Marc: Or you could post pictures of your work, pictures of you, of your store.

Mark: Videos, yeah.

Marc: Videos. You could exclusively live on an Etsy site. You could exclusively live on a Facebook page. You could exclusively have a website. You can have all three.

There’s plenty of places. It needs to be easy and it needs to be easy to communicate. “Go to XYZ.com. Go to MyTshirtShop.com.”

Mark: Something you can put on your business card.

Marc: Yes. Go to Facebook and type in “Mike’s T-shirt Shop.” Go to Etsy, whatever it might be. But you’ve got to be easily able to share. You have to have that. We’ve determined that.

Mark: Now, the question is, once you have that, do you need to be able to sell online? When we talk about selling online or shopping carts or ecommerce, what we’re really talking about is the ability for someone to place an order for your products that you sell, on a website, without you having to interface with them.

So, they’re going to go to – just like you go to Amazon.com or Walmart, or someplace like that, and just order products to have delivered. Selling online is giving the ability for other people to do that for your products.

Marc: There’s also two things to consider here. Is selling online going to be part of your business? Or do you want selling online to be your business?

Mark: That’s a good one, and an important distinction, right? Because if you want to sell hiking t-shirts as your niche market, and you want to reach the entire planet with your hiking t-shirts, you will not be able to do that, without an ecommerce website or an online shopping cart.

Marc: Yeah, and you’re not going to find it often now, but the way it used to be, and there’s still some old school folks out there you run into, rarely, but every once in a while, where all of their business is gotten online, but in order to place an order, you have to pick up the phone and tell somebody your credit card number, and things like that.

So, all of your business might be like that. If that’s the case, where you sell a product online, and people call up and say “I want this part number,” or “I want this size, style of shirt,” and you’re literally taking their credit card, you’re already ready for ecommerce.

You need to do it, because you’re selling, if you have a part number or product, a specific one that comes in a specific color, size and shape, with a specific design, and it’s just repeat. You have an online business, already.

Mark: We’re building a little bit of a list here. First of all, we all recognize that you have to have an online presence of some kind. Secondly, if you want to sell nationally at all, you’re going to need an ecommerce site. You’re going to need a shopping cart site. You’re going to need to be able to sell and take orders online, exclusively.

If you’re already doing this at some level, by phone, then you definitely just need to flip that switch, and turn it into a complete online process.

But there is kind of this, I guess the real question and the way I want to say it is, do you have to sell online? Is the only way you succeed, if you’re not the big national company, if you’re not trying for that niche market all over the place, do you have to have a shopping cart?

Marc: In short, no. There are plenty of our customers that don’t have any. Probably more than less, that don’t have a shopping cart. They sell everything direct, through their customer base.

More than likely, you’re local. You are either going around and outbound selling, by driving, meeting people, going to events, passing out your card.

Mark: Flea markets and fairs.

Marc: All of that stuff, yeah, and getting referrals. That might be all of your business, right there. And you take orders. Your customers call you up, you call them, “This is the size, this is the logo, this is the style.” “That order is for 100 of these things? Okay, it’s $500 and whatever dollars,” whatever it might be.

Then, “Here’s your invoice.” “Here’s the credit card I want to put it on,” or “Here’s the check.”

Mark: And you can be a raging success like that.

Marc: An amazing success.

Mark: I mean, really. And we’ve got some great customers that do that. Or maybe they just have a Facebook page, and they do that kind of “Email or message me for orders.” And they’re perfectly successful doing that, as well.

Marc: Yeah. You could do everything through email, through phone calls, faxes maybe, if that’s your thing.

Mark: You can’t actually do faxes anymore. I don’t know.

Marc: It would be sweet if you could! But yeah, you could completely succeed that way. But the question, then, is should you add an ecommerce option, though? What would you gain out of it, and what are the pitfalls, what are the negatives, if you do this?

Then, you’ve got to kind of cost-benefit weigh the pros and cons. Then, at that point in time, you make the decision “Is this something that is going to benefit my business?”

Mark: So, you decide, Marc Vila. Should we talk about the ways that they’ll make more money, or should we talk about the horrible things that will happen to them, if they do it improperly?

The good news or the bad news, first?

Marc: The good news or the bad news? I would say, I think we should start on the positive note, and lead with the good news.

Mark: I knew you were going to say that.

Marc: You knew I was going to say that. The reason why I think we should do that is because we’re making a decision here, that’s going to be profitable for this. So, we don’t want to lead the decision with fear. We want to lead the decision with optimism. I want to lead the decision with success thought.

Then, afterwards, we need to be realistic and really say “Alright, how much money is this going to be?” Then, we talk about “Okay, these are going to be my costs, both financial and in time,” and things like that.

Then at that point, at the end, it should be clear.

Mark: Yeah, and I will tell you folks out there in podcast land, one of the reasons that I’m deferring to Mr. Vila in making that decision is because he runs the marketing for our ecommerce, here in the ColDesi family of companies.

So, everything that you’ve ever ordered from ColmanAndCompany.com, even those of you who decide to call us on the phone, because they don’t like to order online, it ends up going through our shopping cart site.

Marc: Yeah, and it’s not easy to do, to run an ecommerce store. However, it can be – there’s a lot of great benefits to it, that make it worth it.

Mark: I’m going to tell you, the first thing for me is – because I’ve done a few ecommerce sites. Good ecommerce software, which most of them are pretty good now, good ecommerce software is designed to help you sell more. Literally, there are built-in tools in a shopping cart software that’s good, that will do things that you’ve noticed on all of the ones that you go to now.

So, if you go to Amazon.com and you place an order for something, it will give suggestions of “Hey! People that bought this also bought these items over here.” So, it’s doing a certain percentage of your sales job for you.

Marc: Yeah. It helps to recommend products, it helps to inform your customers exactly what they’re getting. It puts all of your products next to each other, in an organized fashion. So, if you are showing somebody one particular garment or style, on that same page, you’re showing them others that they might prefer, that they didn’t know you offered.

So, you might have t-shirts, but next to that t-shirt, there might be a sweater. Your customer might not have realized that that was an option, and they would have preferred the sweater.

Mark: We actually made a big deal of this in one of our “How to Make More Money Next Month” podcasts, that idea of upselling, or offering somebody something that either they may not have known you carried, or they just weren’t thinking about it in association with this order.

For example, if you’re got a team site, with all of the Jaguars’ shirts on it, and like Marc said, you can also get a Jaguar sweatshirt or a hoodie, maybe they didn’t know you carried hats. So, you can set, everyone that looks at this Jaguar series, “Show them a picture of this hat, and suggest that they do this with their order.”

That can add – you might have started out with a $15 t-shirt order, and then they saw that you offered a hoodie for $20. Now, it’s a t-shirt and a hoodie, or a $35 order. Then, they see you’ve got a hat. They may as well complete the outfit.

So, you’ve turned a very inexpensive one-off into a nice $50 order, for a set of products.

Marc: And I think that there’s something to maybe bring up, that I feel like we maybe shot right past. There’s two things I think of, when selling online.

One is that you sell a style of shirt, a niche of shirt, specific designs, a gimmick. You may sell funny t-shirts, you maybe sell team shirts.

Mark: A brand.

Marc: A brand. You sell different things like that, that kind of fit anybody in any realm, and you’re going to hope to sell online to those people. So, whether it’s geeky shirts or comic book shirts, or whatever it is.

Mark: Bacon shirts.

Marc: Bacon shirts, yeah. You might sell that, and you’re selling to anybody anywhere, within that niche.

The other is that you’re offering to sell online, because you get contracts or agreements with local organizations, like a school, like the Jaguars, or Little League, or local businesses. You might do shirts for a couple of corporations in your area, that have 50 to 100 employees, and you want to make it easier for them to not only order in bulk, when they order. You know, every spring, they get their new line.

But you also want people to be able to order individually. An example might be every year, this company gets a new set of shirts for their crew, whatever the new style that they’re wearing is. There’s 100 people that work for the company, so you’re ordering 300, 400, 500 shirts during this one period of time.

Everybody fills out a form, all of the different shirts and styles they want.

Mark: The order form.

Marc: Yeah, and then you do your bulk order. They fill out the order form, and you get a giant stack from one person in the organization. That can be the same for when Little League season starts.

Mark: Charity shirts, whatever.

Marc: Hockey season starts, when the charity is going to, and they do these bulk things. A lot of orders happen like that. There’s a charity event that’s happening, so they order 100 shirts.

But also, in addition to that, you offer an online store where you say “By the way, any of your employees or fans or team members can come at any point in time, and they could order extras.” So, if they decided not to get the sweatshirt at first, and then they saw a bunch of people wearing the sweatshirts, and they said “I wish I would have ordered one,” they can easily go online and order one.

They don’t have to go through a department or a person, because eventually, that’s just going to break down, and nobody is going to do it. That’s why you get a giant order of 300 pieces, maybe, and then you get no more after that. Or you get one or two randoms.

The point of ecommerce would be you get that big order of 300 for this organization, but then afterwards, you’re getting surprise orders, consistently.

Mark: I like that. That made me think of – we had one of our customers just posted. They did 121 t-shirts for a local softball league, and they did that over the weekend. It’s the big thing, you know. Everybody gets outfitted for the season. They’ve got 121 players in the league, so this company printed up all of their shirts.

This company also doesn’t have an online store, so if there are any reorders, that has to happen from the coach, or whoever is running the league has to come in and reorder those shirts.

But they’re just t-shirts. The people that play in that league, they might tear the shirt. They might want to have two more shirts for practice, that they want to wear. They might want to wear a shirt to work on Fridays, to let everybody know that they’re doing softball.

They might want that sweatshirt or the cap, or something along those lines. And if these 121 people, they have fans, they have kids, they have brothers and sisters and moms and dads that are all market opportunities, that man, if they could share a site that had an additional t-shirt on it, that just had the league logo. Or maybe you could customize it and say “My son plays softball.”

Now, you’ve got this business that just happens behind the scenes, and doesn’t require a phone call and a piece of paper and a visit.

Marc: Yeah, and part of why this is going to make you money, if you could do it this way, is because money is only available to each of these individuals in chunks at a time. They get paychecks.

Mark: Right.

Marc: And different things happen during each paycheck cycle, during each month of your life. I had a bunch of car work done, and fixed a bunch of things in my house. We had a big storm come through. I spent a lot of money in a little period of time. I have no extra money to spend on a t-shirt right now.

However, a month before that, I think I bought three or four new shirts for myself. I bought two pairs of jeans, and a pair of shoes. Then, probably in October some time, I’m going to go shopping again, and buy a few more things for myself. I want a new pair of khakis, I want a new [inaudible 17:29], I want some new socks.

Mark: And I will say that both of us are in a similar situation. We wear decorated apparel every day, at work. 100% of the time, I will wear a shirt that’s got the ColDesi logo embroidered on it, and Marc Vila is wearing a Digital HeatFX polo right now.

Marc: Yeah. How do you like that?

Mark: It looks fantastic. That is a great system. Or he’ll have something that says Colman and Company on it, that was done with a CutnPress vinyl cutter. So, we wear decorated apparel every day, as part of our business.

There are a lot of companies out there that require their employees to do that, too.

Marc: Yeah, and it’s funny, because sometimes I consider that internally, like I feel like we should have our own little internal ecommerce store for our employees, because we make it here.

Mark: We should do that.

Marc: We should do that. We make it here. So, we don’t have a store that we order through. Our employees will – we order shirts, they pay for the shirt, we take it, and then we decorate it ourselves. Most of the employees will do a lot of the decorating themselves.

But when you’re dealing with a business like we’re mentioning, or a Little League or a dance school, or whatever it is, a few things. For one, you mentioned that grandpa might come, and he might decide he wanted a shirt. They might decide they want some extra practice shirt. You might spill ketchup at a game, on your shirt. You might rip your shirt.

Or you might just have some extra money this week, and you wouldn’t mind having a few more shirts.

Mark: Yeah.

Marc: Which is kind of at the point now where I’m at with my work shirts. I have a few I kind of want to retire. I want to get a couple of different colors, things like that.

It’s also about the availability of money. So, I want to do that. I’m not going to do it in September, but in October, I want to try to budget $100 to get a few extra shirts.

Mark: That goes to one of the gains of having a shopping cart, an ecommerce store, is that not only will you get – you’ll get surprise orders. You’ll get those people that do not participate in that initial buy, and they want to add on. That will just happen. There’s no chance that will not happen. If you make it easy for people to buy the clothes that they like, they will buy it.

The other thing that we talked about is once you get someone on the site, the ability to upsell is built into most shopping cart applications. So again, that same person that goes and they want to order an extra shirt for work, that’s got the company logo on it, they want to order an extra team jersey. If they are offered the opportunity to get two, or to get a sweater or a sweatshirt, or to get decorated shoes or a cap or a bag or something like that, they might take advantage of that, as well. That’s just going to end up in more sales.

Because many of you out there aren’t really salespeople, so you’re not naturally inclined to look at an order for 120 shirts, and think to yourself “Wow! What else can I sell them?” No. You just want to get the money, get them off the phone, and start printing your shirts.

You’re not thinking about offering “Well, if you get a cap to match each one of these shirts, I’ll give you a discount on the whole order,” or “Did you know we offer this, as well?” If you’re missing those questions, then a shopping cart site could be a good thing for you.

Marc: Yeah. You’ve got a couple of things to consider here. Do you have a business where you could benefit from being able to easily share, and let people know that there is a place to go, for them to order additional apparel?

You have a couple of different things. One, if your business is, like you mentioned before, semi-online already, people are calling you up to order the same things, it’s not all custom work, then you’re already kind of selling online. So, you’ve made that happen.

If you have a business where you’re selling to a bunch of organizations consistently, and you think that you could get reorders, then that’s a benefit as well, to you. You can make a good amount of money that way.

Also, it makes it easier to help possibly keep business long term. Not only are you going out there and you’re selling to the business or the sports league or the school, or whoever it is. You have to go out there and get that business somehow, whether it was a referral or you physically went out and sold it. They came, and now they’re doing their paper and phone orders with you.

An additional benefit that you get to offer your customers is like, “Hey, also, anyone at any point in time, including you, the next time you want to do a bulk order,” – I’m talking to the Director of Operations, that would order shirts for this company, or the coach. “Not only do you get all that, but the next time anybody wants to order one or two shirts, or if you want to do your order next time online, there’s a form online.”

“I’m going to upload all of your logos on there, the different options, and all of the approved shirt styles that you like, and all of the sizes in the approved colors. Then, you or anybody on your team, or anybody in your business or anybody in your school, at any point in time, can go online. They can pick from one of the three approved logos. They can pick from one of the five approved shirts. They can pick from one of the two approved colors. They pick their size, they place their order.”

“And you can actually have somebody place your entire next order for 300 shirts, online. Or you can do them one at a time, any time you want. But I’m still happy to do orders the same way that we do now, that you call me up and tell me.”

Mark: Yeah, I like that. And that person can share a website address with everybody in the company.

Marc: And they like that, also, because what happens is oftentimes, it happens like this; mom accidentally bleached a kid’s shirt, and they need to get replacements. So, they have to tell the coach. The coach has to make some time to call you. They have to collect a check from the parent. Then, they’ve got to send you a check or give you a credit card.

All of these hands are in something, when the coach, I’m sure would be very happy to just say “Oh, yeah. No problem. Here’s the website you go to. Here’s where you go. Pick the one you want.” Or they could do it right on their phone. The coach can, right there on their phone, “Here. Let me show you. Here, here. Alright, here’s my phone. Put it in, and check out right now.”

So, you can make things easier for your customer. That’s a benefit. Part of an exercise, I think, to do here would be, what could be the financial benefit for you, if you did that? In numbers. How much money do you think you could make? How many one-off orders do you think you could do? How much time might you save?

Mark: Time is the big one. If you think about getting that shoebox full of scrunched up $20 bills that you normally do, after you do a charity run, or you collect money from a school. If you compare that to just credit card processing, there is a lot of time savings there.

There’s a lot of time savings in not having to try to figure out peoples’ handwriting for sizes. There’s a lot of time savings in you ferrying back between the school or the business, and your office. And there’s a lot of extra money to be made, with the upsells and everything else.

Marc: Yeah, and you don’t have to worry about checks and bounced checks. There’s a ton of things to do. You can give people a secure way to do it. So, it’s secure, it’s easy. You can put PayPal, so they can check out with PayPal. You can make it very, very easy on people, and you can make a lot of money.

So, this is part of the decision-making process. Do you have to do this, to be successful? We already said no. But maybe, if -.

Mark: But you could.

Marc: Yeah. If you’re looking at all of the different customers you have, the time that you spend, you need to write some of this down and think about it. How much time do you spend doing bulk orders, and how much work is that? How much time do you spend if a customer wants to order three more shirts?

How do you charge for that? Do you charge differently? How do you take that order? Do you take it the same way as the bulk order?

I have no issue if it takes you 15 minutes to process a bulk order, between setting up the email, writing up an invoice, getting it, collecting a check, taking that to the bank. If you put in an hour’s worth of work on doing that, but it’s for 500 shirts, well worth it.

Mark: But if it’s for two…

Marc: If it’s the same exact process for two, maybe you could fix that and save yourself a bunch of time.

Another is plenty of businesses just won’t even offer the single or two or three shirt order, for that reason, because of all that time. So now, you can turn around and you can make it simple. Now, you’re going to charge more for that.

You know, when you’re buying them in bulk, the shirts are only $18. But when you’re buying them one at a time, they’re $26, or whatever it might be.

Mark: And the nice part about that is you don’t have to say those numbers to somebody, because I know a lot of you have a problem with that. Just “Quantity from one to three is $25. Quantity from three to 1,000 is $18.” You can do that online, and not have to deal with that customer face to face on it.

Marc: What’s great about it is you have the power to do whatever you want, within that realm. You can say all of the online store prices are tier one pricing. It’s all for less than five. “If you want to order more than five, then call.” And you do your process. Or whatever the number is; ten, five, whatever it might be.

So, you can pick if you want to be able to have everybody check out online, for all of the stuff, all of the reorders. Or you want to just have it for the fill-ins.

Then, there’s also what we started with, is maybe your business just is selling funny shirts or themed shirts, and then you should just sell all of them online. That one’s kind of a simple one.

Mark: I do want to say one last thing about the potential gains, before we get into the terrible things that are going to happen, when you start selling online. That is you open up the possibility of effective advertising.

There are much more direct and profitable advertising opportunities on Facebook, and with pay per click and things like that, when you have an online store, that can really open the business up to you.

Marc: And email, as well.

Mark: Yeah.

Marc: You have a list of customers that buy from you, and now you can advertise to them in a different way, whether it’s email or whatever it is. “Hey! We just got our new fall line in. Here’s four new options for you to order. Click here to buy one.”

You get to do that with everybody who has ordered from you before, and they can see it. It’s also a cool place, because it’s one singular place to see all of the options, all of the colors, all of the styles, all of the designs, all of the prices. You can do all of that together, and that’s nice for people, too.

Mark: True.

Now, let’s talk about the terrible things.

Marc: Okay. What is going to catch on fire?

Mark: What are the horrible things? “I’m going to get hacked, and all of my customers’ credit card information is going to be stolen.”

Marc: Yeah, probably. No. No. The typical things people are concerned about when starting an online store, I would say.

Some of them are the security side. What am I going to do with my customers and their credit cards, and things like that? What am I going to do with my website, in keeping it secure, and my customers’ information?

What’s cool about that is, for the most part, the internet has very specific rules. If you’re going to take credit cards, you have to have a certain kind of website. You have to have certain things on your website. There have to be certain things.

You almost can’t do it without the other.

Mark: You can’t. Any professional website designer, or any of the off-the-shelf kind of shopping cart softwares have those tools built in.

Marc: Yeah. They’re going to make you do it. You’re going to have a certain security certificate, just to allow the PayPal module to be installed on your website, for example. Things like that.

Mark: And I’ll tell you, for example, some big retailers have been hacked, like Target, for example. You’re not going to be that, so no one is going to pay that close attention to your site. So, the odds that you’re actually going to have somebody breach the typical security that’s on the website, in order to get your customers’ credit card information, are just incredibly low.

Marc: And all of the things that you’re going to install and use on your website are not of a Target enterprise-level edition. You’re going to pay probably a higher fee than Target does, but also, because when a customer is putting in their customer information, it’s probably not being directly stored in your website at all.

Mark: It’s not.

Marc: It’s being processed through CirclePay or PayPal.

Mark: Authorize.net.

Marc: Or whatever.

Mark: A credit card processor. So then, it becomes their responsibility to keep that information safe.

Marc: Yeah, so information is safe online. That’s not something that I would have as a real fear, as long as you’re doing it properly. Your online store does not mean you use the simple form builder, and one of the fields you create is “Type in credit card number,” so you can manually process it when you get the email. That’s not an online store.

Mark: It’s actually going to be safer for you to take an order through a shopping cart software like WooCommerce or Shopify or something like that, than if they email you their credit card information. Significantly safer.

Marc: So, you’ve got the security. I think the real downfalls are that it’s actually going to cost you money, on a regular basis, to keep it up and running. What kind of money is that? That’s the actual website itself, the domain name is one. The hosting, so where is it going to live? It lives somewhere, and that’ space costs rent.

You have to own the name of it. That’s a small fee, $20 a year or less.

Mark: Something like that.

Marc: Then, you’ve got to have a place for it to live. There’s going to be rent for that store. The rent is for a virtual space on a hard drive somewhere.

Mark: GoDaddy or Blue Host, or something like that.

Marc: Or Shopify, or whatever it might be. Usually not very much. $100 a year, or less. So, that’s a cost.

Then, usually, if you’re going to take credit cards online, you have to have security certifications. Basically, it’s ways to make sure that your website is safe, according to the internet’s rules, or I should say not necessarily the internet’s rules, but the rules that a merchant service company, a credit card company, is going to require, in order just to allow credit cards to be processed through your website. There’s a fee there. That might be $100 a year.

Then, you are going to have some actual maintenance types of costs.

Mark: These are kind of the sneaky ones, because for example, I just did a video about setting up a Shopify store. And for about $80 a month, they will take care of everything. Do you know what I mean?

They’ll help you with the domain name, they will take care of the hosting, and with plus 3% of your transaction fees, they’ll handle the credit transactions. So, you can do all of that at one place for $80 a month, fundamentally.

But what really sneaks up on you, and it does on all of our ColDesi and Colman and Company websites, is maintaining the sites themselves. Every once in a while, especially if you’re using like a WooCommerce or something, there will be different updates that happen throughout the year, to the backend software of the site.

If you’re using a plug-in, which is a little software application on your website that might do something like show somebody a blog post or make it better pictures, or capture somebody’s email address, all of these updates are happening and improving all of the time. So, either you have to watch your website and handle those transactions, you have to update it yourself, or you have to contract somebody to do that.

Marc: And sometimes, there’s a fee associated. Sometimes, there might not. It’s going to be similar to if you have digitizing software or if you’ve got graphics software. You initially bought the software for a certain dollar amount. You bought the software for $600, $700, $1,000. Now, you own a $1,000 piece of software. They have little updates that are free, and what do you have to do? You have to click, install, add the update. Right? I’m just talking about [inaudible 35:24]

Then, every so many years, they have a new version. If you want the new version, you have to upgrade, and that’s $100 or whatever that might be. Then, every so many years, they’re going to say that old version is not going to work anymore. “We’re not going to support it.” You now have to spend the $100 to upgrade.

Your website is going to be similar to that, anything you have on your website. So, the companies who manage credit cards and everyone’s security, every once in a while, they’re going to say “We recommend everybody do this update for free.” Then, every once in a while they’re going to say “Everybody has to do this free update.”

Then, every once in a while they’re going to say “Everybody has to do this update, and it’s a good amount of work,” so either you’re going to have to spend hours doing it yourself, if you know coding, or you’re going to have to hire somebody.

So, it’s going to be similar to just like any other software you own. There’s going to be short-term time costs, and there’s going to be longer-term actual financial costs.

Mark: Yeah. An ecommerce is not a “set it and forget it.” You do have a commitment to a certain level of involvement with the site, or to pay somebody to handle that for you.

You can think of it a lot like, also as if you rented a retail space. When you first rent the space, you’ve got to build everything out the way you like it. Even after everything is built, and it’s beautiful, and it’s working perfectly, you’re still going to have to clean it once a week. You’re still going to have to restock the inventory. You’re still going to want to change around the displays.

Things get old, things get broken. You’re still going to have to maintain that store.

Marc: Lightbulbs go out.

Mark: Or it’s going to look crappy in a very short period of time. It’s kind of the same thing with any website that you own.

Marc: That’s similar to that, as well, the look and feel and style of it. If you go into, say a thrift store now, most of them have done no updating since they were originally opened.

Mark: Right. There’s lots of linoleum.

Marc: Yeah. There’s one across the street from here. They look probably exactly the same as when they opened up, in like 1982. The racks are the same. Well, they’re a thrift store.

However, if you have an online store, and you started your website in 1999 or 2005, and it’s still the same as it is today, -.

Mark: It’s terrible.

Marc: You’re going to look like that store. You’re going to have the old racks and a bunch of broken things that are patched up, and a crack in the glass that somebody fixed with clear tape. That’s what your website is going to be.

So, owning a storefront is similar to a website. They’re both the same. Some of it is just maintenance, and some of it is keeping up with the times.

Mark: Yeah. And you have to decide, are you the person that’s going to build out the retail space? Are you the person that’s going to do all of the maintenance? Are you the one that’s going to build the shelves or move the displays? Or are you going to contract with a professional, to do that?

Marc: Or do you have employees that can do that, that are on your staff?

Mark: And I will tell you that most people can do these things, because the internet has gotten very simple. But that doesn’t mean you want to, or that you should. Just because, I mean there are a lot of smart people out there who just hate the internet. They don’t want to do software. They want to spend their time doing design, or just making shirts or blinging shirts, or whatever it is.

If you hate it, if you dread it, if you don’t have an aptitude for it, then it’s pretty simple to find somebody to do it for you.

Marc: And I think we should talk about some of that pricing, because there’s a few different levels of pricing. Maybe we can start with what’s your minimum cost going to be? What’s that going to include? And then, what’s like your highest-end cost going to be, and what’s that going to include?

I think people need to understand that, because you need to make sure that you are not – if you’re too low on the scale, and you could afford to do more, you could probably get something done significantly more better than the money you put in.

Also, at the same time, plenty of people will spend $10,000 on a website that they might as well should have done alone.

Mark: Very true.

Marc: You mentioned Shopify as one. There’s plenty of these online shopping cart stores; BigCommerce.

Mark: Wix, 3DCart. There are even several that are designed specifically for the custom apparel business, like DecoNetwork and, I think InkSoft.

Marc: Even Facebook has their own ecommerce store stuff that you can do. All of these, they’re going to cost you – it’s not a lot of money to get that created. So, like $80 a month for like a full-boat type of a service.

Mark: For $80 a month, for example, on Shopify, that gives you the ability to build your own site from a template, with tech support. You’d definitely get tech support.

Marc: So, relatively speaking, for less than $100 a month, or -ish, depending what you get. It could be $199 a month, if you got a very robust software. But for $100 a month, you could build something on your own from a template, that is going to be relatively easy to make.

Now, what I would level up, one level up from that, is you could hire a contractor or a company to just do that for you. What I mean is you buy the subscription that’s $69 a month or $100 a month. Then, you hire somebody to just do the work in that.

Mark: Basically like “Here’s all of the pictures of what I’m going to sell, and here’s all of the descriptions and the prices of what I’m going to sell. This is my logo. Make it beautiful!”

Marc: “Use the built-in templates. I want it to be pink and blue. Show me the template you’re going to use. Then, after I say yes, show me what each page will look like, relatively. Then, I’ll say yes. Then, finish building them until all of my products are online. Then, we’re done, and I’ll pay you. And every once in a while, I’ll reach out to you again, because once a month, I’m going to just have you make sure everything is up-to-date and new and fresh.”

Something like that should cost you, more than likely, a three-digit number, let’s say. Like in the hundreds? $700? $800? $500?

Mark: Yeah. Under $1,000, definitely. You could probably get it done for under $500.

Marc: Yeah, depending on how many products you have, and if you’re going to ask them to do any custom artwork or get any custom work made. But it’s assuming that you have kind of most of the basic artwork done. “Here’s pictures, here’s words, here’s descriptions. I’ve got 100 products.”

You could probably get that done for a three-digit number, somewhere.

Mark: Agreed.

Marc: That’s kind of my next level up, that I was thinking of. Then, we get into more custom.

Mark: Right, which is using an existing platform, like a WooCommerce or Shopify or BigCart or something like that, and having someone design a site for you, built around that. Not using one of the existing templates, but doing something just specifically for you.

Marc: Yes, so your site is going to be unique. I always compare this from like those fast food Chinese places and a Chinese restaurant, which I consider to be two different things. The fast food Chinese place is, every town has got one. If you live in a decent city, you have 400. But they are the same. The menu is basically the same, with a few different logo changes. Like the “L6” is the same on plenty of the menus.

When you walk in, they have the same pictures of the combinations.

Mark: The food could be great. So, just like in one of those templated ecommerce stores, the product could be amazing. And the menus in all of those places definitely work, because you just go in, you pick a number 12, you know, whatever you want.

Marc: Yeah. There’s one right by my place, one of those cookie cutter places. But everything they make is really good. You can tell they use fresh ingredients, blah blah blah. You could also go to another one with the same template, but we’re talking about the finished product, not the template.

The other would be a Chinese restaurant, meaning this is like a restaurant. They’re not going off that. They made their own menu. They designed their own look. They designed their booths, they designed their tiles.

The cost is significantly different. Because one place took a menu that was already built, put their logo on the top, and got 1,000 printed. The other place hired an artist to custom design the menu. And then, the menu has got a plastic top, and it folds open.

Mark: And you’ve got employees and décor, and all of that stuff, in a real restaurant.

Marc: Your website is going to be similar to that. If you get a custom built website, where everything is from the ground up, custom built – or for the most part. I say semi-custom, meaning that they take some basic templates, and alter it around.

Mark: Yeah. They’re not figuring how to process a credit card. They’re using that existing template.

Marc: How I would compare this would be that you have a restaurant, but you ordered booths online. So, you picked from 1,000 booths. You didn’t have a wood-worker custom make all of the booths. We’re talking mid-level custom here. You ordered booths, you ordered chairs, you ordered tablecloths, you ordered menus that you could insert print into. You had a bunch of extra design work.

Same for your website. You’ve got custom artwork. You’ve got some basic menu styles, but you’re tweaking the font and the color and some of the shapes. That type of work right there, which is semi-custom – you’re using some pre-built things and you’re using some custom – the price on that, what do you think?

Mark: I just had a friend of mine pay $7,000.

Marc: Okay. I was going to say $5,000 to $10,000 as a fair range for mostly custom.

Mark: But it could be a lot less.

Marc: It could be a lot less.

Mark: We’re just throwing out numbers.

Marc: Yeah. You want to gauge this number. If it’s $3,000, okay, that might be it. If they’re saying $599, I would be very – it doesn’t make sense.

Mark: Right. They’re using a template that no one has ever see before.

Marc: You’re falling into tier two. Tier one was do it all yourself. Tier two was you use extreme templates, but you’re just paying somebody to do the work. Tier three is you’re kind of using some off the shelf stuff, but a lot of custom work.

The last tier up from that is you have dreams of exactly what you want, meaning “Okay, on the left side, I want them to be able to pick a t-shirt, but then zoom in and read the tag, so they can -. Then, zoom out and drag a picture into that. And when they do that, I want a unicorn to fly across the screen.”

Mark: Not a picture of a unicorn. An actual unicorn to do that.

Marc: So, you have dreams and lists. “When somebody adds something to the cart, I want something to pop up,” because you’ve been to Bed Bath and Beyond’s website or you’ve been to Walmart’s, saying “I want to be able to do what they did.”

When you’re talking about something of a scale of that size, where you’re getting a brand new ideas custom program, you’re talking about $25,000 to $100,000.

Mark: Yeah. It really depends on what you want. You could spend all of the money. It could be worth it. I could be worth it. I mean, it’s probably not. It’s a very, very few instances, is it actually worth it.

Marc: We have customers that have very intricate websites, that do amazing, and do a lot of business. But in addition, the process, when you’re saying you’re going to spend $20,000 on a website, is a bigger business investment, meaning like you also have a plan to drive people there. You also have an advertising budget.

Mark: Yeah. You’ve got everything to go with it.

Marc: You’ve got multiple people to manage all of these things, because they’re all big projects.

Mark: You could work up to that. You could start at the simplest level, and then kind of work up to that, depending on your business.

Marc: So, if we’re talking about levels; one, two, three, four. One is straight out the box, and you do all of the work yourself. Two is straight out the box, but you pay somebody to do some of the work.

Three; some out of the box, some custom. Four; your dreams. All of your hopes and dreams on the internet.

I recommend, if you’re brand new to this – my personal recommendation, if you’re brand new to this, you haven’t sold online, you have a modest budget to work with, and you’re still kind of working out where it’s going to go. You have some ideas, but you’re working out where it’s going to go.

I’m a big fan of level two.

Mark: Okay, I like that. I’ll accept that.

Marc: Most people who try to do it all themselves, it becomes a work in process that takes forever. You’re never quite satisfied with the look. Then, every time you have to go to fix something, it’s a thorn in your side.

Mark: I like that. I think that’s all very true. I also think that we’ve given people a pretty good idea, like a soup to nuts kind of a thing. I’d like to hear from you guys. We’re just going to be quiet for a minute. You tell us whether or not you think it’s a good idea for you to go into the ecommerce business or the shopping cart business.

Marc: Do all of your math ahead of time. Figure out how much is it really going to cost you. Don’t just rely on your niece, who sometimes kind of does websites. Get some quotes from multiple people.

Not only get referrals, but do some searching online. Do a little bit of research. Watch some YouTube videos. Educate yourself a little bit. Figure out how much it’s going to cost you. Think about how much business you think you can gain from it. Think about how much time you think you could save.

Then, in the end, when you add up how much the investment is, how much money you can make, how much time you can save; the math is going to come out right, if it’s good for you or not.

Mark: Very true. You know what we’ll do? We’ll put in the show notes, we will put some links to like Wix and DecoNetwork, and some of the off-the-shelf ecommerce sites that you might want to take a look at. And any other resources that we can think of, that will help you make a decision, we’ll put in those, as well.

Marc: Yeah. And be careful, because this stuff can suck you in and eat up all of your time, which is why I recommend level two, because most people that are going to listen, are going to start at level one. And they’re going to get into it.

And you are just going to be up all night, messing with this site, and messing with the templates. Then, you’re going to be up all night again. Then, you’re going to be done with it. It didn’t work. You’re going to give up. You’re going to be angry. You hated all of this idea in the first place.

“Why did I listen to Marc?”

Mark: And you’re going to post on the CAS Facebook group, “This ecommerce thing doesn’t work at all!”

Marc: Yeah. So, look into it, get a budget, save some money if you have to. Budget aside some money for the future. I think, in the end, for most businesses that are in this industry, it’s a really good idea to have some sort of an online checkout process, even if it’s just for those little fill-in between orders, to save everybody time.

Mark: I like it!

Alright, I think that – I know that this has been Mark Stephenson, from ColDesi.

Marc: And Marc Vila, from Colman and Company.

Mark: You guys have a great online business!

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