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E-Commerce is really rewarding when you see your hard work pay off, but just like any business, it takes time. Not everyone is cut out for it, but I have the opportunity to work with people who, for the most part, have that drive to succeed. Sometimes though, it feels like a lot of work for little to no payoff when things get slow. When you get discouraged, you see those monthly fees as money that could be in your pocket instead.
It's really hard to pull the plug on an e-commerce project that you've put so much time and effort into, so I want to give you a few ideas on how to cut some costs.
Savings - Approx $15-$50/mo.
Merchant accounts have their place, but I'm finding that as the internet grows and money-handling progresses, a merchant account is absolutely not necessary in a small e-commerce business. There's no need to pay a monthly fee on top of transaction fees, then be hit with a PCI compliance fine if, for some reason, your site doesn't pass a compliance test. For me, it's the most stressful portion of e-commerce, and I say ditch it!
First things first, accept PayPal. It's silly not to. Sure, some people hate it (and maybe you're one of them), but it's just so convenient for people to simply log in and pay rather than having to fish out their credit card or enter their details in a new system.
Next, add a second payment option for those people who hate PayPal, because they exist in droves! My recommendation is Square. It's easy to set up, the fees are fair, and it makes handling credit card transactions an absolute breeze. Your customer won't even leave your site when they make a purchase.
You don't need to be PCI compliant to use either of these services, but you still need an SSL certificate.
Savings - $45-$75/yr.
Please focus on that last portion: Until Business Picks Up. And note that this option is ONLY possible if you're not required to be PCI compliant.
An SSL certificate is really important when you're collecting customer details; however, if you're only using PayPal and/or Square, you don't have to worry about compliance because you won't be accepting credit card details on your own server. PayPal and Square have their own secure servers, and you're essentially using their secured environment to capture credit card details.
Some people opt to use a free SSL, like Lets Encrypt. Others opt to use a very low-cost SSL, like RapidSSL. Earth Girl servers are equipped to install Lets Encrypt from the cPanel in just a few clicks. It's a really fast way to secure your site at no charge.
The difference is this - paid SSL Certificates have a warranty (e.g. $10,000USD) should your customer's card details be compromised on your server. Free SSL Certificates don't have this warranty.
When business picks up, whether you have a merchant account or not, be sure to add a paid SSL. It just makes your customers feel more comfortable shopping with you.
Savings - Approx $5-$15/mo.
When it comes to web hosting there's no choice of where you store your software files, database, and images. Those have to reside on your hosting account. You do have a choice of where your emails are stored, and emails with attachment can take up a ton of space.
Many of our customers use Gmail to handle their Earth Girl email, you'll find a tutorial here: https://earthgirlhosting.com/earth-girl-hosting-blog/conserve-webmail-space-by-using-gmail. Our customer support team would be happy to help you get this set up if you're having any issues.
Once you have Gmail handle all of your emails, your webmail usage will decrease and you may be able to lower your hosting costs.
Savings - Approx $5-$15/mo.
This really only applies to stores with around 1000 products. All of those images can add up, so removing products and their images can save a ton of space.
Check out your traffic stats in Webmaster Tools, or Analytics, and figure out which products get the least amount of traffic - then remove them. Make sure you remove the associated images, too, because we have two goals here. The first, make your site more manageable. The second, decrease the amount of space you're using so you can use a smaller hosting account and save some money.
This also gives you a chance to really focus on the popular products and vendors, keep your inventory updates manageable, and write your descriptions from the heart.
Just like a brick & mortar business, it can take up to five years to start seeing true profits and it's constant work. The benefit a B&M store has in a community is visibility. Your website, along with your online advertising efforts, is your visibility online. If you take your site down, your visibility is gone. So, don't terminate your site or put it in maintenance mode, you'll kill your SEO ratings. Only terminate if you truly know you're done.
Unless you're using Amazon, Ebay, Etsy, Bonanza, or a similar venue that basically brings the traffic to you, changing your software won't help. I know that some big e-commerce platforms show testimonials from people who claim the software boosted sales, but I promise it's a little far-fetched. The first thing you'll notice after making a change is that your SEO rankings will plummet. This is because your URL structure will change entirely and Google/Bing will need to re-index you. It can take months to recover from a platform switch if its not done correctly.
Additionally, once you switch to a hosted platform (Shopify, Big Commerce, Magento, etc.) the site is really no longer your own. It's not easy to transfer to another host down the line, or tweak to make it unique. These options are great for some people, not so great for others, so be sure you weigh the pros and cons.
Some people switch hosting companies to save money. While I'm always sad to see a customer go, I will always promote you doing what's best for your business. When it comes to hosting, you definitely get what you pay for, so be very mindful of the "big store discount" mentality. It comes with a price - including slow load times, poor service, and basically being treated like a number.
In summary, I want you to know that there are ways to save without shutting down completely. Open a ticket and ask for me, Amber, directly to go over your hosting account to see if there's anything that could be changed to save money on the hosting end. And consider all of the options I've outlined above.
Best of success to you!
Earth Girl Hosting