I’m going to cover this briefly… the idea of using a hosted e-commerce service. These sites provide a full store with templates, integration with QuickBooks, customer relationship management software (CRM), etc.
In the “old” days, the big player in this space was Yahoo’s Yahoo Stores which is still out there. When I discussed my thoughts leaning towards WordPress, a good friend recommended that I consider Volution – this is an interesting option as you can basically get a “store in a box” and be up and running very quickly. They’ll also handle a lot of payment options, take care of being PCI certified (important if you are going to take payments online), etc. The basic fees are pretty low, especially if you are starting from scratch – $29 per month (they are giving a $10 discount for the first month), for a store with 100 products with higher level options scaling pretty nicely.
I may be falling into a trap here, but given that I have some IT/web skills as well as a dedicated web server and a bit of knowledge of e-commerce and such, I don’t think I’m going to go this way. If you are coming into this cold, I would seriously suggest you consider one of these hosted e-commerce service options, however.
Please note, you will still likely be paying both credit card fees and a premium for the e-commerce service handling your transactions.
NOTE: Given that we are “working in wood” a lot of our customers are not Internet savvy, so you will also likely need a merchant account to handle direct phone/faxed orders.
If you do custom work and don’t sell pre-defined products, your web site is more of a marketing platform and a capabilities tool, then I think you are better off going in a direction closer to my blog model as you are not going to be taking payments online..
But, given my homework, I’m leaning towards the WordPress option – more details to follow.
as always, your mileage may vary.