Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Weebly's new eCommerce options

Last year I spent much time researching online all the different options out there to create your own artist website, storefront and/or Facebook business page. I can't say I tested each & every software option out there, but I did a good amount of exploring.

I also took advantage of any free trial periods, so I could setup & operate for a brief time. The plus side to that is being able to kick the tires, so to speak. To try out their features & access to see if it would work well. The down side is that, if you move on after the trial, you lose the setup you created. For that reason, I kept my website/store as limited as possible during the trial periods. No sense spending a great deal of time doing a temporary setup!

Since I own my url address:, I was able to take it with me wherever I set up shop. That was a definite advantage because where the website/store was located was irrelevant to a buyer. To them, it simply looked like I did a redesign of my site. I had tried FASO, Shopify, BigCartel and quite a few others that I can't recall right now.

In the end, I wound up on Weebly utilizing their free version. Their free version can outdo some of the others paid versions in functionality & ease of use! So when Weebly just rolled out a new "storefront" version, with eCommerce functionality - well, I was a bit excited. I did some exploring & comparing again -- here's what I found.

My website still looks the same as it did before Weebly's new rollout. However, doing some edits to my site does require utilizing some of their newer screens. It's all pretty painless, however, many new features will not work with the free version. They require an upgrade - and they added a new pricing package called "Business" to their 2 other packages. I "think" my website will have a new storefront page or look available on it -- I say think because I've been hesitant to make any changes -- not just yet. Here is a comparison of the Weebly packages (this is only a screen grab, so you can't do a roll-over to learn more as it says, sorry. But you can go to the Weebly website & check into this further):

The thing to notice here is not only the monthly cost, but the number of products in each plan. If you want to have more than 5 products, you HAVE to go with the more expensive Business plan. Yes, it gives you more shopping features - you will have to weigh whether those features justify the $19.54 a month ($234.48 a year). They are offering a discount on the annual charge which would bring it down to $200.33 - but that discount will only be available until Nov 19th, so if you want it, do not hesitate too long.

I re-checked Shopify & BigCartel, which are both Storefront sites available out there. I had done free trials with both of them last year. I liked them both, but couldn't justify the cost on either one. Perhaps when I am selling more consistently, the cost will not seem so high. I found that the new Weebly Business plan is a bit cheaper, but they are all roughly similar in price/functionality.



Lastly, I took a look at OpenSky just now because another artist mentioned it. I found that it works a bit differently. Nowhere on the site could I find a monthly fee. They seem to work on a form of commission basis and it reminds me of the old pyramid selling structure:
Basically, you invite people to OpenSky. They buy from you - and you keep 100%. However, they need to join OpenSky as a member, so if they purchase from you again they will fall into the second category where you will get 80%. Likewise, if any people who are already members of Opensky buy from you, you will get 80% of that purchase. This equates to a 20% commission on most of the items you sell except to first-time OpenSky members - so the site is banking on you going out & getting more friends & family members to sign up with them as buyers. I'm a little uncomfortable with that 20% commission though - so if I sold a painting for $100, they keep $20. I guess that is equal to the monthly fee that the other sites are charging. However, if I sold 5 $100 paintings in a single month, their commission would be $100, or basically 1 painting! That 20% can take a nasty bite out of your profits.

For now, it looks like the Weebly free version still exists and still functions basically the same. If there are any new features that work with the free version, I will be sure to post it here. But suffice it to say, I will not be upgrading to their new Business plan - at least, not just yet.

UPDATE - one thing I discovered that I really don't like with the Weebly update, all my images are square only now, no rectangles. You can resize them but they can only be square. I tried reloading some & still they are only square. And there doesn't seem to be a way to pan the image in the square, so many of my images are cropped in a not so flattering way. I wonder if this requires me to change design. This update is going to be a bit of work I can see.


martinealison said...

Bonjour chère amie,

Vous avez une patience incroyable avec internet !... Je ne suis pas née avec et cela me demande beaucoup !
Je vous félicite pour ces recherches qui j'espère porteront ses fruits.
Gros bisous

CrimsonLeaves said...

Always interesting reading of your discoveries, Nancie. I know you'll land where the fit is best for you. I wouldn't like losing my image formatting though.

Sea Dean said...

That square image thing is a real preventative for me. I always have a problem with it on Leslie Saeta's blog so I think it would frustrate me. Is it just the thumbnail so that when you click it shows the full painting?

I'm also curious how it compares to DPW? Presently there is a monthly fee which equates to $155.40 per year plus 3% on auction sales which would be $3 per $100, so if you sell one $100 per month the yearly total would be 191.40 which seems a bit cheaper than the ones you've reviewed here. I do like the feature with DPW that you don't pay a commission on ordinary or Ebay sales, but that rarely happens for me.

Nan Johnson said...

Thank you Martinealison! But I do not think I have patience at all! So much to learn!

Thanks Sherry for reading my blog & supporting me!

Hi Sea. The square image thing seems to be only when using the existing eCommerce product. It use to have 3 styles to choose from, now it's only 1. The thumbnails seem to be square only, but the full image is normal. The thumbnails seem to center the image - sort of like face recognition does with a camera. It's workable, but I would prefer it to not do this square format only.

The comparison to DPW brings up some good points. But before I can compare them, I want to point out that I see 4 avenues to pursue with art via the internet. Auction House, On-Line Gallery, Online Store & the Artist Website.
Auction House - offers ability to do auctions of items. eBay & DPW both offer this.
Online Gallery - can be done with almost any of the other 3, but sometimes it costs additional. eBay gives the option if you open an eBay store. DPW has it built-in with their basic package. And basic websites & stores give the option also. Most have basic BUY NOW or ADD TO CART buttons that connect/work with PayPal (or other online payment services).
Online Store - gives additional options & tools for selling from an Online Gallery. In addition to Buy Buttons, it also give the ability to have discount codes, inventory control, multiple payment options, etc.
Artist Website - I put this separate. You have no idea how many artists I've heard from that would never "cheapen their art with a storefront or auctions. No craft fairs!" (their exact words). Most of these artists have websites with FASO or other artist-driven sites.

That being said, Weebly was a website (non art-specific) tool that allowed you to setup an Online Gallery. It had payment button functionality & that's about it. They are now offering a new Business level (not free), that is now more of an online store presence. Both Shopify & Big Cartel are online Store options, with many bells & whistles - but at a price tag. Weebly seems to be trying to take a piece of that world now as well.

I think every artist has to decide what online presence they want. For me, I love the DPW experience. It's not terribly expensive (in comparison), gives me an online gallery & I can conduct auctions from there (both DPW & eBay). Believe it or not, probably 1/2 my sales on DPW are non-auctions! I am using eBay now to try & auction off some of my old pieces -- I want to move some inventory (there is no money with items sitting on the shelf). There is no monthly fee (50 listings per month limit), but they do take 10% commission on any eBay sale.

I loved the Storefront approach when I did the Shopify & BigCartel trials. I did coupon discounts for my past buyers & sent out end of year discounts to them as well (I did email campaigns). It brought me sales! Some people bought multiple while using a 30% discount I gave them (people who bought the most from me during the year.) Right now, I can only give PayPal refunds to users - and I have to keep track of who bought, who is due money, etc. I would really like that storefront approach again -- but like I said, it comes at a cost. I have to decide if my business can support both DPW, eBay & a Storefront. I was hoping Weebly would be more economical - it is a bit, but I've got to think about it.

One other thing - both Shopify & BigCartel brought in "lookers" from the registered users on those sites - which were all new people to my work. BigCartel brought me the most extra hits to my items. I couldn't tell you if it brought me extra sales - hard to tell with only 30 days. But it seemed to have the potential to get me into a new audience base -- something you & I both have talked about. I have to admit that I don't think Weebly brings a market to me at all - haven't seen any indication in my hits on the site. So with Weebly, it is all in your own court to bring the potential buyers in.


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