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dburchm1

Basic Site Sells Products

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Hi

 

I like to browse this forum and see all the wonderful designs people come up with. It really make me wish I had more talent in the graphics design area. I thought I was doing good to build a new banner, come up with a color scheme and a little flash for the front page.

 

This forum seems to be mostly about graphics and page layout, but there doesn't seem to be much discussion about content and customer service. The one thing I've noticed is some of the sites with beautiful designs don't have a lot of content. I would like to say in defense of the out of the box layout that I think the people who put that together did an excellent job and it sells product. I spent my time worrying about catalog content and search engine placement and I'm really pretty happy with the stock layout with just a few mods. I keep selling products and getting emails from my customers saying what great customer service I have, and guess what, I don't do hardly any customer service. I just type a little message like "Thanks for your order. We'll ship it right out" when I update the order from pending to processing. That tells me that the basic site is providing a logical and enjoyable shopping experience to customers and they really think they are getting great customer service. Anyway, if you are graphically challenged like don't let that discourage you. If you focus on your content you can still sell with osc.

 

All the best, and keep up the good work.

 

Dan Burch

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How do you make a big banner like yours?

 

By the way, I like your site and, personally, if your site is looks appealing and is selling products, why change it. Sounds good to me!

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Dan,

I think your probably right about making sales no matter what - but to successfully test your hypothesis you would need to build a more pleasing site and see which gets more sales.

 

I think you have got to target your market. People trying to sell luxury items need choesive, attractive stores. People targetting discount buyers can probably get away wiith a more spartan store. The trick is to make sure you know who you are targetting.

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My web host is also a good friend who is in the graphics layout and design business. He's done advertising, promotions, and training programs for regional and national companies here in the US. I've learned a great deal from him. One day he looked at my site I was developing and said "Why did you change that from the 'out of the box version?" I answered because I thought the site navigated better. He asked me what the single most successful site on the internet was. I didn't know so he told me to go to Amazon.com (believe it or not, I had never visited that site.) When I got there my first response was, "Hey, they use OSCommerce!" He said, "No! OSCommerce was patterned after Amazon.com because IT WORKS!"

 

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. It's good to personalize a site, but be careful how much you deviate from a proven method. That said, I've probably still broken some rules, however it is a balance to attract your demographic market. But..., if it doesn't produce after a couple of months, try something new until you find your niche. Just don't forget what is successful for the successful!

 

Charles


We stand in ignorance only for questions not asked. Plug up the leaks in your knowledge base and open up a flood of understanding.

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Hi Craig

 

Thanks for joining the discussion. Of course "more pleasing" is always better, but when someone, like me, with absolutely no design credential sets out to create a "more pleasing" site it's pretty risky business. While I think snowshoes are a fairly luxury item and I only discount enough to be completive in my niche I may have just lucked out that people who buy snowshoes are of a Spartan mind set and are looking for a lot of white space(pun intended).

 

I still think content and customer service are king and queen. Design can be the knight in shining armor, but it can also be the jester.

 

Dan

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Hello there!

You appear to be quite experienced and hence please allow me to throw a question at you--how can i implement a flash file as my header image on the front page (header.php)?

 

I am just getting started with this program and would highly appreciate your help.

 

thanks,

Anupam

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OSCommerce was patterned after Amazon.com because IT WORKS!"

 

Charles

Have you looked at Amazon lately? OSC out of the box only has a slight resemblence to Amazon. Look at the tab navigation, custom headers, all the extra functionality. OSC is gray, boring and uninviting.

 

I like OSC very much but it pales in comparison to Amazon. Just look at the current checkout process in OSC. It is a very poor implementation. Try checking out and changing some of your shipping and/or billing info during the process- you have to start the entire checkout process all over again.

 

Its like comparing a volkswagen to a ferrari - just because they both have four wheels and an engine doesn't make them equal. Both may get you where you want but the ferrari does it faster and smoother.

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Craig,

 

I think you misunderstood me. I said that OSC patterned after Amazon. I did not say it is equivalent. You're confusing design layout with functionality. When someone reviews a new OSC site, often they say "So what? it still looks like basic OSC." ...as if to say the program would work better if it looked different? I don't think so. The layout is as much a part of the success as anything else because it makes navigation easier.

 

Fact, yes, The tabular navigation and other functional enhancements make Amazon a far superior engine. But, when I put them side by side, visually the basic underlying structure is very much the same. An account info oriented header, right and left columns composed of info boxes, center for presentation of main interest with a main info box at the bottom, and a footer. So, why would you want to remove the entire right column to make OSC not look like OSC for aesthetics sake when the very presence of the column promotes the customer convenience of easier navigation ability?

 

Charles


We stand in ignorance only for questions not asked. Plug up the leaks in your knowledge base and open up a flood of understanding.

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I like the clean look of your site as well Dan but I would make the buttons match the color scheme of the rest of the site.

 

Just my 2 cents worth.

 

I agree on the fact that content and customer service are by far more important than showing how well you know php code.

 

I've seen some ugly About Me pages on eBay, even from PowerSellers with high feedback ratings. If the product is good and the follow-up even better, people are happy. Amazon.com isnt exactly the most beautiful website in the world and it works very well for them.

 

I believe if you play with the stylesheet, have your own header, and make the content your own, you'll be alright. You don't have to make the site unidentifiable as OSC,

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Mimicking the design is the easy part ? it is the nuts and bolts under the hood that counts. Amazon.com, with respect to functionality, should be the benchmark for any shopping cart.

 

Their IP includes the following filed patents -

 

1. ?Secure method and system for communicating a list of credit card numbers over a non-secure network?

 

2. ?Method and system for placing a purchase order via a communications network?

 

3. ?Refining search queries by the suggestion of correlated terms from prior searches?

 

4. ?Internet-based customer referral system?

 

5. ?System and methods for collaborative recommendations?

 

6. ?System and method for correcting spelling errors in search queries?

 

7. ?System and method for refining search queries?

 

8. ?Identifying the items most relevant to a current query based on items selected in connection with similar queries?

 

9. ?Collaborative recommendations using item-to-item similarity mappings?

 

10. ?Use of electronic shopping carts to generate personal recommendations?

 

11. ?System and method for providing secure URL-based access to private resources?

 

12. ?Method and system for generation of hierarchical search results?

 

13. ?System and method for correcting spelling errors in search queries using both matching and non-matching search terms?

 

14. ?System and method for exposing popular categories of browse tree?

 

 

Number 2 has now become the infamous 1-click patent. Look at the list above; does OSC have any of these, or anything close? No.

 

Amazon.com is not simply a shopping cart ? it is a fully integrated supply chain / order fulfillment system - with a shopping cart bolt on. This should be the foundation for businesses using ecommerce as their main distribution channel; not pretty rectangular boxes that clutter the screen.

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Without wanting to get too deep in this conversation, the title is:

 

Basic Site Sells Products, The basic osc layout seems to work well.

 

Which is quite true. But I assume you have nothing to measure this against - would a better design sell more products and services?


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Well Burt, you'd be wrong. While I'm new to OSC, I'm not new to the web or to setting up shopping carts. I even rolled my own early on, mostly in perl, some of which are still online and selling products. If you would like to see about the simplest shopping cart on the web look at the first shopping cart I wrote at http://www.rosecityfreezedry.com/store.html (ugly and primitive, but it sells products).

 

I started using PHP about a year ago and was looking for ideas when I came across OSC. It's the best FREE shopping cart I've found and maybe it could be "better", but I'm getting good results with it. I don't claim to be an "expert" and I'm certainly not a graphic designer, but I have played around a lot to see what works. What brings people to a site and keeps them there is content. What will run them away is a bad graphic design. When I look at my logs I don't see people running away, I see them browsing around the site and buying products.

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You still have not answered the question really. I'll put it more simply:

 

Would a stock Oscommerce sell more or less than a heavily modified Oscommerce (other factors* being the same).

 

* promotion

* Products

* prices

* etc etc

 

The answer is impossible to say unless you have two websites running side by side. One modified, one not. Until you are running that scenario all anyone can do is surmise...and make up facts and figures blah de blah.

 

You state "I'm getting good results with it" - that's great - but compared to what exactly?

 

Would a better design get you "great results" rather than "good results" ? Etc etc, and so on, etc.


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Well, if you're selling web site templates, like Burt, then I guess you know it all.

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Dan, be nice.

 

All Burt is pointing out is that you have no basis of comparison for your sales between a heavily modified site and a mostly stock one. I don?t see him trying to sell anyone anything in his posts, and he is only trying to give a different perspective.

 

I run what I would like to call a heavily modified store. I didn?t buy a template, and I don?t think of myself as an expert designer. I don?t sell templates or my work either. In reality, I am the database/IT guy for my company that got thrown in to making the company web site because I am about the only one who knows how to type. With a basic understanding of HTML, everything from PHP, CSS, and eCommerce in general has been learned in the past 6 short months.

 

Before I started doing this, the company had a horrible site- some obscure and not so easy to customize cart script, poor design and colors, and sales so low they couldn?t pay for the $200 server the site was sitting on. It looked very much like a stock osCommerce install with a log change and that?s it.

 

I installed osCommerce on a virtual host and started playing around. With no experience in PHP I was able to change the stylesheet, the format of a couple boxes, and have a ?beginner good looking website? in about a week. Anybody who has been reading this forum for a few months will probably remember it- it was cluttered, it was very stock, but it didn?t look like a traditional osCommerce design.

 

It went live shortly thereafter and sales jumped 400% in the first month. No added marketing was done, no addwords, no banners, no SEO work, nothing. With the exact same amount of traffic (within 5%) I had an incredible increase in sales.

 

Of course, this got me thinking. If this barely customized site got me that much of a sales increase, could I go further and boost them more? This is when I started work on ?version 2.0? as I like to call it.

 

Totally redesigned layout, total face lift, modified functionality, and standardized template system for additional pages. Many parts were streamlined including search, account creation, order tracking, and numerous admin improvements to allow me to handle order volume effectively.

 

The new site went live on Feb. 1st. Last month, on top of the 400% sales volume increase, I have enjoyed another 200% increase in the past month. Last year, the stock and rather ugly design produced only $800 in profit for the whole year.

 

This year, if traffic only stays at its current level with no growth, I am going to clear over a million in sales and possibly move in to the number one slot in my target market.

 

We are a small shop. We have a small office and a small warehouse facility. While we are no mom-and-pop basement company, we have a lot of growing we need to do. We have plans in development to build a larger building, and we are expanding at an almost mind numbing rate.

 

Is all this due to a heavily modified cart? Nope. We follow up on customers, we do our best to make customers happy, and we have phone, counter, and email support. I have worked hard to set up strategic drop ship channels, and we are currently upgrading our inventory control to be integrated with the osCommerce database. We use leads generated by our online presence to follow up on large scale competitive bids with departments and municipalities.

 

Customer service, product selection, and the will to put in 60-70 hour weeks are what make any business successful, and that?s just what I believe. Does a stock osCommerce site sell products? Sure, without a doubt as you are a testament to this. Would a site customized to your market, with all the features that your target audience would want do more? I think the answer is yes.

 

I have run the stock store, the lightly modified store, and the totally and completely modified store. I have had the pleasure of seeing sales across the board on an established site with this full gamut of modifications. And I will tell you, as one man in this company who makes his money on the commission generated by online sales, there is no way I would go back to a stock layout.

 

I am going to be rather blunt here, and I don't want to come across as smug, but take this to heart:

 

I am no expert, but I know where my money comes from. I take sales from hundreds of sites each day who are rocking a stock layout of some cart or another without an effort in customization or adaption to our target market. I hope all those people I compete with keep their stock cart layouts, their Yahoo shopping pages, and their eBay stores. More power to them. It just makes it easier for me to make money.


My advice comes in two flavors- Pick the one that won't offend you.

 

Hard and Cynical: How to Make a Horrible osCommerce Site

 

Warm and Fuzzy: How to Make an Awesome osCommerce Site

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Well, if you're selling web site templates, like Burt, then I guess you know it all.

Thanks. This shows your lack of understanding about the question I posed.

 

Other than the site which you have seen, I admin 94 other Oscommerce sites selling a range of products of services from Cars to DVDs to Hotel bookings - and everything in between).

 

Some I built, some I didn't. Some have standard Oscommerce, some have a few stylesheet changes, some have full blown graphics.

 

On none of these can I turn around and say "that graphic heavy shop would selll more products if it had a standard look" or "that standard looking site selling those blue widgets would sell more as a highly modified site" - it's impossible to say because the shops have never been anythng else except for what they are.

 

I'll await some crass comment from you - as it seems you don't want to see what I am saying - or don't understand what I am attempting to point out.

 

Even simpler this time:

 

Does a standard looking Oscommerce site sell more than a highly modified one?

 

In my opinion, there are only 3 possible answers: "Yes", "no" or "don't know". I am trying to point out to you, that the only possible answer anyone can give is "don't know" - unless they are running two stores simultaneously (one standard, one not) promoting each equally etc etc as pointed out before.

 

Tell me, how can that statement support the business I am in? Surely if I was looking to sell you a service, I would say "yes, yes of course a better look will sell more of your products and services" blah blah blah.

 

Chance here has written a very long post about how his sales shot up after a re-design. I remember his old site. It was functional. His new site is much nicer, and he is doing more sales. The question here is "would those sales have increased had he not changed his design" - the answer is "probably they would not have increased", but we will never know for 100% sure.

 

As I say the only way to be certain is to run two store simultaneously. Anyone know anyone who is doing this ;)


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Chance here has written a very long post about how his sales shot up after a re-design.

 

Yeah, sorry. I always wanted to be a writer when I was a kid :P


My advice comes in two flavors- Pick the one that won't offend you.

 

Hard and Cynical: How to Make a Horrible osCommerce Site

 

Warm and Fuzzy: How to Make an Awesome osCommerce Site

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Chance here has written a very long post about how his sales shot up after a re-design.

 

Too long??? Sometimes you've got to take them by the hand. :lol:

 

Charles


We stand in ignorance only for questions not asked. Plug up the leaks in your knowledge base and open up a flood of understanding.

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Sometimes, the dev community feels less like collaboration and more like a rooster pecking frenzy.

 

Of course, i just randomly ran into this old thread. Still, doesnt seem many things have changed. :(

 

IMHO,

 

thx


Carpe Carp: Seize the Fish.

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Im on the way to start my own shop. Im totally changing my site from the original osc cart. Here is what i think

 

If you have the standard osc cart as many people use, i think people would buy less (if you compare to a better looking site) (Im a graphic desinger). If people like the design they get more interestead and might buy more.

Then the question is can you make a better design (don't take this personal, i ment all osc people) and if you can why would'nt you

 

It's the same with all other design if you design something unique and good you have the chance to sell more. If you stick to a proven design you might sell products but you will compete with all other people with the same design.

 

This is just what i think

 

What do you think?

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What do you think?

 

I think this is a very interesting post that deserves more debating. Not sure which side is winning at the moment, I couldn't keep count?! Both sides have interesting points:

 

I think some sites can become obsessed with graphics, flash etc and the content/functionality/customer service is lost. I personally prefer buying from a simple site (not necessarily OSC) - easy to navigate & quick to load. I sometimes sit back and admire animated sites etc but have never actually bought anything from one of these sites. That said I only ever buy relatively cheap consumer goods (books, dvd's etc), maybe if I was buying a car I would want all the flash animation etc.

 

For inexpensive products I think it is possibly fair to presume the two sites would sell in equal quantities (one site fully altered beyond recognition, the other only slightly altered - colour scheme, fonts, header etc) providing all other factors remained similar (promotion, stock, price, service etc).

 

Without altering the original OSC template you would find it difficult to sell anything because it is so bland and boring but a few minor alterations can go a long way. B)

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The only people who seem to have any problem with stock designs are fellow OSC users - I wonder if real consumers even realise? (i.e. the people who visit your site to buy products not just to evaluate the design/artwork). I think the majority of consumers won't realise that they are visiting an OSC store (providing the minimum alterations have been made to make the site look more unique - colour, logo, fonts etc). In my opinion I think consumers will feel comfortable shopping on an osc based layout because chances are they have used one before.

 

Who's next??

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As I say the only way to be certain is to run two store simultaneously.  Anyone know anyone who is doing this ;)

 

You'd need to have both stores running off of the same address though, with a selector to put the customer in one version or the other (maybe via a quick redirect). You'd probably want to run two databases, so that you can get differentiated stats. It would be a neat experiment, and a sure fire way to test new ideas. Lots of code crunching to make it work all the way through a store though.

 

I think that might be a bit extreme, I think it's fair to assume that the site redesign and the jump in sales are correlated, but trying to pin down exactly what it is about the new site, now that's the key, and that's what Burt's idea would help you get at.

 

I'm of the opinion that a pretty simple site is good, flash tends to get annoying, especially if you a frequent visitor to a site. There's a book called the Big Red Fez that was one of the first things I read when I started looking for ways to sell online. I don't take it as absolute truth, but a lot of the ideas make a lot of sense to me, and the main gist is keep it simple and straight forward for your site visitors. That doesn't mean you shouldn't put some real thought into how your site looks! I really like the osc cart, but there are lots of things that I've changed for mine, more still that I'll hopefully get around to, eventually, as I gain experience in modifying code. That's perhaps the best thing about osc though, it's wide open, and there's this huge network of people to help you make the cart fit your needs!

 

Jeremy

 

ps I think your shop looks fine Dan, an the header banner is nice, but it doesn't go all the way across on my browser, there's a gray area to the right.

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Hey, I just updated the site. Still not done, but made a lot of changes. I'll keep workin on it!!! :P

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