Here are two basic ways to start your own online store and selling just about anything online.
Type 1 – Your own domain and your own shopping cart software
Register your own domain and then purchasing and installing a reputable shopping cart software on the domain.
* Total flexibility – You own the software and can customize it anyway you want, if needed)
* No monthly fees – Just to run the shopping cart (you own it). Lower cost once everything is set up
* No sharing of revenue with shopping cart provider
* Complete control and ownership of data import/export for sales and customer data.
* Costs a little bit more to get started
* Need to get your own and integrate/install merchant account, hosting server, SSL certificates, etc., and can be a bit more complicated to set up for someone starting their first store.
* Shopping security is your responsibility. You would need to make sure your site is reviewed at least quarterly to meet the standards of the industry when it comes to capturing and storing customer payment data, etc.
Type 2 – Your own domain using a shopping cart subscription service
Register your own domain, and then subscribe to a reputable service such as Yahoo Merchant Solutions or something similar to handle the shopping cart functions.
* Ease of setup – Can be up and running within a couple of hours
* Security and reliability of shopping cart and webhosting – All technical aspects of security and site reliability are all guaranteed by the provider
* No worries about the different components not compatible. Just about everything is integrated together for a seamless operation.
* On-going monthly fees just to subscribe to the service/cart.
* Need to share revenue with some providers (typically 1% or so), in addition to the credit card transactions fees.
* Less flexibility in customizing features since you do not own the software. Although some services such as Yahoo are quite customizable if you use the right 3rd party site designers/modifiers.
The Bottom Line
Depending on your preference and technical abilities, either type can be the right fit. Most providers of each type have free trials (or light versions of the software) so the best thing is to do is to try them out and decide which one is right for you.
For a good example of a Type 1 solution, check out my own site below. I started with a Type 2 solution, moved to another Type 2 solution a couple of years later, and then finally stayed with a Type 1 solution and have been for the last 3 years. I love the flexibility of X-cart personally.
Recommended Type 1 solution – Best flexibility and value
Recommended Type 2 solution – Ease of use and best for beginners