In this blog post I will be talking about my thoughts and issues I have had on setting up my online store. My first attempt started in April 2015 when I opened my etsy store, an online platform where artists can sell their artwork. I sold a couple of items every month or so but nothing worth my time. So I decided to look at other options which is what www.nealspics.com is designed for.
Selecting the eCommerce Platform
Using etsy has some limitations with what I wanted to do. For example I wanted to have an option where I can offer discounts like here I am doing greetings cards with a 20% discount if people buy 5 or more.
Initially I installed Opencart which is what I use at work and I have become quite familiar with it. But I find that to be only good as an online store and the way it does things is quite antiquated. I eventually settled on what I am using now. Woo commerce that runs on WordPress.
WordPress is much more than a platform to create an online store. The admin section is more user friendly and you can build a full website including a blog and photo gallery which Opencart is not built for. WordPress is more popular and therefore has better support with more plugins. Another reason to have my own solution compared to etsy is to save on the listing cost, but at this point I have probably spent far more on extra plugins & themes for WordPress and woo commerce.
What items to sell?
Currently I am offering the following products
- Greetings Cards
- Acrylic Blocks
My theory of offering cards is that they are much cheaper than buying prints and are far easier to sell and are a great gift. I have sold far more cards than anything else.
Greetings cards I keep stock that I get produced by www.printed.com, it is an easy process where I just select the product specification and upload the artwork which arrive a couple of days later. When I first started to make greetings cards I was printing them myself using the thickest photo paper I could find 280gsm. Those were flimsy and not what I would call a greeting card, not as thick as you would buy from a shop. The 350gsm from www.printed.com is much better.
Home printing is a pain dealing with jams and imperfect prints. My A3 printer is now collecting dust as all my printing is done by photo labs. Its much simpler to order online for them to arrive a day or two later. I now wish I had spent that money on a colour laser copier.
Prints are photos mounted into a card frame. After plenty of experimentation I have settled on using black with white border around the photo. In total each mount is using 3 pieces of card and ends up being quite sturdy. I use these for exhibitions and I think they look smart and professional. I am starting to have a large collection as I enjoy having my work printed and not just sitting on the hard drive. I settled on the 16×12 size as that is a common frame size and they can be brought at a reasonable price. The photos and mounts arrive from different suppliers where I assemble them myself.
Canvas is a popular way to display artwork and has the added bonus of not needing a frame and the texture of the fabric can add some additional interest to the photo. The supplier I use offers two different frame depths so I offer both sizes to potential customers. Most cameras take photos in a 3:2 aspect ratio so I keep the canvases the same to avoid any cropping.
I class posters as unframed photos, they use the same paper as prints. I find they are a good alternative to canvas when framed and are cheaper
These acrylic blocks a new to me and I like them very much, they look modern and almost make the photo look 3D, they stand up on their own and I can see them look good on a desk or table.
The biggest issue I have had when thinking about setting up this online shop is how to manage all the listings. Currently the shop has just over 3000 items made up from 170 images that have 18 products each. Creating and maintaining 3000 items is not an easy task. Lets say 1 photo of 18 products takes 30 mins to make, that is 85 hours of non stop work.
I had to find a solution to automate most of the process. All good eCommerce platforms have the ability to upload a spreadsheet in the back-end to create and modify products. Over the last few months I have been spending more time and effort in learning more complex excel functions that has given me the knowledge to create a spreadsheet to generate product listings I can then upload. In theory I can do the work of 85 hours in 30 mins to an hour depending on what I need to do. Which is much more manageable.
Other than some tweaks the shop is now ready to go. With this platform I can add and manage eBay & Amazon listings with additional plugins that I may invest in once the site it fully up and running. I could offer additional products in the future. I have often thought of making my own mugs. But that would be additional equipment and cost.
My strategy for advertising the store is handing out leaflets while have a stool at craft fairs. I have no illusions that I will get “rich” from this, my expectations are low with the hope it could supplement my main income from the day job or use the funds to buy more equipment.
Mounts: picture mounts online (my mounts are a special order and not listed)
Acrylic Blocks: prodigi
Greetings Cards:printed.com – (uncoated paper, 350gsm, Gloss Lamination)