When Leslie Gordon started looking for a way to sell products from the Hudson Valley online, she didn't have a lot of money, time or computer expertise. What she had were high expectations for an e-commerce site that would be classy, powerful and adaptable. "Most important to us was finding a low-cost [solution] without sacrificing quality, sophistication or flexibility," says Gordon, 31.
Gordon found her low cost e-commerce Web site solution at Homestead.com. Menlo Park, California-based Homestead Technologies charges her $150 a month to host Madeinthehudsonvalley.com. She used the Web design tool supplied by Homestead to create the site herself, and also takes advantage of the marketing services the host provides.
Besides saving the $10,000 she estimates it would have cost to have a programmer custom-build her site, Gordon is also happy with the results. "Their functionality mirrored the functionality of, say, an Amazon.com in its look and feel," she says.
Start-ups in search of a low-cost solution for an e-commerce Web site don't have as many options as they did three years ago, says Kneko Burney, director of business infrastructure and services at In-Stat MDR, a research firm. But that's not necessarily bad. Those providers that are left, Burney says, tend to be larger and stronger companies that have well-defined offerings and will probably be around for the long haul.
Selling online is still an excellent idea for many small businesses, and inexpensive options for setting up your own online store are plentiful and effective. To help you decide, we checked out five popular low-cost e-commerce Web site solutions.