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John T. Unger

Shopify Is Live! (and Much More Blog Store News)

John T. Unger June 3, 2006

Shopify, the closest thing going to my idea of what a blog store should be, went live today. Go check them out and take a look at their blog as well.

I've been keeping an eye on Shopify since I first heard about it what seems like ages ago and have been eagerly awaiting the chance to try it out. So far, all I've had time to do is skim through the interface and get a general feel for how it works. I've been selling so many fire bowls over my art blog lately that it's all I can do to keep up, so I'm almost scared to launch a new storefront. But I definitely will. After looking it over, I'm pretty confidant that once I've created a design for the store that makes me happy, the management tools will simplify getting new work online enough that I'll be saving a great deal of time that used to go into making blog pages with tables, PayPal buttons, etc.

I do like the payment model at Shopify: a 3% commission on successful sales, reduced to 2% commission if you sell over $10,000 in a month. A few people have complained about 3% being too much, but when I compare it to the 50% I give to a gallery or store it seems pretty reasonable. And if you sell nothing, you pay nothing which gives me a lot more confidence to try something new. One of the reasons I've never set up a yahoo store is because I was uncomfortable paying a monthly rate without knowing if I'd make or lose money on the deal.

Keep in mind that if you use PayPal through Shopify, you'll also need to give PayPal a commission on sales and if you want to be able to accept credit cards without PayPal, you'll have to set up a merchant account with an additional service to do that. I'm going to start mine with just PayPal, because I've been pretty happy with their service so far. I'm not really sure of the advantage in paying extra to take credit cards when I can already process those through PayPal. I guess it makes sense for high volume sales.

The only immediate difference I see between Shopify and the TypePad Storefront idea that I had hoped for is that to use shopify, I need to send readers off-blog… I still think that a TypePad integrated store would feel more like a continuation of the personal brand of a blog.

In related news, Steve Rubel reports that eBay is getting into the blog/wiki/tagging game:

Auction giant eBay is preparing to integrate blog and wiki publishing tools into its selling platform, according to a report on Auctionbytes. eBay Blogs will enable sellers to more efficiently market their products. eBay Wikis meanwhile collect fact-based articles written and maintained by eBay Community members. Both tools will be launched at the eBay Live conference in Las Vegas June 13 - 15.

Another fairly new thing to check out in this area is stylehive, a social bookmarking site that lets you save and tag products and stores online. Like digg or del.icio.us for shopping. Once you have a blog store set up, you might want to bookmark your items there. If you're using basic templates, there's a TypePad Widget that integrates with stylehive that lets you add pictures and info about the products you like to your sidebar.

And while I'm on the subject, here are a couple good articles about blog stores by Chris Garret at Performancing.com:

A quick overview of why selling product through blogs makes sense and different ways to go about it.

BlogCommerce HOW TO: Adding Ecommerce To Your Blog
An overview of existing ways to add ecommerce to blogs. Most of these are for platforms other than TypePad but it still make interesting reading.

Overall, I think the good news is that we'll be seeing a lot more development in this area soon. The bad news, if there is any, is that the quicker it spreads, the faster we'll lose the advantage of being first to market things this way. Personally, I've found that I can make a lot more money selling my work over a blog than selling ads… but as the blog market expands, that could change. It could really go either way though. Business may die back as search engines fill with more competition or it could boom as people start looking to blogs for shopping the way I now look to blogs for news. Either way, I think there's a definite advantage to getting started right away.

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More Like This: Agenda: Analysis , Blog Tools , TypePad Stores


Bud Parr says:

Hey John - I think Shopify is really expensive if you use Paypal, which I imagine most would. You'd pay 5.9% +.30 for every transaction with the shopify/paypal combo. That's a big commission for on-line.

If you don't do much volume you could probably just sign up at e-bay and if you do a lot of volume it seems there are much cheaper ways of doing it.

If I had time, and maybe one day I will, I think it would be interesting to break down the costs for a small business to sell on-line using options like this or other shopping carts.

oh, and congrats on being "featured" at Typepad!


john t unger says:

Hi Bud,

It all depends on how you look at it, I guess. When I sell work through a gallery, they take 40-50% of the sale. Not only that, but my contracts *all* forbid me from selling the work for less than the gallery…

This is pretty much standard anywhere. I have what amounts to a wholesale price, which is based on what I *must* get to make the work profitable… if I sell something retail myself, that's just a bonus. Without the galleries, I wouldn't have enough sales to get by, even if I lowered my prices and made more sales as a result. Also, I should say that I don't begrudge the galleries' their cut… They provide benefits other than sales, such as credibility, PR, floor space and so on. It's worth paying them, it's just nice when I can pay less to someone online. And when I do that, it's becuase I'm then doing all the marketing etc. Virtual floor (server) space is cheap, which is why shopify and paypal can operate at a lower percent.

So to me, giving shopify and paypal 5.9% + .30 seems like a totally awesome deal! It's much more lucrative, but demands much greater marketing involvement on my part.

Bud Parr says:

Can't disagree with you there, John, but you're right, I'm looking at it differently - I don't think you can compare B&M costs to on-line costs and in the on-line scheme of things, Shopify is expensive.

john t unger says:

Okay, Bud, I'll bite… who would you recommend over shopify? 'Cause, seriously, I'll go check it out.

I was playing with Etsy.com yesterday, and I like them too, but their yet more expensive than shopify. 3.5% plus a small listing fee.

I think though that there can be a real value that makes these sites worthwhile for many users:

1. easy of use: if it's easy to set up a shop and you don't have to pay someone to do if for you, that's worth something.

2. Community marketing: If sites like etsy and shopify can bring customers to your store by marketing their entire marketplace, that similar to the way a gallery does marketing on my behalf.

3. Hosting: If the stores are hosted for free (true in both these cases) you're saving some money there.

4. Risk abatement: Most of the shoppingcarts I looked at had a monthly charge regardless of sales. I'm much more comfortable paying a percentage of sales than paying whether I sell of not. I've had a paid store on cafe press for about a year… it's costs me about $6 a month and it makes almost exactly $6 a month. I haven't really put effort into promoting it, but if I had been paying a percentage only, I'd have seen a small profit by now.

And as I said above, when you can launch a new product basically for free, there's more incentive to try new stuff out.

Anyway, right now I'm a bit frustrateed with Shopify, but only because I want to really tweak the layout and apparently need to learn new code to do it. sigh. If I would just go with the standard template I'd be up and running by now, but that's not my style.

I'd very much welcome a post from you on other alternatives to shopify and etsy. I know they're out there.

Craig McGinty says:

A service I'm taking a look at is:


Although there is a yearly fee of $USD 70 it can be integrated into a site's look and feel - so shouldn't be too difficult to hook into a blog layout.

Looking at the example http://www.dragonflycards.com/ that uses the service it looks as though it could fit the bill.

Will come back with more soon.

Bud Parr says:

Well, until Typepad comes out with something, I would recommend one of the ecommerce solutions that are built into some of the open-source blog type apps, like Mambo. Of course, if it's simple stuff, just throw a paypal button on it and a view cart button and you don't have to have shopping cart. Hey, something like what you do is, I imagine, all profit (er, that is, it's your labor and some materials, so you're not just shaving off a bit like many people in retail - pardon the assumption), so the equation is a bit different for you.

Still, shopify needs to be compared to other third-party shopping cart solutions - I don't like that they introduce some new language into the equation - but the key is looking at the fee levels at different levels of sales.

Steve says:

There is also new startup www.fivestores.com - these guys will also offer hosted ecommerce. Shopify has a great design, but just basic features.

john t unger says:


thanks for the tip. I've asked to be invited when they launch the beta for the project.

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