Sunday, August 24, 2008

Setup an Online Store for $10 a month, while Amazon will charge you $99.99 for the same

As promised, Here is how I setup an online store for $10 a month, I felt compelled to write this after I realized that Amazon charges $99.99 for the same. I learned this the hard way by porting my store to Amazon and then shut it down, when I realized I was being treated as a dumb customer.

1) Pick an ISP to host your website, this should cost you around $8 a month. Register your domain name for $2 a month, I think you can get it cheaper, Total for ISP and domain = $10. That is the extent of your costs.
2) Point your domain name to your ISP's name servers. Or follow their instructions to park your domain there.
3) Install OsCommerce (2.2 rc2 is the one that I installed the other day) using "Simple scripts", Bluehost my ISP has this available for free. I am not affiliated with Bluehost, It just happens I picked them instead of many comparable ISP's out there.
4) For ease of getting OsCommerce developer plugins to work, install OsCommerce in the /Catalog folder. For example, I installed mine at
5) Once installed, login as admin, and change the machine generated password to your choosing
6) Change settings in the configuration submodules, go through each one of them and customize, if is fairly self explanatory. You can always come back here and tweak it further so dont go overboard in this step
7) Install the Easy populate module. You will need this to upload inventory, Later on you will find this really useful for mass updates. Trust me you need this feature, unless you like doing boring stuff manually. I installed "Easypopulate v2.76f-MS2 (with attributes) r1". Modules are easy to install, follow the readme and install documentation and test.
8) Install the Page Editor module, You need this to add pages or modify existing pages, again trust me on this. I installed PageEditorv1.6. Please note that this module requires you make changes to the DB, but the sql script is provided. I followed the install instructions which requires you to copy a few files and update a few. This is a little tedious, but if you want to know what is being modified, follow the manual editing process. If you trust this module, go ahead and copy the files provided. Test the module once installed.
9) Install the PayPal express check out module, you will need to get a paypal API access with the UID/PWD and signature, follow instructions on paypal for this, fairly easy to get it working. The payPay express module for OsCommerce I used for this is: paypal_express_checkout_IPN_v0_4_1. There is a module already installed in the defaul install, you will need to disable that, install this one and then enable the configuration
10) Install the USPS plugin. Again this requires you to get a UID/PWD from USPS. I installed version USPS Methods 4_1_4. Follow the readme file to get your account created, it takes about a day to get that going.

Once you have all this going, you now have to upload your inventory. Download the inventory from the default install as a template. Clean up the data there and add your own inventory. Make sure you save it as tab delimited format before uploading. Test by uploading a few records first. It is fairly straightforward if you follow instructions in the Easy Populate module.

That is it Folks, your have your online store running. Some very important things to note:
1) when installing OsCommerce using simple scripts make sure you install it in the /catalog directory. Most plugins are written with this structure in mind, so make it easier on your self and do it this way.
2) keep the mods and plugin's to a bare minimum, The first time around I installed numerous plugins, in the end, I lost track of all the changes that went in and was afraid to touch it lest I break something. Notice I have not even installed SSL. Since PayPal is taking care of payments, I dont want to deal with encryption. Also the minute you get into SSL your ISP will have you purchasing a separate IP and the SSL module.
3) The only modules I have added to the stock install of OsCommerce are: a) Easy Populate and b) Page editor. The other two the paypal express checkout and USPS shipping are updates to what is already there, but you need to update to get proper functionality.
4) Test your uploads and mass updates, this will come in real handy later on as your inventory grows.

Thats all there is to it. If you have a lot of money to spare go for the Amazon Seller Central deal for $99.99. But why do that when you can get pretty much the same results for $10.

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