An observation worth noting: I have recently been approached by a growing number of people wanting to build a web site for their business. This would have been a much more daunting process even a few years ago. However the Web has evolved to meet these needs more easily. There now exist many online storefronts through which small businesses can be run. Though I am unable to recommend one service over another, either through direct experience or secondary knowledge, here are a few of the more popular selections that can help anyone get started.
Amazon.com offers what they call their Pro Merchant Subscription
which allows sellers to create their own product pages on Amazon. These item(s) will then be searchable through the regular Amazon searchbox; customers browsing for similar products will also be exposed to these listings.
Users who favor Yahoo tools over Google’s are in luck as well. Yahoo! Small Business
gives sellers tools for site design, marketing, payment processing, shipment tracking, inventory management, and site statistics. eBay Stores
also offers a service very much like Yahoo's.
Though I am no entrepreneur, from what I can tell, Amazon and Google are better suited to sellers of a limited number of items, while Yahoo and eBay may provide more comprehensive tools for merchants who want to build up a larger business presence around their offerings. Please note that with the exception of Google’s free product listings, all of these services do charge variable fees depending on your needs.
Of course these are only four of the better known storefront providers; there are quite a few other excellent choices out there and some may fit your particular needs and budget better than others. Niche sites like Etsy.com
(for handmade and DIY goods), CafePress.com
(for selling t-shirts, mugs, posters, and other gift items), and even CDBaby.com
(for selling CDs and digital music) spring to mind and there are tons more where that came from. Check out delicious.com
(a social bookmarking service formerly known as del.icio.us) for sites tagged with terms like ‘ecommerce solutions
’ or ‘internet entrepreneur
’ and chances are you’ll find something to meet your business needs.
(Special thanks to Daniel Broche for this article's clever graphic, licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic.)