Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Wanna open a web store to sell stuff? Storenvy is FREE.

Before I get started, I want to let you know that I have not been paid or compensated in any way for writing this blog post. In fact, I do not use Storenvy myself- I use Volusion. For a big shop with hundreds of items and lots of flexibility, I LOVE Volusion. I highly recommend it. But, Volusion costs a fair chunk of change every month. Lots of my artist friends and contacts do not have the money or technical knowledge to open and run a Volusion store. In fact, many artists I know either don't have bank accounts, or don't have I.D., or don't have functional computers, so running a big, expensive web shop is entirely out of the question. And most of the artists I know hate using their computers anyway.

But it's a big, wide world out there, and it's tough being an artist. They gotta find those clients and collectors wherever they can. The next sale could come from a collector in Poland or Australia. So really, any artist these days does in fact need a web store, however simple, so that he or she can reach people on the other side of the globe. If you make stuff, you need a web store.

And, it would be so nice if it were free to set up and run. And easy.


So a couple of weeks ago, I got a cold (unsolicited) email from a guy named Adam who works at Storenvy. Actually, right before Christmas, which was bad timing for me. It's a busy season with lots of packing and shipping and no time for people I don't know, talking to me about stuff I don't need or want. Adam wanted to tell me about Storenvy's new marketplace for Designer Toys, and to quote him directly, "I figured a lot of your readers might be interested in setting up their own online stores to sell their toys, and since we are free, why not, right?"

I was like RIIIGHT, sure buddy. I put him off and told him I'd get back to him after the holiday. Also, I thought it would be funny to light his ass up, so I scheduled an actual phone call with him, with the intention of showing him exactly why Storenvy sucks ass and why my Volusion store rocks.

Well, it didn't exactly go down like that... I prepared some questions and took notes on a half hour phone call, and I didn't exactly get to light Adam up like I thought. Here's what I found out about Storenvy:

It's actually fucking free. Seriously. I was very skeptical, so I probed further: Storenvy's primary funding at this point has been provided by investors. Investors will eventually want some sort of return (duh) but for now they are happy to let the Storenvy community grow and flourish. Monetization will come later, and I am guessing that will come in the form of ads in the sidebars (like Facebook is doing, and like Google has done for years). I bet starting a store on Storenvy will remain free and they'll just sell ad space on their site to other companies.
Storenvy currently makes a tiny bit of money on paid extras, like if you want a custom domain for your shop ($5/month) or the ability to make coupons and discounts for your store ($3/month). Neither is very expensive. Even if you get both, it's only $8/month!

You can have an unlimited number of items in your store. You can also have "variants" in each product's options if you have, say the same shirt in different sizes, or 5 similar custom toys with different colors or numbers, or whatever.

You can have 5 images per item in your shop.

It's easy to set up. I just started a Storenvy account in 5 minutes, just to know what the hell I was talking about when I made this blog post. Go to and click on Join in the upper right corner. You can link your FB and Twitter accounts if you want to A) share what you find with other people or B) find shops and account owned by people you know.
From there you click on your Settings tab and click on Create a Free Store on the left. It's so simple, even a caveman could do it.

Storenvy takes Paypal as a form of payment. Likewise, if your customers want to pay with a credit card, Paypal will be the payment processing gateway. (This is the same setup I use on Tenacious Toys.) One of the reasons they're using Paypal is it's the only payment gateway that allows buyers to consolidate items from different shops/sellers into one purchase. I thought this was brilliant: you can surf around the Designer Toy Marketplace and add toys from different Storenvy shops into your cart, and then check out once with all the items in your cart. Sorta like Amazon, but more intimate. I suppose you still get charged multiple shipping charges since items from different sellers will ship from different places, but still, I can see this being a selling point and a time-saver as well.

The Designer Toy Marketplace on Storenvy

Need more convincing? SKET has a Storenvy shop. So does my buddy Matt Anderson. So does Lift Detroit, Jinxed from Philly, Yosiell Lorenzo, Bad Applez Inc.... the cool thing about this set-up, actually is it fosters more of a sense of community than Big Cartel. The Designer Toy Marketplace is a place you can go and see a variety of different toys from shops and artists, all in one spot. I sorta wish I had known about this 5 years ago, coulda saved a little money starting my shop. Adam told me that Storenvy shops get 15% of their traffic from people surfing around the Storenvy Marketplaces. This is blanket, across-the-board general figure for all Storenvy stores, that may or may not apply specifically to shops in the Designer Toy Marketplace, but still... I don't get any traffic from any sort of community marketplace. I gotta go out and get my traffic from Google or Facebook or whatever....
SKET's Storenvy shop

Matt Anderson's Storenvy shop

On the technical side, I understand that Big Cartel has issues with abandoned carts... like, if an artist makes 10 toys, and they all get added to carts, the item looks sold out in their shop, even if all 10 customers have not completed their purchases. This is irritating. Storenvy solves this by booting the items out of abandoned carts after 3 hours. If you add something to your cart and proceed to Paypal, but then you don't complete the check out process, that item leaves your cart after 3 hours. This saves the artist the hassle of figuring out what went wrong. You can put your 10 items up for sale and forget about them. Check back in 4 hours and all customers will have either checked out immediately, or gotten their 2nd chance to grab one of the items after the 3 hours mark passes and the slackers have their carts emptied.

Finally, if you want a more fancypants shop, you can edit the html and CSS behind the Storenvy shop to make it suit your needs. In this way, you can fully integrate it into your existing website, so the website visitor has a seamless experience. Check out Capitlclothing and then click on SHOP at the top, which takes you to their Storenvy shop- using the same headers in each spot gives you the impression that it's all on the same website. Pretty slick.

If you don't have any technical prowess on the computer at all, you can STILL make your Storenvy shop look nice by changing the header image and the colors, like this shop.

Now, like I said, I'm not getting paid for this, and I just wrote a hella long blog post about some shit that doesn't exactly apply to me, so I'm gonna wrap this up. I'm hungry. If you make toys or art, or you have a very small company and you sell stuff, go check out Storenvy as a web store platform option. After poking thru all this info for quite a long time, I'd say it's a great choice as far as free web shops go.

Fuck eBay and their crazy-ass fees, and fuck Etsy for taking my friend Valerie G's custom Domo down for no reason. I'm gonna sell it myself. Idiots.

If you have any questions about opening your own shop, please feel free to NOT email me, but rather, email this dude Adam from Storenvy. His title at Storenvy is "Special Ops" which is way cooler than most job titles. And, Adam runs the Storenvy Facebook page.