We’ve just set up a Square Marketplace Store – Check it out at https://squareup.com/market/xanadu-gallery.
I’ve written two books that help artists approach the art business in a more professional way. Both of the books have been best-sellers in Amazon.com’s Business of Art category. I’ve been selling the books online since I wrote them. And yet, I’ve never had a real online store where the books could be purchased directly from me – just landing pages on my site for each of the books.
The landing pages have been fine, but if you don’t know how to get to the landing page, you would have no idea how to access the books. There are obvious advantages to having a store where the books, along with other books I feel are great resources for artists can be easily found.
So why has it taken me so long to create a web store? The main reason is that I’ve had many other projects on my plate with the gallery, publishing reddotblog.com, and with ARTsala.com, that have taken precedence. Another reason, however, is that it’s actually a fair amount of work to set up an online store, especially if you are only selling a few items.
Over the years, I’ve tried several different approaches. I’ve purchased WordPress e-commerce plugins and set up various pages and begun the process of setting up a store. Unfortunately, I was never really happy with the difficulty of setting up the store, or the functionality and the design of the pages the plugin generated.
PayPal – Necessary Evil
On our landing pages we use PayPal to allow artists to order the books. I also use PayPal to process art sales from our website, and we’ve run a tremendous amount of business through the service. PayPal has become the de facto payment processor for the internet, but it leaves a lot to be desired.
First, I find PayPal’s over-all design dated. From their shopping cart pages to their control panel, the whole design feels like it came from the last decade – which it did. The internet has become a lot simpler, cleaner, and more appealing over the last 10 years, and PayPal hasn’t kept up. Even recent re-designs were pretty shallow and mostly superficial.
Second, PayPal makes it too complicated for buyers to complete their purchase. PayPal has great motivation to prod everyone who is buying from you to create a PayPal account – they make more money from users who are members. I understand the motivation, but, unfortunately, this gets in the way of a smooth transaction. If you are selling something online, you want a buyer to click a buy button, go to the shopping cart, enter their credit card information and complete the sale. With PayPal, buyers are immediately hit up to login or create an account. These are distractions, and, as we all know, if a potential buyer is distracted, they may not complete the purchase.
Third, PayPal’s reporting tools are abysmal. My bookkeeper is in the worst mood every time she has to deal with our sales through PayPal. We can never seem to get the PayPal account to balance the way it should.
Fourth, a lot of people have had negative experiences with PayPal and simply refuse to use the service. I’ve actually always been pretty happy with PayPal’s customer service and have never had huge problems (other than a few temporary freezes on my account for really asinine reasons). I seem to be the exception, rather than the rule. I hear horror stories all the time of people who feel they’ve literally been defrauded by PayPal. Whether they have been cheated or not, perception is everything.
On the positive side, PayPal makes it easy to create “Buy Now” buttons, and integration to websites is fairly simple.
A Burgeoning Competitor: Square
Several years ago, Jack Dorsey, a co-founder of Twitter, created a new payment processing company called Square (www.squareup.com). Square was going after a different market than PayPal; they were initially more interested in processing payments in the real world. It wasn’t long before their white credit card readers that plug in to smartphones, were showing up all over the retail world (and all over art festivals and open studio tours). The Square reader allowed mere mortals to process credit card transactions on a mobile device in a simple way. Finally, the masses could accept credit card payments without having to create a merchant account or go through a credit check.
We started using Square at Xanadu for remote sales (though I still have a traditional merchant account for processing sales in the gallery) and I quickly became a huge fan. No more phoning in credit card numbers or hauling out the knuckle-buster. In the information age, it just seems right that we can get instant approval for the purchase. Even better, Square has always been good about depositing the funds on the next business day – faster than my merchant service provider.
Recently, Square announced Marketplace, a site where Square users could create an online store in a few simple steps. On a whim, I decided to put my books in the store to see how it works. The setup was incredibly simple – I had the store ready to go in just a few minutes. More importantly though, the purchase process is clean, modern and elegant, and Square has done a good job of staying out of the way.
There are a lot of limitations (it may be a while before I would convert to selling the thousands of works of art we have on our website through Square), but I can see some real potential for using Square Marketplace for selling individual items — in an email campaign, for instance — instead of using PayPal.
I don’t imagine the Marketplace itself is going to drive sales the way Amazon.com does. I would expect most sales would come from people you have personally sent to the store.
Check Out our Square Store
If you want to see how a Square store works, check out our page at https://squareup.com/market/xanadu-gallery. (Of course, to get a real sense of how cool the process is, you should order one of the books in the store!) The store has only been up for a short time, but I’ve already had great feedback about the interface and design.
Look for us to be experimenting with offering other items, especially art, through the store in the coming weeks. I’ll report on how it goes.
For information on setting up your own store, go to https://squareup.com/sell-online.
How Are You Selling Online?
What e-commerce service are you using to sell online? What have your experiences been with PayPal? What do you think of our simple Square store? If you’ve used Square Marketplace, how has your experience been? I’d love to hear how you’ve faced the challenge of selling online? Please leave a comment below!
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