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Build your own shipping module – Money saving strategies

Zen Cart supports more than 30 shipping modules. At least 10 are default ones. Why do you need build your own shipping module?

Shipping Affects Each Order

You may noticed that, if you are selling tangible products, each order has to be shipped. To a typical successful Zen Cart store, do you know how many orders it needs to ship?

In Australia, I have around 20 clients, 3 of them are very busy each day. Usually, a busy store like this has to send out 9 to 20 orders per day.

That means 3500 to 7000 orders a year!

If each order they can save USD $1.00 in shipping cost, how much can it save? You don’t have to Einstein to answer this question. $3,500 to $7,000!

How much does it cost to build a best shipping module? I guess no more than $300. A simple shipping module may cost $120.

If you are the owner, will you be happy to trader $120 for $7,000? You don’t have to be Buffet to answer this.

Money Saving and Making

Now, we’ll talk a bit “evil” things you may not be interested in. Handling fee, a hidden cost you can control.

In Zen Cart, shipping modules provided by third parties like USPS, AustPost, have no handling fee supported, while the other modules like “Flat Rate, Table Rate, Zone Rate” have handling fee supported.

Since it all depends on you to set up this, it becomes your decision whether to Save Money or Make Money on handling fee.

We saw both.

Improve Your Business Profile

Shipping is really a tricky section of your business. You can save money or make money on it, and you can improve your business profile on it.


Please check this live case: http://www.harvestwell.com.sg/

This is an online party supplier store. All customers are from Singapore, a small city in South Asia. Owner is Freddie, a savvy man who use “Pickup Delivery Date and Time” to give customers more control of delivery date and time.

See, more control of delivery date and time! Not every online store can do that. It may be minor, however, this is a business advantage.

Please check another site: http://www.blackandwhitelab.com/

Place some products into cart, and view it, you will see a shipping calculator. This is nothing unusual. But do you know the secrets of the shipping cost? It was controlled by category. Webmaster does not have to change the shipping cost of each product, he only needs to put it into the right category.

Now, you should understand the benefits of custom shipping module: Save Money, Make Money, Improve Your Business Profile. The key is “apply your business rules into shipping”, it will work as long as possible to benefit you.


Template Alternation – make your site more appealing to your customers

Template matters!

Have you ever seen a money making Zen Cart store using the default Green Theme Classic template? According to my 6 years experience, I only see one who use it for internal management, that means it has no customer outside. Unless your customers don’t care how your business is, you will need a template that fits your business.

What Can Good Template Benefits You?

Template is like clothing. If you look neat, clean and professional, your customer got higher confidence on you. So does to your store. A good template will lift your sales converting rate more  than 5%, if you don’t believe this, make your own experiment.

How to Get Templates?

You don’t have to spend a lot on template when starting. Most people launch their first Zen Cart store with free templates, and when they have enough orders they buy commercials. Here’s a list of websites you can find free templates.


Why Customization Must Be Made?

As we talked earlier in another blog post, all money making business are unique. When you want to improve your business performance, customize your Zen Cart Template is a must. There are always necessary alternations that need to be done.

You may check the list below to see if there’s anything you can improve:

1. Does my logo stand for my business?

2. Does the layout perfectly match customer’s convention?

3. Does the background image match the design?

4. Can I improve the navigation links?

5. Can I improve product layout page?

6. Is there anything that customers do not feel well?

Well, a total list is longer than 20 items, but the top 6 are good enough to improve your site to be professional and user friendly.

You can see that no commercial template or free ones can do all of these. FYI, customize your template to best fit customer conventions. If you have any idea, or you want us to have a review of your shopping cart, leave me message here. It’s FREE!


How we help you to customize your site

Customization takes lots of time and efforts. Usually, we don’t suggest clients to make customizations unless asked to do so. Interestingly, only a few clients ask us to do this for them. And you can guess that, they are those who make continuous cash flow from their online Zen Cart stores.

General Procedures

1.       You submit your customization plan: range, expectations, budget of time and cost

2.       We quote with suggestions

3.       You review the quote

a)         If you agree, we make a deal

b)        If you have other ideas, we repeat step 1

Keys to Make Your High ROI Customization

Please make sure two things: 1. you do need this; 2. you do understand what you need. We can help you to make your idea a reality and give you suggestions to make it better, however, it’s up to you to make the blueprint.

Please focus on your business need. The more you talk about it, the more it will generate profits as you expect. Technical details can be solved when we have a mutual understanding of the customization.

Usually, we’ll have to communicate through at least 6 emails to settle a typical small project. A heavy project cost 209 emails in 2008 for a U.K. client.

Heavy Project Needs 30% Upfront Payment

What is a heavy project? Needs more than 2 days and costs more than $300.

Customization, How To

Quickest Way to solve Zen Cart technical headaches

If you have read my previous post “How to set up your own online store – overview“, you must know the quickest way to set up a store is “CLONE”. Okie, what’s the quickest way to solve your headaches of zen cart technical issues?

Don’t rush. Let us see what most people do!

Most People Do The Wrong Things

Among most zencarters, they go along the following routines to solve their problem:

  1. Search Google to find related topics
  2. If they found the answer, they try it on their sites
  3. If it works, they feel satisfied
  4. If it did not work, they have to go to step 1

How long does it take to solve a technical bug? It depends how tech wise the person is!

We can see too many new zencarters are spending days and nights in Zen Cart forums, reading each post to learn the secrets. Does that help? Maybe…but I am pretty sure that’s not the right solution to a online store owner.

A Few Savvy Store Owners Knows

Well, this may be the biggest secrets among those rich and idle store owners. They don’t search Google for answers, because it does not generate enough profits. They search Google for experts.

If you want to make money using Zen Cart, remember this. But if you want to be an expert in Zen Cart, forget it.

Is there a lighting in your head? I am expecting a “WOW”!

To new zencarters, study the knowledge of Zen Cart is helpful to start. However, you can never learn enough Zen Cart knowledge to be rich unless you want to be a coder, designer, or webmaster. When you knows how Zen Cart works, it’s better to find a team (no matter it’s virtual or physically touchable) to support your technical works.

Money Making Online Store Owners Knows

Why a team? As a zencarter for 6 years, supported more than 230 clients, I found there’s no company or personal has the entire knowledge to make Zen Cart working as exactly expected. Like me, I can deal with many stuff more than a newbie can imagine but still fails to do certain jobs. Have you ever heard of “Auction Lister Pro for Zen Cart”? In the past 6 years, 17 store owners asked me to install it for them, but I refused all of them! Aha? Because the author had never make it working, it’s not my fault…

How many team members do I need? WOW, you are asking the right questions now. The answer may sounds costly: a coder, a designer, a webmaster, and a backup copy of the them. Are you amazed? In fact, you don’t have to find 6 such people to work together. You only need to know where you can find such a team and call them for help when necessary, usually each at a time.

Finally, let me repeat what you may benefit mostly: find a technical team to support your online business. You can never learn enough technical knowledge, luckily, you don’t have to. Just kick the ball to those who can play it best.

Read the rest of this entry »

How To

How to set up your own online store – overview

You are welcome, my new Zen Cart friends!

Since you are already here, I guess you have decided to use Zen Cart as your shopping cart. Maybe you have been Zen Cart user with several years experience and you are seeking a better way to set up Zen Cart.

Here are my secret weapons developed in my 6 years Zenning adventures. If you enjoy them, give me some positive feedback!

To New ZenCarter

Suppose you are a new zencarter like me 6 years ago, feeling rather excited to set up your first Zen Cart store, what would you like to do to get it running?

There are four steps you have to do:

  1. Install zen cart on your server
  2. Install your template if you don’t like the default TPL “classic”
  3. Setup Shipping and Delivery Modules in admin
  4. Upload products and run…

I hear what you say “how long does this take”. Well, if you are NEW enough, it may take you half an hour to get a store with 1 product uploaded to run. Not bad, right? However, if you have more than 30 products, it takes you at least one day. If you want to make your site more appealing to potential customers, you have to install some add-ons, and make alternations to the template, which takes a week. An exhaust week!

Then it becomes an enjoyable trip.

Punks like me, TOOK 2 days to launch my first Zen Cart and then spent 6 years to work with it. Luckily, I am still loving with it.

To Veterans

If this is not your first zen cart store, what is your best way to set up it? How long does it take? Is there any magic?

Well, I do have some secrets: do NOT setup, CLONE!

You will be happy to know that you can launch a new but robust site in half a day. How to do that? CLONE.

Do not reinvent the wheel. Do not reinstall Zen Cart, clone it. All you need to do is IMPORT the database and transfer your old zen cart to new server. You must know this, but seldom have change to do it.

As a career, I have too many opportunities to do this. If have more better ways, you can call me to pay your coffee for the advice.


Please read another post for more details: http://www.zencarter.com/blog/3-stages-of-zen-cart-store-%e2%80%93-technical-overview/

How To

How we install Add-ons on your site

Guess how many different Zen Cart add-ons we have installed on our clients sites over the last few years?

Around 670!

Each of these 670 add-ons have their own unique installation needs, code conflicts, and other technical fixes that needed to be addressed for proper integration into our clients stores. During those instalations we learned the ins and outs of each unique add-on. The amazing part of the story is that, in all that time, and with all those add-ons, we have had Zero Site Failures! How is that possible?

Backup, Backup, Backup!

It is typical that when a new client asks us to install new add-ons for them on a site that is live, they feel a bit nervous. Their concern is that if any unexpected errors occur, their site might become crippled and they could potentially lose significant sales. Though we understand that fear, we pride ourselves in our guarantee that with our installation services prolonged downtime is not a possibility. In fact, if an error occurs while we are updating your site, our advanced installation system alerts us immediately and we can restore your site to its previous working status in less than 2 minutes!

How is that possible?

We have an incredibly powerful backup system!Before each add-on is installed, our proprietary installation system will check to see if there’s any potential conflicts that may occur during the installation. Any files which might potentially conflict are backed up automatically.

There are rare cases when add-ons are installed, but do not function properly. Most of the time these errors are due to the clients server configuration. In those cases, the backup is restored instantly, and the server resumes working status as if nothing ever happened. When there is a problem with the clients server we only have two (2) options:

    1. find the incorrect server configuration, fix it and then attempt to reinstall the add-ons;
    2. if we can’t solve the problem on your server we have to suspend work on the install until your hosting company can address it.

We take great care to ensure your site functions properly. In the event that we can’t install the add-ons successfully we make sure to return your site to its previous working order.

You Risk Nothing: No Upfront Payment Required

Our NO RISK POLICY is clear. You pay only for the successful completion of the installation. If you are not satisfied or we are unsuccessful, your site will be returned to its previous working state and you pay nothing… NOT A PENNY!

We risk everything!

There is no better deal than this. We are putting our years of experience and comprehensive set of installation tools at your disposal, with no upfront cost to you. Not to mention our prices are far lower than our competition’s… and they don’t have the advanced tools, technical ability, and no risk policy that we offer. We offer this straightforward no risk policy because we are confident that our installations are rock-solid and that after you use our services you will keep coming back to us for all your Zen Cart technical and customization needs. (and you will probably refer your friends too!)
Customization, How To
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