ProStores is a popular online shopping cart system from the eBay company. ProStores makes it fairly easy to set up an online store, and has features that make it compatible with selling on eBay, which makes it very appealing to eBay sellers who want to expand their online presence outside of eBay, or to users who are just starting to sell products online. ProStores is not for everyone, however, so it’s important to know the pros and cons of selling with ProStores.
ProStores provides tools and support for a variety of functions, like:
- Designing an online catalog
- Registering a domain name
- Business email
- Promoting products
- Tracking inventory and sales
- Calculating sales tax and costs for major shipping options like UPS, USPS, FedEx, and Canada Post in the US and Canada, with the ability to customize additional shipping options
- Providing basic online security through a shared SSL certificate
- Processing payments through several major payment gateways
- Search engine optimization and search engine submission to make online stores easier for customers to find
Most people find ProStores relatively easy to use. It has a number of tutorials and wizard programs to help users set up their accounts. It also has phone and email customer service, as well as an online users’ forum. Many ProStores users feel the customer service is very responsive, though some have complained about slow customer service response.
Some of the advantages of ProStores include:
- It is very customizable, with many templates to choose from for the novice web designer and the ability to use HTML to customize a store front more fully if desired
- Existing web sites can often be transferred to ProStores or integrated with ProStores through links
- There is no contract, so users can stop service at any time without paying any fees except those incurred while the account was open
- It is compatible with QuickBooks
- It can track and sort inventory
- It can generate reports to help track and manage the online store
- It is all online, so it can be accessed from most Internet-capable computers and there’s no software that must be installed
- It is already integrated with PayPal, Authorize.net, and several other popular payment gateways, and may be customized to be used with other payment gateways
- ProStores can mirror a user’s eBay listings so their web site and auctions stay current
ProStores’ compatibility with eBay draws a lot of users to ProStores. Users who are eBay power sellers or eBay Stores subscribers get a 30% discount on their monthly fees from ProStores. It is important to understand, however, that a ProStores account is separate from an eBay account. ProStores users still have to pay applicable fees for sales on eBay, and may not link to their ProStores page from their eBay auctions since their ProStores page is considered to be outside of eBay.
Some potential drawbacks to using ProStores include:
- There is a .5% fee (5 cents on every 100 dollars) charged on all ProStores sales in addition to the fixed ProStores monthly fee and any applicable fees from PayPal or a users’ merchant account and payment gateway.
- Many of the advanced selling features offered by ProStores require additional monthly fees.
- If users want to customize their store they may need to know HTML, and some store features may not be supported by ProStores.
- Extra fees are charged if users exceed their allotted bandwidth.
- There is a limit to the number of items that can be listed on ProStores, though the limit is in the thousands.
- There are some types of goods that cannot be sold through ProStores, and though many of these are restricted because of legal issues, some legitimate items, like legal music downloads, are also prohibited.
- It does not give stores a static IP address unless they have their own dedicated SSL certificate, though this may not be a concern for some businesses.
- ProStores is allowed to place ads on a store’s web site and in its emails without the store owner’s permission.
The pricing structure of ProStores is subject to change, but currently the Basic plan costs $29.95 per month and the Plus plan costs $59.95. Both of the plans also have the additional .5% fee on all sales, which, again, does not include fees charged by PayPal or payment gateways and merchant accounts. Currently there is no set up fee for ProStores and the monthly charge is waived for the first month, though the .5% sales fee is not waived.
Very large businesses and those who have specific needs may find that ProStores is not the best shopping cart for them, but it does offer a lot of good features for smaller stores or those just starting out. Those who are interested in ProStores should determine their online business’s needs and carefully review the details of the ProStores services to determine if it is the best match for their business.