There're plenty e-commerce platforms out there, but which to use for selling fonts?
It's get a bit tricky with a variable product (single weights/families, licences for print/web/etc and the amount of usage like cpu/pageviews/etc). Which platform offers the best experience for the customer and meet the requirements for more or less general pricing models (e.g. calculating quantity discount for every added font or number of users/pageviews)?
If you just want to at least be able to do some of those kind of things, semi-complex e-commerce platforms like Drupal Commerce can work, but you’re not going to be very happy with any of those in the long term, and it takes a lot of hacking them to get there.
Gradually adding the whole library (200 plus fonts) in Desktop, Web, mApp and ePub each with price variations for user/pageview nubers.
The main things I have learnt since starting our own e-shop, besides how much time and effort it takes to get it up and running, is just how much time is required on maintenance, updates, marketing and customer communications. If you are considering your own e-shop it will make a big dent in your font productivity time without additional resources (people) to help you.
I hacked our own shop together (with no PHP knowledge) with random Drupal / Drupal Commerce plugins back in 2011, often designing the site to adapt to whatever plugins I could find, instead of actually designing a good user experience.
Then we relaunched with another Drupal-based site in 2013, a bit less cobbled together but still pretty badly done.
Currently, we’re working on our own custom shop, and I’m very much looking forward to spending more time on making the experience better versus trying to keep the ship afloat in the future.
Hmm, this excludes the possibility of selling additional physical goods I'm afraid.
unfortunately I don't have a link, the advice I had on this was from Jake Giltsoff at Adobe.
A year ago, we started working on e-shop for our friends. Since they had same requirements and wanted to split the costs, we made an e-commerce platform.
Check out the website https://www.lttrshop.com/
I think traditional e-commerce platforms are great if you don't intend to grow what your platform offers and want to focus on reselling. This can be a longterm solution for many foundries. Of course, if you change your mind later you can always just eat the cost for that technical debt and take a more specific approach when you can afford a 20k+ platform. Even expensive custom sites eventually decide to do complete redesigns, so that technical debt is mostly unavoidable.
I think the work that @Filip Zajac and his contemporaries have done has really helped fill the gap between those two points. Fontdue is another example of this. That being said, at some point you are still going to be forced to abide by the constraints of those platforms, but for many foundries that might never become an issue. The other great thing about foundry specific platforms is the hope that they will age better, pushing fixes that are more specific to foundry needs and ultimately reducing maintenance costs.
Once you start spending 20k+ on a foundry site I think there should be an expectation that the foundry side maintenance should be optimized (optimize the font upload process, simplify CMS changes, etc) so that it doesn't get in the way of your design/build process. With platforms that are designed specifically for foundries (like the two above), I think you will also find this true.
That being said, I still think a custom build is the best solution for the foundries that can afford it. The greatest thing about a custom build is that you open yourself up to use any software stack — giving you more flexibility finding a developer that fits your needs. You won't have to be limited by the platform when you want to create features that are specific to your foundry, whether that is serverside font processing (subsetting, css file generation, licensee specific metadata editing, licensing web crawlers, webhosting, etc) or complicated frontend work.
I don't post here often, so I hope this is more helpful than overwhelming.
How do we want to address this?
There are two solutions we are planning to build:
1. bulk administration for a large number of font families.
2. headless frontend integration (API first approach) allows creating completely own frontend interface. For end customers, it will look more native. So the subdomain will be unnecessary.
Once we got more foundries in, those features become priority NO1.
Here's a list of sites built with Fontdue that I know of:
FastSpring acts as the point of sales so bookkeeping is simplified, they’re offer many payment methods and offer digital downloads. They also offer complex discount schemes, coupons, ability to prepare custom orders, and a programmatic API.
They’re inexpensive, offer good support and are reliable. In fact, tons of software app vendors use FastSpring.
However, they don’t offer anything font-specific. Presentation, testdrive and all such functionality needs to be self-hosted.
I personally find that it’sa good idea to separate presentation/marketing from e-commerce technologically. For the former, you can these days build even a static HTML site that you can host anywhere, and you can switch technologies as you like. And using a dedicated 3rd party provider for the e-commerce means that you can spend your time doing what you like most. Which may perhaps is type design or development.
If you really like the actual selling, then I think you should set up your own shop.
Their HTML components for the cart look a tad dated, but their backend, their responsiveness, their support and the set of features they offer (for selling software apps) are good. We’re happy.
It was quick & easy to set up and it’s hassle-free to operate.
I think FastSpring is a good solution that sits between distributors like MyFonts and self-operated shops. You still need to have your own website, but that website can concentrate on »pre-sales«.
(And no, I’m not getting any bonuses from recommending FastSpring 😀)
> the small amount of products and huge amount of product variations ("SKU"s) involved in font selling means most foundries write their own shop code, because generic e-commerce platforms are optimised for many products and low variations
I agree. Solutions like FastSpring perhaps don't scale well for fonts. But they're quick to set up, so you can start selling within a week. This still gives you the option to research & develop your own solution afterwards.
When I talked to some people who wanted to set up their own shop (that was some years ago), I told them:
Go with a distributor like MyFonts first so you can actually start selling. Then do your own shop.
This way, you're not in limbo during the shop development, and once you launch, you can compare the revenue & cost of both channels. So it's like A/B testing. This will make your decisions more informed. You can always withdraw from other channels later.
One foundry I advised said “no no, no MyFonts, we want to be exclusive, setting up our own store will be quite fast”. Two years later I met them and they said “You were right, we should have listened to you. We’re now close to launch but we’ve lost two years of sales.”
So my advice is: use a distributor like fMyFonts first, then work on your presentation website & outsource digital e-commerce to an entity like FastSpring, and only turn start building your own shop. You'll have better analytics this way, and your can always cancel the key channels.