The allure of owning a business and being your own boss is a dream of many people. With the development of online stores, it’s easy to start a business and sell products within days. People spend more than $300 billion online each year on items sold on e-commerce sites.
The question isn’t how difficult it is to start your own e-commerce business, but which platform to choose. There are choices to fit everyone from the small business with little inventory to a mid-level brick and mortar store. Both are looking to make their mark on the digital world.
Don’t just pick a platform. Instead, research and make a decision you can trust.
Types of E-commerce Platforms
There are two main types of e-commerce platforms to choose from. One is a dedicated website where you sell your items. The other is a self-contained shopping site where you can create a store and sell your items.
If you don’t have much inventory or much money for web design, then a self-contained shop might be best for you. Sites such as Etsy and Amazon allow you to sell your items with little upfront money. Instead, the shopping site takes a piece of the sales or charge a monthly price.
They handle all the payment processing, design, and most other aspects. You sell and ship the items. The biggest downfall is the limitation due to their rules and system. You have little control over web design, SEO, etc.
Dedicated E-commerce Platforms
You have more control with these platforms and use them to sell items from a website. You get the safety and security of the e-commerce software but maintain your own site and branding. Platforms include Yahoo Small Business, WooCommerce, Big Commerce, Shopify, and Volusion.
When most people think of an e-commerce store, they think of these platforms.
Hosted and Self-Hosted Providers
There’s nothing like having your own website and building your store from the ground up. Retail e-commerce software comes in two types: hosted or self-hosted.
Hosted services such as Shopify and BigCommerce host stores on their servers. Platforms such as WooCommerce and Magento allow you to host the store on other servers and still use their platform.
Hosted platforms make creating a business easier. You dip your toe in e-commerce waters without spending an arm and a leg on web design, hosting, etc.
Many times they have website templates. You upload them to a site with your branding without the pain of paying a web developer.
The platform backend lets you import all the product information, pictures, etc. The problem comes with customization.
You can make changes to the site, but it’s limited, even if you have development experts on that platform. You also must deal with any changes the platform makes server side.
A self-hosted platform gives you the most freedom. You design the website however you like. You then incorporate the e-commerce website software. But you lose the safety and security of the hosted platform, so if anything breaks, it’s your responsibility to fix it.
Self-hosted stores often have web developers on retainer or speed dial to update, make changes and deal with any problems. It’s difficult to do custom programming, so web developers are usually necessary.
For example, WooCommerce can be incorporated into WordPress sites. You have the ease of access and customization associated with WordPress with e-commerce integration. WordPress sites are easy to create for blogs. Once you introduce e-commerce, web development gets more complicated and need a developer.
What Size Store Do You Need?
Stores come in all shapes and sizes. You find stores with 20 pages that only sell a handful of products, while others have thousands of products.
Some stores sell $10,000 in merchandise per month and others sell millions of dollars per month.
You fit somewhere in the middle. You need to choose a platform that fits your current business needs and has room for scalability.
Platforms like Yahoo Small Business can handle small to mid-level stores as can Shopify and WooCommerce. When you get to larger stores or stores that grow rapidly, you’ll want something like Magento, Shopify Plus or Salesforce Commerce Cloud.
The last thing any business owner wants is downtime in the middle of a busy shopping month. This can happen if your e-commerce platform can’t handle the sales orders.
Every e-commerce platform has a way for people to gather items and order them. This is the shopping cart and the checkout. You can have a checkout provided by the platform or a third-party shopping cart with more features.
The one aspect platforms don’t provide is the payment processor. This is the company that handles the credit card or other payment operations. The most common are PayPal, Stripe, and Square. There are many others out there as well.
You should consider is the type of product you’re selling. Each processor has limits to what types of products they handle. There are often specialty processors designed for those niches.
Building Your E-commerce Store
Once the store is complete, products are ready and payment processor is set, it’s time to get people to your site. Digital marketing entails search engine optimization, advertising, social media, and other efforts.
Google is the leading search engine handing more than 2 trillion searches per year. Some of those are in your business niche. Search engine optimization makes your site preferred by Google.
It uses keywords, blog posts, and authoritative website content to encourage high ranking.
Pay per click advertising on search engines and social media sites use search, display, video, mobile, and shopping ads to bring people to your site. Social media such as Facebook and Twitter engage audiences and keeps you front of mind.
Success is in Your Grasp
With so many types of ecommerce options available to you, it’s easy to get confused. Education and research are the best ways to help make your decision. If you’re like more information on ecommerce web development, digital marketing and more, then visit our website.