Online shopping is more popular than ever. The entire e-commerce industry is blowing up, with sites like Etsy and Shopify making it possible for anyone with a Wi-Fi connection and a laptop to buy or sell goods online.
As a consumer, you can shop for and buy just about anything online without ever having to leave the comfort of your home. This might have you thinking: Instead of spending my money online, why not make some money by opening an online store?
For all of you ambitious entrepreneurs out there, now is the perfect time to begin making a decent income by getting involved in e-commerce. However, while you certainly don’t have to be a tech wizard to start your own online store, there are several things to consider before launching your e-commerce business. Of course, that’s only if you want it be successful.
In order to help you embark on your entrepreneurial journey into online sales, these five things you should consider before getting started.
1. Pick the Right E-Commerce Platform
Once you’ve determined what you will be selling, you’ll need to figure out how you will sell it, meaning what type of e-commerce platform you will use.
An e-commerce platform, in the simplest terms, is a software tool that allows you to create and manage your online store. Through your e-commerce platform, you’ll be able to design your digital storefront, manage web content and product descriptions, implement online transactions and keep track of inventory and customer purchase history, among other things.
There are two main options when it comes to e-commerce platforms:
Hosted e-commerce platforms
A hosted e-commerce platform provides an all-inclusive solution for your online store, which is a great option for beginners.
For a monthly or yearly fee, you get a hosted site that covers all of your e-commerce needs. Hosted platforms generally include payment and shipping management, various features such as a shopping cart function, customizable website templates and comprehensive technical support.
For those looking for an easy way to launch and manage their online store, hosted e-commerce platforms are a solid choice. Examples of hosted e-commerce platforms include Shopify, BigCommerce or SuiteCommerce.
Open-source e-commerce software
Open-source e-commerce software is aimed at those who are more tech-savvy. With this option, although you’ll certainly have more control over the design, features and functionality of your site, you’ll also have to deal with all of the intricate details. For example, you’ll need to choose a hosting service, like WordPress, find an application to manage inventory and orders, implement payment and shipping management tools and more.
All of this can be quite overwhelming for someone who isn’t fairly computer literate. However, a major benefit to open-source e-commerce software is that it’s generally much more affordable than the hosted e-commerce platforms, in addition to being more customizable.
If you’re on a tight budget and/or have a business with specific requirements and customization needs, open-source e-commerce software is a good choice. Examples of open-source e-commerce software include Magento, WooCommerce and OpenCart.
The platform that you choose will ultimately be the backbone for your online store, so it’s crucial to do your research and choose wisely
2. Understand the Cost
When it comes to opening an online store, the ultimate goal is to make money, right? And while you don’t need to be rich to start an e-commerce business, you do want to make sure that you know the costs going in – and there are several.
Depending on which platform you choose for your business, there will be a variety of costs involved. Some platforms charge a fee for each product you list, while others require a monthly payment. Alternatively, some platforms might ask for a larger, one-time payment up front.
In order to make your online business official, you will need to register it in the state that you reside in as either an LLC or a Corporation. This can run you anywhere from $25 to $800, depending on where you live.
Registering for a domain name is generally inexpensive; however, it’s absolutely essential for your business. Companies like GoDaddy make registering for a domain name simple and affordable at around $12. Keep in mind that a domain name is often included in the cost of hosted e-commerce platforms.
Payment and Shipping Fees
There are a slew of variations when it comes to these costs. This is because you will decide whether to offer free shipping (which means you are paying more out of pocket) or you asking your customers to pay shipping (cheaper for you but can discourage customers from purchasing your products).
Again, it’s important to keep in mind that most hosted e-commerce platforms include a certain amount of shipping and payment processing fees in whatever monthly/yearly subscription that you sign up for. However, beware of shipping limitations that may have you incurring additional fees if you are selling and shipping products consistently.
Luckily, with the incredible influence that social media has today, you can market your product or store for virtually nothing! By creating business accounts on Instagram, Facebook and Snapchat, it’s easy to gain a significant following without spending money on marketing your business.
However, if you choose to go about your marketing strategy the old-fashioned way with mailers or online ads, you can be looking at costs of anywhere from $25 to $500 per month for marketing.
If you’re going to have an online store, you need to have something to sell! This price obviously varies greatly depending on what you’re selling and how much of it you have or need.
3. Utilize Social Media
Social media has taken over the world when it comes to marketing and advertising. If you want your online store to be successful, creating a strong social media presence is non-negotiable. Be sure to match the branding of your store to all of your various social media outlets for a coherent and fluid marketing strategy. This will allow you to better convert visitors into sales. Three of the most popular social media sites for marketing and promoting online businesses are Facebook Pages, Instagram and Snapchat.
4. SEO is Essential
SEO stands for search engine optimization and is basically a measurement of how well your site does in online searches like Google. Optimizing your site is crucial because, let’s be honest, if no one can find your online store, you’re not going to sell much!
If you’re unfamiliar with SEO, it can seem confusing. But with a little research and the use of products like Google Analytics, your site will be popping up in search results in no time. Be sure to optimize everything on your site including page titles, links, tags, keywords and all content on every page.
5. Capitalize on Content and Customer Input
There’s no question that the actual product you’re selling is incredibly important in terms of how successful you’ll be. But assuming that you have a quality product with some kind of customer demand, the content you include on your website and your interaction with customers will also play a large role in your success.
Things like product photos and descriptions should be aesthetically pleasing and highly informative. No one wants to buy something that they can’t clearly see or don’t understand. This is Sales 101 and something that everyone should be aware of when it comes to content on your website.
But taking your content a step further can really help your business grow. Consider including a blog page on your online store with posts relating to the niche or industry in which you are selling. This helps customers feel like you’re an expert on the topic and truly invested in what you are selling – i.e., it builds trust.
Furthermore, getting customers involved can create an undying loyalty—and repeat purchases. Consider allowing customers to leave comments, ask questions and review your products online. If you decide to go this route, then be sure to take the time to respond to each and every question or comment. This will help build lasting relationships with your customers and help grow your brand exponentially.
There you have it — my top five things to consider before opening your online store! After considering these things, you’ll be well on your way to opening an online store and joining the wonderful world of e-commerce. Please share your thoughts or comments below about your own experience with e-commerce!