What is e-commerce?

What is e-commerce?

E commerce is the activity of buying or selling products over the internet. Customers can get the product online and buy at any time of the day. It incorporates technologies like electronic funds transfer, internet marketing, online transaction processing, inventory management system and automated data collection system.

E commerce service can be catering to one of the following modules:

  • Business-to-Business (B2B)
  • Business-to-Consumer (B2C)
  • Consumer-to-Consumer (C2C)
  • Consumer-to-Business (C2B)
  • Business-to-Administration (B2A)
  • Consumer-to-Administration (C2A)

Benefits

  • It is quick, easy, efficient, and user friendly. Customer can buy the desired products at any hour of the day, avail discount benefits, and can have the product delivered at home.
  • Provides easy navigation and searching facilities for finding the most suitable product.
  • It helps in boosting customer required products through machine learning techniques. Hence the customer is presented a variety of options of similar products to choose the best one from.
  • With reviews and ratings, customer can choose the most appropriate product, and sellers can improve product quality to ensure customer satisfaction.
  • Provides a global market, with customers accessing the products from across the world.
  • Helps to get effective marketing at reasonable rates that reduces overall budget that one could pay for promotion and advertisement.

Tips for building a good e-commerce website

  • Provide detailed product description, rich in keywords so that the product can be searched easily. Use multiple photographs with a 360 degree view of the product.
  • Ensure simple and user-friendly navigation. The process from discovering the product to selecting the most suitable product to checkout and payment process must be smooth.
  • Keep the checkout process as simple as possible, with minimum number of required steps to make the customer experience better.
  • Showcase popular products to attract potential customers. Various websites are utilizing an extensive range of products on the landing page that they can use to advance current deals, new product offerings, or whatever will generate interest.
  • Build an effective site-wide searching procedure to help the customers directly find the products they are interested in. Despite effective navigation, user would want to directly find the product they need instead of going through a few layers of internal linking.
  • Provide product quality certificate and genuineness assurance, as the customers cannot physically touch and examine the product before purchase. Quality certification can build trust and allow customers to settle with the purchasing choice.

Choosing a company for developing an e-commerce website

  • Check for the company’s portfolio.
  • Analyze customer reviews and ratings.
  • Check for ease of navigation and payment procedures on the company’s previous projects.
  • Look for companies that promise long term relationship and technical support in the future.

In the past, businesses that wanted to develop an online sales presence had to hire in-house web designers and developers to build out these services for them. However, this is no longer required. High-quality, user-friendly e-commerce solutions are readily available on the market. These platforms feature better scalability and functionality than some mid-sized companies have through their e-commerce sites, Business Zone says. Even better, most providers offer a 14- or 30-day free trial, so you can try out different options and determine which is right for you. Many small companies utilize the same top solutions because they deliver the services and capabilities actual businesses of this size need.

The following are some of the best options available to help small businesses succeed in e-commerce. We sourced our list from this Entrepreneur article.

  • Symphony Commerce: This e-commerce platform offers a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution. It’s ideal because it off-loads the architecture and backend duties that are “critical to maintaining an online store.” This means that you can stay focused on core business processes. Symphony Commerce offers pay-as-you-go pricing, so it’s a great choice for a company that knows what it wants from an e-commerce service. If you are newer to online sales, you might want to go with a more one-size-fits-all option.
  • Square space: This “fully loaded” platform is affordable and allows you to choose the perfect theme for your e-commerce site — no coding knowledge required. Square space enables you to upload as many items to your online store as you like, and it offers full control over inventory so that you can offer variants of the same product type with no hassle. However, this platform isn’t big on search engine optimization (SEO) or customer relationship management (CRM).
  • Magento: Magento is one of the most scalable e-commerce platforms out there, meaning that you can add or subtract services to meet your specific needs. It is open source, so adding features is easy. It can be more complicated to use than many of these other picks, however, so it may be a little complex for first-time e-commerce retailers.
  • Commerce Hub: This cloud-based platform lets you increase the number of products you offer to customers. It “works as a merchandising and fulfillment platform that connects online retailers to suppliers” and allows for integration with any product source. Something important to note about Commerce Hub is that it relies on businesses to have a developed sales funnel already, making it a good fit for companies that want to build on existing sourcing practices.
  • Drupal Commerce: Drupal is the only e-commerce platform on this list that is built within an entire content management system, allowing users to customize workflow. It is very flexible, configurable and scalable. However, to get the most out of this option, you’ll probably need to hire an in-house developer to set up workflows and overall configuration, Entrepreneur notes. One thing that makes Drupal stand out is that it doesn’t come with licensing fees, which increases affordability.
  • Shopify: This platform is an all-in-one solution that allows you to set up an online store. It’s one of the most popular e-commerce builders on the market. You can upload as many products as you like with close inventory control. Other valuable elements include a discount code engine and no transaction fees. Shopify comes with an app store. All of these customization options can be overwhelming, but Shopify doesn’t require a tech background to use.

As you can see, there are a wide variety of e-commerce platforms available on the market to help you create the online sales strategy that’s right for your resources and business goals. After identifying your requirements, you’ll be able to settle on a platform to build your online presence and stay competitive in the fast-paced world of e-commerce. Consumers are looking for quick, convenient shopping opportunities that make online the right choice for many. With more do-it-yourself e-commerce tools available than ever before, small businesses have the opportunity to capitalize on the online market with relatively low overhead. Cloud-based solutions make it possible to manage an online shop adeptly without wasting large amounts of time or resources.

Decide on your product.

If you’ve been dreaming of setting up an online storefront for a while, then you may well already have a product in mind that you’d like to sell. Whether it’s something you make, like handcrafted furniture or handmade soap, or something you’ve found a source for at wholesale prices so you can sell it off at a profit, every ecommerce store has to start with a product.

Do some research to make sure your product is viable? Is there already a market out there for your product?

If there is already an established market, consider whether your product is unique enough to break in. Will you be able to compete on pricing?

Develop a MVP and get started.

Set your pricing.

Develop a MVP and get started.

Pricing can be one of the hardest aspects to get right when running a new business.

If you price too low, you’ll lose money or just barely break even – which won’t make the time and effort you put into your online store worth it. If you price too high, you won’t make enough sales and still risk losing money on the whole endeavor.

To figure out what pricing that makes the sense you have to first figure out your business finances. This includes:

  • the cost of materials to make your product.
  • web hosting for your eCommerce site
  • taxes
  • shipping
  • the percentage credit cards or Paypal will skim off the top
  • additional marketing and advertising costs

VPS stands for Virtual Private Server. It mimics a dedicated server within a shared hosting environment. Hence, it can be considered as a mixture of both shared hosting as well as dedicated hosting.

Then figure out how much you want to add on top to pay yourself (and make a profit!).

Pricing pro tip: Before you set your final pricing, research what your competition is charging. You may get to bump your prices up a bit (oh happy day!), or you may have to lower them in order to stay competitive.

Research shipping costs and options.

If you’re selling a physical product, how will you deliver it to customers?

Your impulse may be to pass on the full cost of shipping to the client, and many online stores do take this route. However, it’s important to note that shipping costs can have a strong psychological impact on consumers, with 44% saying they’ve abandoned an online purchase due to high shipping and handing costs.

Instead, consider offering one of these alternative shipping methods:

  • Offer free shipping, no questions asked
  • Offer free shipping and up your product pricing slightly to cover the cost
  • Offer free shipping for orders of a certain size
  • Offer a flat shipping fee

Choose your e-Commerce web hosting.

When it comes to eCommerce, you have two options: use a marketplace that already exists like Etsy or Amazon, or building an eCommerce website and brand that’s all your own.

If you want a website and brand that’s all your own, many website hosting platforms (including HostGator) make it easy to find compatible eCommerce website hosting options that you can work with in the same space you use to work on your website. This way you can direct people to youronlinestore.com. You look like a real, live store!

An eCommerce software like Magento will make it easy for you to list your products, set your price, and add a shopping cart to the website. They take care of ensuring the process is intuitive for both you and your customers, so you can just focus on selling.

Pick a domain name and brand.

Brainstorm words and phrases that say something about the products you’ll be selling, and words and phrases that mean something to you. And be sure to stay away from names that have already been copyrighted by other businesses. Follow these top tips for choosing a domain name for your eCommerce website.

Build your eCommerce website.

Many hosting platforms can make at least part of this step easier by providing or a merchant site builder you can work from rather than having to build a website from scratch.

At this stage, you’ll also need to work on writing web copy that describes your wares and helps persuade website visitors to buy.

Once you set up your site, you have to do more than just add your products. In addition to product pages, your eCommerce website development and planning should also include the following pages:

  • A home page where you feature weekly deals and sale items
  • An about page with a brief description of what you do
  • A contact or customer service page so customers can easily reach you
  • A blog where you post updates, industry news, and helpful tidbits

Aside from these pages, you will also have to consider your website’s theme, eCommerce pluginoptions, Google Analytics, and all other practical aspects that will help create your online platform.

Set up a merchant account.

Online stores need a way to receive money – specifically, a way to receive credit card payments. A merchant account does the very important job of ensuring you can get paid.You have options that range from big, familiar brand names like Chase and PayPal, to companies more focused on small businesses like BluePay and PaySimple. You will have to pay a small fee to the company in order to get your money, but the ability to accept the money your customers send will make the fees well worth it.

Get your SSL certificate.

When you create your site, be sure to install a SSL certificate. These certificates provide the green lock you see next to URLs when you’re shopping online, and they keep your customers’ private information safe.

If customers are going to hand you their private payment information (or more accurately, enter it into a form on your website), you need to make sure the sensitive details will stay safe. An SSL certificate for your website encrypts all the sensitive information customers provide so that hackers won’t be able to grab that credit card information as it’s sent over the web.

Start selling!

Now it’s time to start making money.

Once you launch your online store, you should start thinking about promotion. Content marketing, social media, and paid promotion are all areas worth looking into to start getting people to your website. Check out our post on cheap, easy ways to start marketing your business.

If you’re not quite ready to make that level of investment in your online store, start with old-fashioned word of mouth. Talk to your friends about it, mention it to professional acquaintances, and bring it up at any events around town likely to attract the kind of people interested in what you’re selling.