You have always dreamed of opening your own store. Whether you have a talent for woodworking, painting, or design – the dream is so close it is as if you can reach out and touch it. As you drive through town, you notice the empty shops with the "For Rent" signs posted and think, "Why not me?" That is when you find out what the cost of rent could be, and the sticker shock sends you back into reality.
Perhaps rather than doubting yourself and your abilities, maybe the solution for you is an E-commerce store. E-commerce involves any commercial business operation that transacts its sales or information across the internet. You can have the business of your dreams, but you do have to start. Even Bill Gates started in his garage. Success is waiting for you! Predictions indicate that e-commerce sales are growing exponentially, and in 2021 sales should exceed $4878 Billion. You want your company ready to be a part of that excitement!
Sales in the US is Billion Dollars
What are the top advantages of starting online? Does it have any real advantage over a brick-and-mortar location? Yes, and the benefits are far more than the cost-saving on the rent.
- Low Start-up. It is possible to get started right away because there is no need to save for years to get your business off the ground
- Online Shoppers. Studies show that most shoppers will try out an online store before they ever find the physical location
- Customer Data. An e-commerce platform can give you insight into those customers who live nearby or across the globe based on shopping and browsing habits
- Global Reach. Using e-commerce effectively can help you localize your content worldwide, reaching customers farther than you ever thought possible
- Niche Markets. Does your business fill a niche market? Do you specialize in a specific product? E-commerce makes it easier for customers to find you
- Easy, Fast Launch. Go from the idea stage to open and running in a matter of hours. Nothing can stop you now!
Do Different Options Exist?
It is exciting to look forward to having a successful new business. Before getting too far ahead of yourself, it's best to determine which is the best option for you and your type of business. There are many different options available so you should do your homework. It will pay off with better results. After all, you wouldn't want to put in all the hard work only to realize your business doesn't match the type of platform you've chosen.
Which type of provider you choose can make or break your new start-up. There are free providers available that can lower your initial monthly costs; the drawbacks are that you need to be tech-savvy enough to use their platforms. Do you plan to continually monitor your store, hire someone, or have a service handle order processing? The cost of many subscription providers is minimal when you consider the benefits. Below are some of the most popular options, subscription and free; take your time to go through them individually to see which service will better fit your type of product or business.
- Shopify – Considered the top provider with over 2.1 million active users. Shopify has an in-house payment system, and its product inventory management system is easy to use. One downfall is that there are few free themes to choose from and only allows for two accounts on the cheapest plans.
- Wix – This is a top-rated platform. Some of the benefits are that Wix has no transaction fees, free templates, 24/7 phone support, and your domain name is free for the first year. No live chat, but the low prices and phone support may make up for it.
- Squarespace – A hip player to the e-commerce platforms. Getting started with Squarespace is simple, and moving inventory into a brick-and-mortar location with Squarespace keeps you heading in the direction of growth. Other advantages are that they have lots of free themes, a free domain name for the first year, and meager monthly rates. The bad news here is that you pay a 3% commission on the lowest-priced plan, and they do not have many support options.
- Zyro – The newest platform provider on the scene, Zyro is also the cheapest. They offer a few free themes, a free domain for the first year, and images from Unsplash. Downfalls are that it has little support experience and limits the cheapest accounts to a mere 100 products.
- PrestaShop – A tremendous free platform choice. It has fraud detection in-house and offers a support forum. Available in 75 languages, but one drawback is that you have to scour the forums to find free themes from other users.
- WooCommerce – This could be a good option if you already have website hosting, a domain, and WordPress. You are the master of your progress here; either you know your stuff, or you will need to hire someone to get you started. The good news is that they provide a payment platform and support forums for help.
- OpenCart – OpenCart offers a great option as an E-commerce platform for free. It provides a library of free extensions and integrated payment options.
What Makes a Great E-Commerce Platform?
As you compare the platform choices, you may be wondering what things are the essential features to be looking at. What are the vital offerings that should be included in a basic plan?
- Initial Cost – Evaluate what the start-up costs are with each option. For example, do they include your domain fee or offer support? What will the total amount spent be on the platform to get opened from start-up to opening day?
- Usability Factor – As with anything in life, if it is easy to use, you are more likely to use it and be happy with it. A platform that has an intuitive design that makes sense will make going online a snap.
- Payment Options – When you choose an e-commerce platform, be sure to review the number of payment methods available to you. You want a global reach; this means you will have to process a variety of payment data brands.
- Third-Party Integration – If your business is creating artwork to print on T-shirts or other clothing, then you might use a third-party printer to complete your orders. If your e-commerce platform allows integration, your website can process orders seamlessly, collect a payment, print the item, ship the product, and deposit the profits.
- Expandability – If the type of business you have is creating individual works of art, then keeping steady orders and staying busy may be all you are looking for. However, if you are looking to grow and want to reach the far corners of the earth, you want the platform you choose to offer scalability to grow with you as your business matures, changes, and expands.
Retail e-commerce sales in the US from 2017 to 2023 (in million US dollars)
Has the Vendor Been Vetted?
The United States alone is projected to produce more than $740389 Million in revenue by 2023. Don’t get left behind. You also want to keep your company’s reputation intact. An important thing that you won't want to forget when evaluating your e-commerce solution is how your vendors work with your platform and which vendors are available. Your vendor represents your company, your reputation, and the face of your business. It would be best to vet your vendors, much like a prospective employee for a high-level position.
What is their reputation? What is the quality of their products? Try purchasing a few different items to ‘quality test’ their production times and results. Charles Hunsinger, Senior VP and CIO for the Oriental Trading Company, gave this advice to vendors. "Retailers should treat hiring a vendor with as much diligence as they would hiring an employee. After all, vendors often handle the work of several employees.”
It is time you took your idea to the next level. Open an e-commerce store and get started today.