Retailing over the internet or e-commerce has forever changed the nature of retailing. The advent of digital technology has enabled small businesses to run their company more efficiently and profitably. By keeping their fingers on the pulse of technological innovations, small businesses can increase their productivity as well as their market share.
The barrier to entry in retail-oriented endeavors is fast becoming smaller as more entrepreneurs choose the internet over storefronts. Early adopters of technology have made e-commerce a key component of their daily operations of their business. By choosing the best platform to sell online, your business can achieve new levels of success with relative ease.
Benefit of Selling Online
The benefits are simple. E-commerce allows for speedy buying/selling, as well as easy finding the best product selections. Online stores today stay up and running 24/7, allowing customers to get online at any time of the day and buy products and services. All these irrespective where in the world your customers might be. This has led to more and more customers moving from the traditional brick and mortar store to buying goods and services on the Internet.
Rather than opening up multiple brick and mortar stores to reach customers, you can reach a global customer base with an online store. Selling online will help you cut across the many challenges that come with opening more physical outlets to grow your business. This includes choosing locations, hiring more staff, putting in more capital for the expansions and not to mention managing the risk of not generating enough revenues to keep them up and running. By simply putting your store online, you can increase sales and your reach without experiencing the growing pains that come with expansion.
Additionally, you will have access to a range of tools to analyze every aspect of your online store. With these tools, you can design customized online experiences for your customers and maximize the ROI of your marketing spend. The technologies also help to cut costs across the board by automating customer relationship management, inventory management, transactions and more.
How to Get Started
The first step is to get your business its very own website. Once you have a website then you can incorporate an online shopping platform and social media accounts to further boost your sales. It is important to implement good communication early on in the process. Your website should be compelling enough to help you differentiate your offering, explain the key features of your products and the promises you make.
Best Platforms to Sell Online
The key to all these is to find an e-commerce website builder or platform that lets you build, customize, and run an online store. These platforms come with tools to walk you through the entire process of setting up your ecommerce venture. They will help you navigate through the steps involved such as hosting, design, pricing and payment options, marketing tools and reports. Below are some of the best platforms to sell online:
Perhaps Shopify is one of the best options for small businesses. The company provides simple, elegant, easy-to-use software for online retailers. Shopify’s platform is not only for online sales but also serves as a Piont Of Sale (POS) as well.
Shopify offers a platform for merchants to create a multi-channel experience that helps showcase your brand. This subscription platform allows you to create a website and use their shopping cart solution to sell, ship, and manage your products.
BigCommerce is similar to Shopify. The platform offers an extensive set of e-commerce tools to help you build your website. You also have the opportunity to integrate social media into your site and sell your products through those channels.
Among its huge selling points is it gives you a range of shipping options. You can get real-time shipping quotes, offer free shipping to your customers, and print shipping labels, all with its third-party integrations.
Wix Ecommerce enables small businesses with less than 50 unique products to create beautifully designed websites. It offers simple and easy to create website by using a drag and drop theme. You can add and remove features as you see fit for your business. This makes it easy for you to create your customized storefront without the need to code.
Additionally the sites are optimized for mobile display, have SSL certificates, and users can tag their pages for SEO optimization. Wix can sync with Google calendar where businesses can send confirmation emails and reminders with bookings which can also be made through Wix’s mobile app.
WooCommerce a plugin for WordPress. Unlike other platforms WooCommerce is an open-source solution. Meaning it is free for personal and commercial use. You can install and start using it immediately. However, if you are looking for a robust support such as a domain, hosting, email, and other options you will have to consider additional expenses.
This is a very user-friendly plugin which you can use to quickly develop a website. In addition to the Woocommerce community that comes with a lot of support you also have a wide assortment of plugins and extensions to enhance your online store. In terms payment it can accommodate bank transfers, cheques, cash on delivery, and PayPal.
BigCartel is another e-commerce platform which lets you sell online and is best suited to selling one-off and individual products. This platform starts out strong by offering useful prompts and suggestions to guide you through the set-up process. But once the beginner-friendly on-boarding is over, things can get tricky. For you to customize your website theme on Big Cartel, you’ll need to directly edit the HTML of the theme itself. This requires you to know code.
If you can handle the coding bit, Big Cartel will provide you with features that include discount codes, free themes, inventory tracking, shipment tracking, Google Analytics and more.
Squarespace is a good option for small businesses looking for online store design solutions. It comes with sleek templates that help to draw attention to your products, and are easy to customize. Its inventory system and analytical tools are also some of the attractive features. Its built-in Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features, can help increase your site’s visibility in the results pages of Google and other search engines.
The online store template is fully customizable, you can use one of its expert designs as a baseline and edit it to match your brand colors and style. Once you’re signed in to your Squarespace dashboard, you can change the fonts, colors, buttons, and even the margins of your website
With Squarespace you can give coupon offers, shipping configurations, and manage your email lists, thus, giving you complete control over your website.
Selz mostly caters to small businesses and startups who want to sell digital, physical, or service products online. It comes with a pre-built website templates that is visually attractive. This is coupled with features for product launches, multi-product stores, and the selling of services and digital products.
What is even better is it allows you to start selling your products or monetizing your services without requiring any previous design or development background. With this platform you can create a fully standalone e-commerce store using any of the available themes. You can also add buy buttons to an existing website or blog as well as sell directly from Facebook, Twitter, and other integrated social media networks.
Weebly is an intuitive, easy-to-use platform for integrating eCommerce features. With Weebly you can choose from 40 plus responsive themes. The themes look good on any device so you can drive your eCommerce sales even on mobile.
Among its key selling points include a mobile store with checkout, filtered queries and product search, coupon codes, multiple payment gateway choices, multiple shipping options, digital and physical products, inventory management, and more.
Magento is an eCommerce platform from Adobe that is popular among retailers. While the platform’s software is free to download, it will require a developer experience to really include features for a robust e-commerce experience. In addition, you will have to independently look for a web hosting provider.
Its lean version is available as an open-source. The open source is not too user-friendly compared to the competition. This is because the actual setup and customization process can be difficult and require experience in web development. For those seeking a full-fledged support Magento Commerce is the way to go. Its Commerce feature is a Software as a Service (SaaS) solution offering additional features and services at a much higher price.
However, it is packed with lots of features retailers appreciate. It has all tools you need for your marketing, SEO, catalog management, analytics, checkout, shipping and more.
Created in 1999 Volusion is perhaps one of oldest website builders for e-commerce around. Its strengths lie in its analytics and data tools. The major drawbacks are its limited features and the editing interface is split between the storefront (what your customers see) and the back-end. Forcing you to constantly click from one to the other to see changes.
It does however boast a superb analytics tool. The search term analysis lets you see what customers are actually looking for on Google. This comes in handy for businesses who want to track what people want and tailor their website to get more prospects. In addition, the mobile app lets you manage your store on the go.
Choosing the Right Platform for Your Product
Despite the availability of several platforms for your e-commerce the key to your success lies on getting the right fit. E-commerce platforms come in all shapes, sizes and pricing. You can use open source, subscription based or mere plugins to your website. Now that you know some of the best platforms to sell online there are some points you should consider during your selection process, such as applicability, pricing and others. However, three primary issues should be addressed by your e-commerce platform provider: safety, storage space and creative design.
Safety is a very important issue in online sales. Make sure the platform you choose offers fraud protection and Secure Socket Layer (SSL) encryption. SSL uses a cryptographic system that uses two keys to encrypt data? A public key known to everyone and a private or secret key known only to the recipient of the message. This helps protect both your business and your clients from data breaches and fraud.
Make sure the e-commerce platform you choose does not put a cap on your sales. This will impact your sales volume and your capacity to absorb increasing amounts of order later. Make your choice based on your inventory space and bandwidth. A good e-commerce platform will let your online shop sell online without limitations.
Your online store like your brick and mortar store should be enticing enough for customer to browse in it. Besides looks and responsiveness it should have a user-friendly interface. Each tool should be clear and it should be easy for the customer to select their desired options. Having well-designed menus, filters, and sorting options all provide for a comfortable experience. The more customized options your site has the better the shopping experience becomes for the customer.