Online shopping is the fastest growing retail sector worldwide. To support that trend, a growing number of digital tools and ecommerce platforms are making it easier than ever for sellers of all kinds to connect with buyers anytime, anywhere. Whether you’re launching your first business or an established “brick and mortar” making an entry into the ecommerce world, there’s an ecommerce solution that’s right for you – but finding the best platform for you and your website can be a challenge. Here are a few tips to help you choose the best ecommerce solution for your online store.
Retailers hoping to tap into the growing online shopping market have three kinds of platforms to choose from:
Build a Store Into a Self Hosted Website
It doesn’t have to take a lot of money, expertise and time to set up an online store that you own and administer yourself. All that’s needed is to set up web hosting, buy a domain and start building your store. Though it’s possible to create an ecommerce website from scratch, the web’s leading content management services, such as WordPress and Drupal, make it easy with a range of plugins and setup options designed to support ecommerce.
WordPress and Drupal hosting providers offer ecommerce specific options such as catalog creation and shopping cart setup that keeps your store exclusively on your own site. It’s important to consider your WordPress or Drupal hosting options when selecting your host and your domain.
Set Up Shop on an eCommerce Marketplace
If you’re just starting out in the world of ecommerce, setting up your site’s shop in a major marketplace may be an option. Small businesses, artists and artisans around the world are selling their products through well-established sites such as Amazon, EBay and Etsy. Setting up shop on these sites is low cost and easy, with storefront templates and options for embedding your storefront on your own domain as well.
Marketplaces may charge fees or claim a percentage from transactions made on the site. Though using a marketplace may not be an option for larger stores with a substantial inventory, these sites offer niche stores and create an online storefront with an already established customer base.
Create a Self Hosted Store on an eCommerce Platform
For online retailers large and small, a dedicated ecommerce platform like Shopify or Magento may be the best option for creating a complete, self hosted store that’s also backed by support and additional services.
These kinds of platforms allow users to create fully functioning retail storefronts from an array of customizable templates with shopping cart integration and secure payment options. Some, such as Shopify, partner with fulfillment services to produce and ship some types of products.
Shop options include a storefront on the platform’s own site, which can be linked to a main website elsewhere, or a full self-hosted storefront with its own domain. Users can choose from a variety of plans and pricing, depending on the kinds of services and support they’re looking for.
Some platforms offer a range of tiered monthly or annual plans, while others claim a percentage of all transactions. Dedicated ecommerce platforms deliver support, integration with social media and external sites, and a variety of other services that depend on the pricing plan you choose.
When you’re considering whether to build your own store, rent space on a marketplace site, or establish a storefront ton a dedicated ecommerce platform, it’s wise to keep your goals – and budget – in mind. A few points to consider:
Do you have a large inventory? Are you selling digital goods or physical ones requiring packaging and shipping? How often does your catalog need updating? Evaluating your products and your plans for fulfilling orders can help you decide on the best platform for your needs.
It’s also worth considering how much you can afford to spend on setting up and maintaining your store – and how important the support services of higher end platforms are to your business. Using an ecommerce plug-in supplied by your CMS for free, or creating a store on a marketplace site may the best option for new retailers on a budget, while store owners with a large inventory may need the services of higher end paid plans.
Your store may start small, but it can grow rapidly with the right products and publicity. When deciding where to place your store, it’s wise to look ahead and select the platform that can support growth and expansion. Finding the best long term online home for your store means that you won’t need to make a switch if your needs change significantly.
The explosion in ecommerce has opened new opportunities for anyone to open an online shop for little risk – and there’s an ecommerce solution for just about everyone. Making the right choice for your online enterprise depends on your products, your budget – and your dreams.