The Internet has really changed people’s lives. It has changed the way information is accessed as well as how people do business. People’s purchasing habits have changed as well. If back then, they used to go to a brick and mortar store to buy retail products. Today, they are more used to buying items online. Because of this, a new breed of selling is born. This is ecommerce.
Its massive growth is mostly attributed to its low barrier of entry. Anyone can easily set up an online store if they know how. And the Internet also contains a wealth of information if someone needs some help in setting up their own shop. With this, it is only expected for this to grow.
Also, the customer base is steadily on the rise. If back then, people would be somewhat apprehensive in buying online thinking that it is not as secure. Today, customers are willing to input their credit card information online. With their lives deeply integrated into the medium, they are now more comfortable in buying online.
Today is really the best time to get started on ecommerce. So if you’re here because you like to know more, you have come to the right place. This your Beginner’s Guide to ecommerce.
What is an Ecommerce Store?
It is impossible to understand ecommerce unless you know what an ecommerce store is. Ecommerce is a word that came from the combination of two words - electronic commerce. It is called as such because it allows the exchange of goods through the Internet - an electronic medium. An ecommerce store doesn’t always need to be in a website. It can also be done on a social media profile. What matters is that the transaction is done online. This means that the transaction is completed without the buyer and seller having to see each other.
However, ecommerce stores doesn’t only apply to small time sellers. Some brands have managed to take ecommerce into a whole new level. This is what Amazon, Ebay and Alibaba did. They are able to sell products in extremely large quantities until they have become considered as one of the leading brands in ecommerce.
From there, it was only a matter of time before brick and mortar businesses started to join the wave. Today, we see offline brands such as Walmart, American Apparel and Ikea join the online crowd. They also have their own ecommerce stores.
Why Do Ecommerce Stores Work?
Ecommerce offers a different level of convenience to its customers. While brick and mortar businesses gives the security of transactions and the ability to see and inspect the product before buying it, ecommerce sites allow customers to purchase items without even having to leave their homes. This means that they buy items with a click of a button. This level of convenience may seem simple but it is really appealing especially to the busy millennial crowd who would rather use their time for something else.
You’ll understand this more if you enter an online store. You’ll usually see all the products in a shop system where you can add items to the cart. If you’re lucky, there may even be some coupons that you can use to buy the products at a discounted rate. Plus, these online shops usually offer refunds and money-back guarantees to ensure their product quality. In some clothing stores, they even offer to get the item shipped back if it doesn’t fit the customer. This gives the customer the peace of mind that they can buy without any worries.
Who Can Create an Ecommerce Store?
As mentioned awhile ago, ecommerce stores have a really low barrier to entry. This means that anyone can easily enter the space without any worries. Almost anyone who have access to the Internet can create an online store. And with all the platforms available, we now have so many easy ways to create online stores.
Back then, creating an online store is not as easy. You need to know a bit of coding to transform your website into an online store. I remember the early days of WooCommerce. It is not as integrated as it is right now and you have to fiddle with the options in the WooCommerce plugin area. But today, there are new tabs and you can easily add products to your store. Times have truly changed.
Aside from this, there are also some platforms that are designed specifically for ecommerce. These are Shopify, BigCommerce, OSCommerce and others. These platforms allow you to create an online store and add products in a few clicks.
Also, inventory is optional. Back then, you need to buy a product from a supplier and sell it. You also need to rent a warehouse to store the items. Not only is this expensive. It can also lead you to close business if you end up not selling the products. But today, there is a business model called dropshipping. This is where you promote products and just buy products from the supplier when you made your sale. Here’s how it works. You set up your shop and get the product images from the supplier. You then promote your online shop and get customers. When a customer buys from you, you order the item from your supplier and the supplier ships the product directly to your customer. That’s it. This model is amazing because it allows suppliers to connect with marketers. They can get more sales by getting other people to promote their products for them.
As you can see, the barrier to entry in creating an online store is really low. Not only is it easy to create your own online shop, it is also easy to start selling even if you have no product on hand. With this, it is not surprising that tons of one-man shops started springing up online.
But how do you create your own online store? That’s what I will discuss in the next section.
Requirements for an Ecommerce Site
Having an online store is more than just having your own website. You also need products, a payment gateway and a marketing strategy to fully set up an online business. Here is a brief discussion of each element.
The success of your ecommerce store greatly depends on you products. You can choose to have one or a few products in your online store or you can choose to have a wide variety of products. It’s all up to you.
One of the things that you should consider is where you’ll source your products. After all, you cannot sell a product if you don’t have a supplier. This is where you should consider whether you’ll go the normal route or the dropshipping route. The normal route entails you having the product on hand and shipping it to the customer while the dropshipping route entails having a good relationship with your supplier and having them ship the item when your customer buys from you. Both models continue to work up to today and I can’t really say that one is better than the other.
Also, it is important to note that you are not bound by online suppliers. You can always look for products in your locale. Look for companies or factories that produce in bulk. This way, you can get the products at extremely low prices.
Also, it is important to note that there are two types of products. There are physical products and digital products. Physical products require shipping. They are tangible objects that are bought online. These are the ones that I have discussed above. On the other hand, there are digital products. These are products that are transferred online. This can pertain to ebooks, online courses or documents that can be delivered via email or through a download page. Customer love this because they get instant access to the product once they pay - instant gratification.
For most ecommerce sellers, finding a product to sell is the most difficult step. After all, you just cannot sell what other people are already selling. If you do that, you’ll just be another seller in a sea of competition.
However, you’ll never know if a product will work unless you start selling it. So don’t be afraid to choose a product and start testing.
As mentioned above, there are now so many platforms that you can use to sell online. I’ll discuss two of the most popular platforms in this section: WooCommerce and Shopify.
First, there’s WooCommerce. It is a plugin for WordPress - an open source blogging platform. If you have been used WordPress before, you’ll love how versatile it is. Not only is it constantly updated with an active community, it also has a variety of plugins that you can use for any purpose that you have. However, you may need a domain and hosting to get a WordPress blog running. A domain costs around $10 and hosting costs around $10-$25 per month. You may also need to read on how to install the WordPress platform along with how to configure the WooCommerce plugin. In any case, it is an easy way to create an online store especially if you are used to the WordPress platform.
On the other hand, there is an independent platform called Shopify. Unlike WordPress that has the blog in the forefront, Shopify focuses more on the ecommerce platform. Also, it hosts all of its online stores. This means that a domain and hosting is optional. You can run an online store even if you don’t have these yet. What I love about Shopify is the look of the website. They have different themes that you can use along with some apps that makes your ecommerce store a notch above your competition. I personally love Shopify because of its apps. It allows me to implement limited-time sales for my products along with implement roulettes for opt-ins. It is quite interesting once you get to explore it.
Decide on your platform and start adding some products. From here, you’ll see your ecommerce store slowly taking shape.
You’ll need a means to accept payments in your online store. This is where the payment gateway is needed. The most popular means of payment are PayPal, 2Checkout, Stripe and Shopify Payments.
PayPal is popular as an online payment processor. I have been using it for years and it is a great way to integrate card payments as well. However, it is not advisable for dropshipping because PayPal has a tendency to shut down when there are tons of mini purchases and chargebacks. So take caution.
Next is 2Checkout. This may be a better option than PayPal for dropshipping. This requires some authentication so be ready with your IDs. Also, be sure to adhere to its terms of service or it will hold your funds.
Third is Stripe. Though I have not personally tried this, they said that it is the best when it comes to accepting card payments. Most customers also prefer this as a mode of payment.
Lastly, there’s Shopify Payments. This is a payment gateway that is integrated with Shopify. I have not seen a downside to this except for the fact that it is only available in certain countries.
Choose your payment gateway and set it up. Once you have done this, you’ll be ready for marketing.
Your profit in your online store will highly depend on your ecommerce marketing strategy. In fact, you should already have an idea on how to market your site before you even create it. Creating a store and waiting for people to visit it is a plan for failure. No one will know about your website unless you market it.
With this, it is very important to sign up to ecommerce marketing courses or read some guides. This will help you learn some tactics in marketing your store.
I hope you now have a clear idea on what ecommerce is. In simple terms, it is really just the process of buying and selling online. Using the Internet as the electronic medium, it is now possible to do business online.