Online shopping was relatively recent when it first became available. It’s a given now. You can get something delivered the following day by opening an app or web browser in under a minute. Or, you can place a reservation and pick up your order the same day. Electronic commerce, or e-commerce, is a growing phenomenon that appeals to both businesses and consumers, as shown by the statistics.
In 2022, $5 trillion in global e-commerce sales are anticipated, and $6 trillion by 2024. Merchants are swarming to eCommerce in record numbers as they continue to follow online consumer demand. There are an estimated 12–24 million eCommerce sites worldwide, and new online stores are constantly emerging.
Those numbers are impressive and aid in putting the size of e-commerce in perspective, but there is still much more for you to learn. You can increase your general business knowledge and learn about the advantages of online storefronts as well as online marketing opportunities. The following sections examine topics like eCommerce, particular trends in e-commerce, and its future.
Develop a fundamental understanding of e-commerce by following along.
What is E-Commerce?
Electronic commerce, or eCommerce, is just a term for a website where customers can purchase goods or services online. Alternatively, to put it as simply as possible, an eCommerce store is an online store.
eCommerce includes a large number of well-known online retailers like Amazon, eBay, and ASOS,. Many companies with physical locations also have an eCommerce division, including Walmart, Target and,Ikea,
If you’ve ever made an online purchase, you are familiar with how eCommerce functions from the consumer’s perspective. The purpose of this article is to provide an introduction to eCommerce from a business standpoint.
Who Can Start an E-commerce Store?
The short answer? Anybody
Online stores don’t have the numerous entry requirements that traditional retail establishments do.
You won’t need to look through potential properties for months. You won’t need to spend a small fortune furnishing the building after signing a lengthy lease which could be risky. To run the store, you won’t need to hire a small army of employees. You won’t even need to buy all of your inventory upfront; many eCommerce businesses only buy inventory after a sale, greatly reducing their risk (This is called a dropshipping business model).
Everything is just simpler with an eCommerce store. The only thing you actually need is a website, which you can create relatively quickly, easily, and inexpensively.
Naturally, there are some things that both an online and offline store will require; for instance, you will still need security and a way to process payments, but these can be installed much more quickly and inexpensively.
With this in mind, almost anyone can open an online store. Fewer people will possess the resources or risk tolerance needed to open a brick and mortar store.
Because of this, there is now a fiercely competitive online market where anyone and everyone can try their luck, from small one-man hobby businesses to the enormous multinational corporations we are all familiar with.
Of course, many major retailers participate in multiple channels of commerce, a practice known as omni-channel retailing. For instance, they might operate an online eCommerce store, a physical store, a catalog, and direct mail sales channels under the same brand.
Getting Started With E-commerce
An eCommerce business is fundamentally a commerce business. Although the issues you will face will be different, the business principles necessary to operate an offline store still apply to operating an online store.
In light of this, the fundamental structure of an eCommerce business model is quite similar: you require products to sell, a location to sell them, and a marketing plan to draw customers. With eCommerce stores, you’ll also need a plan for getting the products you sell to customers since they can’t just pick them up off the shelf.
Let’s examine each of these ideas in turn and contrast how your strategy will be different from that of an offline retail outlet.
First and foremost, your eCommerce store will require a product or products for you to sell. These may be made internally or obtained from outside sources.
When it comes to sourcing your products, you are not limited to online suppliers as an online retailer; any offline supplier is perfectly viable. The majority of eCommerce owners will, however, work with other online businesses because of the nature of an online business.
Finding products for an eCommerce store will largely follow the same process as finding products for an offline store: find the best product at the best price. But, there is one big difference,
Digital Vs. Physical Products
Now, generally speaking, the products you sell from an eCommerce store will be the same as those you sell from an offline store. However, owning an eCommerce business also enables you to market digital goods.
A digital good is an abstract representation of a physical good; for example, think of eBooks as an alternative to books and downloads of music and movies as an alternative to CDs and DVDs.
In comparison to physical goods, these have a number of benefits for both buyers and sellers. A digital product is great from the consumer’s point of view because it can be downloaded right away. No need to wait several days for delivery. Since a download has no effect on stock levels, sellers never have to worry about running out of inventory or, on the other hand, buying too much stock.
A Place to Sell
Where you conduct business is the primary distinction between an eCommerce store and a brick-and-mortar store. It is online, of course, for an eCommerce store. You’re going to need a website for that.
Now, your website will likely be the most crucial component of your eCommerce company. After all, customers will interact with you and make purchases from you on your website. Their perception of you and their likelihood of making that purchase will be significantly impacted by the way your website is designed.
Simply put: A properly designed website is essential if you want to operate an online store. Unfortunately, it’s not as easy as just choosing a website and getting started—there are a lot of factors to take into account.
The process of creating a website can be intimidating if you’ve never done it before. In order to make the process less daunting and more manageable, this article aims to simplify everything you’ll need.
Content Management System
Building a website from scratch may seem like an overwhelming task if you are new to web development. The good news is that you can create your website without any programming knowledge by using a tool called a content management system (CMS).
This essentially serves as the framework for your website, enabling you to easily add and edit pages with the click of a button—ideal if you’re looking to organize and add a full product line.
Although there are many CMSs available, this can be confusing for beginners. For the sake of simplicity, I’ll limit my comparison to WordPress and Shopify, two of the most popular CMSs.
Today, WordPress powers over 20% of the Internet, making it the most widely used CMS. It’s a self-hosted CMS, so you’ll need your own web host and domain, but aside from that, using it is totally free.
WordPress is available in two different versions: WordPress.org and WordPress.com. Although WordPress.com is completely free to use (you won’t need your own host), there are many restrictions that make it unsuitable for operating an online store.
In the future, I will only use the term “WordPress” to refer to WordPress.org. The version that can be used to build an online store is this one.
You begin using WordPress by setting up a theme for your website. This is the visual look of your website. There are tens of thousands of themes to choose from. While some of these are totally free, others are categorized as premium themes and have a price tag.
The theme you select will determine the look and feel of your website, though many themes offer the ability to modify elements like the color scheme. Another way to change themes is to hire a developer.
You can get the building blocks of an attractive website for a reasonable price with some excellent themes that are available for under $50. Browse ThemeForest to see demos of all the various themes in action, which is one of the best places to find premium themes. The quality of themes on ThemeForest varies, so before purchasing one, we advise you to consider the theme’s sales volume, customer reviews, and comments.
For More Information on WordPress Themes check out our articles: The Best Free WordPress Themes and The Best Premium WordPress Themes.
Shopify is the other CMS we are covering. Since it was developed specifically to power eCommerce sites, Shopify now powers over 100,000 online stores.
Shopify is a hosted content management system (CMS), also known as software as a service (SaaS). It basically serves as a one-stop shop for all the things you need to manage an eCommerce website. Although it’s great to have the choice of doing everything under one roof, Shopify does have some restrictions compared to WordPress and is more expensive.
You can select a theme, just like with WordPress, which establishes the overall layout of your website. Although there are much fewer themes available, they were all created with eCommerce in mind. Many of the themes allow for customization within their own frameworks, or you can hire a developer to make any necessary changes.
The premium themes range in price from $80 to $180, but they are still very affordable when compared to a custom build and much less expensive than a brick-and-mortar store. There are free themes available as well.
Although the vast majority of these are paid plugins, you can add plugins to your theme just like you can to WordPress. Your website will have a built-in shopping feature out of the box because the platform caters solely to eCommerce stores, saving you from having to configure it.
All websites require hosting. Your website is essentially stored on a web host’s server, where it is accessible to other Internet users. Or, to put it another way, a website is useless without a host!
All hosting is a part of your monthly plan if you’ve chosen to use Shopify. Plans start at $29 per month and go up to $179 if you want to stock more than 25 items.
That is quite expensive as far as hosting is concerned. However, a shopping cart solution and all security issues are also included in this.
The term “Managed WordPress Hosts” refers to a variety of specific WordPress hosting services that are offered. These services not only rank among the fastest hosts available, but they will also assist you in managing your WordPress website by speed, security, and update optimization. Although you can complete all of this by yourself, it’s helpful to have professionals assist you. WP Engine is one of the more well-known managed WordPress hosting providers, with plans starting at $29 per month.
Consider www.amazon.com as an example of a domain name that would be required by your customers to access your website. You will be able to use a free URL when you first use Shopify, such as http://susansshop.shopify.com.
While this address will serve its purpose, a custom domain is strongly advised. Is it just me, or does http://susansshop.com look so much more professional? Your own unique domain name is absolutely necessary if you are serious about operating a legitimate eCommerce business.
A shopping cart application is also necessary for your eCommerce website. Users will be able to add specific items to their “cart” in this way. The system will then calculate the final price—including shipping costs—and direct the customer to the payment page.
If you want to use Shopify, the solution for your shopping cart needs is straightforward: all Shopify eCommerce stores come with a built-in shopping cart feature. Simply add your products, tag them with a price, and Shopify will let customers add them to their shopping carts.
This is a little trickier with WordPress. You must install a plugin to add eCommerce functionality because WordPress doesn’t come with it. There are several free plugins available; WooCommerce is the most well-liked and comes highly recommended with over 4 million downloads.
WooCommerce also comes with a number of plugin extensions that you can use to add extra functionality to your store, such as the ability to seamlessly integrate your preferred payment processor or to set up repeat billing. Some of these extensions are free, but the majority are paid.
As soon as WooCommerce is set up, you can create product pages from your WordPress dashboard where you can add information about your products, including descriptions, pictures, prices, shipping costs, and even stock levels.
As you add products, a storefront will also be created, allowing customers to view your product selection in a grid and add items to their shopping carts. With WooCommerce, it can be challenging to get your bearings, but thankfully there is extensive documentation to guide you.
It’s important to note that not all WordPress plugins are compatible with all themes, so before making a purchase, make sure your theme supports WooCommerce.
Since money isn’t transferred directly into your bank account when you operate an eCommerce website, you’ll need a payment gateway to authorize and process your customers’ transactions.
Each time a transaction is successfully completed, the funds are transferred to a holding account called a merchant account, from which you can later withdraw them into your own account.
You’ll have a selection of options if you choose the self-hosted WordPress route. PayPal and Stripe are the two most widely used payment gateways for WordPress users. Due to its affiliation with eBay, PayPal has been around for a while and you may be familiar with it. Although Stripe is newer, it offers an onsite payment method, which is a benefit.
PayPal works by directing visitors away from your website to a special payment page where they can use their PayPal account or enter their bank information to make a purchase. Through Stripe, a customer can make a card payment right on your website.
From this perspective, Stripe provides a better user-experience because the process is simpler, but PayPal is simpler to integrate. There is nothing to prevent you from combining the two, and this is usually the approach I suggest.
Your website can use Shopify’s internal payment gateway if you choose the hosted option, but you also have the choice of an external solution, such as PayPal or Stripe.
It’s important to note that PayPal is accessible almost everywhere, while Stripe is only available in the US and Canada, the UK, Australia, and parts of Europe.
All three services can be set up and integrated without cost, and you only pay for processed transactions that are successful; a small fee is deducted from the money you are paid.
Now, a number of variables, including your location, the volume of transactions you process, and your membership level, affect the fees you pay. For US customers, all three services begin with the same fee structure on the cheapest membership type, which is 2.9% + 30. You will thus pay $3.20 for a $100 transaction.
You should be aware that, depending on your monthly plan, there will be an additional 0.5–2% transaction fee if you use an external payment gateway and are a Shopify user.
Before you start accepting credit card payments from customers on your website, you’ll also need an on-site payment security system in addition to a payment gateway. A standardized set of requirements known as PCI compliance must be followed.
Your server, payment gateway, and shopping cart are a few elements of your website that must be PCI compliant The good news is that since every major host, payment processor, and shopping cart—those I’ve listed in this article—is PCI compliant, you won’t have to worry about any of these issues.
You might also need an SSL certificate for your website in some circumstances. By encrypting the connection between your customer and your website, an SSL certificate gives your customers additional security. When working with sensitive data like credit card numbers, this is crucial.
Depending on the payment processor you use, you may or may not need to set up an SSL certificate yourself. This is something you won’t need to worry about if you use PayPal. Since PayPal’s website is where the sensitive payment information is entered rather than yours, PayPal is required to offer SSL.
Shopify includes SSL as part of their all-inclusive service because they provide hosting, a shopping cart, and a payment gateway.
Users of Stripe are required to set up their own SSL certificate on their own initiative. However, it turns out that this is simpler than it seems. The quickest method is to get in touch with your hosting company and purchase one from them. One less thing for you to worry about if you use one of the large hosting companies because they will even handle the installation!
Any business needs a constant stream of customers to survive. Customers walking through their doors is what that means for offline businesses, and website views are what it means for an eCommerce store. After creating your website, you must come up with a plan for attracting visitors.
Now, many of the marketing techniques used to open doors in the offline world will also work online. For example, word-of-mouth marketing is still effective, and conventional print and television advertisements can raise awareness (if you have the budget)
Social media can be used by eCommerce businesses to increase their online presence. The online equivalent of word-of-mouth, social media not only gives you a way to communicate with your customers, but every time your business is mentioned favorably, it’s like getting a gold-plated seal of approval. People respect the opinions of their friends, so if someone on Facebook is endorsing you, other people are probably going to look you up.
However, search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo will be the main sources of traffic for the majority of online stores.
How are search engine results pages (SERPs) generated for your website? Both paid and free options are available.
The paid option is the quickest way to increase the visibility of your website in the SERPs. Each search query has a paid set of results, with Google’s AdWords being the most well-known.
In essence, you research the phrases your potential customers might type into Google and then place a bid. A hardware store might place a bid for search terms like “buy power tools,” for instance. Your website is listed higher on the list the more you bid. Instead of paying for a predetermined amount of time, you pay whenever someone clicks on your link.
The free method takes much longer, but it’s also much more profitable and economical. It’s known as SEO, or search engine optimization, in the online world.
Each search engine’s algorithm determines the order in which websites appear for a given search query. To help your website rank higher for the keywords you want to target, you can do a few things.
Getting other websites to link to your website is one of the best ways to improve your website ranking. SEO is a broad topic that is outside the scope of this article. Each link informs Google that your website must be of a high standard in order to be link-worthy, which improves Google’s opinion of it.
Your eCommerce store will receive the steady flow of traffic it needs if you can rank well for a number of important keywords.
SEMRush is an excellent resource if you’re interested in learning more about SEO.
The manner in which customers receive their products is another significant distinction between bricks-and-mortar commerce and eCommerce.In an offline store, customers can simply take the items off the shelf, pay for them at the register, and then leave the store carrying them.
You’ll need to figure out a way to deliver your products to the customer when you have an eCommerce store. It’s not ideal to make multiple trips to the post office each day because if you’re not careful, this could take a lot of time and effort. The good news is that you have access to a number of more advanced solutions.
At the moment, dedicated shipping fulfilment services are the talk of the town. These operate by centralizing all aspects of your shipping; you merely ask your suppliers to send your goods straight to a fulfillment facility, where your stock is kept and is prepared to be packaged and sent to customers after a successful order. This completely removes you from the shipping process, freeing up your time to concentrate on the more beneficial tasks.
Recently, fulfillment services gained notoriety thanks to the announcements of Shopify and Amazon, each of which launched their own user-facing fulfillment services.
WordPress users don’t need to worry about being left out because there are plenty of shipping startups that you can use. These include the Amazon service and Cloud Fulfillment (provided you also run an Amazon store).
The “dropshipping business model,” which we’ve already briefly discussed, is another option for eCommerce stores.
With this strategy, your suppliers send the goods straight to your client. From your perspective, this is very advantageous because you don’t have to worry about purchasing 1,000 units in advance because the supplier just ships after each order. This reduces your chance of holding unnecessary stock, shortens the time and delivery fee, and also eliminates the need for storage.
With this knowledge in hand, you ought to have everything you require to launch your eCommerce business.
You are utterly mistaken if you believe that you are too late for the celebration. eCommerce has a bright future and faces a number of interesting challenges in the future.