E-commerce businesses are in a unique position to become successful, particularly since the arrival of COVID. As an e-commerce business owner, you are poised to reap the rewards of this soaring industry.
According to 99Firms’ Ecommerce Statistics for 2020, it’s predicted that by 2040 over 95% of all purchases will be via e-commerce.
These are the key benefits of having an e-commerce business:
1. Quick and easy to set up
As far as businesses go, setting up an e-commerce website is drastically different from and simpler than setting up a brick-and-mortar store.
2. Lower costs
Overheads are much lower for online retail than traditional retail. Without a physical store and all the costs and utilities that go along with that, your expenses are much lower as an e-commerce store owner. Your main costs would be your e-commerce store platform, shipping and logistics costs, and the cost of returns. There are even business lenders who specialize in e-commerce business loans and offer customized rates and terms especially for e-commerce store owners that don’t have the cash handy to cover all their costs.
3. Shoppers generally start off online anyway
By catching customers where they already are, you can increase your likelihood of getting their business as consumers value convenience. Customers tend to search online before making a purchase so even if you have a physical retail store, it’s important to also have an online store for those who prefer to buy online.
4. Customer data
Nothing compares to the rich mine of data you can access through online selling. Google Analytics enables you to analyze many data points about your customers and site visitors, which will help you finetune your online marketing and sell more products.
5. Reach new customers
By selling online you can literally reach a world of customers, providing you’re willing to ship internationally. Even if you don’t want to go global you can still expand your market far beyond the reach of a local physical store.
6. 24/7 business
The doors to an e-commerce store never shut. You can make sales and earn profits 24/7, even when you’re sleeping. Convenience is the top reason why consumers shop online (KPMG).
7. Socially-distanced shopping
No masks needed for online shopping! Online sales grew exponentially since the start of the pandemic, accelerating e-commerce growth by 4-6 years. Shoppers that had never purchased online have started doing so to avoid crowds and stay at home.
8. Open during lockdown
Traditional retailers suffered during Coronavirus lockdown while online retail grew. Times are unpredictable since the pandemic hit us so it’s a good idea to set up an e-commerce store and ride the online shopping wave.
How to set up an e-commerce business
If you’re wondering how to start your own online store, it’s likely not as complicated as you may think. Compared to setting up a brick-and-mortar store, it’s relatively easy to set up an e-commerce business as long as you know what the steps are.
If you’re wondering how to start an e-commerce business, this is what you need to get done:
- Choose a product
- Acquire your products/find suppliers depending on whether you’ll be selling the products yourself a becoming a dropshipper
- Conduct a SWOT and competitive analysis and write your business plan
- Select your brand name and domain
- Design your logo
- Learn SEO or outsource to an expert
- Build your store or outsource to an expert
- Choose sales channels
- Organize shipping and logistics
- Set up your online marketing and sell
How to start your own online store
If you’re looking into how to start a successful e-commerce business, you’ll figure out that you can do as much or little of your online store setup as you’re willing and able to do. If you prefer not to do it yourself, you can outsource to a professional. For those who want to cut costs, you can set up your store yourself using one of the top easy-to-use e-commerce platforms.
These are the pros and cons of outsourcing versus setting up your e-commerce store yourself:
|In vs Out||Pros||Cons|
|In-house||Cost-effective, aligned with business needs, onsite employees, full control||Difficult to set up, less security, time-wasting|
|Outsource||Expert knowledge, save time, more security, specialized equipment||More costly, share with other clients, trust issues|
What to consider when choosing the best CMS e-commerce platform
There are a few user-friendly CMS e-commerce platforms available that make it easy to help non-technical people with how to start an e-commerce business. These are the top e-commerce platforms out there:
Probably the most popular and well-known e-commerce platform, Shopify combines ease of use with affordability. You can set up a site without any expert knowledge using one of their many templates. There are lots of integral features and powerful analytics, which are crucial for any online store, but you would need to upgrade to a more advanced plan to access all the features. Shopify also has an app store where you can choose from hundreds of different types of apps to enhance your store’s functionality and to help you increase your profits.
Bigcommerce also has different tiered plans, depending on your store’s needs and your budget. It offers e-commerce expertise along with its comprehensive CMS as the product is not as easy to use and does not have the same ‘out-the-box’ functionality as Shopify.
WooCommerce is the e-commerce platform for WordPress users. It’s very simple to use and install and has a lot of plugins for enhanced functionality. It is also a very cost-effective solution.
Another excellent CMS option is 3dcart, which is very customizable based on your store’s needs. The platform is very user-friendly and rich in features.
Other important elements to consider when starting a successful e-commerce business
Other than the e-commerce platform, there are other important elements to take into account when investigating how to set up an e-commerce business including:
According to research by Digital Commerce 360, free shipping is the most important factor for consumers when choosing an online retailer, followed by the ease and cost of returning items. This shows how essential it is to offer free shipping and returns to your customers in order to remain competitive and retain customer loyalty.
If you are a dropshipper, which relies on suppliers to ship the goods directly to the customer, you need to make sure that you work only with reliable suppliers that offer these shipping benefits.
If you sell directly, bear in mind that smaller retailers don’t have the same negotiating clout with suppliers as do the likes of Amazon, so it may be a strain on your margins to offer free shipping. Being how important it is though, it’s best to look at ways to offer free shipping such as by providing free shipping to customers that reach a minimum cart size.
Tools and plugins that can be beneficial for your e-commerce business
Shopify’s app store is one example of tools and plugins that can add value to and improve the functionality of your e-commerce store, for example, the BeProfit Profit Tracker and various cart abandonment apps, to name a few. Aside from Shopify apps, there are many other tools and plugins that can help your e-commerce business get off the ground.
Importance of customer support
Amazon has set a very high bar when it comes to customer support so online shoppers expect nothing less than exceptional service from their e-commerce store. In an intangible environment such as online retail, it’s the quality of the intangibles that can make or break the sale. There’s no in-store experience to woo the customer so you need to win them over with personalized, proactive, and quick customer support. This is also extremely valuable for online social proof as online shoppers often say that they base their shopping decisions on customer reviews. The better your customer support, the more likely you are to get five-star reviews from customers.
When setting up your e-commerce business, utilize the perfect combination of technology and humanity to optimize your customer support. Make use of chatbots, multiple customer contact channels including email and phone, help centers on your website, and a very responsive, friendly and available customer support team.
Get ready, get set, go!
While 2020 threw us a massive curveball, we more or less know what to expect from 2020. One thing we do know is that e-commerce is on a trajectory to huge success, so if you’re aiming for the stars, then now’s the time to hop on board. Now that you’ve learned how to set up an e-commerce business, take a look at which e-commerce industry trends you can take advantage of to strengthen your new online store in 2021.