Today’s world is becoming more and more digital.
Buying and selling products has extended from a merely physical transaction, and now selling goods online has become the principal way to reach more people and expand your business like never before.
But if it’s your first venture into this realm, things can get very overwhelming very quickly.
This guide will give an overview of some of the different channels and options that are open to you, whether you’re a small business preparing to venture into the digital world for the first time, or a seasoned e-commerce veteran looking to expand into fresh territory.
One of the first things you have to think about is whether or not you want to go with a hosted or self-hosted e-commerce platform, if you want to sell your goods through a marketplace like Amazon or eBay, or if you’d like to build a hybrid of both.
A hosted/self-hosted platform would allow you to build your own site and show customers your product alone. While the focus on your product alone and minimal immediate attention to the competition is great, that kind of solution won’t necessarily appeal to or reach as broad of an audience as selling Amazon or eBay.
HOSTED OR SELF-HOSTED: WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?
Using a hosted platform means… well, that someone else is hosting you: you’re subject to their rules and wishes more so than your own. But they cover a lot of expenses that you’d otherwise have to cover yourself, and are typically more straightforward and easier to use.
A self-hosted platform, however, gives you a lot more freedom to do what you want, how you want it. But without experience with coding, that typically ends up being more costly and difficult to understand.
In short, hosted is easier and less of a hassle, but limited in areas, whereas self-hosted grants way more freedom, but requires more knowledge and know-how to use.
For the record, we DEFINITELY suggest a hosted site, and we’re happy to make a suggestion for you based on your business and e-commerce goals.
We’ll go more in depth and look at a couple of the top hosted e-commerce platforms and see the pros and cons of each to help you make the best choice for your business!
E-Commerce: HOSTED PLATFORMS
1. ) SHOPIFY
One of the most popular hosting platforms, Shopify is a Canadian ecommerce platform that makes setting up a website a relatively simple task, with a wide variety of features and designs available.
POINTS TO CONSIDER:
Shopify comes with tons of themes and designs to determine the look of your website, all of which are generally mobile responsive - meaning they react and adjust to whatever device your viewing from (This is SUPER Important to organic SEO on Google and other search engines). This makes for a smoother, more enjoyable buyer experience and makes purchasing from your site very convenient.
A basic Shopify package is just $29, which allows you get your site up and running with unlimited support. The only catch here though is that some of the necessary features you’ll need for your store will be charged as add-ons to that initial cost. Generally, a good e-commerce consultant can help navigate the 1000’s of apps and make suggestions on which is best.
Shopify also offers great support to its customers through many different means, including phone, email, live chat, and forums. In addition, they have other resources to help even the most inexperienced learn the ins and outs of e-commerce more quickly, such as their E-commerce University.
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is ridiculously important in any e-commerce venture. The beautiful thing about Shopify is that your theme can easily be coded by your e-commerce consultant to automatically build in any of the aspects of good SEO practices that will be helpful to your store.
Shopify also offers great security, as all transactions are processed with 256-bit SSL encryption and, not to mention, are level-1 PCI compliant. While this might seem like boring mumbo-jumbo, it’s important to note that this stuff keeps you and your customers safe.
Shopify also has an offline version with a point-of-sale credit card reader, allowing you make sales on the go, as well as manage your business almost anywhere.
2. ) BigCommerce
Bigcommerce is an online shopping platform that started out as a self-hosted platform, but has evolved into a popular hosted platform, typically used for medium-to-small sized businesses. This is the option that we generally suggest to clients based on advanced needs that store like Shopify might not be equipped to meet.
POINTS TO CONSIDER:
Like Shopify, BigCommerce has a large selection of website designs and formats available for free, some of which are also mobile responsive. However, the amount of mobile responsive sites is only 2 out of the 16 free, which is less than what Shopify offers.
While BigCommerce’s basic plan also starts at $29.95 a month, it’s free trial offers a lot more features than even something like Shopify does. In addition, a lot of add-ons that are necessary that you end up having to pay for with other platforms come free with BigCommerce, like built-in shipping dates, 24-hour support, and some email marketing tools
Bigcommerce, like Shopify, also has some strong game in the SEO department. They also have a ton of apps to add on to integrate your entire e-commerce infrastructure into one platform.
Bigcommerce is also level-1 PCI compliant, in addition to having the option of sharing an SSL certificate or having your own. (again, for the safety of both you and your customers)
Bigcommerce does charge a transaction fee of 1.5%, although this can be dropped if you upgrade to a higher plan.
E-Commerce : Sell on Online Marketplaces
Hosted and self-hosted platforms aren’t the only way you can sell your goods online.
Online Marketplaces (such as Amazon and eBay) can also be great options to expand your reach and get your product more exposure. Click here to read our article on Online Marketplaces and see which option might be best for you!
In addition to those online marketplaces, as your e-commerce business grows, you’ll qualify to list your products on marketplaces like Sears, Walmart, etc. Again, this is something your e-commerce consultant can help you with.
Whether you choose to use a hosted platform, a self-hosted platform, to sell your goods through an Online Marketplace, or to tackle a far-reaching hybrid plan, the decision comes down to what would really be best for your product, your customers, and what would allow you to build your business to wherever you see fit.
Gapstow Design specializes in e-commerce consulting - helping you make that decision and figure out what direction and options are best suited for the wants and needs of both you and your e-commerce business.
Click here to see how we can help you navigate the world of e-commerce!