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The Basics Of Starting An E-commerce Store

Online retail selling, better known as e-commerce, has truly hit its stride. In fact, key e-commerce watchdog groups report that e-commerce sales in 2018 topped $327 billion and is projected to increase 62 percent to reach $500 billion in 2019.

With this much money on the table, it may be time to consider taking your business online. Fortunately, getting started is easier than you might think. Below we will discuss the basics of starting an e-commerce store and share tips regarding what to sell, how to pick a platform, payment processing and more. After reading this article, you should have a clear-enough idea on starting your own e-commerce business

Determining What to Sell

Before you do anything, it’s important to decide what types of goods you’ll sell online. Are you going to sell T-shirts, children’s toys, electronics, cosmetics, vintage lunch boxes? The options are endless.

Whatever you choose, it’s important to work with products that you’re passionate about. Chances are, you’ll be working with these products day in and day out, so make sure it’s something that won’t easily bore you in the future. That means not only should you like or enjoy them, but you should have a somewhat good understanding of them.

Even if you don’t fully understand the industry, you should at least know your offerings well enough to grasp how they’re sold, marketed, and demanded. If you don’t have products on hand, take a look at various drop-shipping providers; you can conveniently choose from their product list and sell them on your own site.

Choosing a Web Host or E-commerce Platform

Next, it’s crucial to understand the different e-commerce website options at your disposal. Depending on your budget and level of expertise, the next step is to decide which type of e-commerce stores is for you. There are some that are open source, which require extensive knowledge about code and website building.

Open source solutions are typically free downloads that require you to build your website from scratch. While this is a great choice for full customization, expect to do some heavy programming to configure the site.

If you don’t know how to code and program yourself, you’ll need to hire someone to do it for you. Unfortunately, this method counteracts those savings you had at the beginning, since hiring a developer/designer is rather costly and always takes longer than expected.

Another option for you is the ability to build a site from a license. Licensed solutions are out-of-the-box platforms that you install onto a computer. Unlike hosted solutions, you’re required to find your own hosting and security protections, which can be tricky. Again, if you know how to do this, it’s an option at your disposal, but it can take time to learn the ins and outs for it all if you haven’t experienced them in the past. If your sole goal in running an e-commerce site is to turn a profit – rather than learn web development – this could be more of a distraction than an asset.

Lastly, there are hosted e-commerce platform providers. What is an e-commerce platform? Companies like Shopify provide web-based software to build and power your online store, hosted on third-party servers. These types of hosted solutions are best-suited for beginners in site building, as well as e-commerce entrepreneurs who want to focus – as they should – on product, sales, and marketing. E-commerce platforms are arguably the easiest solutions to set up quickly, so you can focus on what you need to.

Building Out the Contents of Your E-Store

Once you know what sort of e-commerce website solution you want to use, you’re ready to start building your store. Don’t worry, this is the fun part!

Depending on the type of solution you chose, you’ll want to learn its functionality and begin setting up your important pages, including your product and category pages, home page and content pages, and more. Things like an “About Me” section or even an FAQ go a long way for customers to learn what you’re all about.

Another important feature is also a review section. This one is simple enough. People like seeing reviews before buying, to give some social proof that you’re a real site and people like your products. Obviously, these are riskier in the beginning since not having them gives the opposite effect, but many e-commerce startups figure that the sooner that reviews go up, the sooner that they can start being collected.

Keep in mind that you’ll want to consider branding and design every step of the way—these are important elements to the success of any e-commerce site. The way that your site looks is essential; it will likely determine whether or not someone finishes a transaction with you.

Getting Paid

It sounds materialistic, but you’re in this business to get paid. All e-commerce entrepreneurs are in business to make money, right?

The next step before launching your store is to decide how you’ll receive payment from your customers. Many first-timers start off with PayPal or Google Checkout, but you also have the option to accept credit cards directly on your site, which is the preferred and more professional route. If this is the case, you’ll want to research credit card processing options, particularly merchant accounts to make sure that you’re clear on all of the rates and fine print. Once that is set up, you can begin to spread the word about your new website through e-commerce marketing.

Figure Out Your Marketing Methods

In order to market your e-commerce business, you need to be very aware of everything surrounding and near to your market. Once your website is ready for the world to see, you need to drive customers to your store with marketing. Whether you leverage email, social media, SEO or other forms of online marketing, it’s critical that you share your store with the masses.

In other words, even if you have the most amazing site in the world, if no one can find your store, you’ll struggle to pay the bills.

Tough but Rewarding

Selling online can be a rewarding experience that allows you to express yourself and your entrepreneurial spirit. It’s a growing field of consumer retail shopping, and there’s no sign that it’s slowing down.

More importantly, it can be the way to start a new business or grow an existing one. If you’re ready to get started, these early methods to get into the e-commerce game can be your ticket to a piece of the e-commerce pie.

The secret is getting started, and when you see how easy it can be to break into the market, you will wonder why you didn’t set up an e-commerce business earlier.

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