It doesn’t take a pandemic to see that starting an ecommerce shop is a great way for brick-and-mortar stores to expand their audiences and open their doors to the world 24 hours a day. Although, the threat of stay-at-home orders may have you considering an online store more than ever before.

Ecommerce can also help to counteract seasonal slow times and take some of the pressure off of driving foot traffic in the door constantly. And if you haven’t started with a retail shop – starting online is a great low-cost way to test your idea and see if your product or service has legs. 

While starting an ecommerce presence is a great idea for almost every business – there are a lot of moving parts and tricky choices to make. 

In this article, I’ll walk you through the basics of what ecommerce is, the benefits of selling online, and a few tips to help you get started. 

What is Ecommerce?

Ecommerce is just a fancy way of saying electronic commerce or online commerce. It refers to using the internet to buy and sell goods or services. It also refers to the transfer of money and data to complete these transactions. 

Ecommerce can apply to brick-and-mortar shops who have a presence online. It can also include the buying and selling of virtual and informational products like ebooks, software, license-to-use, and more. 

5 Reasons to Start an Ecommerce Shop

There are many reasons you should consider starting an ecommerce store. Here are just a few:

Use ECommerce to Complement Your Brick-and-Mortar
Ecommerce doesn’t have to totally replace your brick and mortar. Instead, you can use it as a tool to help your business take orders online, 24 hours a day. For example, if you run a flower shop, someone would be able to visit your website and make an order without having to call while you’re open or make time to visit in person. Or, if you’re a service-based business, online selling can make appointment scheduling and purchasing faster and more convenient for you and your customer.

Worry Less About Foot Traffic When You Start an Ecommerce Shop
If you’re a brick-and-mortar owner, know that a rainy day or a cold winter can be painful. With an ecommerce store, you can continue to operate and deliver as usual without worrying about bad weather or slower seasonal periods. 

Online Word of Mouth + Social Selling
In another one of my articles, I share that word of mouth is a powerful marketing tool for small businesses. Encourage customers to leave reviews and share their experiences with friends on social media. Having an active ecommerce platform where people can explore your store and buy online makes it easier to take advantage of ‘online’ word of mouth. 

Reach Audiences Around the World
When you’re a brick-and-mortar – you’re limited to reaching the people in your immediate area. With an ecommerce platform, people can discover you and your shop around the world. When you do, don’t forget to refresh or expand your ideal customer avatar to think about how you’ll market to people around the world. 

Helpful Info, Tools, and Analytics
Having an ecommerce presence can help you grow your business in the long run. Most online carts offer tools that you can use to help customers find you and analytics to help you see where your customers are coming from and what they’re looking for, track their preferences, and understand their buying behavior. By noticing trends in their purchases, you can improve your store by streamlining your products, optimizing your inventory, and products or services things to your store that you think your audience would like.

How Does Ecommerce Work?

This is the best part- setting up an online store is so much easier than ever before. Many of my clients are surprised at how easy it is. There are many platforms today that make it affordable and straightforward. Basically, you’ll need to create a place online that a customer can learn about you and your products – that’s your store. To make sure people understand your products, you’ll need to include visuals like photos or videos, and helpful product descriptions. 

You’ll also need an online cart – this part of the store software tracks what the customer is buying and what they owe you. This includes the cost of items they’re buying, shipping and handling, taxes, and any online transaction fees. Typically, you’ll need to connect a merchant services providers (like you connect to for POS credit card processing in-store) to securely handle credit card processing for your cart (the platform you choose will walk you through this part).

Now that that’s all organized – here’s how it works. Someone will visit your shop profile, see your product, and click “buy” or “add to cart.” Once they’re ready to buy, they’ll go to the cart and pay. The merchant services provider will work behind the scenes to collect fees, and the online store platform will notify you (usually an email) that someone has made an order. Then, you’ll ship out the product your customer ordered. Ideally, you’re then staying in touch with your new customer – inviting them to your social media profiles, sending them value-packed emails and special offers, and generally staying top-of-mind to leverage repeat business and referrals. Voila! 

Popular ECommerce Merchant Service Options 

Ready to get started? Again, there are so many options that make starting an ecommerce shop easy peasy. Here are a just few popular options for online stores:

Shopify is a commerce platform that lets you set up a store and sell your products online. You can use it to build your website and sell, or you can integrate Shopify into your existing website. It has a lot of handy tools like logo design, drag-and-drop website design, and modern stock images you can use right in their platform. Connect with experts to help you build your store from the Shopify site, integrate with apps like Dropbox and MailChimp, and use built-in analytics tools to understand your customers better. The basic plan costs $29/month. 

Squarespace offers beautiful and modern templates that make it easy to design your own website. It also integrates with a variety of merchant service options, including Apple Pay, Paypal, Stripe, and more. It’s less of a one-stop-shop than Shopify, but it’s also less expensive. Squarespace plans start at $18/month if you buy for the entire year upfront. Schedule appointments, manage customer data, sell gift cards, and recover abandoned carts.

WooCommerce works great if you already have a WordPress website, and you want to add online shopping abilities. If you choose to use their web hosting, domains, and other features – those things will incur a cost, but the plugin itself is free. Translate your product descriptions into other languages, print shipping languages, upsell at checkout, and much more.

If you’re web-savvy, you can add this plugin yourself and get started right away. If not, many web designers are familiar with WooCommerce and could help you add it to your website.

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