When it comes to starting a home-based e-commerce business, the “how” is always more important than the “why.” The “why” is pretty obvious — statistics show that more than a half of Americans prefer to shop online, with eight out of ten Americans making online purchases at least once a month.
“How” is the more difficult part. Setting up an online store doesn’t have to be too hard, but it certainly requires a lot of effort and good judgment. Among the decisions that will affect your small e-commerce business, the most important you’ll have to make is about the e-commerce platform you’ll use.
Why Does the Choice of E-commerce Platform so Much?
In its core, e-commerce is just like any other type of commerce. To be successful, a small business that deals in commerce has to be visible. Customers need to have a clear path to purchase, and they need information about the products or services offered. Most importantly, customers need to trust the store. This is true for online stores as much as it’s true for brick-and-mortar stores.
The e-commerce platform you choose will affect all of the above. Things like website layout, navigation, and the features the platform comes with, as well as those that can be added using plugins, are critical for the success of your small e-commerce business. They can help establish trust, help with SEO and visibility, make it easy for customers to move around the website, and make sure that your products are displayed well. That’s why it’s important to carefully consider the platform you’re going to use.
Taking the First Step – Learn about the Market
There are a lot of players on the e-commerce software market. The top ten most widely used e-commerce solutions take up barely more than a half of the market, 54%. The rest is divided among many smaller solutions.
You will probably want to look into more than a couple of solutions from both the big ten and the rest. Focusing on the most popular e-commerce solutions have several advantages. They usually have a bigger developer base which means more plug-ins. They also have a bigger customer base, which translates into more bugs being reported and fixed. In e-commerce, bigger usually translates into better.
Figure out What You Need
Before you start narrowing down your choices, you need to have a realistic picture of the features your e-commerce platform needs to have. They will depend on your type of business, product, size of inventory, tech-savvy, budget, and region where you operate.
Probably the first thing you need to determine is what kinds of payment options you’ll be able to use. PayPal might the most widespread online payment option, but it’s still not available in every country in the world, and it might not be too popular or practical to use even in some countries where it’s available. You need to find payment options that will work the best in your market, and a payment gateway that’s able to process the payments. And only then you need to find an e-commerce platform that’s compatible with your payment gateway.
You’ll also need to determine which security options you need, how easy do you want it to be to create new pages and add content and forms, how secure you want your online store to be, and how many design options you want to have. Some platforms will require you to set them up, others are hosted and pretty much ready to go. You’ll also need to determine how much money, if any, you’re willing to spend on the platform.
Narrow the List and Make Your Pick
Knowing which features you need will help you narrow your list of acceptable e-commerce platforms. You want the feature offered by your top picks to match your needs as closely as possible. You shouldn’t be dismayed if they match only 80% or 90% of your needs because the remaining features might be available in the form of plugins.
Going to the websites of your top picks is the quickest way to gather information that will help you make the comparison between your needs and the available features. But because the e-commerce software market is so large and bustling with life, you’ll be able to find detailed third-party reviews of the platforms you’re considering. You can find great help, at this stage, from in-depth comparison guides, especially if you have a choice between two or three e-commerce solutions.
Once you’ve picked your platform and set it up, you can begin growing your e-commerce business. But if you chose the platform well, you should be able to rest assured knowing that everything is working fine on that end and that you’ll have access to support if something goes wrong.
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