In the fourth installment of the “How to Start an eCommerce Store” series, we are going to show you how to choose an ecommerce provider.
You’ve been buying from eStores for years. You love buying online. It’s one of the reasons you want to open your own eCommerce business.
But you have a ton of questions on how eCommerce actually works.
Do you have to know coding?
Do you have to build your own website?
How much does it cost?
In Part 4: How to Choose an eCommerce Provider, I’ll cover eCommerce basics so you’ll be able to make the best choice for your new business.
How to Start an eCommerce Store: The eCommerce Universe
The decision to open an eStore is easy. You want to own your own business. Congrats!
But figuring out how exactly what kind of eStore you want may be a bit more complicated. Because you have lots of choices. And this decision depends on your goals, finances, and target market.
Here’s a quick breakdown of your eStore options:
A marketplace is a large platform where sellers can create their own shops and customers can browse hundreds or thousands of smaller eStores. The marketplace doesn’t sell anything itself, but handles all the transactions and then pays the store owner. Sellers generally either pay a monthly fee or a percentage of each sale.
- You don’t need any technical skills
- Affordable (some are free to start)
- Large number of users
- Some help with tax issues like the EU VAT (more on that later)
- You don’t own your eStore
- You have to follow their rules, policies, etc.
- Competition can be fierce
Etsy is an eCommerce marketplace for handmade goods. It has 1.7 million active sellers and and 27.140 million active buyers. That’s a huge customer base!
Large marketplaces can be great for some shops, but membership comes with a price. Yes, you have access to millions of active buyers. However, you have to find ways to stand out from a very crowded field. This includes marketing and choosing a price point (affordable or luxury?). Marketplaces like Etsy can be difficult for some store owners as you have to follow all their policies. For example, Three Bird Nest was an extremely successful Etsy shop but branched out with their own site after policy disputes about how their products were made.
Do some research and see if your specific niche has a marketplace site. Check prices, policies, monthly fees, tax support and look at the seller feedback. This may be a good choice if you know your products can compete in a crowded field.
An eCommerce platform allows sellers to create a shop using a pre-designed template. This mean your shop is hosted by the platform, but each shop is independant and not connected to each other. This is great for those that are new to eCommerce and many platforms have free or very affordable monthly fees.
A few product examples from artist Ronnie B. Goodwin’s Selz store, which is hosted on the Selz platform:
- You don’t have to worry about hosting
- The platform handles all the sales transactions
- You don’t need any special technical skills to set up your shop
- Some help with tax issues like the EU VAT (more on that later)
- You don’t own your shop
- You have to follow all rules and policies
- You may have to pay extra for features like a blog
Think of a platform website as your own eStore. Although you don’t own it, you’re in charge of marketing, social media, pricing, product descriptions, blogging, etc. The platform handles hosting, sales transactions, and most have tax support.
If you’re not tech savvy and don’t want to be part of a larger (and crowded) marketplace, consider opening a site on an eCommerce platform. Compare prices, features and design (you want your shop to stand out) and make sure it’s compatible with mobile devices (most already are, but it’s worth asking).
Build Your Own Website
A website is a long-term goal for many eStores. It’s property that you own. You decide exactly how it’s run and what it looks like. You can do anything you want, since you own it. And you can buy and sell it like the real-estate that it actually is.
Although you’re responsible for hosting, design and upkeep of your own website, you have many easy eCommerce choices. You don’t have to build your own checkout system, as you can easily install a plugin that handles sales transactions. Plus, many eCommerce options integrate with the most common website technology like WordPress and Blogger.
I know it can sound overwhelming, but this is a great choice if you’re a blogger who already has a site.
Here’s how easy it is to add a sales option to your blog:
- Complete freedom to do what you want
- Perfect for bloggers
- Easy to use eCommerce options
- Can be more expensive than platforms if you have to pay a web designer
- You are responsible for security
- You have to keep the site’s programs updated
Instagram sensation LUXALLDAY sells a variety of products on monetizing Instagram. Using Selz for selling, LUXALLDAY has a shop on their website and can embed a “buy it now” button on any blog post.
Having your own website is a great choice if you want total control of your eStore, and you have the skills to build a website or hire someone to manage it for you. It’s the best option for those that want to build a platform to share content (like videos and blog posts) and create a homebase for their customers.
How to Start an eCommerce Store: Innovative Features to Consider
Not all eCommerce providers are equal.
Some are more sophisticated than others and are always adding innovative features. Since eCommerce is still evolving, these innovations can be the difference between minor and major success.
Here’re a few innovations that help launch successful eStores:
Selling from YouTube Videos
This extremely cool feature allows sellers to embed sales options directly into YouTube videos. It’s perfect for those with an active video platform and increases the opportunities to make a sale.
Sell products direct from YouTube with Selz
Abandoned Shopping Cart Features
Although 63.85% of customers abandon their carts during the checkout process, this does not mean that you’ve lost the sale.
That’s where abandoned shopping cart features come in. You can set up gentle email reminders that will hopefully entice your customers to finish buying your product. One of the best ways to do this is to share a discount code or a limited time offer.
PDF Stamping for Extra Security
In the digital age, security is always a concern. Especially for those who create digital products like PDF eBooks and guides.
Selz sellers can create a PDF Stamp that’s embedded into the product and is stamped with the buyers name. With this added level of protection, your products won’t be able to be duplicated anonymously.
Integrations with Partners
It’s time consuming to run a business, especially when you’re starting out. Budding entrepreneurs rely on tools to help us get things done – fast.
Look for an eCommerce provider that work with programs you use every day. Through an integration with Zapier, Selz connects to hundreds of apps and platforms you can use to run your business with ease. From email marketing platforms to shipping providers and accounting software, make sure the eCommerce provider you choose integrates with the tools you need.
Shipping has exploded in the eCommerce age as one of the most important issues for buyers. In fact, 60% of eCommerce companies say “free shipping with conditions” is their most successful marketing tool.
You have a lot of choices when it comes to shipping. Flat rates, free shipping, or free shipping on orders of a set amount (you’re $10 away from qualifying for free shipping – who can resist an offer like that!). So the eCommerce provider you choose must support whatever shipping options you choose.
Selz has a Shipping Plus app that has the following features:
- Create dynamic shipping rates depending on quantity, value, and weight
- Create weight-based shipping rates on a per-item basis
- Set rates for special delivery options, like Standard, Overnight, Priority
- Enable or disable shipping to specific countries
- Offer free shipping for individual items
The world of eCommerce is always evolving. New and innovative technology are always improving how sellers connect with buyers. eCommerce providers are always looking for new ways to help business owners increase monthly sales. Choose an eCommerce option that best supports your new business and your overall goals.
How to Start an eCommerce Store: Narrowing Down Your Choices
I’ve just outlined three basic eStore options and many features to consider. And I know it can be overwhelming. But don’t worry – I’m going to help you through the decision process that’s best for your new business.
Here’re a few questions to ask when deciding on an eCommerce provider:
Am I comfortable using the technology?
Anyone who can post pictures to Facebook has the technical skills to use both a Marketplace or Platform eStore. The majority of eCommerce options have very easy dashboards and a lot of support. Selz has how-to videos and has an entire blog dedicated to helping new owners open their eStores. Depending on what your new business sells, there’s a category that will help guide you on how to sell your products.
You don’t need any special technical skills to open an eStore. If you’re not technically comfortable with starting your own website, opt for a Marketplace or Platform eStore. You want to spend your time marketing your new business, not dealing with tech issues you don’t understand.
Does it work on mobile devices?
Mobile buying is the fasted growing segment in eCommerce. Consumers want to buy from their phones and tablets, but 41% of buyers don’t complete a purchase on mobile device because credit card information is too difficult to enter, and 47% give up because the checkout process takes too.
Whatever eCommerce provider you choose must have a mobile platform that works on a wide variety of devices. This is not a debatable point. You want to make every possible sale and set your eStore up for success. Having a mobile option is an essential part of your overall strategy.
Selz works on any mobile device, tablet or desktop. You can preview your eStore so you know exactly what it will look like.
Does it fit into my budget?
New business owners come in all shapes and sizes. From million dollar start-ups to those that bootstrap with the change in their pockets.
And there are eCommerce options for every budget.
For example, Selz has an option to build a free eStore and you will only be charged if you make a sale. Additional features are offered for the Standard and Pro options, including custom domains, abandoned cart and special shipping features.
So don’t worry if you’re starting with nothing more than dream and a nickel. You’ll be able to open your eStore and have the ability to add more features as you grow.
What about payments?
Choosing the best option for payment gateway is pretty simple. Start with looking at the options that are offered in your country. Not all countries offer the same choices, so check what’s available in your country first.
Selz currently supports three payment gateways:
It’s also important to understand how sellers will get paid. After all, this is one of the most important aspects of your business – incoming cash flow! Check out how Selz pays its store owners depending on their payment gateway choice.
Does it have tax support?
Taxes – everyone’s favorite subject!
Payment gateways help you collect the right sales tax depending on country and item. However, not all eCommerce providers have the same features that make paying your taxes easier.
For example, the European Union (EU) has a Value Added Tax (VAT) that require any digital business that sells to anyone in the EU to collect taxes based on the customer’s location – not on the seller’s location. That means you have to collect taxes from sales in EU countries not where your business is located and pay each country its VAT.
Handling taxes can be complicated, so you want to choose an eCommerce provider that has a lot of helpful tools and support. Selz has several reports that show exactly how much tax you have to pay (including EU VAT) and lets you block certain countries and zones if you want. There’s a lot to manage as a new business owner. Make sure the tax system you choose makes your job easier, not more complicated.
There’s a lot to learn as a new eStore owner. You want to make the right decision the first time. The bottom line is that you want an eCommerce provider that best fits your unique new business. And with a little research, you’ll find the best fit.
How to Start an eCommerce Store: You’re Not Alone
We’ve covered a lot of ground. You should have a basic understanding of what your business needs to handle eCommerce. Take your time and make the best decision for your skill level, budget and overall business goals.
One thing that may help you decide what eCommerce provider would be best for your business is the level of support it gives it’s sellers. Selz’s FounderU shares many stories of people, just like you, who started their business using Selz. It also has videos and how-to guides on everything from email marketing to hacking social media.
Just remember that you’re not in this by yourself. The best eCommerce provider will be your partner every step of the way.