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The internet is a great way to start your own business. It’s not too difficult to get started and there are many different ways to make money on the web. One of the most popular businesses that people start online is an ecommerce business, where you sell digital or physical items such as clothing or electronics.
If you’re interested in starting an eCommerce business but don’t know where to begin, then this guide will walk you through all you need to know!
First, let’s get an understanding of what ecommerce business is all about.
What Is E-Commerce Business?
E-commerce or electronic commerce refers to transactions conducted through the Internet. When people and businesses buy or sell goods and services online, they are engaging in e-commerce. The term e-commerce also includes other activities, including online auctions, online banking, and payment gateways, and online ticket sales.
How ECommerce Business Works
Ecommerce is run the same way a physical business is run, except that this time, the buying and selling is done via the internet. So let’s check out the processes it would take to run an ecommerce business
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There Should Be A Product(s) To Be Sold
As with normal commerce, there has to be a product or products that you want to sell. A product you believe the market will find to be of value. It could be physical (grocery, apparel, toys etc., or digital (ebooks, courses, software) etc.
There Should Be An Online Shop
When you have the products you wish to sell, the next step is to establish where to place the products where people can visit to check out the product and purchase. This means you need a website that will serve as your online shop with features to display your products and be able to process orders.
There Should Be a Process to Accept Orders
When a visitor checks out the items on your e-commerce website and decides that they would like to buy, there has to be a process in place to accept their orders. The software that runs this process is called Shopping Cart software.
This software takes care of monitoring what is being purchased and updating their cart. It also computes taxes, processes coupons and other discounts, creates invoice numbers, order numbers, and all such codes. It can also upsell the customer, captures the billing and delivery address of the customer, forwards customers to the payment gateway where they need to make payments and all such things.
If the item is a digital product, it can also redirect customers to the download page after successful payment.
There Should Be A Payment Mechanism
Many e-commerce businesses need a medium of collecting payment for the products they sell on their website. The software that is required for this process is called a Payment Gateway.
There are different payment methods by different payment gateways and it is left for you to choose the type you want your customers to pay with. The most popular ones being credit cards and Paypal.
There Should Be A Delivery System
If a product being sold is a digital product, the delivery could be instant – as soon as the payment s made. However, in the case of physical goods, an effective logistics personnel or company is the key to successful and prompt delivery. This is the biggest challenge of e-commerce business owners who want to deliver within the timeframe they promised their customers lies in the delivery system they choose. It could make or mar their business.
As a result, e-commerce businesses need to make sure that they deliver the right product to their customers, in good condition, and within the period that the customer expected. Ecommerce business owners should endeavour to outsource their delivery to a reputable logistics company to avoid disappointing their customers.
Customers Need To Be Serviced
Pre-sales and post-sales service are essential for customers because customers might have questions about features not listed on the website prior to the sale; or questions after-sale about the use, repair, or enhancement of products or services they have purchased.
You Must Have A Good Reverse Logistics System
An error-free product is not possible. Some products may not function correctly or be damaged. Sometimes, the wrong product is delivered. This is when the reverse logistics process kicks in. The usual method is for goods to move from the ecommerce company to the customer. Reverse logistics is the opposite.
There are many moving parts to an ecommerce company. Each of these moving parts must be managed well if you want to make your ecommerce business a success.
There are six traditional models of ecommerce and they are:
- B2C (Business-to-Consumer): This is a type of ecommerce business model that deals with transactions made directly between a business and the consumer. This is one of the most popular ecommerce business models available online. And one of such is Amazon and Jumia. For example, when you buy a phone from Jumia, you have performed a B2C transaction.
- B2B (Business-to-Business): This is another ecommerce business model where business sells to another business. For instance, a manufacturer can sell to a wholesaler, a wholesaler can sell to a retailer. These are all businesses making transactions amongst themselves. B2B sales are common with the sale of raw materials or products that are needed to be repackaged before being sold to the final consumers.
- C2B (Consumer-to-Business): C2B model exists where consumers sell their services or products to businesses. One of such in Nigeria is the sale of cans, clothes, shoes we no longer use to businessmen who repackage and resell it or recycle them. Another example is the royalty stock photo collection like ShutterStock, where individuals upload their photos and professional graphic designers buy the rights to use their image for their design work.
- C2C (Consumer-to-Consumer): C2C is a business model where a consumer sells to another consumer. This can be said to be one of the earliest forms of ecommerce as mankind practiced trade-by-barter before currencies were introduced. Today, C2C has developed into digital forms as we can see on eBay, and even Amazon, where people can list their properties e.g. books, phones etc. and sell it directly to another consumer.
- B2A (Business-to-Administration): B2A is an ecommerce model where businesses serve administrations. For instance, a law firm (business) handling the legal documents of a university (administration).
- C2A (Consumer-to-Administration): C2A is an eCommerce model where consumers sell to the administration. Such services could be online consulting for education, online tax preparation, etc.
Ecommerce Fulfillment Models
This is a fulfilment model where the seller makes his product or service directly available to the consumer after purchase. Most digital products follow the DTC fulfilment model and are delivered to the consumer almost instantly.
The DTC fulfilment model can also be known as the Self-fulfillment model. This is because businesses that use this model fulfil the orders themselves without the interference of any third party.
Most businesses that use the DTC model are either small or medium businesses with a lower volume of orders.
For a seller selling physical products, he takes the orders and forwards them to the consumer via a courier service.
3rd Party Fulfillment Models
When the orders become too cumbersome to handle, that’s where 3rd Party fulfilment services come in.
3rd Party fulfilment model occurs when a business engages the services of a logistics company to handle both sorting, packaging and shipping of their customer’s orders. An example of such service is ShipRocket.
Dropshipping Fulfilment Model
Dropshipping fulfilment model is a method where the fulfilment is done by the manufacturer to the consumer on the retailer request without the consumer knowing it came from the manufacturer.
This is because in dropshipping, the seller or retailer picks products from a manufacturer and displays it online as though it were his while increasing the price to make a profit on the sale. It advertises the goods at its price to the consumer and when the consumer makes a purchase, the retailer pays the manufacturer and feeds the manufacturer with the consumer’s shipping details. The manufacturer then ships directly to the consumer.
The main benefit of dropshipping for the retailer is that you don’t have to keep any inventory in stock, or purchase products before selling them. Also, you don’t have to handle the shipping logistics. This makes it an interesting ecommerce business model. However, retailers need to be careful in getting a trustworthy manufacturer that won’t delay the fulfilment of the products. This is to avoid your support team being bugged by too many angry customers whose shipments are delayed or not delivered.
The Elements of a Good Ecommerce Website Design
This is a list of features that you should include in your e-commerce website design to attract loyal customers and maximize your business.
1) Names of customers
Are you familiar with the most common word marketers use? One might think of success, trust, conversions, respect, or another word. It’s actually your name.
Psychologists believe that people enjoy being called by their names. It is a strong indicator of the friendliness of a person.
This is something that sales managers and marketers understand very well. Have you ever been approached to sell by a sales manager before? Your name would be the first thing he’d ask. It’s possible that it will be repeated several times during the conversation.
It is also used by successful ecommerce websites. Personalization is a great way to make customers feel important and special.
If your company allows personal account registration or quick signup for support, you should ask customers to fill in the name. These are 3 reasons you should definitely make one.
1) It is quick. It takes less time than uploading photos or entering personal details.
2) It is worry-free. Most people don’t consider this sensitive information and are happy to share it.
It is efficient. To personalize the dashboards of your clients, you can use their names. It will make them feel at home. This is something that many e-commerce websites fail to do.
It is important not to be intrusive. When customers sign in to their accounts after making purchases, or when they sign up for email newsletters, they should be greeted by customer names. It shouldn’t be in every line of your website. Pushy shop assistants are not what we like.
2) Popular Products
It all begins with the shop window, isn’t it?
We look at what the shop has to offer before we go into it. E-commerce websites can do the same. Do not hesitate to include the best product on your main page.
They may be called popular, featured, or bestsellers. These lists attract lots of attention and are a great way to convert customers. These lists are frequently the most popular on e-commerce websites.
Many customers are too busy, or even lazy, to spend hours searching for the right product. To help customers make the right decision, you should have the top products displayed on your homepage.
You can get the best results from your favourite lists if you monitor them and keep them updated. It is a good idea to share seasonal and monthly bestsellers.
3) Product Collections
These are lists that focus on a particular topic. These lists can be seasonal, such as winter top products or summer top products. They could also be festive, such as Christmas gifts or New Year gifts, new products, discounts, or any other topic that is relevant to your niche.
They rank highly. This allows you to rank higher in search results. Keep your collections updated and replaced as often as possible. Every time someone visits your site, they are searching for something new.
It is a great way to personalize your collection by creating a list of recommended items. The items should be based on the search history of the most recent customer. People are more likely to purchase similar products based on their needs and tastes.
You should add a zoom option to product photos on your website. Think about going to a shoe shop to purchase shoes. It’s likely that you will want to have a closer look at the shoes. You can do the same thing online.
People won’t buy a pig in the poke. No matter what they are buying, whether it be clothes, cars or gadgets, they want to see all the details. Allow your clients to zoom in on and out on the pictures. Make sure the images are clear and sharp.
Customers cannot touch or hold the products so you need to give them as much visual information as you can.
5) Shipping and Delivery Details
If shipping and delivery is an option, ensure that you have added details to your website. This page should be linked at the top of your website.
Do you want a better idea? Here’s a better idea.
Pin it to the page head or add it to your main navigation menu. This is especially important if you have terms that are different based on location or order.
Customers are often frustrated when they discover that they cannot get the product they ordered because it isn’t available for delivery to their area. Don’t forget to mention free delivery if you offer it.
This is a great place to begin your online advertising. It’s also a very attractive option that could bring you more customers.
6) Contact Info and Feedback
Your clients are likely to want long-term relationships. You must trust your clients to achieve this. Start by giving your contact information. Customers need to know they can contact you if needed. This information should be placed somewhere that can be easily found.
Online chat is a great option if you have the budget. A quick response is what makes customers happy. Don’t worry if you don’t have it. Start by filling out a simple feedback form.
However, ensure that you do not ignore your messages and that you reply within one working day.
7) Ratings and Reviews
The key to a successful ecommerce business site is a collaboration between website owners, managers, and customers. It’s more than a shopping site, it’s a community. Customers can share their opinions with others and make recommendations. Word of mouth is often more effective than advertising, as we all know.
Website owners may not want to add the comment and rating features. Because they fear customers might leave negative reviews, some website owners do not allow the rating and comment features to be added. A dissatisfied customer will be more inclined to leave a negative review than one that is satisfied. Writing a review is time-consuming. You must have a reason to write one.
You can start by rating the option if you aren’t ready to add review and comment features. This is a win-win situation.
1) Use the submitted rating to create useful filters.
2) Customers can quickly choose the best-rated products.
3) It takes very little time to rate the product so it requires less motivation.
If you choose to use the comments features, there is a way to get satisfied customers to write reviews.
1) They can be contacted directly via the follow-up email following purchase.
2) Offer perks to your most active users (e.g. Discounts or bonuses
Overall, clients’ feedback is just as important as your feedback.
Your website should be a place where users feel comfortable. This will make it easier for them to find the product they want, purchase it, and return to your site again or bring friends.
8) Price filters
Ecommerce business websites need filters. Price filters are the most important and most commonly used. They deserve more attention.
Your customers should be able to filter and sort products by price across all product categories. Don’t forget to add the delivery cost if the price does not include it. Add a checkbox to hide/show products if there is free delivery or paid delivery.
Product pricing information must be clear and without any hidden information.
Your website should be a place where users feel comfortable. This will make it easier for them to find the product they want, purchase it, and return it or bring friends along.
9) SSL Secure Website
10) Quick Load Time
You have invested so much time and effort into your eCommerce website. Don’t let a slow-loading website discourage visitors from purchasing from your website. Slow websites can lead to losses as people don’t want to wait for pages to load. You should work hard on this.
Steps to Start An eCommerce Website
1) Brainstorm a profitable idea: You need to do your research as to what kind of products you would like to sell.
2) Conduct Research: Do your research to know if there is an existing online market for the products you would like to sell.
3) Know Where To Source Your Products: If you are selling a physical products, you should research and know the best places to source for the products at a good price.
4) Name And Brand Your Business: Decide on a name for your ecommerce business and register it. Make sure you are not infringing on any other businesses trademarked name.
5) Build Your Ecommerce Store: Build your ecommerce store. You can do this easily with WordPress and WooCommerce, or use Shopify.
6) Open Your Store For Business: Once you have setup your store, you can start marketing and advertising your new ecommerce business online as well as offline.
7) Sell And Fulfill Ecommerce Sales: When people make purchases on your ecommerce website, ensure you have a proper delivery or fulfilment service that will deliver the products within the specified time you promised on your website. You can outsource this task.
Best Ecommerce Website Builders
- Beaver Builder
- Visual Composer
Best Ecommerce Website Templates
- Theme Isle
- Elegant Themes
- StudioPress (& WP Engine)
- Envato Market (Theme Forest)
- My Theme Shop
Different Ecommerce Website Platforms
1. SaaS-hosted ecommerce
SaaS stands for Software-As-A-Service. SaaS platforms allow users to license cloud-based apps and then have them accessible online. Merchants pay a monthly subscription fee to use the service. It’s a cost-effective way for merchants to keep track of transactions on e-commerce platforms.
Many software companies are jumping at the chance to sell apps and other software in order to capitalize on the rapid growth in e-commerce.
These are the best SaaS ecommerce platforms:
- Wix ecommerce
- Yahoo Small Business
Advantages Of SaaS Ecommerce
1. Remote functions
SaaS platforms offer many benefits, including the freedom to install the software on a user’s own premises. This eliminates the need for costly space. Users are not responsible for managing the system, which saves them time and money. Your e-commerce platform runs on the SaaS provider’s hosted servers. The hosting company ensures security, optimal performance and maintenance of the app.
2. 2. Shared Functions
Many SaaS ecommerce platforms include an integrated shopping cart. Instead of spending their time and money building their own systems, users can use prebuilt or customized services. Users can save a lot of money by using shared functions
These features enable entrepreneurs to quickly set up ecommerce businesses cheaply and easily without having to worry about other areas that can drive growth.
The SaaS ecommerce platform’s biggest advantage is that the user can manage their software independently. Your store will run smoothly and efficiently thanks to the fact that the hosting provider is responsible for maintaining performance speed, uptime and software security.
4. Compliance with PCI and security
To sell online, you must comply with Payment Card Industry compliance so you can protect your customers’ payment information. SaaS providers can help you ensure that your PCI compliance is maintained on their platforms.
Your customers need to be able to trust you with their data. Hackers are everywhere. It’s no surprise that people are cautious about giving out their personal information to others. To ensure your business grows, you must protect their payment information.
As e-commerce grows, businesses must increase their capabilities. Customers become more demanding as they order more, which means that more advanced functionality is required, such as cloud computing.
Wavestone states that Cloud should take care of technical debt. Because the cloud is constructed in such a manner that it can be upgraded frequently without having to look at the infrastructure beneath it, the problem of replacing hardware is eliminated.
SaaS ecommerce platforms can be built in the cloud. It allows you to easily add new sales channels and reduce costs.
SaaS ecommerce platforms are relatively affordable and offer direct benefits to entrepreneurs, making them attractive. You can avoid the high-priced costs of creating an IT infrastructure entirely from scratch. You can save time and hassle by not having to maintain your servers or deal with technicians who will fix bugs or revive websites that have been crashed.
Disadvantages Of SaaS Ecommerce
1. Limited Customization Options
Although some SaaS platforms offer pre-built templates and other functionality, this can make it difficult and time-consuming. SaaS providers do not give access to the software codes so you would have to make changes to add unique functionality to your operation.
2. Complex Processes
Advanced customization is required for complex business processes. This may not be possible in the SaaS platform that you are using. Because of your business, complex transactions can arise. For example, you might need to sell in multiple markets or deal with different currencies in different sales.
3. Lack B2B Needs
SaaS platforms primarily serve Business to Consumer (B2C), so even if your business is an e-commerce one, you won’t be able to take advantage of this service if you are a Business to Business seller. SaaS platforms don’t allow for customer-specific pricing or discounts on quantity. They also do not support staggered payment terms.
Websites for Ecommerce Self-hosted
A self-hosted platform allows you to drive your own car. You decide where and how you want to travel. This option allows you to manage and run the shopping basket software. You are responsible for all aspects of the setup. Magento can be used as an example of a self-hosted eCommerce platform.
Advantages and disadvantages of self-hosted ecommerce
You can customize your solution as much as you want
Hosted solutions can be very easy to use. Hosted solutions are limited in their ability to be customized. Because the code is open-sourced, self-hosted solutions can be modified at any time. If you don’t have the internal skills or know-how to create an online store, you can hire a developer.
You Have Everything
When policies are altered without the consent of store owners, it can make it difficult. Self-hosted solutions don’t require you to worry about ownership. Your code, content, and all other aspects of your online store are yours.
The Cons of Self-Hosted Ecommerce Platforms
1. You are on your own
It comes at a high price. This means you don’t have anyone to call when things go wrong. This can lead to high costs. Every second is important to anyone who owns an online shop. Research shows that loading times can lead to high bounce rates, which dramatically reduce conversions.
You will need to work on many aspects of your website if you choose to do it alone. When you are trying to fix your website on your own, it may take some time. Technical support is available 24 hours a day so you can get the answers you need.
2. It costs more to set up
To get started, you will need to spend more money if you do it yourself. Before you launch your online store, you will need to invest a lot of time and money in development. Hosted solutions are much cheaper and allow you to get up and running much faster.
3. It will take a lot out of you
It takes a lot to run an online shop. So, it is important to market your online store and reach your target audience. Hosting an eCommerce website adds another task to your already busy schedule. You’ll need to manage the store as well as security, monitoring, optimization, and configuration. Self-hosting can distract you from the primary task of running your online store.
Many entrepreneurs are realizing the potential of eCommerce and the many opportunities it offers. It doesn’t matter if you go for a self-hosted or hosted solution. It all boils down to what you value.
Best Ecommerce Programs for Self-Hosted Entrepreneurs
- Magento Community Edition
- Easy digital downloads
Saas Ecommerce vs. Self-hosted Ecommerce: Which One Should You Choose?
Now that you have seen the differences between these two platforms, it is time to make your choice. Which one is right for you?
It all depends on whether you are looking for an easy-to-use and quick setup or something more technical.
Hosted eCommerce websites are better suited for businesses that want to quickly get up and running with their new website.
These devices are also ideal for small businesses that want to keep their inventory organized with minimal effort.
All of this is usually priced at a fair price, but it can be difficult to keep up with growing costs and changing suppliers.
Self-hosted eCommerce is often more suitable for entrepreneurs and business owners with more technical skills.
Self-hosted eCommerce sites are a great option for those who love the technical details and have a passion for getting into the nitty-gritty.
One of the major benefits of having your own site is its flexibility. Because you will be creating your own framework, you can design your store as you wish.
It may take a bit longer for your site to be up and running due to additional design work.