You know that e-commerce is growing, but do you have any idea how big the online market really is?
According to the business research firm IBIS World, online sales reached $297.9 billion in 2013. And e-commerce sales are expected to reach 6.5% of total retail sales in 2014!
If you're thinking about running an online business with a product to sell (or already are!), it's time to get a slice of the ever-expanding pie. Beyond deciding and developing what you're going to sell, one of the hardest decisions you'll have to make is which e-commerce platform to use. Luckily, we're here to help.
Start here: Do you already have an existing blog or website?
Don’t have a website? Choose a dedicated online store
Several online e-commerce platforms allow businesses to create their own dedicated online shop. Although going this route can require a significant investment in time and money, it's a great option if you’re just launching an online presence. Here are a few trusty sites where you can set up shop:
With Shopify, you can sell either online or in your offline retail shop. There are no limits on the types of products you can sell. It’s easy to get started, and requires zero design or coding skills. With the ability to customize the color, layout, and content of your site, it looks great straight out of the box.
A huge benefit to Shopify is that support is good and fast -- you are not reliant on unresponsive forums for answers. Shopify starts at $29 a month for a basic shop, with a 2% transaction fee up to $179 per month. If based outside of the US, you will also need a credit card payment processor like Stripe, who will charge you an additional 2.7% + 30c for each credit card transaction.
Magento is an open-source platform that allows users to sell any type of retail product. It's free to download and has a detailed start up guide, yet those who do not have experience with code may find it too complex for their needs. There is no technical support for this plan. However, it does have a very supportive and active community.
The lowest monthly plan is $15/month with a limited number of products and storage. Magento integrates extremely well with Ebay (unsurprising, as it’s actually owned by Ebay!) However, it doesn't have an integrated blog – a serious drawback when it comes to attracting inbound traffic.
Etsy is the most popular e-commerce platform for handmade goods, vintage items, and craft supplies. There is no membership fee, but it costs $0.20 to list an item for 4 months and 3.5% fee on the sale price. Although the type of items is restricted to crafts and vintage, it’s a great option if that’s your niche.
Have an existing website or blog? Monetize it!
If you want to monetize your existing blog, you're in luck -- it's easy to integrate e-commerce into your site. No need to send your audience to an external site to complete the checkout; the following options are easy and affordable ways you can integrate e-commerce into your blog or website to monetize your existing readers.
Selz caters to both digital and physical products, but also comes with an added bonus - you can sell services through it, as well. It's easy to sign up and navigate, and its clean user design is extremely appealing. Use is free, with a small fee paid when you make a sale. Unlike several of the other e-commerce integration solutions, there are no other credit card processing costs, and no limits on the number of products or bandwidth.
While it is possible to create a dedicated online store with Selz, integrating it into your existing website is simple. With a little technical skill, you can embed a buy button or store into your existing site quickly with a snippet of code. The checkout process offers customers the choice of buying with a credit card or PayPal without them leaving your site -- meaning better conversions and more sales.
E-Junkie provides a shopping cart and "Buy Now" buttons to sell digital downloads and physical products on your blog or website. The benefit of using E-Junkie is that it has proven its validity - it's been around for a long time. The downside? The user interface is looking tired, you do need a working knowledge of HTML, and it takes some time to set up and customize.
Plans range from $5 to $265 per month, depending on how many products you wish to sell. Most users integrate PayPal with E-Junkie, leading to additional PayPal fees. It also means a clunky checkout, potentially costing you sales.
Grab your piece of the online action!
Building a profitable online retail business takes work, but the potential is undeniable. With sales in the billions, and 5.9% expected growth for the next five years, now's the time to get in on the action.
Already using a great e-commerce platform? Share with us in the comments!
Latest posts by Liesha Petrovich (see all)
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- How to Choose an E-Commerce Platform - July 16, 2014