Three Tips for Small Businesses Looking to Start an E-commerce Website

When you list your products on sites like Amazon, they don’t stand out. Customers often presume they are buying from Amazon instead of from your business, which is why building your own e-commerce website is crucial for strengthening your business’s online identity.

But before you do, here are three important aspects of selling your product or service online:

An e-commerce website does not mean that you will make money as you sleep - Firstly, you still have to offer a product that is compelling (be it price, convenience or novelty), which will make your customers come back for more and even talk about it to their friends and family. And secondly before you consider jumping onto the e-commerce bandwagon your business needs to be operationally prepared to meet the challenges of handling online orders.

Concerned about accepting online payments? Start small - Perhaps a big concern for small businesses looking to start an e-commerce website is being able to accept payments online. You can start accepting online orders for your business using a PayPal account and as the volumes build up you can open a merchant account.

Continue to market your product on social media - Social media is a great way to engage customers by sharing discount codes and coupons, posting news about your business or maybe even sharing photos of your office. It’s important for small businesses to continue to use social media such as Facebook and Twitter in addition to their e-commerce websites.

Go Online with the help of E-commerce Hosting Websites

Till about six to seven years ago it was a challenge for businesses to start an e-commerce website, often waiting several years to gain critical mass before investing a substantial amount in developing online sales capability. Today small businesses with little or no experience in managing a website can do so in a matter of days with the help of e-commerce hosting websites. Not only do these websites help create an e-commerce portal in the name of the business, they also provide online ordering features such as  order catalogue, customer check-out-cart, link between the website and social media page and ability to accept on-line payments 

In terms of overall features VolusionShopify and Shopping Cart Elite have been rated as the top three e-commerce software. A fourth player worth your consideration is Bigcommerce which hosts more than 30,000 small and medium sized businesses. Here is a quick round-up of their individual pricing plans:

Volusion: The stalwart among the other players, their monthly plans vary from $15 for listing 25 products with online support to $299.95 for listing unlimited products with priority support. They don’t levy a transaction fee.

Shopify: Their starter plan is for as little as $14 a month. Although they do levy a transaction fee varying from 2% to 1% in all plans, except for the $179 a month plan.

Shopping Cart Elite: Known for its customer service, their standard monthly charges are $99.  Robust website customization and inventory management features sets it apart from its competition.

Bigcommerce: Their monthly plans vary from $24.95 for listing 100 products with 3 staff logins to $299.95 for listing unlimited products and 100 staff logins.  They offer a 10 percent discount on yearly pricing. Bigcommerce also helps its customers in obtaining a merchant account, which can be difficult at times for small businesses in absence of good business credit.

All these companies also provide a free trial period of about 2 weeks so you have some leeway for evaluating which company’s platform is ideal for your business. 

avatar

About Rhea Gaur

Based in India, Rhea Gaur is a former banking professional having worked over 14 years with global organizations such as Standard Chartered Bank and ABN AMRO Bank N.V. She has extensive experience across various facets of business such as service quality, market research, process development and corporate communications. She is currently working as a freelance writer with special interest in topics related to business and economics.

  • http://twitter.com/mark_macdonald Mark Macdonald

    Hi Rhea,

    Thanks for including Shopify in your helpful round-up. Just quickly wanted to point out that while Shopify currently does charge a small transaction fee, we don’t charge for bandwidth overages like some of the other companies mentioned in your post. In other words you know exactly what you’re paying with Shopify and don’t get any surprise bills at the end of the month.

    • http://Smallbiztechnology.com/ Ramon Ray

      Mark, thanks so much for this clarification!

  • Peter Gogh

    If you’re currently with Volusion beware of bandwidth overage fees! Every GB gone over your allotted GBs, is several dollars charged on your bill. Experiment with image sizes, upload to Youtube for your videos, and consider using bandwidthdiet.com to save the money which would otherwise have gone to Volusion.