Creating and maintaining an online store has gotten easier for small businesses, but there is still a lot to navigate. Understanding what ecommerce is, how to choose the right platform, where the world of ecommerce is going, and how to take advantage of it will go a long way to ensuring your online store is a success. Below are some ecommerce insights you need to know.

What is ecommerce?

Shopify provides a great definition of ecommerce: ecommerce, also known as electronic commerce or internet commerce, refers to the buying and selling of goods or services using the internet, and the transfer of money and data to execute these transactions. It is often used to refer to the sale of physical products online, but it can also describe any kind of commercial transaction that is facilitated through the internet. Whereas e-business refers to all aspects of operating an online business, ecommerce refers specifically to the transaction of goods and services.

Marketplaces vs. ecommerce platforms

Marketplaces vs. ecommerce platformsMany people use these terms interchangeably, but that’s actually incorrect. What’s the difference between marketplaces and ecommerce sites?  The differences between marketplaces and ecommerce sites are simple but depend on who are and what you’re selling. Marketplaces will make millions of visitors available to you, but you’ll also be competing with thousands of sellers to be seen. The most popular marketplace out there is Amazon Marketplace. An ecommerce platform is a way to differentiate yourself, but you’ll need to put in true effort to ramp up traffic and drive sales.

What platforms can small businesses use for ecommerce?

There are many options to choose from when it comes to eCommerce platforms, but below are the 10 most popular in no particular order:

  • Shopify
  • Shopify Plus
  • BigCommerce
  • Magento
  • WooCommerce
  • SquareSpace
  • Wix
  • Big Cartel
  • Salesforce Commerce Cloud
  • Volusion

How to choose the right ecommerce platform for your small business

Everyone platform differs so take your time to choose the one that’s right for your business. Here are a few considerations before you choose a platform:

Compare the costs

All platforms have costs associated with them. Make sure you can support the cost of an ecommerce platform before you spend the money. Find out if you’ll be paying a flat monthly fee or if you should anticipate paying more for transactions, bandwidth, server storage, apps and plugins as well. All of these costs need to be considered in your decision.

Research the platform that’s right for your small business

researchTake the time to do your homework on each of the ecommerce platforms you’re considering. Talk to a sales rep and ask as many questions as you need to. Make sure you fully understand what you’re signing up for, and confirm that the functionality that’s required for your business to operate successfully is included in what you’re paying for. Be diligent; not every platform is right for every business.

Understand the usability of the platform

Many ecommerce platforms offer a variety of options and functionalities, but they’re only valuable to your small business if you and your team can actually use them. Ask for an in-depth demonstration of the product. See if you can have a free trial to get hands-on experience for yourself. Find other businesses that use the platform and ask their opinion. The goal is for the platform to make your life easier, not add more complications!

Don’t forget about a hosting company

This one is a common mistake that business owners make. They get excited about a platform only to find out that their current hosting company either can’t handle the platform or will only do so at an additional cost. Here are good questions to ask your hosting company:

  • Can they handle your ecommerce platform?
  • Is there an additional cost to hosting this platform?
  • Do they provide 24/7 support?
  • Do they provide daily backups of your site?
  • Will your site will be on a shared server? If so, how many other sites are on one server at any given time?
  • What are the security precautions that need to be taken when you are sharing a server with other companies?
  • Will the shared server impact your outgoing emails to customers in the event that one of the other companies on the server gets blacklisted as spam?

Keep in mind you may need to switch hosting companies to accommodate the platform you want.

Trends in ecommerce

trendsEcommerce is an ever-changing industry. Here are a few ecommerce trends you should be aware of to ensure you’re getting the most out of your ecommerce experience:

  • Increased customer interactions are becoming the norm
  • Chat boxes are a part of the sales process
  • Video is increasing on ecommerce sites for better engagement
  • Make sure you’re optimizing your site for voice search
  • Personalization is expected on ecommerce sites
  • Flexible payment options allow buyers to have a choice in how they pay
  • Subscriptions continue to increase to maintain the customer base

Get more details on these and other trends by reading Shopify’s article, “16 Ecommerce Trends That Will Drive Sales in 2019”.

Understanding these ecommerce insights will help your small business succeed online. As always, reach out to Strategic Marketing Services if you need help marketing your online store!


Patty Hughes
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