Where to build your first e-commerce store

e-commerce store

by Julianne Mercer, Negosentro.com |

A few years ago, starting your own online business would require months of work. You would have needed to purchase a computer server, design a website from scratch or hire a Web developer to do it, photograph your products, upload it all, sign up with a credit card processor, and break the bank advertising. The 21st century makes it easier. You can simply register with an e-commerce site that offers integrated hosting, website templates, payment processing, and advertising options.

Who is out there?

You’ve got options. The best-known e-commerce sites include Big Commerce, eBay, Etsy, Shopify, Weebly, and Wix. Your choice depends on your needs. Some hosts provide specialized stores. Etsy specializes in artisan goods and crafts. EBay and Shopify integrate with many drop shippers. Weebly and Wix provide platforms that lend themselves to portfolios and magazine design. They let you design from scratch or using their templates.

First Steps

Researching and writing your business plan takes a week or two. Actually setting up your e-commerce site takes about half an hour, if you follow entrepreneur Tomas Šlimas’ quick guide. Give yourself an hour, really. Šlimas might work so fast because he has seven successful online businesses to his credit, including drop shipper service Oberlo.

He recommends using a template driven host that lets you get up and running quickly. Templates give your business a professional look and let you fill in the blanks with appropriate text. That leaves you time to focus on marketing and sales. His guide uses Shopify because its seamlessly integrates with his company, Oberlo. The basic steps work with any of the e-commerce sites already mentioned.

  1. Choose a descriptive name of three or four words that includes the word store or shop. You’ll more easily obtain a domain name this way. You can use an online business name generator lets you enter a keyword or two and spits out recommended store names.
  2. Create your account at your chosen host. Many e-commerce sites offer a free trial. That means you can make sales before needing to pay for the host.
  3. Set up your payment system. You’ll need a PayPal account even if you won’t use them as your payment processor. The number of pay systems offered by a web host varies. some only accept one or use a proprietary system while others offer up to 70 choices.
  4. Write the terms and conditions, privacy policy, and return policies for your store. Most hosts offer help with this. For instance, eBay and Shopify offer fill in the blank templates.
  5. Set up your shipping rates. Offer a free shipping option even if it takes a couple of weeks. Also, offer quick, for pay methods like overnight and two day shipping. E-commerce sites often integrate with FedEx, UPS, and USPS automatically. If you want to use less common shippers like DHL, for instance, you’ll need to manually set it up.
  6. Finalize the store creation. In some cases, you’ll set your sales channel, in others this occurs when you verify your e-mail.
  7. Buy your domain name. Choose a domain ending in .com. Do it immediately so no one else can register your store name. Shopify, Weebly, and Wix let you do this from within their site.
  8. Add your product line. If you’re adding your own products, take photos of each and upload them. If you’re using a drop shipper, you’ll integrate it with your site now by linking it in settings. EBay doesn’t allow sale of digital goods, so it is not the right choice for musicians selling .mp3s or artists selling digital art or chapbooks. Etsy, Shopify, Weebly, and Wix allow digital goods.
  9. Choose your site template.
  10. Create your menus or navigation links. Most e-commerce hosts walk you through each of the design steps using prompts and forms.
  11. Upload your logo or banner. You can quickly create a banner of perfect dimensions at Canva.com.

Depending on which host you choose, you may still need to set some products as “featured” items, or fill in the information for your footer.

Costs

Some sites require a monthly fee, while others charge a fee per sale. Some charge both. Here’s what a basic store costs you at each of the popular e-commerce sites discussed within this article:

  • Big Commerce: $29.95 per month, flat fee
  • EBay: $24.95 per month with 250 free listings
  • Etsy: $0.20 per item listing fee, 3.5 percent transaction fee, 3 percent plus $0.25 payment processing fee*
  • Shopify: $29 per month, flat fee
  • Weebly: $8 per month, flat fee
  • Wix: $20 per month, flat fee

*To sell on Etsy, you must use its integrated payment processor.

Which is right for you?

You won’t really know until you visit each one and play with its interface. Examine the features offered. Bigcommerce and Shopify offer two week free trials. You can try out EBay by listing a few items under a personal account. You’ll only pay listing and sales fees for each item when they sell. At Etsy, you can set up the store for free and list a few items to try out the interface.

The best ecommerce site for your business meets your budget and sales needs. It offers an easy way to get started. It features FAQs, templates, and guides on how to get your business going. The best option lets you take payment a number of ways, and offers a secure site. The best ecommerce site is the one that works for you.

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