What is E-commerce?
E-commerce simply put is commerce conducted electronically. The buying and selling of goods and services with little to no human interaction. The only human involved is the person who is doing the commerce or placing an order.
Businesses have had at their goal for the last couple of decades to be able to conduct business without tying up their resources with an order taker (person) on the other end of a transaction. This model works well with many types of businesses, but doesn’t work for every business type.
It allows businesses to conduct business and sell their products globally without the need for scaling their personnel.
Four types of E-commerce
The most prevalent use of electronic commerce is of course business to consumer. We call this B2C.
The next is business to business or B2B. After that is consumer to consumer (C2C) think ebay. And lastly is consumer 2 business or C2B.
E-commerce can include electronic deliverables such as software, pdf documents (portable document files developed by Adobe), training, images, video clips and pretty much anything you can think of that can be sent electronically.
E-commerce is also used for buying and selling hard goods that need to be sent via physical carrier. One of our companies manufactures personalized cutting boards. We have sold and sent them to all 50 States, plus Washington DC, and quite a number of other Countries.
Reoccurring billing for a subscription based sale can easily be incorporated into an e-commerce platform.
Service industry can benefit by allowing the customer to pay on-line instead of the old payment models of the past. In many cases work needs to be paid for in advance to services rendered. This is a safeguard for companies to reduce mitigation from non-paying customers who received the service and don’t pay.
There are myriads of uses, products and services that can benefit from e-commerce. As mentioned, we do business worldwide and rarely do we have a need to have interaction with the consumer. I do miss the personal touch and interaction that exists with physical one on one with customers, but do realize that I wouldn’t be able to handle the volume of orders that come through if I did have to have contact with each.
They Buy – I don’t Sell
Another generally overlooked aspect of e-commerce is the sales dynamics. If I have done my work well and answered as many questions as possible within the constraints of our web sites, then the consumer can at their leisure read FAQ pages (frequently asked questions), info pages, feedback and reviews to help them make a decision to buy or not to buy. Because I am not in the mix at the time of sale, I am not selling them or coercing them to make a decision. This changes the psychological structure in that the buyer is not making a decision based on pressure or salesmanship, but rather on their desire to buy.
The importance of reviews and feedback
One of the components of the purchasing decision is possibly going to hinge on reviews and feedback. People want to know a bit about how others have fared with their decision to buy. Specifically, they want to know if the product lives up to it’s marketing and if it has lived up to other peoples expectations. They also want to know about the legitimacy of the seller or the company who they are trusting with their cash. Of course, you can’t please everyone on every level, but you can get a good sense of the value of an item or service by reading the reviews or feedback.
Why do people leave bad reviews?
There may be some mixed comments, but then some folks just can’t be pleased or just want to spew foul messaging just because they can and they can do it under an umbrella of anonymity. Most people who read reviews realize this and can get past the noise and read what is really important to them. This could be the quality or construction of a physical item. The longevity, the usefulness and the ability of the product to live up to it’s reputation (and/or the company that is behind the product or service).
Popular E-commerce platforms
These days there are quite a few e-commerce platforms. The top six are Shopify, Big Commerce, Volusion, Big Cartel, 3D Cart, Ecwid andWoo Commerce. All of these carry a monthly fee along with numerouse ad-ons that can take not only the initial costs way up, but also the on-going monthly charges can eat up your profits real easily unless you are doing lots of business.
What is the best E-commerce Platform?
The one we like is WP EasyCart. It has lots of features and plenty of options, but probably the deal maker is the cost. EasyCart has a one time charge and that’s it! They do offer some extra plug-ins, but most commerce stores can do without them. The best reason to go with EasyCart is the support. You have a problem, send a note through their support forum boards and someone will respond fairly quickly.
Ebay is the worlds largest on-line shopping network.
Of Course there is Ebay which is world wide. There is a love/hate relationship with sellers on Ebay. They love the interface but don’t appreciate the apparent one sidedness of Ebay policies. And they have become very expensive with their final value fees. I recently sold an item for $391.00 and after Ebay fees, Paypal fees and Shipping fees, the total cost of sale was $73.00. That is a high percentage of the total. For this reason, thousands of people have left selling on Ebay and started their own on-line store. You can really bring down your cost of sale by having your own company store, especially if you use the EasyCart platform.
Then there is Etsy.
Largely a platform for selling homemade goods, they have expanded it to materials used to make handmade goods and vintage items as well. Not sure where they draw the line (if they do), but their fee structure is tolerable and they do a real good job advertising your wares. And if you want to increase eyeballs and bring more traffic to your Etsy shop, you can pay for keyword advertising. We have done very well on Etsy over the last 4 years or so.
Amazon is the Biggest e-commerce platform!
Amazon just doesn’t stop growing. Fees are similar to Ebay (maybe a bit higher), but the average consumer that buys through their platform generally doesn’t mind paying a bit more for a higher quality product. To be accepted as an Amazon seller, there is a stringent vetting process. But once your in your store will grow and grow. Good thing about Amazon is that they have a very high reputation. And you can take advantage of that reputation and mitigate their expenses by charging more for you products.
What are some other e-commerce options?
Wix, Squarespace has e-commerce, but both are mainly entry level website building and hosting platforms that also does e-commerce.
Magento by Adobe if you need enterprise level. Be prepared to pay for it! They do have a community edition that is “free”. But if you want to unlock some of the features you most probably will want, be prepared to get out your credit card.
OpenCart is free and works inside of WordPress. There are some extensions that may be necessary for your site, some are at no cost and others you may need to pay a bit for, but unless you are good at coding, OpenCart may not be “free” to you. You may need to spend hours in forums getting your questions answered.
ZenCart is also free, but lacks support. Again, if you are good with coding and really knowledgeable in the technology field, you might be alright with it. But if you run into a snag, you may find yourself screaming at your screen (which won’t help a bit).
So the things to consider when choosing an e-commerce platform are cost, ease of use, customization options, extension availability and costs, other options, mobile friendly and support.
A Few of the E-commerce sites we have built recently
What e-commerce platform do you choose?
That depends on your budget, anticipated sales volume and level of expertise. If you just aren’t that comfortable building your own shop, then we can do it for you. If you have some time and are patient and eager to learn, then you could go with some of them at the top of this list. If you require a very customizable store, then you may need to spend the money and go with Magento Enterprise.
So you see, there are lots of options, and probably more by the time you read this.
It takes Tons of Work to build an on-line Store
Even a small e-commerce site will consume lots of your time. Be prepared to invest or hire it done. You may find it is an undaunting chore to get an on-line shop up and running. But the good news is that once it’s done, you can go into maintenance mode and just keep up with inventory levels and product changes.
It Doesn’t Work if you Don’t Work it!
Now that you have your e-store up and running, now what? Build it and they will come? Sounds good in Hollywood, but here in the real world, your work has just begun. Now you need to bring the business in. Fortunately, there are lots of ways to do this. And that is what TrendStrategics does. We bring awareness to your brand. Whether it be to your website, physical store or on-line shop. The tools we use to bring business to you is different for each business.
Do I need good photography
Don’t expect people to buy from you or do business with you if you don’t look professional. That means every single element of your business needs to be well presented. Your website, your business card, your brochure, your email, your store and your on-line shop all needs to be of sufficient quality to satisfy your target. The images that represent you and your business and your product line also need to be top notch. Remember, you aren’t there to convince someone to buy from you, so all they have to go on is what they see and read about you and your business.
Use proper Lighting
I used to teach photography. One of the most basic elements of photography is the use of light. Proper lighting can tell quite a different story than poor dim lit photos. The difference between a good photo and a great photo often lies within the lighting applied. Today, there is no reason to have zaggy, out of focus and dim, poorly lighted subject matter. It is the most important element that people use to make their buying decision. Don’t neglect the importance of good photography. This goes for your website and in your on-line shop where the photo needs to tell the story almost single handedly.
Other elements of your photographs should include basic rules such as rule of thirds, composition, contrast and the creative use of angles and triangular posing if the photo includes people.
Can I use a mobile phone for taking photos for my on-line store?
Fortunately, today the technology for photographic equipment is so advanced that even mobile phones are capable of capturing images that are more than adequate on your web store. Just make sure to follow the basic principles of photography or better yet have someone with marketing experience do the work. Even if you have all the bases covered as far as the elements of a photo are concerned, the photo may not be telling the story to the best of it’s ability. Hiring someone with marketing wisdom can actually pay dividends in the long run. Too many people try to skimp here because they know someone who has a camera, or has a “good camera”. (wish I had a dime for that one). Hey, it’s your company. You can make a warehouse full of your product. But you need to be able to sell them! Don’t stub your own toe.
Is there a lot of work to make an on-line store?
Yep, you shouldn’t go into having an on-line shop blindly. There are a lot of tools and options. You need to decide if your time is more important than the expense of having someone else build for you. You may want to dabble with one of the platforms mentioned above (we have no affiliations) and see what you offer works well within the constraints of any of the platforms. Or view them in-depth to narrow it down and try the ones you decide may work well for you. Put a few items up and see if you liked the process and are happy with the results. If you like what you see and liked the process, then be all means do it. But if you feel your time is worth more concentrating on your business in other functions, than you may be better off having someone build for you.
The platform you choose also needs to work with your demographics and your target. There is no reason to pay for national exposure when you only do local or regional business.
I am always here to answer your questions and provide guidance as you need.