Selling Online: The Very Basics of E-commerce

Have you ever wanted to expand your business and start selling goods and services online? Or have you ever wanted to start a new business without having to worry about the cost of a brick-and-mortar location? Well, online selling, aka e-commerce may be exactly what you’re looking for.

In this article, we go over the basics of e-commerce, what you need to get started, and the essentials every business will need to optimze their approach for online sales.

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What is E-commerce?

No surprise that E-commerce refers to the buying and selling of goods and services over the internet. This includes everything from online shopping to auctions, banking, and digital subscriptions.

E-commerce has become a popular way for businesses to reach customers beyond their physical location, and it has opened up new opportunities for entrepreneurs to start their own.

There are several types of e-commerce models, including business-to-business (B2B), business-to-consumer (B2C), consumer-to-consumer (C2C), and consumer-to-business (C2B). Each model has its own unique characteristics and requirements, and businesses can choose the one that best suits their needs.

E-commerce is a powerful tool that can help businesses increase their sales, reach new customers, and expand their market presence.

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Why is E-commerce Important?

E-commerce has become increasingly important in today’s digital age. By the year 2040, Nasdaq estimates that 95% of all purchases will be made through eCommerce. Businesses that do not participate risk falling behind their competitors. E-commerce provides several benefits, including:

  • Increased reach: E-commerce allows businesses to reach customers beyond their physical location, which can expand their customer base and increase their sales.
  • Cost savings: E-commerce can be more cost-effective than traditional brick-and-mortar retail, as it eliminates many overhead costs associated with running a physical store.
  • Increased convenience: E-commerce provides customers with the convenience of shopping from anywhere, at any time, and from any device.
  • Meeting customer expectations: Most customers expect businesses to have modern websites that include e-commerce options.

E-commerce opens up new markets for small businesses and helps your current customers find new ways to engage with your brand. 

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What is a Payment Back End?

E-commerce systems are based on the ability to merchandize digital goods online. A payment back end is a software platform that enables businesses to process transactions online. One popular payment back end is WooCommerce, which is a plugin for WordPress – the world’s most popular website management system.

WooCommerce provides businesses with a customizable platform for selling products and services online. This is everything from books to rentals. It includes features such as inventory management, shipping and tax calculations, and payment processing. WooCommerce also integrates with a variety of payment processors like PayPal and Stripe, which allow businesses to accept payments from customers using different payment methods.

The back end you select should be inline with the business goals you’re trying to achieve, and there are several industry specific software suites, like Slice which caters specificially to independent pizzarias that may have more of the features you need.

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What is a Payment Processor?

All e-commerce requires a payment processor. These are sometimes integrated into the system, like with Shopify or Etsy, but can also be third party providers like Stripe. A payment processor facilitates the transfer of funds between the buyer and seller. They process credit card payments, work with platforms like Apple Pay, and move money between banks.

Payment processors charge fees for their services, typically a percentage of the transaction value, plus a fixed fee per transaction. Most processors charge roughly 2.9% + 30¢ per successful card charge for online transactions.

Choosing the right payment processor for you, based on sales volume or the services they support or how they integrate with your POS sale and inventory management systems, is an important step in getting your e-commerce logistics set up for success. Platforms like Square integrate all of these features in one, as do many of the industry-specific solutions.  

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Why is Good Web Design and UI Important for E-commerce

Good web design and user interface (UI) are essential for creating a successful e-commerce site. A well-designed site can help businesses attract and retain customers, improve their brand image, and increase their sales. But why is design so essential? 

  • First impressions: The design of a website is the first thing that customers see when they visit it. 42% of surveyed consumers said they were “very unlikely” to make a purchase from a website they viewed as ugly or unprofessional.
  • User experience: A good UI makes it easy for customers to navigate the site, find what they are looking for, and complete their purchase. A poor UI can lead to frustration and abandoned shopping carts.
  • Brand identity: The design of a website can help businesses establish their brand identity and communicate their values and personality to customers.

Without a sound design that’s easy to navigate, you run the risk of frustrating users, and losing potential sales. Often, websites that look like every other site won’t help your brand stand out when your competition could be Amazon. Custom design is necessary. 

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Choosing an E-commerce Platform

Choosing the right e-commerce platform is critical to the success of an online business. There are several factors to consider when selecting a platform, including:

  • Features: Look for a platform that offers the features and functionality needed to run your business, such as inventory management, payment processing, and order fulfillment. An industry specific backend will need to be able to integrate with your website, so it’s worth researching for specialized vendors.
  • Customizability: Consider whether the platform can be customized to meet your specific needs, such as branding and design, some take a lot of technical know-how, some less. Whether or not that back end will lock you in to a specific website platform is something to consider.
  • Ease of use: Look for a platform that is easy to use and manage, especially if you do not have technical expertise.

Examples of popular e-commerce platforms include Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento, and BigCommerce.

PageHoot integrates e-commerce platforms we build or works with what our clients prefer.

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Designing Your E-commerce Site

Here are some tips for designing a successful e-commerce site:

  • Keep it simple: Focus on creating a clean, uncluttered design that makes it easy for customers to find what they are looking for. This is key to a successful UI.
  • Make sure your products look good: It may go without saying, but product design and merchandising online are key to driving sales.
  • Optimize for mobile: Make sure your site is optimized for mobile devices, as a majority of customers shop with their smartphones.

The goal in a high-performing e-commerce site is making sure that you’re communicating the value of your products and services in a clean way to your clients. This is where professional design may be a sound investment.

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Marketing Your E-commerce Site

Marketing is critical to the success of any e-commerce site. Getting your site widely known can involve a wide variety of tactics, but don’t discount the following:

  • Search engine optimization (SEO): Optimize your site for search engines to improve your visibility and attract more organic traffic. Make sure your site is using the keywords users would look for and is technically up to snuff, has a good internal structure, and loads correctly. 
  • Paid advertising: Use Google ads, or social media ads like Facebook to drive targeted traffic to your site.
  • Email marketing: Use email marketing to stay in touch with customers, promote your products, and drive sales.

Overall, a well-executed marketing strategy can help businesses attract new customers and increase their sales.

Before You go

Those are the very basics of E-commerce, but really we’ve only scratched the surface. E-commerce is a powerful tool that can help small businesses reach new customers, but without the right website small businesses may not get the traffic and conversions they’re looking for.

Check out PageHoot whether you’re in the market for a brand new or just an updated site. And if you’re interested in learning more about being effective online check out our 6 important digital tactics for small business owners.

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