In this day and age, it is very difficult to talk about economic development without discussing the world of e-commerce and the opportunities it presents for anyone with internet access. Not even a decade ago, an overwhelming majority of people were nervous to pull their credit cards out of their wallets, and “give it away” to the internet.
Those days are long gone, as illustrated by a census released Friday, November 17th, 2017, by the U.S Department of Commerce. It revealed that 53% of global internet users have made an online purchase in 2016. In other words, approximately 1 billion people bought something online last year. The average American Baby Boomer spends 4 hours per week shopping online.
The younger generation not only isn’t afraid to purchase online but actually prefers it.
“67% of Millennials prefer to shop online rather than in-store.” – Source: www.bigcommerce.com
For someone living in a smaller community, this massive market shift opens the door to a world of possibilities. But where to begin? Here’s what you need to know to get your feet wet and start selling online.
Have something to sell
This is probably obvious, but if you already have a small business and you are selling a product that is easy to ship, then you are already ahead of the game.
Many people are eager to take advantage of the online commerce sphere but currently do not have a business or a product to sell. If this is you, don’t let that stop you. Do a Google search using “whole sale distributor,” “wholesalers,” and “drop shipper.”
Conduct searches for the words “wholesale” or “distributor.” Include keywords from your product or niche; try product names, model numbers and brand names.
Drop shipping means that a distributor will ship directly to your customers on your behalf. This is ideal because you don’t need to keep an inventory of products. You can count on the shipping being done properly, and it’s one less thing for you to worry about.
There are several e-commerce platforms out there, and most of them are quite flexible. You can choose from several options, such as Magento, WooCommerce, Shopify, Tictail, BigCommerce, Storenvy, Wix, OpenCart, Prestashop, and more. Here are some questions you should ask yourself before deciding which software is best for you.
- How much tech skills do you have or are willing to learn?
- Are you picky about how the website is going to look?
- Do you need to be able to integrate with WordPress?
- Do you need fully-hosted or self-hosted? (If you don’t understand the difference between the two, then you need a fully-hosted service.)
- Do you need a free platform, or are you alright with recurring subscription fees?
- Are you looking for low transaction fees?
- How many features per products do you need?
- Will you offer coupons?
In other words, start with your list of features and go from there. As a rule of thumb, if you are at the proof of concept level, start with a fully-hosted service such as Shopify. The simpler, the better. Once you start showing revenues and feel like you are outgrowing Shopify, take a look at WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a free WordPress e-commerce plugin, but you do need to have a WordPress website to use it. The biggest advantage to WooCommerce is its flexibility, but the learning curve is steeper.
Don’t be afraid to make a mistake
Your first wholesale supplier may not be your vendor for life. Setting up the perfect e-commerce business is an ongoing process that requires a lot of trial and error. Don’t let less-than-ideal conditions stop you. All you need to start is a product you can ship for profit. It may not be the best wholesale price for you, but don’t sweat that in the beginning. Your first goal is to ship products; there will always be room for improvements. Don’t quit your day job just yet; approach your e-commerce strategy meticulously and expect to spend some money on advertising before you find something that works.