With much lower retail footfall than there used to be, there are still ways to keep your retail business going with an e-commerce store.
But where to start?
There are plenty of options, solutions, and tools for online retailers, but choosing an e-commerce channel that fits your business needs first will give you the best foot forward.
After all, your e-commerce platform would be the foundation if it was a brick-and-mortar store. There are three different types of e-commerce platform, Marketplaces, SaaS (Software as a Service), and Open Source.
Online marketplaces are perfect for e-commerce stores that sell handmade items, second-hand/vintage items, collectables, or antiques.
The most well-known e-commerce marketplaces are Amazon, eBay, and Etsy.
With over 100 million Amazon prime customers, there is a huge consumer base to market your products to.
The great thing about the Amazon marketplace is that you can sell anything and everything from food to furniture. This is a great option if you want to get your e-commerce store up and running as soon as possible with little overhead costs.
Rather than setting up your own logistics system, you can save a lot of time by using Fulfilment by Amazon (FBA). This takes care of your warehousing, allowing you to focus on your product.
However, it must be considered that there is a lot of competition from other Amazon sellers, which can make it hard at times to stand out against similarly priced products.
The auctioning marketplace, eBay offers an easy to use e-commerce platform. Like Amazon, when you set up an eBay store you will gain access to a huge international consumer base of millions.
Plus, you have the added advantage of being on a recognised, widely used platform which will minimise customer's anxiety of buying from a new e-commerce store. Also, PayPal is directly integrated into eBay which makes it even easier for your customers to check out your items.
eBay does incur sellers fees, so it is advised to use the fees calculator to work out if this would be a profitable option for your online business.
Consumers who are looking for unique, vintage or handmade items flock to Etsy. The finely targeted audience (of over 35 million) is unique to this platform with prospective customers already looking to buy your products.
If your e-commerce store sells handcrafted or second-hand products, this marketplace should be on your radar.
For digital goods, such as digital illustrations, Etsy allows you to store files on the platform for customers to download. The marketplace also has a data dashboard that displays useful analytics for e-commerce stores including traffic, orders, visits, revenue and more.
The most popular Software-as-a-Service platforms are Squarespace, Shopify, BigCommerce, and Zoey.
Managing your online store is simple with a SaaS solution as the hosting, security, shopping cart functionality, and maintenance updates are taken care of for you.
SaaS is a great option for your retail business if you have limited time, resources, and/or technical ability. This software works by signing up for a subscription plan that suits your business needs.
If sleek website design is at the top of your priority, Squarespace is worth considering. Get started by choosing from a range of professional-looking template designs and use their drag and drop editor to customise your website to align with your brand.
Other stand out features include a virtual product inventory, automatic sales confirmation emails, and integrated SEO, email, and social media marketing tools.
Shopify offers a range of templates for different retail categories including Art & Photography, Fashion, Furniture and more. A key feature is the Shopify marketplace which has thousands of app plugins that can be used to enhance your e-commerce store.
Shopify's multi-channel approach allows you to also sell your items on the Amazon marketplace, Facebook, Pinterest, in-store, and other supported apps.
If you already have a brick-and-mortar store this platform makes it simple for your physical store to run in tandem with e-commerce. For example, Shopify offers a Point Of Sale (POS) system that integrates data, inventory, and sales between your online and offline commerce.
BigCommerce is a great all-in-one solution for your e-commerce shop. The SaaS platform offers payment processing, hosting, templates, marketing, and apps.
Other online stores and marketplaces can also be integrated with your BigCommerce store, as well as your business social media accounts.
Setting up your online product inventory is quick and easy with BigCommerce as you can enter the SKU, price, dimensions, shipping, tax, product code and category for each product. You can try
For B2B companies, Zoey is the 'wholesale approach' to e-commerce. The multi-faceted online channel brings together useful sales, marketing, and customer service tools.
Zoey offers advanced B2B e-commerce tools that allow businesses to segment customer groups, generate quotes, and even restrict access to pre-approved customers. File attachments can also be added to product descriptions to provide more details or marketing information.
This is one of the few online platforms that specialise in e-commerce for B2B businesses, so if your company falls under this Zoey should be considered.
Open-source e-commerce solutions allow you the freedom to edit the software code however you wish without being tied to a fixed template. As this is more complex you will need to hire an e-commerce agency if you don't already have a web developer.
Open source platforms such as Magento, or WooCommerce are usually combined with a content management system (CMS) website such as WordPress.
Over a quarter of a million online stores are powered by Magento, making it a popular choice with e-commerce business owners. Magento is free to run and allows users to customise their e-commerce channel from the top to bottom.
Using Magento, you can manage multiple stores, control your customer journey, tweak your e-commerce website as your business grows, and use extensions and digital tools.
As one of the most trusted e-commerce platforms, B2B and B2C companies of all sizes use Magento for their e-commerce businesses. However, setting up an online store on this channel does require more time and expense than SaaS and marketplace platforms.
WooCommerce is a fully customisable e-commerce channel that is built on WordPress. The secure platform has a huge community of developers and e-commerce owners.
Using WooCommerce you can sell anything from anywhere, whether it is a physical or digital product. Payment and shipping options are also integrated within WooCommerce.
Customer payments can be taken via PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Payments and more. Plus you can configure settings to offer international shipping, flat-rate delivery or free shipping.