Over the time, people have progressively altered their perceptions about eCommerce sites. From the time when brick and mortar shopping was a safer choice, to the era of 2017 where 1.66 billion shoppers purchased different products and services from online stores, the appearance of eCommerce as a business idea has progressed positively. Until we get a precise data of the same for 2018 yet, it is safe to believe the numbers have only increased in the last year.
If you are a believer and own a great business idea to create an online store, it’s time you claim your share from the huge pie. This article will guide you on how to start an online store in 2019 and make money from it. We will cover all steps in sequence from selecting a business model to launching your website with the cutting-edge modern features.
Business model: Inventory or Marketplace?
When an eCommerce business deals directly with brands and manufactures, and stock their products in its inventory for selling, it follows an inventory model of eCommerce. Most of the eCommerce sites we know today, followed this model until the marketplace model was introduced.
Later, the marketplace model of eCommerce gained an immense popularity because one need not keeping a stock to sell things online. Arrangements can be made to let others sell their products directly on your website and give commissions to you. It’s like building a shopping mall and let different shops sell in it in return of the rent paid by them to you. Depending on the further tweaks in the business model, the rent can be made as a fixed monthly subscription, or as a commission on per-sale, or may be a combination of both.
Which one is better for your business?
Well, it depends on various factors. If you own a plan to stock up the products and manage a dedicated work-force and warehouse, inventory model can be a good option for the start. However, if you can get in terms with different small sellers who would be interested in selling on your eCommerce website, marketplace model is great.
Choose different and go hybrid
I have a mixed feeling about both the above options. Thing is, if you can sell things of your own and earn a great share of profit, why would you earn only from the petty commissions? I don’t think, a pure marketplace is as effective in a long-term scenario. However, you need a great capital and other investments for an inventory model as well. Both the models have their own pros and cons.
That’s why, I choose a hybrid model. A hybrid model can let you leverage the pros of both the options and avoid many of their drawbacks too. For example, you can avoid the “chicken and egg problem of marketplace model” and sell your own stock until sellers come on-board. Moreover, you can scale your business to support drop shipping with little tweaks, and leverage as many revenue generation models like-
- Subscription model
- Direct selling of inventory
- Commission from drop shipper etc.
Create and launch your online store
Once, you are up with your business model, the next big question is how to create an online store economically in 2019?
Based on the business model, you will need an eCommerce website that supports all your needs. For example, if you choose a marketplace model, the website must support the basic marketplace features like separate seller dashboard, commission management, shipping management, and seller review management. So the first step is getting a reliable website.
Find a reliable website solution
You can clear this step in two different ways:
- Hire an eCommerce software development company and get your website developed from scratch.
- Purchase a website builder closest to your business requirements and get it customized according to your needs.
If it was for a few years back, the first option was the only choice. However, it’s already 2019, and website builders or eCommerce CMS have made things quite “no need to re-invent the wheel” type. You can just get a script close enough to your requirements and make customizations to it.
An eCommerce CMS, also called a turnkey eCommerce solution, is a readymade platform developed and sold by different developers with all the necessary features to create an online store. Hence, you need not code one from scratch.
What are the options in eCommerce CMS?
The market is full of options. From technology, different business model, to access of the source code, there is always a turnkey CMS for your preferred requirement. Based on the technology, you can go for any of the following two popular options –
- PHP eCommerce platforms –
- Node JS eCommerce platforms
I find node js eCommerce platforms reliable for creating not just scalable websites like Amazon, but also for the benefits like asynchronous coding style and flexibility to add as many new features without breaking the standing codes.
PHP CMSs are popular and you will always find a good developer who can offer you the inexpensive services. However, they are best when launching a small to medium-sized business. You cannot rely on them for developing a mammoth website. They limit scalability and soon you will feel the need to migrate your website to a better technology. That’s why, for any e-commerce business, I always suggest node.js as the best tech, at least in 2019.
To give you a better comprehension, here are the few biggest eCommerce solutions developed on Node.js: Amazon, eBay, PayPal, ZenDesk, Udemy, and many more.
Besides fundamental eCommerce features, also make sure the selected eCommerce platform also supports the following important features to give you a global exposure-
- Multiple languages
- Multiple currencies
- Multiple time-zones
- Reviews and ratings of products
- Return and refund management
- Coupon and discount management
- Integration for ticket management system
- Direct product upload system
- CSV product upload system
Grab the best suited domain name
The next big task is choosing a domain name. It seems easy, but not in actual scenario. It’s not just about selecting a good name and locking it. It is also about securing your brand’s name in the long run scenario. So always consider the following two aspects in this valuable step of launching an eCommerce business in 2019-
- Choose a domain name available in all popular variants (.Com, .net, .us, .uk, .info etc.)
- Buy all the variants so no one can set up a duplicate website like yours once you are popular.
- Choose the name available in all the social media platforms. Social media handles with your brand’s name is important for effective marketing.
Narrow down your options based on the above aspect and select a name that is-
- Necessarily available with .com
- Crisp, easy to type and remember
- Unique from any other brand name
Select a host for your website
Selecting a good server does not necessarily mean a huge server space with massive monthly rentals. You must also consider your current and future requirements to device a server host that is-
- Competent to hold the expected loads.
- Economical for your pocket and,
- Scalable when required.
You will find yourself struggling to choose from the following four options-
- Shared servers
- On-site servers
- Hybrid cloud servers
- Elastic cloud servers:
Which one is the best?
Based on the above three factors, you can fine tune your requirements, load expectancy, and budget to select a server that offers:
- Dynamic scaling
- Flexible Service level agreement (SLA).
- PCI-DSS compliance
- SSL compatibility
- High Server uptime and
- 24×7 customer and support
Shared servers are incompetent for heavy loads, on-site servers are costly to manage by your own, and hybrid cloud servers are expensive with their static scalability and redundant billing. That’s why I prefer elastic cloud servers because they not just are dynamically scalable but also cost strictly according to the usage. That means, the server space and bandwidth will automatically upscale and downscale according to the load, and you would pay only for what you use.
Select the payment methods
To make money and manage the cash flow, you need some competent payment methods for your website. In 2019, you will find most of the eCommerce websites offering payment methods like-
- Cash on Delivery
- Credit/debit card payment and
- Net banking payment
The above three methods are the fundamental. Moreover, to get better advantages you can additionally support some modern payment methods, which are equally popular in different regions of the world-
- Buy now Pay later: A credit system where buyer purchases and get the product but make payments through any method after a month.
- EMI payments: Buyers pay for the purchase in equal monthly installments.
Select a payment processor
Payment processors provide an encrypted system to safely conduct online transactions in different payment methods. You will need to partner with a payment processor to facilitate online transactions on your website.
However, you don’t actually select a payment processor. Instead, you need to choose a payment gateway that generally comes bundled with different payment processors. For example, PayPal is a payment gateway that allows users to make Credit and Debit card payments. Now, the credit or debit card users use are actually secured by different payment processors like MasterCard and Visa.
Hence, you will need to choose a payment gateway that will come bundled with multiple payment processors. Here is a list of some popular payment gateways you can choose from-
- First Data Corporation
- BluePay Processing
Before choosing any payment gateway, always make sure to judge it on the following aspects-
- It should be PCI-DSS compliant.
- It should offer basic fraud safety methods: 3D Secure PIN, password, card number and CVV validation etc.
- It should support most of the payment processors. If you are planning to offer subscriptions you might also want to look into high risk merchant processing accounts
Select the shipping methods
Shipping is the sole of an eCommerce business. Most of the successful eCommerce websites in 2019 provide the best possible shipping options to their customers. It is not just an order fulfilment method but a way to gain an edge over the competitors. So, narrow down your choices and do a competition research on the following aspects to decide the best shipping options for your business-
- Number of shipping options
- Geographical location to cover
- Size of the products
- Value-added services like same day delivery
- Best courier services in the selected geo-locations
Based on your research and requirements, you can offer the following popular shipping options on your website-
- General Registered mail
- Same day delivery
- Scheduled delivery
Promote and work on SEO
Once the website is up and ready, every eCommerce entrepreneur makes a mistake. They wait for sale to flow-in. They miss the fact that customers will only buy if they find store on SERPs or visit directly. And they will do so when you market your business.
To get people to buy from your store, you need to achieve the following-
- Visibility in search results
- Trust of the online shoppers
- Edge over your competitors
Promotion is indeed a crucial requirement if you intend getting a hand on the above achievements. You can start with the following activities to promote your eCommerce store:
- Synchronise with Google and Bing Shopping
Create a Google Merchant and Bing shopping account and feed your products to Google and Bing Shopping Ads. You can upload your products manually or use a plugin that automatically feeds your store products on both the platforms.
- Re-target with Google and Bing Ads
Sign up on Google AdWords and run some AdWords campaign. It will give an additional visibility for your products in Google SERPs until the SEO kicks-in. Do the same for Bing’s SERP Ads too.
- Re-target with social media Ads
Besides Google and Bing Ads, target potential customers on popular social media platforms for dynamic Ads re-targeting. Popular social media Ad networks are provided by the platforms like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest etc.
- Re-target users manually
In addition to the paid ads, you can also re-target the users on your own website. You can rely on an array of lead generation methods to follow up the website visitors and getting a sale from them:
- Shopping cart abandonment tracking
- Newsletter subscription forms
- Exit pop ups
- Back-in-stock alerts
- Price drop alerts and
- Push notifications
- Boost the organic SEO
Paid traffic through Ads are undoubtedly crucial for the business. However, you cannot rely on them for a long term. Eventually, you will need to cut-down your Ads investment and work on the free traffic generation. This is where organic traffic through SEO would come handy in the long run. Hence, secure the future investments by capitalizing some time and money in the SEO front of your website. You should focus your efforts on the following aspects for a wider representation-
- Grow your domain Authority
- Rank on relevant keywords
- Optimize product page Meta content
- Optimize product descriptions for SEO
- Use content marketing for link building
- Migrate your site to HTTPS
- Create SEO-friendly page URLs
- Optimize for mobile SEO and browsing
- Optimize page-loading speed
- Get traffic from social media channels
- Take part in relevant online forums
The seven steps would let you partake a correct start to your eCommerce business. Building your business on all front is necessary. You cannot afford to lag on any of the steps, it would reflect on your growth in the long run. Hence, invest some time in research and select a correct business model, website development approach, and business promotion strategy.
Do your part and have a little patience and give your business some time to work out. In the meantime, just remember that creating an eCommerce business is a long-term process. You must own something that makes your business unique from the others.
Whether it is your product, service, offer, discount, quality, customer support, or the shipping speed, be ready to prove your superiority over the competitions to survive this massively competitive yet highly profitable market.
I am a professional blogger, guest writer, Influencer & an eCommerce expert. Currently associated with ShopyGen as a content marketing strategist. I also report on the latest happenings and trends associated with the eCommerce industry.
Follow me on Twitter @Jessicabruc (https://twitter.com/Jessicabruc)