How to Get Started With an Online Store
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Note: This blog article was adapted from a video that was created in partnership with Catalyst Branding and Business Consulting. The intent here is to provide some quick assistance to small businesses on topics that are relevant to the current circumstances we’re facing. We hope this, along with the “Using Social Media in a Crisis” video and blog post contains information that will help your business persevere through these challenging times.
If you have a brick-and-mortar store, you're probably no stranger to the highs and lows of seasonal sales or the constant struggle of having to drive foot traffic. And if you're in a small town or if you ever felt the impact of an economic downturn you have probably considered your alternatives. You're right to be considering an online store.
What is eCommerce and how does work?
Ecommerce sounds like fancy web jargon, but it’s simply commerce with ‘e’ in front of it. It gives small businesses the opportunity to show up alongside bigger competitors online. Oftentimes, with better prices and better customer service reviews.
So, how does eCommerce or online selling work and how can it complement your brick-and-mortar sales? Very simply, you offer a way for customers to learn more about your products in the form of pictures, maybe videos and text descriptions, and a way for them to make a purchase through an online cart. An online cart tracks what a customer is purchasing, what they owe you, including tax and shipping, and communicates with PayPal or your merchant services to charge credit cards and collect funds. Now comes the fun part. When a customer makes a purchase, usually you'll get a notification, probably in the form of an email that it's time to ship product and that you'll be receiving a deposit.
Some businesses decide to streamline and only sell online, while other businesses sell both in person and online. Sometimes it's nice to be able to demonstrate your products and services in person while also offering customers the convenience of being able to buy online and opening up to customers in other regions.
How can you get started with eCommerce? The good news is there are lots of products today that make it very simple and affordable for you to set up your own online store.
Three popular options are Shopify, Squarespace and WooCommerce.
Squarespace: Analytics and Integration
Squarespace starts at $16 a month. It has an analytics tools so that you can see where customers came from and what they're searching for. It integrates with many apps like Dropbox, Google Maps and Open Table, just to name a few, comes with integrated email marketing and SEO tools to help customers find you. It also allows you to manage your inventory and customer data and schedule appointments.
Shopify: Includes payment processor and 24/7 tech support
Shopify starts at $29 a month and offers Shopify Payment so you don't have to connect a separate payment processor to collect funds. They offer 24/7 support if downtime is a concern and they make it possible to sell gift cards, manage inventory by location and to recover bin in carts if a customer doesn't finish a purchase.
WooCommerce: Open source and expansive integration of payment processors
WooCommerce is open source. That means that everything you need to install and maintain it is open and freely available online. They make their money by selling enhancements, such as marketing, automation, selling other products and services through the checkout process, or translating your product descriptions into up to 24 different languages. They also integrate with up to 140 different payment processors. Whether you choose cash on delivery, checks, bank transfers, striped, PayPal, Square, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, you'll be able to get your money.