Thinking about entrepreneurship but worry about the staggering costs of setting up a physical store? Why not start it online? These are a couple of reasons why an entrepreneur can begin the journey by setting up an e-Commerce website.
Why Entrepreneurs Should Start Building an e-Commerce Website
It is more cost-effective to create a website than a physical store with all the additional costs such as renting, utilities, furniture, permits, cleaning and maintenance. You could instead, focus your resources on marketing, production, and management for your company to grow by running initially on websites. You can move on to having a physical store once you have reached a comfortable size, if you want to.
The internet and smart-phones help shape our future to become more interconnected. The move towards being more mobile-friendly makes transactions increasingly accessible for the public, and thus, your target market.
Before we proceed on building an e-Commerce website, first let us take a step back and lay down its pre-requisites:
- Decide on the name of your company,
- Choose what type of products or services that you want to offer,
- Design enticing pictures to represent your products or services,
- Have a detailed description, specifications and packages that customer can choose from,
- Price them accordingly, and
- Abide by the licensing and the rule of law of your respective countries in terms of conducting business.
How to build your e-Commerce Website
An online store has a structure that is distinctive than that of a conventional website as it deals with monetary transactions.
Read more about how to build a general website and its components here.
The additional structural parts of an e-Commerce website are as follows:
A strorefront is where clients can browse through galleries of products and services. If they have the intention to purchase, then they will place the order inside a cart. These carts can be tracked and managed in the dashboard or at a click of an icon.
A payment gateway is when your customers want to confirm the purchase of items in the cart. The facilitation of a payment gateway provider includes a secure transfer of data, by using encryption methodology, based on the preferred payment methods to the financial institution for authentication. After the request was authenticated, then only that transaction is executed appropriately. Example of payment gateways are:
To officially begin building an online store, you would need to decide on which route or website builder to use based on your:
- available time to create and develop,
- financing resources that you have and,
- the customizability of the website.
There are three ways to build an eCommerce website:
Software as a service (SAAS) Platform
SAAS is the premium choice. It is a one-stop-centre to have a domain name, hosting, store management, payment gateway, logistics, and everything else you would need to run a fully functioning, and powerful eCommerce website. You do not need much programming knowledge for it. You can start by creating an account, filling up your information, uploading your pre-requisites and your online store is good to go.
Even though the customization is limited, if you are building a standard eCommerce website from scratch, you will not need to. This is because most of these SAASs have an in-depth experienced with eCommerce, they will be able to provide beautiful store templates, user-friendly atmosphere and an overall great experience: at a price.
Comparison of popular ecommerce SAAS:
SAASs are all generally having similar basic structure. However, lets compare based on the lowest comparable plans.
Shopify ($29 a month)
The popular choice. This SAAS has optimized functionalities, beautiful design. Even other SAASs would benchmark Shopify due to their influence in the market.
You can check out what is the Shopify lite plan here.
Shopify has a $9 per month Shopify lite plan. But, it was not included as it is not a complete online store. That was the reason it being omitted from the SAAS comparison.
BigCommerce ($29.95 a month)
No transaction fee for all BigCommerce payment gateways. More mobile-friendly. Shopify more premium ($299) functionalities are available at this tier. More cost-effective.
Selz ($26 a month)
Selz has similar functionalities as BigCommerce but at a lower price. However, for this tier, the only payment gateway available is Paypal. So if you are focusing on more savings on costs, but do not mind some limitations, you can check out what Selz has to offer.
Using Ecwid, you can build a complete eCommerce website for free with many limitations such as limited number of sales channel, no ability to set discount coupons, no automated tax calculations and no support. Other than that, you are also limited to only 10 products (no digital goods). It can be a viable choice if you have less than 10 products and are just starting out. However, if you’d want to expand, you would want to check out their paid plans or other eCommerce solutions.
Square, as a payment gateway provider also includes website builder functionalities for a complete eCommerce site. Naturally, the charges are only the processing fee of 2.9% + 30¢.
Content Management System (CMS) Platform
CMSs are easy to set up. If you already have a WordPress blog, you can install some plugins to turn it into an eCommerce website. The cost of using this platform is low. Most of them are open-source, and the only charge that may incur is on the credit card fee. Examples of open-sourced eCommerce CMSs are
- WooCommerce for WordPress
WooCommerce is also one of the most used; by having a 30% market share in the top 1 million eCommerce websites by traffic.
In terms of customizability, you will have more design choices due to a higher number of CMS users. The higher number of CMS ecommerce users causes the demand for design customizations to increase. Thus, there will be those to cater these demands by supplying either paid or open-sourced customizations.
The major downside of using a CMS is, however, the security. Because of a way that a CMS is structured, it is more prone to being hacked compared to using any SAAS. Consequently, you would need to invest some time and money to optimize your CMS for speed and security. Other than that, there are also some additional, non-inclusive costs that you would need to bear. These features are readily present in a SAAS package such as shipping, marketing, and having different sales channel.
If you like Shopify, you can even integrate the $9 a month Shopify lite into your WordPress site.
Static HTML Website
If you want to save on costs and not worry about the security of your eCommerce website, the best way is to inject a few lines of code into your static website. However, you would need to know basic coding to accomplish this feat, or, have a team of developers who can code for you.
The best examples of this are:
- a 2% transaction fee minimum $10 a month for Snipcart (plus additional payment gateway fees- ie. If you choose Stripe, there will be an additional 2.9% + 30¢ per transaction) or
- a $9 per month plan plus additional fees (starting at 2.4%) for each transaction for a Shopify Lite
- free but limited to 10 products and standard payment gateway fees for Ecwid
They are integrated with a HTML website or a static HTML Website Generator such as Hugo; the fastest framework for Static Site Generator (SSG). In terms of functionalities, you will get more with Snipcart rather than the Shopify lite plan or the free plan from Ecwid. Nonetheless, the choice can be dependent on your preference or your budget.
Static websites are generally codes and images. So, customization possibilities of the website’s design and functions are as vast as the developer’s programming knowledge. You can customize it however you like!
The following is a graphical representation of the comparison where more stars representing more value:
In a nutshell, if you want your online store to be up and running as soon as possible but don’t mind the extra cost and limited, but still-powerful, customization, choose one of the SAAS.
If you want to have a user-friendly interface and save on costs to allocate it elsewhere, such as in marketing/product creation; you can choose a CMS to build your eCommerce website.
However, if you know how to code, or don’t mind to learn, you can choose to create a static eCommerce website to get the maximum value and ultimate customizability. An example of an ecommerce static website is Victoria Beckham Beauty. This is Netlify's case study of Victoria Beckham's online store implementing static website design.
Want to make a website like that? Contact Us.