Commerce has been an integral part of human existence since the beginning of recorded history. In all its evolved forms, commerce remains enthralling on both sides of the spectrum.
Commercial transactions in all their forms share a common characteristic – they constitute some form of relationship between buyer and seller, customer and business.
There’s the early phase where the buyer markets their product, and a shopper finds them. Then there’s the transaction itself, followed by a follow-up depending on the buyer’s experience. Ecommerce may have changed the game in a way, but that common formula remains.
So what is ecommerce, exactly? What are the benefits of ecommerce?
Sure, when we hear the term, we think of “shopping online,” or “selling stuff on the internet.” To truly understand how to start an ecommerce business and how to optimize one for success, you have to look closer at the question.
Consider the proven formula for commerce – then examine how the digital world has changed things.
Examining Commerce: Critical Components and Structure
We’ve all done it, probably thousands of times, but how exactly does one define commerce? It’s buying, selling, and the part in between, but what’s a solid definition?
“Exchange of goods or services for money or in kind, usually on a scale large enough to require transportation from place to place…”
Exchanging doesn’t just happen with our money – it happens with our time, expectations, and opinions. Commerce is as much about the communication, marketing, and fulfillment processes as it is simply swapping cash for goods.
If we consider commerce the way Investopedia does, it becomes the act of economic agents’ conducting trade.
Sure, there are some broader terms at work at a glance. But there’s also the telling aspect of commerce being a relationship between individuals with the will to act.
If you’re an ecommerce newcomer, you know what you want to accomplish – at least you know you want to be involved. Knowing how to start an ecommerce business involves knowing how to start off with the right approach.
What Is Ecommerce? Simple Definition, Complex Answer
The “e” in front of commerce stands for electronic – meaning ecommerce is simply the act of conducting commerce over an electronic network. In this case, that’s predominantly the internet.
We could even think of it more precisely as “online businesses.” But the process itself is more complex, albeit many of its elements simplified thanks to the digital approach.
The appeal of starting an ecommerce website is simple – it’s a way to set yourself up to make money and realize your vision. But more so, it’s a way of doing it without having to set up a brick-and-mortar space.
It is true that if you sell physical goods, you’ll still need storage room. But aside from space for your website’s servers (whether at your location or someone else’s), you’re pretty much off to an immediate start with a big potential reach.
Potential – that’s the keyword.
Ecommerce involves making sure customers know about your business and how it can help them. That’s what sets up for the transactions themselves – then there’s the part that comes after. If a customer isn’t satisfied, there needs to be a support option in place. If they are satisfied, maybe both parties can do business again.
Ecommerce Insight Divided Into Three Basic Categories
Let’s examine these three components to see the full picture of what ecommerce marketing is.
- Ecommerce Marketing: The promotion and advertising efforts that go into promoting ecommerce stores, and telling them what exactly they can offer customers – and why they should be chosen.
- Ecommerce Transactions: The act of exchanging money for goods or services via an Ecommerce platform or similar payment portal.
- Ecommerce Fulfillment: Sometimes called fulfillment or support services, these are the services that ensure the customer stays happy – and acts when they aren’t.
Understanding your ecommerce space and its potential involves seeing these three aspects of the process as part of the bigger picture.
There are also ways you can break down these areas into more complex subsets, but for a beginner, they’re a good trifecta to start with.
So for the budding beginner with a concept in mind, the first step is to get your store space officially set up.
Starting Out with an Ecommerce Website: Important First Steps
When you’re starting out with an online business, you’ll need to begin with a website.
This is, of course, provided you’ve already established what type of business you’ll be. The matter of choosing between a sole proprietor, partnership, LLC, or corporation – that depends on the structure of your business and various other factors.
But once you’ve got that figured out, you’ll need a name for your business and for your website. Here are some tips for choosing the right domain name.
- Think Simple: Choose your business name if it is available – if not, choose something memorable that appeals to people in your industry.
- Make it Easy: You want a name that’s easy to say, easy to spell, and easy to remember.
- Get Inspiration: What do you like about your favorite websites and the Ecommerce operations they have to offer?
Once you have your website set up, you need to make sure it has all the makings of proper retail space. This includes a place to display your products, a secure method for users to contact you, and any features necessary for onsite payment processing.
As far as hosting goes, a recent survey listed your top three options as Hostinger, Bluehost, and A2 Hosting.
You also have the option to utilize platforms like Magento, Shopify, and others to give you a solid starting point to work with. Having a presence here is good, but it isn’t everything – you may want to view this as a supplementary option to your main website if your store has any type of complexity.
Ecommerce trends show people using platforms like these more often, but there’s still no substitute for a unique website that stands out.
So with your name and concept in mind, the next step is to make sure you’ve got a valuable method for maintaining and deploying your products. Once you know you can deliver on what you say, the next step is to examine your approach to promotion.
Promoting an Ecommerce Platform as a Beginner
Sometimes it can seem next to impossible to get the wheels rolling if your website is new. You watch your competitors pull in thousands of views per piece per day in some cases, while you click back every few minutes hoping you’ve got that first interaction on your new page.
Luckily, there are a few strategies you can use to promote a new website. The first of these is search engine optimization or SEO. Experts have agreed SEO is a must.
If you know what your customers are looking for, you know what terms they are inputting into search engines. It’s a proven way to help pages soar through the rankings, and toward those precious first few pages of search results.
Promotion Doesn’t Mean Sales, Just Opportunities
It’s not a guarantee your customers will buy once they get there – but it is a surefire way for new sites to get prospective leads, even in the face of major competitors.
You also need to think of the specific approach you’ll take when promoting your actual services. What is the pain point of the customer you hope to address and solve? Why should they choose your ecommerce business over all the others?
When we’re talking about ecommerce benefits, one of the main reasons people chose to go this route is for the simplicity – but there are still some complications. Namely, when it comes to fulfillment and support – can you handle any issues that may arise and do you have plans in place if you can’t?
Mastering the Support Segment of Your Ecommerce Business
When customers are happy, they may be willing to come back and do business with you again. But when they aren’t happy, you need to try and make things right.
Whether your product or service didn’t meet your customer’s expectations or they never got what they paid for at all, customers want their concerns heard.
Having some type of support system in place is as critical for ecommerce companies as it is for those who focus their efforts on physical locations.
When you look at popular websites with shopping features, whether they be independent or made on a popular platform, you’ll notice they make it easy to get in touch.
They don’t just do this because they want customers to make a transaction. They want to be able to communicate so they can extend offers and retain customers even in the event there is a problem. This is a smart long-term strategy any beginning ecommerce effort must consider.
What Options Are There for Ecommerce Fulfillment?
Ecommerce support and fulfillment services could take many forms – it could be a spreadsheet of steps you go through to process orders. It could involve a custom email address set up to handle all inquiries. It could be a support team you’ve outsourced concerns to.
Making sure you can handle all steps of the process during and after a sale is important. It future-proofs your ecommerce site and takes your digital space from more than just a place to do business from the comfort of your desk chair.
Instead, it turns it into a full-on portal for conducting business with other economic agents across the web.
Understanding the Ecommerce Process
The process of ecommerce is just that. It’s more than that moment when you make a transaction – it’s all the things that go before it, and all the things that come after in your connection to a customer.
Getting started in ecommerce requires a lot of work. You have to think ahead about your business idea, its purpose, and of course its name.
Once you have these things in place, focusing your efforts in the digital world can help you get a quicker start with fewer expenses. It can also open you up to opportunities for cost-efficient marketing strategies that open you up to a good return on your investment.
With a good site and a reliable method for communicating to your customers no matter where they are in the process, you can get the hang of the ecommerce world quick. That’s one of the benefits of ecommerce – it’s easier to get off to a successful start than it is with traditional commerce.
Don’t underestimate the value of using services like Shopify as a beginning platform. Remember that the entire process is about learning.
As you spend more time crafting your ecommerce efforts, you’ll get more efficient and produce better results.
What do you think are the benefits of ecommerce? What makes a good ecommerce startup?
We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!