It's remarkably easy to set up your own e-commerce website using ready-made templates. You'll be selling just about any product or service online with just a few clicks and some careful planning.
Matching Demand with Supply
One of the first things that you need to determine when you're looking for the right e-commerce website is the needs of your business. These include:
- Inventory: What are you selling? Is it something digital, such as movies or sound files? Those require a different method of presentation than a material product, which in turn is very different from a service. You need to make sure your site can accommodate displaying your goods
- Payment: How are your customers going to pay? Are you going to offer credit card processing, or some other method such as Amazon payments? What about refunds, discounts, and special sales?
- Feedback: Do you want to allow your customers to review your product? Is social media a big part of your marketing strategy? What kind of customer support (such as email, chat, or phone) do you want to provide?
Once you've answered these questions, as well as any others you might think of, you're ready to go hunting for the perfect ready-made e-commerce website. There are so many to choose from that you are almost certain to find one that will meet your needs.
The Big Names
One of the easiest ways to set up your own e-commerce website is to go with one of the big names in online shopping. They tend to be very secure and have all the wrinkles worked out, plus an extensive support system and user base.
- Google Checkout Store Gadget: One of the easiest ways to begin your store is through this plugin that's freely available from Google. All you really need is a spreadsheet listing your products, a Google Checkout account, and your own free website such as a blog. The "gadget" is actually an embedded widget-type plugin that turns your website into a marketplace.
- Amazon WebStore: You can have the power of the biggest e-commerce success story behind you with this e-commerce solution. Amazon offers different levels of selling options, including fulfilling your orders and letting you also sell your product through their main website. There is a monthly fee for this service, plus a percentage of each transaction collected for the service.
- Ebay Stores: The popular auction site also offers a "store front" with many customizable features to help you create your website layout as well as extensive promotional and tracking options. Like Amazon, there is a monthly fee for your store, and you also still need to pay posting fees for each item you post.
Other E-Commerce Options
The OScommerce open-source platform offers a comprehensive system for selling online, but it requires some fairly extensive knowledge of server administration to set up. Web services such as E-commerce Templates and Entheos offer ready-made site templates that you can easily integrate into the system on your server. These templates are often customized for every product from lingerie to children's books, but usually you can customize it with your own logos, support systems, and more. There are also free templates for OScommerce ready to set up at sites such as FreeTemplatesOnline.
Etsy.com is another very easy way to set yourself up to sell online. While it is limited to handmade or vintage items and craft supplies, it does have a very simple set-up process and integration with PayPal for collecting payments. The site is very well-designed for displaying your products and making it easy for your customers to interact with you.
Minding the Store
An e-commerce website is open to customers from anywhere in the world twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. That means that you will need to put in the time to maintain and update your site to make sure that when that customer arrives, they find a site that works to sell them your product quickly and easily. You need to spend at least as much time (if not more) advertising your site as well, and checking out your competitors to see how they're running things.
In other words, while it's not the same kind of work as a brick-and-mortar store, it is still work. The advantage is that you are your own boss, and using a ready-made site gives you a well-trained staff to help you mind the store and watch the profits roll in.