What is e-commerce?
Simply put, e-commerce is a term short for “electronic commerce” that consists of any business or commercial transaction done through the internet.
These transactions can operate as:
- Business-to-business (B2B)
- Business-to-consumer (B2C)
- Consumer-to-consumer (C2C)
- Consumer-to-business (C2B)
The most popular example of e-commerce, by far, is buying and selling online. There are also transactions done through things like online auction sites and services for trades and exchanges.
Over the years, more and more businesses have gone a step further to open some sort of online store, and completely new e-commerce companies have continued to emerge.
According to the U.S Commerce Department, online sales made up more than 33% of the data for retail sales growth in 2015.
Here are a few basic steps involved in starting an e-commerce business:
- Finding a niche product.
- Building your main website.
- Giving options for online payment (PayPal, credit card, etc.).
- Driving traffic to your site through marketing.
Shopify is a thriving e-commerce platform made in 2006, that lets you create and run online stores and websites of any size and type.
Shopify provides a handful of fully integrated e-commerce tools in one: it helps you handle marketing, website hosting, payment security and methods, as well as content management.
It is a Software as a Service (SAAS) based platform and has been widely credited as the best e-commerce site builder in its field. Some alternatives include BigCommerce, Magento and LemonStand.
For new users wanting to test out the platform, they offer a 14-day free trial. After that, you can get the basic plan for $29 a month, the standard plan for $79 a month, or its most advanced plan for $299.
There’s also Shopify Lite and Plus, all in all giving you a wide range of options in affordable prices for getting started.
How to Sell on Shopify
Shopify has many features available for creating and running a store and is ideal for both beginners and experts alike.
Whether you have an existing store you want to move onto Shopify’s platform, or you want to start one from scratch, Shopify can guide you through the process with easy to use tools.
Brand and customise your online store
For those of you just starting out, or looking for a store upgrade, one of the first things you might want to do is start customising your store and designing its brand.
There are over 100 premium and free e-commerce templates available for a pre-existing theme, most of them created by world-renowned designers.
Every theme comes with its own settings, and there are no limits to how much you can edit its code. You can also create your own custom theme from scratch. Whatever you do, you have complete control over your store’s design.
Of course, in order to establish your store’s brand, you’ll need a domain name first. You can purchase a domain through Shopify’s platform, use a free “.myshopify.com” domain, or attach it to an existing domain.
No matter how much traffic your store gets, you’ll receive unlimited bandwidth, free of charge. Shopify prides itself by its 99.99% uptime and fast servers, so there’s no need to worry about your site crashing.
Manage and categorise your inventory and products
Selling products on Shopify is simple. By navigating under the Products tab, you can build your store’s inventory.
You can choose to add your own products, uploading pictures from various angles, putting product details in their description, etc. You can also import your existing inventory if transferring your store from another site.
However, if you’re starting fresh, and don’t have your own set of products yet, that’s not a problem either. Through Shopify, there’s an option to use Oberlo free of charge, and therefore be able to search for existing products to sell in your store, communicating directly with Oberlo’s suppliers to do so.
There is no limit to how many products you can sell in your shop.
Give your shop a blog, an email newsletter and more
One might say a downside to creating your own online store is having to figure out how to drive traffic to it. When you use Shopify, their SEO and marketing tools can already give you great ideas for promoting your store.
Along with your store comes a full blogging platform, where you’re free to write and publish articles, receive comments and create discussion on your own personal Shopify blog.
Shopify integrates with MailChimp, a leading email marketing app, so you can easily send out newsletters notifying your customers of new products or coupons.
Customers choose whether or not they want to receive your promotional emails from the start, so you know you won’t be bothering any of them with unwanted spam.
A sitemap.xml is also automatically generated in all of your shop’s pages, blogs and products.
Offer discount codes, coupons and gift cards
Shopify lets you hold various special sales and promotions through your store to promote your products. For example, you can set up a discount code for your customers to receive free shipping or a certain percentage off their purchase.
With the standard Shopify plan, you can also enable gift cards and coupons to be used in your store.
You can find these perks under the Discounts tab and Products -> Gift Cards tab of your dashboard.
Integrate with Apps and Sell on Different Social Networks
As great as e-commerce-specific platforms are, it’s a very smart move to offer your products beyond them and start selling to different social media platforms.
Luckily, Shopify integrates with several different apps and offers you an easy way to connect your store to Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Messenger and more popular platforms for one-click instant purchases. Your prices and descriptions will be automatically synced!
There’s also a Shopify App Store where you can find different plugins available for adding extra features to your online shop.
Even if none of them catch your eye, Shopify’s powerful API will also let you program your own store apps, and share these features with other sellers. To get started, just take a look at their API documentation and remember to create your own Shopify Partner account.
Learn from and personally work with a site expert
Want to build a great online store, but you’re lacking in some areas of expertise? Shopify’s Partner program allows you to team up with an expert to help customise or build your store from the bottom.
They have experts in the areas of Design, Setup, Development, Marketing and Photography, located around the world, ready to work with you on your online shop for a fair price.
Analyse your shop’s growth and product reports
Shopify has a detailed Analytics section that helps online store owners evaluate their store’s growth, number of orders, which products are selling, which aren’t, and more reports.
It also works together with Google Analytics, making you able to track sales, visits and referrals. In the referral reports, you can even see how your visitors are finding your store, and what source they came from.
Reports can be exported and downloaded as a spreadsheet to study further in order to keep your store’s growth and revenue on the right path.
Run your site from your phone, anywhere you go
One of the glorious parts of e-commerce is that it’s something you can do from the privacy of your own home and personal computer. But now you don’t have to be confined to just that, either.
Shopify’s Mobile App will let you tend to your store no matter where you go. All the data from your store is synced to the app.
Not only will you be able to receive payments, manage your inventory and fulfil orders all done directly from your phone, but customers will have the ability to visit your store and purchase your products from their own mobile devices, too.
Running an Online Store With Less Hassle
I believe anyone looking to start a new (or develop an existing) e-commerce business should look into Shopify first.
It’s proven to have one of the best interfaces and set of tools for creating an online store, and over 40 billion dollars have already been generated in revenue from products sold on Shopify.
With an affordable price range and double the features — compared to many of its competitors — I see no reason why Shopify wouldn’t be someone’s first choice when it comes to doing e-commerce. I very much recommend starting its 14-day free trial today and seeing the potential yourself!