You've heard of the sales funnel, right? We're sure that as a business owner at some point you have! In case you haven't heard of it... The sales...read more
If you're reading this, you're probably thinking about starting an eCommerce business. Maybe you already have one, but you're looking for some outside perspective. Either way, you're in the right place! I'm super excited about what we're going to cover in this post. Let's jump right in.
Okay, so the first thing you're going to want to do is to pick a name and identity for your business. The name should be clear to your audience, in most cases, it should transcend your area (meaning don't name it "Example Name Texas" or something like that it) it should resonate with as many people as possible. You'll also need to identify what you're selling. Are you selling hat's and t-shirts, bath soaps, or scuba gear? If you already have a brick and mortar retail store than this part should already be done. Bottom line here is you'll need to decide what your business will do, why it will do it, and how it will do it.
After you establish the above, it's time to get started on the eCommerce journey. The best way to do that is to start by picking a domain name (i.e., example.com). There are many places you can buy domains online all for about the same price. We recommend buying them from Namecheap.com. They have a great selection, fair prices, and excellent support. You can check out my full post about where to purchase domains here.
When it comes to picking a domain name, you should give it some thought. Ideally the domain name is the name of your business, however, if the name of your company is super long to type, it might not make for the best domain name. There's also the chance someone else has taken the domain that matches your business name, in those cases, you may be able to buy it from them, but it's often expensive. If your business name can't be your domain name, pick something centered around the products you sell or the market you cater to. Get creative but remember to keep it short and stay true to your brand.
The Hard Choices - Platform
Honestly what we've gone over above is relatively easy in the grand scheme of things. The hard parts come when deciding what website platform to use when selling online. What payment processors to use, what shipping to offer, and calculating taxes are also hurdles to jump. Let's start with website platform since that's the "e" in "eCommerce." For the sake of time, I'm going to outline four different platforms, and I'm going to pull their descriptions from Wikipedia or their respective websites.
"The WunderTRE Framework is a fully managed and hosted eCommerce solution. Not only can you build a beautifully designed eCommerce website, you'll have all the tools at your disposal to manage orders, shipping, customers, and products. The WunderTRE Framework integrates USPS, UPS, and FedEx for shipping, and Stripe, PayPal, or Square for payment processing. Every WunderTRE Framework plan comes with an eCommerce Success coach, that not only teaches you how to use the platform, but they also teach you how to run a successful eCommerce business using marketing and sales campaigns and building a company strategy. The WunderTRE Framework is also your marketing hub; you can integrate with Facebook and Instagram to manage your profiles. You can also hire WunderTRE to design your website for you, run social media campaigns, and manage ads on your behalf, thus allowing you to be as hands-off, or as hands-on as you'd like to be!"
"Shopify is a complete commerce platform that lets you start, grow, and manage a business.
Create and customize an online store
Sell in multiple places, including web, mobile, social media, online marketplaces, brick-and-mortar locations, and pop-up shops.
Manage products, inventory, payments, and shipping
Shopify is completely cloud-based and hosted, which means you don’t have to worry about upgrading or maintaining software or web servers. This gives you the flexibility to access and run your business from anywhere with an internet connection."
"WooCommerce is a free eCommerce plugin that allows you to sell anything, beautifully. Built to integrate seamlessly with WordPress, WooCommerce is the world’s favorite eCommerce solution that gives both store owners and developers complete control.
With endless flexibility and access to hundreds of free and premium WordPress extensions, WooCommerce now powers 30% of all online stores — more than any other platform."
"Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform written in PHP. The software was originally developed by Varien, Inc, a US private company headquartered in Culver City, California, with assistance from volunteers.
Varien published the first general-availability release of the software on March 31, 2008. Roy Rubin, former CEO of Varien, later sold a substantial share of the company to eBay, which eventually completely acquired and then sold the company to Permira.
The Hard Choices - Payment Processing
After picking the platform, it's time to choose a payment processor. There are multiple options and each with its own set of pros and cons. I'll be listing my top 3. Remember when picking a payment processor make sure they'll integrate with the eCommerce platform you chose.
"PayPal Holdings, Inc. is an American company operating a worldwide online payments system that supports online money transfers and serves as an electronic alternative to traditional paper methods like checks and money orders."
PayPal works with most eCommerce platforms, including the WunderTRE Framework. PayPal also offers Point Of Sale hardware enabling you to accept payments in person.
"Stripe is a technology company. Its software allows individuals and businesses to receive payments over the Internet. Stripe provides the technical, fraud prevention, and banking infrastructure required to operate online payment systems."
Stripe integrates with tons of services, including all of the eCommerce platforms listed above. However, they don't have Point Of Sale options, thus making them a strictly online choice.
"Square, Inc. is a financial services, merchant services aggregator, and mobile payment company based in San Francisco, California. The company markets several software and hardware payments products, including Square Contactless and Chip Reader, Square Stand, Square Register and Square Magstripe Reader, and has expanded into small business services such as Square Capital, a financing program, Cash App, a person-to-person payments service, Appointments, Gift Cards/eGift Cards, Invoices, Virtual Terminal, Marketing, Loyalty, Employee Management, and Square Payroll.
Square Register allows individuals and merchants in the United States, Canada, Japan, Australia, and the United Kingdom, to accept offline debit and credit cards on their iOS or Android smartphone or tablet computer. The application software ("app") supports manually entering the card details, swiping the card through the audio jack-connected Square Reader, or inserting or tapping the card using the Bluetooth LE-connected Square Chip and Contactless Reader. On the iPad version of the Square Register app, the interface resembles a traditional cash register."
In addition to Square's robust Point Of Sale options, you can also accept online payments using their service with WooCommerce or the WunderTRE Framework.
The Hard Choices - Shipping Carriers
Now we need to determine a shipping provider. I'll list out the top ones for the US. Again, remember when picking a carrier that they have and integration to display live rates with the eCommerce platform you chose.
"The United States Postal Service (USPS; also known as the Post Office, U.S. Mail, or Postal Service) is an independent agency of the United States federal government responsible for providing postal service in the United States, including its insular areas and associated states. It is one of the few government agencies explicitly authorized by the United States Constitution.
The U.S. Mail traces its roots to 1775 during the Second Continental Congress, when Benjamin Franklin was appointed the first postmaster general. The Post Office Department was created in 1792 from Franklin's operation, elevated to a cabinet-level department in 1872, and transformed in 1971 into the U.S. Postal Service as an independent agency.
The USPS as of February 2015 has 617,254 active employees and operated 211,264 vehicles in 2014. The USPS is the operator of the largest civilian vehicle fleet in the world. The USPS is legally obligated to serve all Americans, regardless of geography, at uniform price and quality. The USPS has exclusive access to letter boxes marked "U.S. Mail" and personal letterboxes in the United States, but now has to compete against private package delivery services, such as United Parcel Service and FedEx."
"United Parcel Service (UPS) is an American multinational package delivery and supply chain management company. The global logistics company is headquartered in the U.S. city of Sandy Springs, Georgia, which is a part of the Greater Atlanta metropolitan area.
Along with the central package delivery operation, the UPS brand name (in a fashion similar to that of competitor FedEx) is used to denote many of its divisions and subsidiaries, including its cargo airline (UPS Airlines), freight-based trucking operation (UPS Freight, formerly Overnite Transportation), and retail-based packing and shipping centers (The UPS Store)."
"FedEx Corporation is an American multinational courier delivery services company headquartered in Memphis, Tennessee. The name "FedEx" is a syllabic abbreviation of the name of the company's original air division, Federal Express (now FedEx Express), which was used from 1973 until 2000. The company is known for its overnight shipping service and pioneering a system that could track packages and provide real-time updates on package location (to help in finding lost packages), a feature that has now been implemented by most other carrier services."
I hope you've enjoyed this first part of Starting an eCommerce Business. I know we covered a lot of the technical and groundwork decisions in this read, but that's the essential part of starting! In the other post, we'll be doing in this series; we'll talk about the types of marketing you should do. Stay tuned!