In this day and age, it’s a must for small businesses to have a notable online presence. Whether you own a brick-and-mortar store and are seeking to boost your eCommerce operations or are planning on launching a new company from the ground up, eCommerce for small businesses is crucial nowadays.
However, like every other business decision, there are many factors to weigh carefully beforehand. There are lots of key aspects to consider before deciding which eCommerce solutions for small businesses work best for your company. There are many platforms, payment methods, social media channels, shipping options, digital marketing strategies and more to have a firm grasp of before diving headfirst into the world of eCommerce.
To that end, this guide offers a quick yet detailed look at how to start an eCommerce business, which eCommerce platforms work best for small businesses, the best eCommerce tools for small businesses to use, key tips to keep in mind, how to grow your small business online and how Easyship can help.
How to start an eCommerce business
To start a new eCommerce small business from scratch, be sure to keep the following steps in mind:
- First, you need to decide what exactly you want to sell online. Choose a certain market niche you’re interested in and conduct market research into it, looking at key statistics like demographics, competition, pricing and the like.
- Develop a business and branding plan. Choose your company’s name, logo, slogan and value propositions to set itself apart from the competition.
- Next, choose an eCommerce platform to build your online store around. You can develop a store on any one of the popular eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, Big Commerce, WooCommerce and several others. Each platform is unique and offers its own distinct advantages and disadvantages, so be sure to carefully take into account factors important to you and your business, particularly pricing, ease of technical use and themes.
- After that, decide which payment methods and shipping options your online store will use.
- Optimize your website to ensure that it’s simple and intuitive for users to navigate and has compelling product copy, clear images and strong calls-to-action for users to buy.
- Launch your website after conducting and extensive technical review to ensure it runs smoothly and quickly.
- Finally, digital marketing is a crucial step. SEO and paid advertising should all be implemented in order to attract customers and increase the site’s reach online. Launch a social media campaign on popular channels like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram among others to reach potential new customers, promote new products and deals and communicate key information to them. Email marketing should also be used to keep customers engaged with your brand.
Best eCommerce platform for small businesses
For businesses already established, the process is a bit easier, though there are still many key factors and choices to consider. One key choice is which eCommerce platform will work best for your small business. There are certainly plenty of eCommerce platforms out there for small businesses, but which one is best for yours?
Each one has its own advantages and disadvantages. Some are free or at least more affordable while others maximize flexibility and choice for users. Before deciding which one is best for your small business, it’s critical to have a close look at their specifics.
- Magento is an open source eCommerce platform which allows you to add plug-ins and implement web development easily. It has all the functionality that a website needs and is widely seen as accessible and easy to use, even for those with little to no experience in creating web content or running online stores. For security, you’ll need PCI compliance to make payments secure, as Magento doesn't come equipped with this initially.
- BigCommerce is another popular name among eCommerce platforms. It hosts your website and offers PCI compliance, plus you don't have to pay extra for maintenance, hosting and development. Just pay the monthly charges and you’re good to go. The platform will look after all the technical aspects of running an eCommerce store as well. However, you can’t do any web development on your own. Web developers may find this frustrating, as they lack control over the website’s coding. However, this model works very well for those with little to no coding knowledge.
- Shopify is the most popular eCommerce platforms available and offers numerous templates and themes to choose from. It’s very easy to use overall, including implementing payment and shipping methods. But like BigCommerce, users can’t do much in terms of web development, somewhat limiting its flexibility and customization options.
This brief comparison of just a few eCommerce platforms offers a quick look at some options for your small business eCommerce store, but the best eCommerce platform for your small business is the one that suits your business model ideally.
You need to know which payment methods you want to accept, which shipping solution you need and how much control and customization you want for your website, among other factors. After doing thorough research and answering these questions, the view of which eCommerce platform to use for your small business will become much clearer.
Best eCommerce tools for small businesses
To run a successful small business eCommerce website, you’ll need not just a platform but also several tools to manage inventory, market your company and the like. There are many eCommerce tools that you can use with different platforms for email marketing, analytics and managing your inventory. Some popular ones to consider include:
· SEMRush is a very popular research tool for SEO and digital marketing in general. It tracks more than 106 million keywords and offers critical data on website traffic, links, search engine rankings and more.
· Tickspotis a time management tool that lets you track the time you spend on each task or project. It also helps you manage the budget projects and keep it within a reasonable limit.
· Inventory Source is a well-reputed inventory management system that can be integrated with any SaaS-based platform to manage inventory more efficiently. It offers many features besides stock management and also offers integration with more than 100 dropshipping companies.
· MailChimp is a popular email marketing tool. It's an email automation tool that makes it easy to design marketing emails using numerous templates and automate sending them out, greatly simplifying the process.
· TradeGecko is a very powerful online inventory management tool that can connect with any SaaS or B2B platform. It lets you manage all inventory management tasks simply and effectively, including reordering.
Top 5 eCommerce tips for small businesses
Moving your small business online or launching an online store from scratch can be a dauting task. However, by keeping a few key tips in mind, the process can be much simpler than you realize. These are the five key eCommerce tips to keep in mind:
- A professional look is a must for your business’ website and is crucial for making a positive first impression. Therefore, make sure your site looks professional, crisp and error-free before launching. Write clear product descriptions and website copy and use crisp images to convey the right message to your customers. Making sure that your website is mobile-friendly and runs quickly and smoothly is also vital in this day and age.
- Social media marketing is critical in reaching both a global and local customer base. Using popular channels like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and LinkedIn can all be used to reach potential customers, convey important information and keep your current customer base engaged and excited about your business.
- SEO is a vital part of your marketing and should always be used by small businesses looking to enter the eCommerce arena. Blogging, creating content around relevant high-volume keywords and ensuring your site is working well from a technical perspective are all SEO tactics to use frequently.
- Customers are the most important part of any business, whether online or in brick-and-mortar. Therefore, it’s important to always take a customer-centric approach to your eCommerce store. A live chat, chatbot or 24-hour customer support are all critical for this, as are reasonable shipping and returns policies that should be communicated clearly on your website.
- Make your content interactive and attractive. Use a call-to-action and sign-up buttons on prominent pages to engage the visitors. It’s also a good idea to offer visitors a chance to sign up for offers via email or newsletters.
How can I grow my eCommerce small business?
We’ve explored how to get started as well as eCommerce platforms, tools and tips, but what’s the best way to grow your small business online? eCommerce growth depends on not just good service and inventory management, but also how you handle social media, marketing email campaigns and especially SEO. It’s important to enter a “growth mindset” that sets clear, attainable goals in the short-term while also aiming to grow over the long-term, not just on a quarterly basis.
Before launching your website, always do a quality check and conduct an extensive technical test. If you have an app, do beta testing. Overall, make sure your site runs smoothly and is error-free before launching. Your customer support and inventory management should also be at the forefront of your business model, with clear goals in mind to obtain.
By ensuring that key aspects of your website, such as customer support and SEO, have attainable goals that can be met in the short-term, your eCommerce business can aim higher after taking steps to ensure that the basic foundation of your website and business model is solid, helping you have a strong footing early on and focus on growth over the long-term.
How can Easyship help your eCommerce small business?
Easyship can be a critical eCommerce solution for small business with regards to order fulfillment and shipping. We offer hybrid solutions for logistics and shipping across the world, partnering with warehouses and couriers in all the major regions of the world to make it simpler and more cost-effective to ship globally.
Easyship is also free and offers very simple integration with popular eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento and BigCommerce. You can also calculate and compare shipping rates offered by different couriers using our rates calculator while also accessing our global courier network with pre-negotiated, discounted rates.
In addition, we offer tax and duty automation, assistance with label generation and shipment tracking data.
Transitioning from brick-and-mortar retail to eCommerce is hard work, as is starting a digital small business from scratch. However, by taking things one step at a time and conducting proper research into eCommerce platforms and tools to utilize, you’ll find that eCommerce for small businesses is much simpler and less dauting than it initially seems.
Easyship is at your side, offering affordable shipping solutions for small businesses and startups throughout the world. We offer complete order fulfillment and shipping management, taking the burden off your company and helping you scale on a global level. Sign up for free and see why more than 40,000 clients around the world have come to trust us with their eCommerce needs!