Why Your Business Needs To Use Social Media

In this day and age, social media is becoming a driving force in how people communicate with one another and especially with how businesses communicate with their audience. No matter the business, if you utilize a social media platform, your audience level is going to increase. On the other hand, if your business does not take advantage of any social media platforms whatsoever, then you are sorely missing out a huge chunk of audience engagement that could greatly increase conversions.

It’s important to note, however, that not all social media platforms work for every business. Each business needs to do research and look into each platform in order to determine which ones work best for them. For example, if your business is related to fashion, there are quite a number of social media platforms that can be used. Instagram, one of the biggest social media platforms available, offers those in the fashion industry a platform in which they can harness the use of visuals to increase their audience. On top of that, Instagram offers various ways in which businesses can engage with users to create a form of communication that benefits each side.

Pinterest is another platform the fashion industry can use in order to increase their audience. Also a visually based platform, Pinterest (and Instagram for that matter) allows for users to share their favorite images, clothes, shoes, jewelry, whatever it may be, and gives them a platform in which they can create their own Pinterest fashion-related accounts that link to their favorite designers, stores, influencers, etc for future reference or style ideas and tips.

For businesses that focus on news, or content that is more text-based rather than visual-based, other social media platforms like Twitter or LinkedIn could be the ones to go after. It is known that posts with images get more conversion than those without. However, although these aforementioned platforms aren’t known for their visual effects, they both allow images to be placed with their text in order to promote the content. With a good image attached to even better content, you can draw in consumers initially with the image and then keep them entertained, informed, and engaged with the content.

Before you create an account on any social media platform, there are a few steps that should first be taken.

Do Your Research

One of the biggest mistakes people make is trying to jump onto every social platform. This isn’t necessarily a huge mistake, but it is unnecessary. Each business does not need to be on every platform. The first step to successfully using social media is to do some research as to where your target audience is and how they engage with your competitors.

Post With the Intent To Inform and Share NOT Sell

Once you’ve determined your target audience and decided on which platform(s) you’re going to utilize for your business, you’ll want to start posting content. Keep in mind, however, that each post you make should NOT be for the sole purpose of selling. Consumers don’t want products to be shoved down their throats; that’s not the reason they’re on these social platforms to begin with. What they want is to engage with their peers and follow the businesses and influencers they like and admire in order to gain some sort of informative content that helps them with whatever it is they seek. A good tip to remember is to follow the rule of 7 to 1. For every 8 posts you make, seven should be to share and inform, 1 should be sell.

Take Advantage of User-Generated Content and Peer-to-Peer Marketing

According to PulpStrategy, 92% of people base their buying decisions based on what their peers are saying. If you want to gain traction within your industry, a great step to do this is to take advantage of user-generated content. Consumers find that content produced by their peers is more trustworthy than advertisements that are being fed to them. One way to benefit from this is to do some more research into who your customers are and what they are posting. If your customers have a high following and post something that is directly related to your business or your products, it’s worth reaching out and offering them a discount or a free gift if they post your product onto their social media platforms.

Fore more information on eCommerce business solutions and ideas, check out our other articles on Genius eCommerce and feel free to post your social media success stories and tips in the comments below.

Platform Review: Is BigCommerce Right for Your Store?

During my time as an eCommerce professional, I’ve worked with clients in all types of industries, running stores on every eCommerce platform available. Often people will call my office and ask, “What platform do you recommend? Which one is the best?” The truth is, I can’t give a really good answer to that question, at least not at first. I need to get to know what kind of business the person on the other end of the phone is running. Each eCommerce platform on the market has different strengths and weaknesses that make them a better match for one type of business or another.

In this article I aim to talk about what kind of business is right for the extremely popular eCommerce platform, BigCommerce. Please bear in mind that you don’t have to fit into all of these categories perfectly to work well with BigCommerce. These are the triggers that I would look for when deciding if BigCommerce would be a good platform to recommend to you.

 

You Are An Established Mid-Market Business

By mid-market, I mean that your business earns somewhere between one and 20 million dollars per year. That’s not to say that businesses bigger and smaller don’t run perfectly well on the platform, but BigCommerce is developing their platform with the goal of becoming the leading eCommerce platform for mid-market businesses. Many of the changes and improvements being made to the BigCommerce platform are being made with this goal, and these customers, in mind.

 

You Don’t Have an IT Professional on Staff

BigCommerce is a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform, also called a hosted platform. SaaS is defined as a software that is owned and provided remotely. In BigCommerce’s case, from the cloud. As opposed to Magento, BigCommerce’s biggest competitor among mid-market businesses, which is an on premise platform, also known as an open source platform.

The reason SaaS is better for businesses without permanent IT help, is that much of the messiness of running a website day to day has been taken off of your hands. BigCommerce takes care of hosting, security for the site, as well as updates. They also back their platform up with a support team, just in case you do run into trouble. Hosted platforms are also designed to be easier to edit without working in HTML or CSS. SaaS platforms are quicker to launch, and less complex to manage day to day. With an on premise solution, like Magento, you will need someone on hand, who is familiar with coding, to fix bugs and make updates as necessary.

BigCommerce Review

There is, however, a double edge to this sword. Because a SaaS platform has to be as generally usable as possible, there are limitations to what a merchant can do with SaaS that don’t exist for open source platforms. On open source, you’re responsible for your own hosting and your own security, but that means you have a lot more free reign to customize your own store. SaaS platforms, like BigCommerce, need to restrict what their merchants can change, because they have more skin in the game. When BigCommerce merchants need customization, they have the option to seek out help from third party development partners. That’s where people like me come in. However, we will never be able to customize a hosted site as much as an open source site. Also, once you do customize your site on a hosted platform, you give up some of your freedom to make updates and changes at will. A platform update, made without consulting your developer, could end up wiping out all the customization work you just paid thousands of dollars for.

If you’re running a fairly straightforward eCommerce store, BigCommerce can reduce your cost by taking much of the day to day work of an on staff IT professional off your hands. This does not mean, however, that you will have zero maintenance costs. You will most likely need to reach out to a third party development partner from time to time to keep the store running smoothly. If you’re in need of unique customization, reach out to a development partner to make sure your requirements are possible before deciding on any hosted platform.

   

You Expect Your Business to Grow

Who doesn’t? Otherwise you wouldn’t be doing this. But scalability is a concern for serious eCommerce merchants, and I think that BigCommerce has attacked this issue in a particularly interesting way.

Each hosted platform has a different way of charging bigger merchants more. Shopify charges transaction fees, so the more sales you make, the more you pay them. Volusion enforces bandwidth limits, so the more traffic you get, the more you pay. BigCommerce prices their plans based on gross merchandise sales. In short, if you make over a certain revenue ceiling they will have you upgrade to the next level. You can see those ceilings here:

  • BigCommerce Standard: $50,000
  • BigCommerce Plus: $150,000
  • BigCommerce Pro: between $400,000 and $1 Million

Anything above 1 million dollars qualifies for BigCommerce’s Enterprise plan. The Enterprise plan has no annual sales limit, and the price is discussed with the business’s BigCommerce representative.

The reason I like this method more than the other two hosted platforms, is because this is the most direct way of charging based on value. While the other two platforms attach their price increases to common indicators of value, BigCommerce has developed their price structure around value, and based it on mutual success.

 

You’re Willing to Pay More for More Features

BigCommerce plans are more expensive than their hosted platform competitors, but they come with more functionality. This is perfect for businesses who are already established, can afford a slightly higher price point, and might appreciate having a store with a more robust set of features.

BigCommerce Review

One great feature, is BigCommerce’s abandon cart emails. They are probably the best in the business at the moment. This tool allows you to create up to 3 automated emails that will fire off to a customer who gets a portion of the way though the sales process, but does not complete their purchase. Abandon cart emails have been shown to dramatically increase conversion rates, and require very little extra effort.

Another feature advantage of BigCommerce is product reviews. Though it may seem hard to believe, not every eCommerce hosted platform comes with the ability for your customers to leave reviews. Instead, they require you to purchase a third party application to enable reviews. All BigCommerce plans come with review functionality.

BigCommerce’s feature set also shows it’s merit in it’s ability to set product variants. Shopify stops you at 3 product variants, before you need to purchase a plugin or find a workaround. If you know how to use BigCommerce’s product rules and product options correctly, you can set up a nearly endless number of product configurations.

I could go on about other features in which BigCommerce is stronger than it’s competitors, but that would be the entire article. When doing a price comparison, I think you’ll find that if you need anything more robust than a simple eCommerce store, the price of BigCommerce is worth paying for the extra features it buys you.  

 

You Sell on Multiple Channels

Each eCommerce platform offers different levels of integration with the web’s biggest eCommerce marketplaces. Some will have a natural integration with one channel, but require a third party integration to sync with another. If multi channel selling is a particular concern of yours, BigCommerce has options, and limitations as well.

BigCommerce offers BigCommerce Channel Manager, which merchants can use to list products, and monitor sales on Facebook, Pintrest, Ebay, and Amazon. However, because many of these integrations are new, there are limitations which you should be aware of. For example, as of now, BigCommerce merchants can only list their products in a limited number of Amazon categories through Channel Manager. They are:

  • Arts, Crafts & Sewing
  • Beauty & Personal Care
  • Health & Household
  • Home & Kitchen
  • Toys & Games

We expect this integration to grow, and include more categories, as time goes on.

Interestingly, BigCommerce is one of the few eCommerce platforms that can currently boast an integration with the Chinese eCommerce giant, Alibaba, but for buying not for listing. Currently BigCommerce merchants can browse and buy products wholesale from Alibaba’s 300 Gold Suppliers (vetted suppliers) for resale. The BigCommerce merchant is still responsible for arranging and paying for the shipping from China. As of now, this is not true drop shipping.

If multi channel selling is your priority, you’ll want to grill your platform’s sales rep on the particulars of their platform’s integration. BigCommerce, like all eCommerce platforms, has strengths and weaknesses in this area. You’ll need to assess how strong they are in your high priority channels.

 

 

If you’ve recognized your own business in any of the descriptions above, BigCommerce might be the right system for you. Of course, your business is unique, and this doesn’t cover everything you might need out of your eCommerce platform. Not by a long shot. You can start doing more in depth research by:

Signing up for a free trial: Each of the hosted eCommerce platforms have two week free trials that allow you to get used to that platforms admin area. Sign up for more than one, and perform a head to head test.

Ask for a demo: Sales reps at BigCommerce, and its competitors, are often more than happy to set up a time to go through their platform with you, and show you what it can do.

Call a professional: If you have specific and unique requirements, I would recommend that you get in touch with a 3rd party eCommerce professional, like myself. We may be easily able to endorse, or eliminate, some of your options.

 

More info on BigCommerce can be found on the BigCommerce community forums, and you can sign up for a free trial on their homepage. Every online business is different, but each business has one thing in common: with a little research and a lot of elbow grease, your eCommerce store can succeed.

 

Getting Started with Your Shopify Website: Your “Going Live” Checklist

Guide to Launching a Shopify Website

After you’ve completed your design, put in your content, and installed all the apps and features that you want, what’s left to do before launching your Shopify website? This checklist takes you step-by-step through all the details you should handle and double check before officially launching your store.

Products

When you are going through your “Going Live” checklist for products on your Shopify website, your primary point of focus will be your inventory and product descriptions. First, check that your inventory levels are where you want them to be. Then, take a look at your product descriptions. Do products have the correct tax status applied to them? Do your products (if applicable) have correct weights? Do you need to add any images to specify variety within products? Do your products have optimized and non-duplicate meta information? Have you determined your gift card and discount policies? If you can answer yes to all of these questions, then your products are all set.

Customers

This section is geared towards eCommerce business owners who have migrated their data to a Shopify website from a previous eCommerce platform. This can include customer data, so if you’ve changed eCommerce platforms, make sure you’ve imported previous customer groups. If you choose to do so, you can create customer groups for further organization.

Blog

If you are planning on having blog content on your site, double check that all the content to be listed is available. Then, there are a couple decisions you have to make in regards to your blog. Do you want customers to be able to comment? Have you added any featured images for your blogs? Do your blogs have unique meta information?

Content Pages

Content pages are an important resource for customers to find information on your business background as well as your business policies. Do you have an about us page? Do you have a contact us page (with an embedded contact form)? Do you have an FAQ and Terms and Conditions Page? Do you have a Shipping and Returns page? These are the most important content pages to include, but you should also double check that any sample or test pages that were used as filler in website development are deleted.

Themes

Before launching your Shopify website, you need to prepare your theme and content associated with it. First, make a backup and then also create a duplicate “test theme.” Another important tip is to add in language translations as a feature to your theme.

Website Navigation

Navigation is a critical feature on any website, not just an eCommerce website. It’s what allows the customer to easily move through the site from one page to another, and so before you take your Shopify eCommerce store live, double check that all of your navigation pages are working. So, make sure that your primary, secondary, and drop-down navigation menus are all available and working properly.

Payments, Checkout, Shipping, and Taxes

Before you launch your live website, Shopify fills in a testing payment option. So the first step to take is to determine your primary and secondary payment options, and also determine whether you want to add any manual payment options (paying offline).

Shopify’s checkout settings gives you a variety of options to choose how much information is given to and taken from the customer during checkout. In order to complete this part of the checklist, you need to determine which fields are required for customer checkout. You also will be prompted to determine what settings will be in place for abandoned cart emails, as well as making sure that refunding and privacy statements will be available.

Your comprehensive shipping plan needs to cover the following things: your shipping zones, what carrier you want to use, what shipping rates you prefer, and how to calculate shipping rates (based on weight or price). If you know there are times you will be offering free shipping, determine that now. Also, make sure your shipping label settings are complete and correct.

There are a handful of settings to determine for taxes. Do you want them added to the product price or added separately? Do you need to charge taxes on shipping? Are there tax overrides/exemptions for certain products or customers?

General Settings

This section is just small housekeeping details. First, make sure your images are optimized for your Shopify website. This will help your website performance and keep the images from slowing down the speed. Then, make sure your website’s homepage meta information is updated and grammatically correct. After that, make sure that you have inputted your Google Analytics account information into your Shopify information so that it can start collecting data as soon as your website goes live.

If you went through this comprehensive list and was able to check all the boxes complete, then you are all set to launch your business. After you go live with your Shopify website, it’s time to start watching your wallet grow. Did you find this article helpful or interesting? Share this to your social media and spread the word about Genius eCommerce!

What Is The Difference Between Managed eCommerce Platforms and Open Source CMS?

A Simple Guide to Managed eCommerce Platforms vs. Open Source CMS

The biggest difference between these two eCommerce solutions is that a managed eCommerce platform is hosted on a separate server, which you won’t be able to access. Generally, this means that your eCommerce website will be provided for you (with the ability for some customizations and added features) and all you need to do is add your content and products. On the other hand, when you use an open source CMS (instead of a managed eCommerce platform) you will host it on your own server. However, this leaves you to set up your own online store. There is no right or wrong answer when it comes to choosing a managed platform over or open source CMS, so to make the choice it’s helpful to understand the advantages and disadvantages of each type of platform.

Managed eCommerce Platforms

There are two primary advantages to using a managed eCommerce platform. The first is that it requires less website development. The various managed eCommerce platforms use pre-built templates that you can choose from when setting up your website. For eCommerce business owners with no website development experience, or any knowledge about web programming or code, this can be a huge advantage. Of course, it’s always possible to hire a professional to develop your website for you, but that isn’t realistic for everyone’s budget. The platforms are set up to have easy-to-use and intuitive admin dashboard that allow you to go through and add your content to make any changes you want. The disadvantage to this is that it limits your ability to customize your website how you want. You may find you want a feature that isn’t available on the platform, but that you don’t know how to make a code for it. Or everything on a template is great, except for one major detail that you can’t change. The ease-of-use means that your website is going to look not as unique than if it was fully customized. Chances are that another eCommerce store out there is using the same template as you.

The other advantage is that a managed eCommerce platform is much easier to stay on top of and manage, particularly for people who don’t know a lot about website programming or don’t have a lot of technical knowledge. When your website is hosted by a separate server there are fewer things for you to worry about or be in charge of for your website, because the managed eCommerce platform is doing it for you. This means that features like payment and visitor information protection will be covered and managed by the hosting platform’s security. Another big advantage is that you will have greater access to a customer support and technical team. You are technically renting the server from the managed eCommerce platform, which means they will be available to help you through any technical difficulties.

Open Source CMS

An open source CMS is definitely geared towards eCommerce business owners that have a greater technical knowledge of web programming and development. The first advantage of an open source CMS is that you have a much less limited ability for customization. You can modify any of the features available, which means that you online store is completely unique. The next advantage has to do with how you own your store; with an open source CMS you have to actually purchase the server for your website (whereas with a managed eCommerce platform, you are technically renting a server for your eCommerce store). However, this means you will most likely have limited access to any technical help should there be a problem over your server.

Another advantage is that an open source CMS is better equipped to handle larger online stores with more traffic. This is because of the ability for customizable features, so an eCommerce business owner can find a server to host a larger online store and still have the ability to run a well-functioning eCommerce website.

The main disadvantages associated with an open source CMS is that there is a lot more to manage with your website, because you are in charge of your own server. This could be a great feature for some, or a hindrance to others. And if you struggle with website development and programming, an open source CMS can be particularly difficult for you without professional help.

Overall, choosing between either a managed eComerce platform or an open source CMS boils down to personal preference and technical knowledge. Someone who prefers to have more control and more ownership of their website should turn to an open source CMS, while someone who needs more of the technical work managed by an outside source should use a managed eCommerce platform. At the end of the day, the right choice is whatever is going to work best for you and work best to make your eCommerce business a success. If you have any questions, or are trying to start your own eCommerce business, contact Genius eCommerce and get your successful business started.

The Comprehensive Guide To Setting Up An eCommerce Store

Learn How To Set Up an eCommerce Store That Will Generate Profit

Online shopping is a booming market, so it’s no surprise that entrepreneurs are turning to selling online through an eCommerce store as a way of making money and earning a living. If you are looking to take advantage of the opportunities the internet can give you, but you aren’t sure where to begin or how to start making money, then you are in the right place.

Setting Up Your eCommerce Store

The primary step to setting up an eCommerce store is to pick a produce to sell. You can either approach this decision by choosing something that is important to you, or you can take something that is already on the market and find ways to improve it. If you are new at eCommerce, it can be helpful to take the second option because it is less of a risk.

Although the product you chose may not necessarily be something that’s important to you, choose something that you don’t have to do a lot of outside research to learn about it. Again, if you are new to eCommerce you should generally choose low-risk options and fit into a market that you already know about is certainly a lower risk. A resource that’s incredibly easy to access and to view existing products all at once is Amazon. You can start by looking at the best-selling and highest rated in the market and see what improvements can be made.

The next step to figure out is how you are going to source your products. An excellent resource for this is Alibaba.com. All you have to do is input a keyword or a group of keywords into the website, and you can view a list of suppliers the offer variations on the product you’re hoping to sell. Not every company that you view will be able to meet all of your demands or will fit what you’re hoping for your business. The best advice to follow is to contact several different suppliers; figure out what you feel is essential for your product and what policies and services you’ll need from your supplier and find out how each potential supplier matches up.

Now it’s time to set up your eCommerce store. A lot of merchants choose to sell their products solely on Amazon, but you can also choose an eCommerce platform to help set up your own website where you can sell your products. If you still like the advantage of how many people Amazon reaches, keep in mind that several different eCommerce platforms provide integration with Amazon so that your products can be sold on your eCommerce store and Amazon at the same time.

An eCommerce platform is an incredible resource; the software used for these platforms have dramatically improved as the online shopping industry has completely taken off. Many of these platforms are specifically designed for the average entrepreneur to be able to figure out and design their own website. For more complex or customized designs, web development companies like 1 Digital Agency are a great professional resource to turn to if you want to make sure that your website is innovative and uniquely designed.

Strategies To Generate Sales

The best way to generate sales? Drive traffic to your website. When setting out on this goal, determine who you want to be driving toward your website. Think about the market that you are occupying, and figure out who is most likely going to need or want your product. This can greatly vary how you drive traffic to your eCommerce store. Take millennials, for example. If you are targeting this age group, that means everything mobile and social media needs to have extra attention paid to it. Because of the dramatic increase in smartphone use (which is the phone of choice by millennials), you need to make your website responsive to mobile use. And you need to concentrate your marketing efforts on social media; rather than making a commercial, consider using Facebook or Twitter ads.  

Another sale generating tip is to consistently re-target your audience. This means re-introducing your product to visitors to your website that didn’t purchase anything. This is where Facebook ads can come in handy because if a visitor (but non-customer) consistently sees your product advertised after originally choosing not to buy it, they become much more likely to purchase. Another great way to continue to generate sales is to target cart abandonment. This is when a visitor added something to their shopping cart but decided not to buy it and leave the website. A great way to target those visitors is by sending emails reminding them that they left products in their shopping cart. You can further encourage them to make a purchase by offering them a promotional sale or discount if they choose to come back and buy your product.

Now that you know the basics of setting up an eCommerce store, and a solid foundation of tips for generating sales, take the leap for yourself! Build your own eCommerce store and watch success come your way. Did you find this article helpful? Leave us a note in the comments or share to your social media!

Best Online Shopping Platform For An eCommerce Portal

How to Choose the Best Platform for an eCommerce Portal

eCommerce portals are an exceptional opportunity to take advantage of when expanding your eCommerce business. By utilizing an eCommerce portal, you can aggregate information into one place. This will create an ease-of-use for your customers, which will only serve to increase your revenue. This article discusses the major advantages of three of the best platforms for an eCommerce portal.

HandShake

Handshake direct online is one of the industry leaders when it comes to B2B eCommerce portals. It can provide you with a comprehensive B2B eCommerce platform; this means that it can cover all of your sales channels. Handshake gives your customers and your reps absolute freedom to place orders through either web browsers or through mobile. Through Handshake, you’ll have access to a central hub that manages your orders and integrates all your systems.

Handshake’s primary goal is to help you expand your customer network, and in doing so, expand your sales. Advantages of Handshake’s new geographies and customer segments is that now you’ll have access to an even greater amount of customers than you did before, and you can market your product collection to a greater amount of retailers. Handshake also helps you keep in contact with your retailers; you can have a permanent showcase on your account, and easily keep your retailers up to date on product stock and new products.

NowCommerce

This B2B eCommerce platform uses QuickBooks to service its manufacturers, wholesalers, and distributors. Its built-in two-way integration with QuickBooks allows both customers and sales staff to see real-time and up-to-date information on all data, including inventory and order history. Through the portal, any order placed online will instantaneously be created in QuickBooks. NowCommerce can also work with any off-site warehousing or shipping needs; if your business does offsite work, NowCommerce can set it up with QuickBooks that warehousing and shipping information is automatically updated as well.

Another advantage of NowCommerce is that you receive the help of an account manager when setting up your business. This way you will be walked through everything that’s involved with selling online; NowCommerce wants to make sure that you understand everything before you launch. This also means they will make sure all of your relevant QuickBooks data is configured, your order forms are customized to your brand and your business how you want them, and that all your data is integrated across all fronts.

A great resource that NowCommerce can also provide you with is a further insight into your business and easy, remote management. NowCommerce set up management tools within the eCommerce portal so that managers and business owners and see all the orders remotely and also check on inventory levels. All of your staff, from you to your sales team, can have access to their accounts and can all be equally notified of customer activity.

B2B Wave

B2B Wave is a cloud-based eCommerce portal. It is particularly advantageous for individual who want their business to get your company up-and-running fast. They have an especially user-friendly interface, which walks you through each step you need to take to get your business ready to launch. According to B2B Wave, from start to finish you could have your business ready to go in a few hours.

Their features are similar to NowCommerce and Handshake, but an interesting advantage (or disadvantage, depending on your preferences) is that since they are a cloud-based eCommerce solution, your website is technically hosted on their cloud. This means slightly less control than if you had your own server (which you don’t need with B2B wave), but it does mean you don’t have to pay an outside hosting fees. They also guarantee that all future software updates are free; while you pay a price for an eCommerce software, sometimes they will charge you extra fees in order to update the software. This is a comforting advantage, because often don’t have a choice with updating your software because it’s essential to keeping your eCommerce business running smoothly. With guaranteed free updates, you never have to worry about that.

With any eCommerce platform or portal, it’s always about what is going to work best for your business. Handshake might work perfectly for one supplier, and not be compatible with your needs and preferences at all. The first step to take is to determine what is essential for your business, and what is non-negotiable in terms of what you need from the eCommerce platform you choose, and try to find the eCommerce platform that best matches your needs for your eCommerce portal. Do your research and talk to the teams for the various platforms if you have any questions or nuances that you need to figure out. Pick the eCommerce portal that is right for you and you’ll be on your way to success! Have you had any experiences with certain eCommerce portals before and found some to be better than others? Do you know of any other eCommerce portals that didn’t make the list? Let us know in the comments!

The Ultimate Guide To Starting An eCommerce Portal

What You Need to Know Before Starting an eCommerce Portal

An eCommerce portal can be an incredible advantage as a way for people throughout the globe to make purchases and transaction easily and in one place. This article will walk you through what you need to know before starting an eCommerce portal. The best way to be prepared to start your own is to have a solid foundation of the information going into it.

Web Portals

The goal of web portals is to collect information regarding individuals (for eCommerce portals either customers, retailers, suppliers, etc), various products, and services and put them all in one place. This aids the consumer or customer by allowing them to find what they need all in one place, rather than completing multiple online searches to find what they need. Portals are still singular websites, they just provide a greater amount of information from a variety of different sources. So a web portal works by taking products, sites, and services that are central to a certain theme and putting it all in one place.

A great example of a web portal also happens to highly applicable to eCommerce: Amazon. While it is solely an online shopping portal, it is an easy way to understand the concept of the portal. Amazon puts together a variety of different things based around a central theme: online shopping. Specifically, eCommerce portals offer both individuals and business access to both sell and purchase either products or services through a single website. eCommerce portals come in two forms: Business to Business eCommerce portals and Business to Consumer eCommerce portals.

B2B vs. B2C

The difference between these two can be found in the name. Business to business (B2B) eCommerce portals are aimed at the streamlined exchange of products between businesses. A B2B portal will allow companies to buy and sell from each other. An example of this is any manufacturer/supplier B2B eCommerce portal, like Alibaba.com. On Alibaba.com, eCommerce business owners can order supplies or manufacture supplies for their own business, from manufacturing and supply businesses listed on Alibaba.  Business to consumer (B2C) eCommerce portals is essentially what it sounds like; it is a web portal that allows consumers to purchase products or services from a company for personal use.

Choosing The Right Platform

A general rule of thumb for eCommerce business is that choosing the right platform is critical to your business. Whether you are looking to choose a B2B or B2C eCommerce platform for your portal, there are specific areas you should focus on. First, you are going to want a system that is high-tech, or sophisticated. You don’t want something that is going to make you not look professional. You also want it to be something flexible so that you can adapt it to fit your business and to look on brand. As a platform for an eCommerce portal, it also needs to be able to support a variety of stores, branches, channels, etc., as well as responsive design for mobile, tablet, and social media.

A good platform for an eCommerce portal will let you manage all of the operations for your website using a single set of tools or under a single dashboard. And it should provide you with an easy, already setup system for managing and tracking your orders, customer information, inventory, or any other data associated with your eCommerce portal. You should also check that any given platform will give you the ability to choose from a variety of pricing requirements.

Determine whether you want a hosted platform or an open-source platform. For hosted platforms, you can either use on-premise or cloud-based. On-premise platforms require on-site installation, while cloud-based is hosted by the providers. An open source eCommerce platform gives you a higher degree of flexibility with your eCommerce portal; this is because you have the ability to change and adapt the platform’s code. That way, whether you are creating a B2B or a B2C eCommerce portal, you will be able to customize it to your business’s needs and your own preferences. However, this advantage only works if you have technical knowledge about website code and development or you have it in your budget to hire a website developer who is experienced with code. While you don’t get this level of flexibility with hosted platform (since they are mainly based off of pre-made templates), if you aren’t technically savvy or understand web development, a hosted platform is much easier to sit down and do it yourself. The platform developers make sure to create an easy-to-use and intuitive dashboard so that you could most likely figure it out yourself without any outside help.

Now that you have a solid foundation of information about B2B and B2C eCommerce portals, and you know what to look out for when choosing the right eCommerce platform for it, you are well on your way to starting an eCommerce portal. If you liked this article and want to learn more about the eCommerce industry, check out Genius eCommerce today!

Comparing the Customer Experience of the Top eCommerce Platforms: Magento vs BigCommerce vs Volusion vs Shopify vs Opencart

As the number of eCommerce businesses continues to multiply, so does the number of platforms offering sales solutions. Even for businesses that have utilized one eCommerce platform or another in the past, sorting through the latest options and technological improvements can be overwhelming.

Which One is Right For Your Company: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, OpenCart?

One of the most important considerations is the end user experience. It is crucial for an eCommerce platform to be a successful software solution for your business. To assist with your evaluation of the top eCommerce platforms available today, we provide an in-depth guide on how Magento, BigCommerce, Volusion, Shopify, and Opencart provide the customer experience, and how this could impact your success.

What Matters to Your Customers

bigcommerce magento

Turning browsing into sales is one of the backbones of any successful business, but compared to a brick and mortar store, the customer experienced with eCommerce is radically different. This changes customer expectations, needs, and wants in ways that must be carefully considered and addressed by a good eCommerce business.

When shopping online customers say they want organization, a design that reflects the products, and an intuitive purchasing process. A platform that allows your business to interact with customers in a manner that fits these needs is essential. So, how do the top platforms stack up?

Diversity of eCommerce Design Options

For any eCommerce business, the best marketing material is a great website. In many ways your website will formulate the cornerstone of branding and identity for the entire business. Your website is your store, and it should be given the same attention and thought as any physical space.

The content management systems of some top eCommerce platforms are thankfully straightforward. Opencart is focused on simplifying the design process. There is a small library of themes to choose from and certain customizations for branding and creating feel. When you look at Opencart vs Magento or BigCommerce, it is apparent that there is a big gap between capabilities for designing your unique site.

Shopify and BigCommerce are the two major players in terms of customization. Both platforms allow users to develop a unique design through built-in software. There are options to customize the layout, heading, color scheme, text, and typography.

Shopify’s approach is similar to website development softwares, such as WordPress. There are a large range of themes, which means a new business could develop a layout and look that is different from competitors. However, Shopify focused on making the front-end development simple for users, which places some limits on customization.

In contrast, BigCommerce can be more cumbersome to learn and manage, but the range of options is greater. This eCommerce platform gives businesses a lot of control over the ultimate website. Volusion, on the other hand, relies heavily on its library of themes, rather than individual changes to coding, to please users and end users. The goal of this extensive library is to provide a theme for any type of online vendor.

eCommerce Payment and Checkout Process

There is nothing worse for a seller than when a customer decides to make a purchase, but is overwhelmed or frustrated by the checkout process. Therefore, ensuring the eCommerce platform you choose has the right payment gateways is essential to converting sales. Perhaps the most important aspect is offering credit card capability and PayPal, which all of the top eCommerce platforms are now able to do.

BigCommerce is integrated with a number of the largest payment gateways. Through this platform you can offer your customers the option of Paypal, Orbital Payment Gateway by Chase Paymentech, Worldpay, Braintree, Stripe, Authorize.Net. This is one of the more extensive integration possibilities. Shopify vs Magento reveals that these platforms offer a similar number of payment gateways, which translates to a similar number of payment option.

Volusion and Opencart are not without options. Volusion provides the option of Authorize.Net, Paypal, and Amazon Payments, among others.

The ability to integrate with Amazon Payments can be particularly valuable, because other big players, Shopify and BigCommerce, do not have this capability. Lastly, spent a lot of time evaluating hosted and non-hosted payment gateways, fee structures, and security of payment gateways in order to provide a robust offering to users (and ultimately end users).

Shopping from Anywhere

One of the biggest changes in eCommerce in recent years is the number of end users who are initiating and finalizing purchases through their smartphones or tablets. An eCommerce platform needs to provide a fully responsive, such that customers are just as enticed by the layout, design, and branding on a phone, as on a laptop.

Shopify is among the most well known eCommerce platforms, but Magento has become the most widely used. This is due in part to its ability to translate your website from computer screen to phone screen. The company spent significant time on mobile-friendly SEO and creating designs that will translate on any device. When it comes to Magento vs Shopify, in terms of responsive design, Magento with its attention to detail is the clear winner.

However, another important comparison is between Magento, BigCommerce, and Volusion. Both Magento and BigCommerce are clearly designed for more complex vendors, as noted by the additional options and number of responsive designs. Volusion offers far fewer fully responsive themes, which can be a detriment for certain vendors, but for new businesses or those appealing to an older customer base it might not matter.

The Best Platform for End Users?

Ultimately, the best platform for end users is a business-specific decision. There is not a single platform that does everything perfectly, and what works for one fashion boutique may be a hinderance for another.

For instance, one business may be heavily invested in the customization of their website and branding, while another business finds that a more simplistic layout and design adequately reflects the vendor and leads to more sales. Yet, when you keep your target end user in mind, you are likely to land on an eCommerce platform that will help you meet new sales goals.

What eCommerce platform do you think best provides the best options for keeping your customers engaged and turning sales? Let us know in the comments!

How to Start An Ecommerce Business

Learning how to start an eCommerce business can be overwhelming at first. But with a little insight into how the industry works, launching your business doesn’t have to be as hard as it seems. In fact, with today’s technology-driven world eCommerce is the perfect place for first-time business owners to get their foot in the door.

Online retail sales in 2016 increased by 15.1% and totaled an estimated $394.9 billion. The industry is only going to grow as more and more people are making purchases via the internet and smartphone apps. Who needs to drive to a store anymore when you can order whatever you need from the comfort of your couch?

With millions of online shoppers at your fingertips, starting an eCommerce business is a great way to take advantage of an evolving retail market. Whether you create your own products or have a passion for business, selling products online has never been easier. Follow our five simple steps to learn how to start an eCommerce business today.

Learn How to Start an ECommerce Business and Turn Your Passion into a Reality

Decide on an Industry and Product

Deciding on an industry and product can be the most difficult part of getting your eCommerce business off the ground, but it’s also the most essential.

There are millions of products available that you could be selling—picking the right one for you can make or break your business. Here are three things to consider when deciding what Ecommerce industry is right for you.

  • Passion: You should pick an industry that you have a passion or interest in. This is vital to the success of your eCommerce business because without a true interest in what you’re doing it’s easy to lose motivation and let frustrations get the best of you. If you have a house full of cats you adore, then why not look into selling pet products? Choosing an industry that you’re familiar with will help you in the long run when obstacles and challenges arise.
  • Availability: If the products you’re selling are going to succeed, there needs to be some kind of demand for them. Whether they are handmade products or something you can’t get anywhere else, creating a niche that will peak customer interest is a great way to help your business succeed. Selling something generic or that can easily be found in a supermarket is not the best strategy when it comes to starting an eCommerce business.
  • Price: You may have found the perfect product that is unique and fuels your passion, but how much does it cost? When considering a product for Ecommerce you have to think about costs like margins, shipping and handling, and customer service, that all go into running an eCommerce business. If a product’s cost is too high, then it’s not going to make you a lot of money and it’s probably not worth going through all the effort of selling it in the first place.

Figure Out the Logistics of Stocking Your Product

Now that you’ve decided on a niche industry and product you are passionate about, it’s time to think about where you’re going to get your supply. When it comes to suppliers, you generally have three options:

  • Finding a manufacturer who can create your product from scratch.
  • Purchasing already existing products from a supplier, wholesaler or distributor.
  • Using a drop shipper who will supply your products and fill your orders with brands and products that already exist.

Do your research when looking for a supplier and consider things like domestic versus overseas manufacturers. Are you more interested in cost-efficiency and variety, or quality and fast shipping time? Figuring out stocking logistics is an essential part of how to start an eCommerce business and make take some time, so be patient.

Get a Headstart on Your Competition

In the eCommerce world, there are a lot of other budding entrepreneurs just like yourself trying to do exactly what you’re doing. That’s why it’s important to research your competition before you start your business. Look for businesses that are in your industry and make note of the things they’re doing well, and what they could improve on.

Things to look out for include: What are their product and shipping prices? What is their marketing strategy? Do they have a newsletter or an email list? How is their website design? Is their site user-friendly and optimized for mobile? Using this information from your competitors, you can build your own business plan and marketing strategy.

Create Your Brand Identity

You’ve found a product, picked a supplier, and done the research on your competition, is it time to start the business yet? Almost. The next step is coming up with an effective brand identity. This is a crucial step in how to start an eCommerce business process because it’s what will help you stand out in a crowded market.

You want to choose a business name that works well for the web.

This means that it looks good in an URL and the right domain name is available. Your name is how customers are going to identify and talk about you, so it needs to be memorable, creative, and relevant. There are several tools available online to help you choose an effective and optimized domain name.

Once you’ve got your business and domain name, it’s time to start thinking about a logo. Hiring a graphic designer for this may be a good idea because you need a logo that’s professional and eye-catching to use for marketing your business.

Build Your Store & Start Selling

The final step in the process of how to start an eCommerce business is to build your store! When building your store, there are a few things that you should keep in mind.

  • SEO optimize all of your content. Optimizing your website pages, product descriptions, images, and social media makes it easier for customers to find you and is a great way to increase your sales.
  • Create a blog for your business. A blog will not only keep the interest of your current customers, but help new customers find you and learn more about your products.
  • Take product photos. Unlike a physical store, customers are unable to hold your product in their hands. This means that the product photos you put up on your site are the only way your customers can see what they’re buying. A lot of people will make snap judgments on the quality and value of a product based on its photo. High-quality professional photos that use good lighting and are taken from multiple angles are the way to go.
  • Write amazing product descriptions. Without someone there in person to talk to your customers, the product description is all there is to sell them on the product. Make sure it’s error-free, well-written, and convincing. Here’s a great video by Small Revolution that includes helpful tips on how to write great product descriptions.

Now that you’ve uploaded all your products onto your website, it’s time to officially open your eCommerce store for business! Share your new business with friends, family, and on social media.

A little marketing can go a long way when it comes to getting your first customers through the virtual door, so be sure to use our resource on creating a successful marketing strategy

With these easy tips on how to start an eCommerce business, turning your passion into a reality is an attainable goal for anyone. If you’re thinking about starting your own eCommerce business, contact Genius eCommerce today to get the ball rolling.  

 

Sources: US Department of Commerce