When you hear the word eCommerce, you probably think of traditional retailers like Amazon, Target, Dillards and others. But more and more in today's digital age, non retail businesses are leveraging eCommerce to support their business. From packaging services to expanding their existing offerings, businesses are taking advantage of the power and connectivity of the web on their bottom lines.
Your online eCommerce strategy can provide easy, out of the box functionality to start generating revenue online quickly, with minimal overhead. Consider some of the following use cases.
You're a grass roots organization that has a good social following and starting to create real impact. But you need to grow and as a crowd sourced organization, budget is always a concern. One of the higher ups recognizes that you have powerful brand awareness and a great social following. They have the idea to start selling branded clothing to supplement donations. They have a website and decide to bolt on an ecommerce option to spread product awareness through their social networks. This in turn results in a cash influx that allows them to expand .
Let's say you're an IT provider that services enterprise level clients. Your sales cycle is typically lengthy and requires a lot of back and forth. While landing a client can provide high return, you're looking for alternative sources of revenue that require a little less involvement. You know that you have a surplus of hardware and equipment but no way to turn it into revenue. Here too, bolting on a simple eCommerce platform allows you to showcase your hardware and begin building conversion funnels on your site to your online store. Over time, you expand your store to include bulk pricing blocks as smaller engagements. By productizing your services into blocks of hours, you're able to generate business with a fraction of the sales cycle. This then becomes a re-engagement offering to existing clients that allow them to sell themselves into side projects or alternate engagements.
Restaurants & Food Service
With the proliferation of services like Uber Eats and Grub Hub, even traditional restaurants are leveraging the power of the web to increase business. Sure almost every restaurant has a website that showcases the establishment, their menus, fancy photography, etc. But the business case to leverage eCommerce cannot be passed up. Picture the impact a business owner could have by providing online ordering for quick pickup. Again minimal overhead, streamlined purchasing and increased sales through additional take out or pick up orders. Now let's say you own a bakery and you're known for having the best cakes in town. If you had eCommerce functionality on your site, you could build a pretty steady revenue stream by selling cakes and cookies through the website. With a few holiday promotions and some social awareness, your eCommerce business could become a major contributing factor to your business.
These are just a few examples of "non-retail" businesses that have the potential to leverage eCommerce to support their business goals. But how do you get started? What options do you have? Well, we've been talking about "out of the box" services that make it easy to get a shopping cart online quickly. Below are some of the more popular options you have.
Online eCommerce Platforms: Evaluation of Pros & Cons
One of the eCommerce platforms that has come a long way in recent months is Shopify. Previously Shopify was a fairly limited platform that was a cheaper option for certain users who needed the basics of an online store. However, recently Shopify has taken great strides to become a major player in the space. Through recent efforts like building a native integration to HubSpot, Shopify is able to connect and leverage the power of robust marketing platforms. In addition, Shopify has expanded it's functionality through the use of apps. Similar to WordPress plugins, apps allow you to bolt on additional functionality depending on what and how you want to run your store. Shopify plans start at $29/mo and go up to $299/mo depending on what features you need such as 3rd part shipping calculators, gift cards and more. Their enterprise solution for established brands provides a robust platform that can handle high traffic capacity, advanced security, or running multiple stores. Their enterprise platform starts at $2000/mo and requires custom pricing per account.
Another great option for leveraging eCommerce is BigCommerce. BigCommerce was founded in 2009 and quickly rose to the top of the ranks of eCommerce platforms. Today BigCommerce has the most built in features of any eCommerce platform on the market. Unlike Shopify where many things you want to do will require an app, BigCommerce has more native functionality than you'll find in other platforms.
According to Lucy Carney with Website Builder Expert -
BigCommerce lets you sell physical, digital, and service-based products through your site. Unlike Shopify, all three product types are built-in to your BigCommerce store, so you don’t need to purchase any apps to allow these sales.
That's a powerful option because even industries like legal professionals can sell documents online for download and don't need to worry about warehousing actual product.
In addition, BigCommerce has come a long way with its CMS and now their Store Design feature allows for customizing the design of your store with an elegant WYSIWYG (What You See Is What You Get) editor.
BigCommerce pricing is comparable to Shopify with plans starting at $29 and tiered up at $79, $250 and a custom priced enterprise option as well depending on which features you want to include.
WooCommerce is a little different than the previous platforms because it is unique to WordPress. Instead of a separate platform from your website hosting, if your site is in WordPress, you can bolt on an eCommerce option through a plugin and manage your website and your store easily in the same place. WooCommerce is probably the most adaptable within the confines of its hosting platform, but the benefit of streamlined setup makes it ideal for those new to the eCommerce space. Important to note EcommercePlatforms.com writes
WooCommerce has been built to cooperate with most themes on the market, provided that they follow the standard recommendations and best practices...If the design of the eCommerce store itself is particularly important to you, you should look for themes that are specifically made for WooCommerce.
While not the most robust enterprise platform, WooCommerce is great for small companies that want to incorporate a level of eCommerce into their digital presence. But once you get to a point that you'll need more enterprise level customer management and scalability, you may soon be looking at one of the more professional platforms.
The most attractive feature of WooCommerce is the price. Free 99! That's right, WooCommerce is a free plugin that does not add any additional cost onto your current website overhead. However, you will have payment processing fees like with any eCommerce platform.
Magento can be considered by far the most customizable platform of all. Different from some of the other platforms, Magento is built on an open sourced pHp framework. Because of this, Magento stores often require development and coding knowledge to build and maintain. Everything all the way down to the shopping cart can be custom tailored to your needs. If you're looking for anything from a small catalog management system to a full blown enterprise SaaS solution, Magento can integrate with other platforms and provide high touch management of content and marketing systems.
As an enterprise solution Magento has enterprise pricing. Magento CE (Community) is actually Free! However you get what you pay for. Be prepared to dig into code and get your hands dirty mantaining it and struggling through any integrations. But there are paid options, Magento EE (Enterprise) starts at $22,000per year and Magento EE Cloud starts at $2000 per year (includes hosting) according to Custom Paradigm.
Important to note that with any eCommerce platform, you're going to need to accept money. Credit card processing can be handled by companies like PayPal and Authorize.net. Or though retail payment gateways connected to your bank and other processors. All services will charge you transaction fee (usually anywhere from .10 to .50) and a processing fee usually somewhere around 3%. Depending on your processor and often your platform choice and package, you may gain a little here and there on both transaction fees and processing fees. Be sure to evaluate all options to see what is best for you.
After you have your store up and running, you'll begin to realize that eCommerce is more than selling online. Soon you'll be evaluating strategy, promotions, order tracking, closed loop reporting, ROI and more. There is a lot that goes into successful eCommerce. Start small and see what works for your business. There is no cookie cutter approach when it comes to your business. Check out your options, evaluate the features, the costs and the benefits of each. Start small and make incremental improvements over time. This will allow you to test and adjust on the fly without being so stuck in a process that you need to start all over from scratch.
If you're serious about eCommerce, find an experienced partner who can help you take full advantage of the possibilities. You may be able to configure an online store and get your products out there. But having an experienced partner can help you explore possibilities you may not have even considered such as syndicating your products through Amazon, eBay, Google Shopping and social media. Building marketing campaigns can support your eCommerce efforts and really capitalize on the opportunity you have to support your business.