E-Commerce is one of the most important aspects of your online platform. To put it simply, this is what will allow you to sell to customers through the internet. Don’t make the mistake of thinking this is only for online businesses, however. In reality, virtually every type of business should have an e-commerce platform in place. When done properly, it can be a powerful marketing tool for any type of company.
E-Commerce for Online Businesses
Businesses that operate primarily or exclusively online will, of course, rely on the e-commerce platform to make all their sales. The biggest example of this is Amazon.com. They make billions of dollars in sales per year, yet you cannot walk into their store to make a purchase. They are a 100% online e-commerce site.
While it isn’t likely that your site will grow to the size of Amazon anytime soon, you can certainly benefit from the same advantages they have. By using e-commerce to sell online, everyone who can access the internet is potentially your customer. Another great benefit of doing online business with e-commerce is you can open your own business with a very small capital investment, since you don’t need to buy a physical store.
E-Commerce for Offline Businesses
If you have an offline store, you can make sales online and ship them to the customers. This will take your business from serving only a small geographical area to literally serving the entire world. Of course, you can set limits on where you will ship to, but it is the easiest way to add millions (or even billions) of potential customers to your company.
In addition to expanding your business, however, it will also allow you to serve your existing customers much better. With an e-commerce platform in place, you can allow your customers to shop online, and then pick up their product in the store. You can even begin running online sales that will help customers to make additional purchases.
Components of e-commerce
Whether you are running an exclusively online business, or you also make offline sales, your e-commerce site will need to have a number of different components in order to operate properly. Each of these items are required for a successful e-commerce business platform:
- Virtual Storefront – The page, or pages, where you show your products and list their descriptions is often known as the virtual storefront. This is where potential customers will browse through your inventory and decide whether or not they want to make a purchase.
- Shopping Cart – Just like in offline businesses, people can put their products in a virtual shopping cart. From there, they can either check out and make a payment, or continue to browse for more products.
- Payment Methods – There are many third party payment processors that allow you to accept payments online from all the major credit card companies. PayPal is one of the most popular, and they also allow other PayPal customers to pay you directly through their system. This part of your e-commerce platform will encrypt and secure all the payment data so you and your customers are protected.
- Delivery Method – If you are selling physical products, you will need to ship them to the customers. Depending on the size of your business, you can often make arrangements with companies like UPS or FedEx to handle this type of work. For electronic purchase like eBooks or software, you can set it up to automatically download to the customer when the purchase has been completed.
- Customer Support – Whether online or offline, things don’t always go as planned. Having the ability for customers to contact you with problems or concerns is an essential element of any good e-commerce platform.
Managing an E-Commerce Site
The ease of managing your online store will depend mainly on the number of products that you carry. When you have just a few products to sell, it is relatively easy to manage. When there are thousands of products to manage, this can be quite complex, especially when dealing with inventory levels within the store. An online store is a company’s retail presence on the web. With this in mind, it makes sense for virtually all companies to have a quality e-commerce platform as a key part of their business.