eCommerce is everything now in 2020. And now it's easier than ever to live your dream of owning an online store. But with so many options available, it can certainly get quite confusing to setup the store. Therefore in this article, I'll list a couple of ways you get setup your eCommerce shop, along with the PROS and CONS of each.
Difficulty Level: Low
This is easiest of the lot. You can use already known marketplaces such as Amazon, Flipkart and eBay to sell your products online. The biggest advantage to this way is that you don't need to market your store as these giants are already known by everybody out there. Also the catalog entry with these providers are as easy as selecting from a list of available products, because these are already full of huge product databases. Any product that you wish to sell, there is a chance that the product already exists with them.
- Managed Catalog: These companies already have database of almost every product that sells on the planet. Therefore if your product is not something that's only unique to your company, there are high chances of it already present on their catalog. However if you don't find your product, they do provide you an option to add your product.
- No hosting service required: Just like cloud service providers, marketplaces also provide you with their own storage. You don't need any external hosting services with them.
- Everything Managed: You don't need to setup any payment or shipping providers. Each marketplace have their pre-configured payment and shipping methods that they use. All you need to do is to register as a vendor, add your products and start selling.
- Your customer is actually their customer: People buy from the marketplace not from you. Therefore there is a very high chance that customer purchasing your product may not be able to contact you. In fact the marketplace might not even share the contact information of the customer with you except the shipping address.
- Your business can't have it's own website: You'll need to use their website for any product promotion and publicity. Your products will only be accessible via their website domain. Therefore it might be a hindrance if you are building a brand.
- Limited to no customization: All these marketplaces use their own storefronts and product pages. Therefore you are bound to use one of their provided product templates. You won't be able to customize your product pages to your liking.
- Limited Categorization: Your product must fall into one of the pre-configured categories that these marketplaces provide. If your product doesn't belong to any of these categories, it might not be accepted at all.
- Payment Cycles: Because the entire supply-chain and payments are handled by them, you will only be paid according to their payment terms. Usually these cycles vary from 30 days to 90 days from the order date depending on the terms of the provider.
- Their Store - Their Rules: In case a customer returns or exchanges a product, you are bound to accept it. These websites have very strict rules regarding their refunds and return processes. Also be aware that you may have to borne the reverse shipping charges.
Also you'll need to adhere their policies regarding product content, images and description. Any suspicion from their side may get you permanently blocked from their store and your hard work of building business around it will go in vain.
2. Cloud based services
Difficulty Level: Medium to Intermediate
This falls in between using existing marketplaces and fully hosting your own store. All you need to do is to signup an account with the cloud service, provide your business details, select your payment and shipping methods and all done. The marketplaces also offer you many themes created by the core team or by third party vendors. Select the one to your liking, add the products catalog and hit that button. Your shop is live now. The most popular from this category are Shopify and BigCommerce.
- Easy to setup : The setup simply requires you to create an account with them and verify your business details. Your shop should be live in no time.
- Your store, your data: The store that you create totally belongs to you and so does its data. That's why the information about your customers, products, discounts etc. remain with you. No other store can touch upon that data.
- Fully Managed: The software is fully managed by their respective companies. Therefore you do not need to worry about bug fixes, upgrades and data security. Everything is managed by the company.
- No hosting service required: Because everything is fully managed by the company, you do not need to worry about hosting of your product data. All the images, videos and product data are stored by the company.
- Data is with them: While your customer and product data are not accessible to other stores, they are not hidden from the cloud provider company itself. After all they are storing everything for you, they can obviously have access to your customer and order information.
- Limited Customization: The cloud providers provide you with a very limited set of permissions for customizing your installation. Though you can extend your store with their extensions or plugins, you can not override or amend core functionality. In fact sometimes the maximum that you can customize, is the look and feel of your store.
- Pocket Heavy: The cloud based services are good when you are starting and want to test the depth. But as you grow your business and go deeper, you may find yourself sharing a good amount with the cloud service.
3. Self Hosted
Difficulty Level: Low to High depending on your preferences
Another option and the one we recommend is to setup your own store by downloading a free eCommerce software like EvenCart. It's very easy and requires just a few clicks to setup your store. The best part is that the source code of the product can be used to customize the site as your eCommerce business grows and revenue kicks in.
- Easy to setup: A simple easy to use installation process makes sure that the store is setup in no time.
- All data is yours: Because now you are hosting your own store in your own database, only you have access to it.
- Your Store - Your Rules: You can set your own terms of returns and refunds in your store. You are no longer required to adhere to the terms of marketplaces.
- Multi-vendor Support: You can setup your own marketplaces with having multiple vendors on board. This way you'll be able to sell products from various vendors while earning commission on each sale.
- No limit to customization: You can customize your product pages and store theme to your liking. Nobody dictates their design terms to you.
- Source code is available: The source code of these software are usually available for FREE or Payment of a small fee. You can thus get your software customized to your requirements.
- Integrated API available: Most of the self hosted software provide APIs so that you can extend your store beyond traditional websites. The APIs will allow you to have a mobile application or a POS terminal for your store while still managing everything from same administration panel.
- Fully Unmanaged: Everything including hosting, payment processing, shipping etc. will need to be handled by you. Similarly the database and file system security is your responsibility as the store owner. Whenever some bug fixes and new features in introduced in new releases, you'll need to upgrade all your existing stores if you wish to avail those features.
- Initial Setup Costs: While the software itself are FREE, you may need to hire some developer and designer to actually customize the solution or to develop any theme or plugin.
So these are the possible ways of setting up an eCommerce store. Which one to use is up to you to decide depending on your requirements, and budget. Which one do you prefer? Let's discuss.