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eCommerce Online Business


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An eCommerce Online Business involves creating an online or virtual store front.  Your eCommerce site will be open 24-7 and the beauty of eCommerce is that your store will continue to operate even when you are asleep!

I have done this, I had a very successful online store attached to Knitting Naturally for several years. It was a lot of work, some of which I loved, and some of which I loathed.  If you want to set up an online store, you need to go through much of the pre-planning that you would do for an offline store.  

The major differences being that your shop front is virtual instead of bricks and mortar (each have their own very distinct advantages and disadvantages) and the way your customers receive their goods will be different.

creating an online home business

You will still need to find suppliers, set up sales systems, build up your physical inventory and maintain your inventory online.  

You will need to deal with the legalities of setting up a business in your jurisdiction (best to talk to a small business accountant and find out what you need to do) and make sure that your local government authority is okay with you running the business out of your home. 

This type of online home business generally required a higher level of financial investment, and therefore the risk is much higher than say, a content site

And unless your product line is fairly static, it can take a fair but of time to manage your online store.  Time if you manage your online store yourself, or money if you decide to outsource the management of the site to a third party.

What Is eCommerce?

According to Search CIO, E-commerce (electronic commerce or EC) is:

 ... the buying and selling of goods and services, or the transmitting of funds or data, over an electronic network, primarily the internet. These business transactions occur either as business-to-business, business-to-consumer, consumer-to-consumer or consumer-to-business. 

http://searchcio.techtarget.com/definition/e-commerce


Your Options for Creating an eCommerce Online Business 

If you want to start an online store you will need a few things to get it set-up and the choices you make will depend on the products you wish to sell (hard goods or digital, delivery methods you plan on using, location of your target customers etc).

But bare bones, you will need hosting for your store (either your own or you can "rent" space on someone else's hosting), shopping cart software and a platform to contain your catalogue and that you can add that shopping cart to.

Creating an eCommerce Online Business without Self-Hosting

If you do not want to build your own store, there are still ways to get your goods online.  For example, if your goods fit into the craft market, you can quite easily and quickly build your store on Etsy. Or you could build a store on eBay or any number of other online auction sites.

Setting up on eBay doesn't mean that you have to auction your goods.  It is entirely possible to sell your wares on eBay for a set price or using the make an offer feature. I used eBay to sell small lots of wool or discontinued items that I did not want to list in my self-hosted online store, and it was quite successful.  

There are even options for building an eCommerce online business if you do not have products or services of your own to sell.  cafepress.com.au is one example of a site that you can join that will enable you to create products by customising their standard items using graphics that you import into your account.  You can create clothing items, and household items like cups and mugs, photo canvas's, stationary, and stickers.  CafePress takes care of processing orders, making the items and dispatching them to your customers.  You take care of promoting your products to your contacts, visitors to your social media pages or your website, or your email list and then you get a small percentage of everything you sell.  

Creating a Self-Hosted eCommerce Online Business

Creating your own online store in another option if you want an eCommerce Online Business.  With the Knitting Naturally Store, I choose hosting from Bluehost and installed ZenCart to manage the catalogue and shopping cart.  

At the time I knew very little about creating an eCommerce online business (and online store) and to be honest, I already had the account with Bluehost (another story for another time).  I choose ZenCart because of all of the shopping cart options in the One Click Install section of Bluehosts control panel, ZenCart was a free installation, they had a decent support forum and the only one that was offering a 'how-to' manual to help me learn how to use their software.  

Unfortunately at the time of writing this page, ZenCart was having issues with their e-book provider and it is not currently available.  But if you are considering this option do check on their website to see if the problem has been sorted.  The instruction manual is a must have if you want to learn how to use this system and get the full benefits of all of the features.

Zen Cart® is a PHP e-commerce shopping cart program. Built on a foundation of osCommerce GPL code, Zen Cart® is an easy-to-setup and run online store. Zen Cart® is for selling online. Zen Cart® is completely customizable ecommerce.

https://sourceforge.net/projects/zencart/

At the time, I did not need a blogging platform to sit alongside the store, as I already had a content site to attract and engage with potential customers and the idea of the store was to be an add-on for that site.  It is possible to integrate a store or a word press site with a Solo Build It! site so that it appears to be one site, and originally that is how I set up the store.  

It had its own host and was a separate site, but to all intents and purposes it appeared to be a sub-domain of the main site.

Once it was set up, the store was pretty much on auto-pilot.  All orders and payments were processed without me needing to be involved and copies of the orders were sent to my email inbox so that I could work out what I had on hand, order anything that I didn't have and then pack and organise delivery when the complete order was on hand.  It all worked really well and before I knew it I was processing hundreds of dollars of orders a week (and sometimes - hundreds of dollars a day).  

At one point I decided to separate the two sites and the store became a stand-alone site with links between the two rather than having the store appear as a sub-domain.  Again, setting it up was a lot of work but well worth the effort.  

Actually updating the site every year when the new ranges were released by my suppliers was a lot of work.  

It would take weeks to create new products (and there were thousands - just one type of wool might have 30 or 40 different colours, multiply that by 20 or more types of wool per supplier by at least 5 suppliers and you get the idea - and that was just the wool!)  

If you check out the screenshot of the site (circa 2014) there were over 1700 products listed on the site and each one had to be created individually! 

If you are planning to build an eCommerce online business, you can pay someone else to set it up for you and if you can spare the cash, it is well worth considering if you are not able to do it yourself or if you feel your time is better spent on more productive (or profitable) business activities.  

I preferred to do it myself so that I had greater control over the site.  

As I said it took a lot of effort to set it up originally and to do the annual updates, but by doing it myself I could do minor updates quickly and easily, without having to wait for a third party web designer with multiple clients to fit my updates into their business schedules.




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