At VIEO, people come to us all the time and say "I want to sell my [insert crazy/awesome/weird product here] online." If only I had a dollar for every person who wanted help selling their million-dollar idea on the Internet... I'd be a thousand-aire.
I tell those people that they need to look in to ecommerce options that fit their needs, budget, and what they're trying to accomplish, which often leads to the next question - "What is ecommerce?" The answer is simple - ecommerce is selling online, though it can come in many different forms.
You're running an ecommerce website any time you accept payments for a product or service online, through your website or by other means on the Internet.
Here are some common ecommerce scenarios:
- An online store hosted on your own website built using ecommerce software, such as ZenCart or Woocommerce. This software is installed on your website, so you're responsible for managing, maintaining, and updating it - meaning you're responsible for payment security and PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance. There are a few benefits; you have more control over the back-end code and can more deeply integrate it into your site, but honestly, this is no longer one of the better options for most people. The biggest drawback is your liability for payment security.
- An online store hosted by a third-party service, integrated with your website but not technically located at your domain (not on your own website). This would be a managed store like Volusion or Big Commerce, which makes sure the website and software remain updated and secure. They handle PCI compliance and take on the liability for payment security (thought you still have to get an SSL certificate). All you have to do is add product information and enter your shipping, sales tax, and payment processor info, and you're good to go. This frees you up to focus on your marketing. For most online sellers, this is the best option, unless you have very simple needs.
- A "Pay Now" button for each service or product created directly at PayPal and embedded onto your website. This is the quick and easy version of ecommerce. All you need to do to collect payments (either from PayPal accounts or credit cards) is create a PayPal account and use their button creator to make buttons for each item you want to sell.
- An online store community where your products are added to a searchable global list of products from a variety of sellers. Websites like Amazon and Ebay are some of the largest examples, but there are plenty more that cater to niche markets (think Etsy).
One of these basic ecommerce solutions will surely provide any user with an avenue for opening up an ecommerce store.
So how do you choose? In my experience, the 3 most important factors in picking an ecommerce solution are 1) managing your liability, 2) making it easy for people to buy, and 3) finding the option that makes the most sense for your buyer.
If you have a crazy/awesome/weird product or service that can make you a thousand-aire (or even a millionaire!), get it out there by opening up your own online store! But take our word for it - having a store alone won't make it a success. Even the cure for the common cold wouldn't succeed without a little marketing.