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The Best eCommerce Platform For Your Small Business (Part 1 of 2)

This is part one in a two-part series. Read part two here.

Last year was yet another huge success for eCommerce, with e-tailers selling an estimated $341.7 billion in merchandise, accounting for 7.3 percent of all retail sales, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That’s an increase of 14.6 percent year over year versus an overall increase in retail sales of 1.4 percent. What this all boils down to is that it’s a great time to be opening an eCommerce business!

One of the first and biggest decisions you’ll have to make is which eCommerce platform best suits your needs. There are plenty of packages to choose from, but instead of letting the decision overwhelm you, start by asking yourself a few basic questions:

What sort of store am I running? Some types of merchandise are prohibited on certain platforms, usually these are things like adult merchandise and alcohol, but other platforms are only designed to handle either physical or digital items. Before you start shopping for a platform to make your own, be sure you know exactly what you intend to sell today and what you plan to sell tomorrow. Each platform will clearly outline the type of products permitted — carefully read the fine print for long-term success.

Do I need a new site or am I adding a store to your WordPress blog? You have a couple of options when it comes to eCommerce platforms. Some are standalone and will function as their own sites, others can be used as plug-ins for your WordPress blog. Your ideal type of platform will depend heavily on how you intend to do your content marketing and how many products you hope or plan to carry.

What types of payments do I want to accept? In a perfect world, your eCommerce platform would accept all sorts of payments, but that’s not usually how it works out in practice. Decide today what sort of payments you want to accept and prioritize them. Most platforms will handle credit cards with ease, but other payment methods like PayPal vary from package to package. While you’re at it, check the fees for these payments — they’re also not set in stone.

Although these questions are extremely helpful when narrowing the field of eCommerce platforms, there’s a lot more to know before diving in. For example, you’ll want to determine how your future platform will interface with 3rd party logistics companies in case your order fulfillment becomes too overwhelming for your small business.

In part two of this two part series, we’ll discuss more advanced options you’ll have with a variety of eCommerce platform packages. From reporting tools to inventory control, eCommerce platforms are much more than just a shopping cart and they can do more than ever before!

May 17, 2016
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