You've built a physical product, and now it's time to sell it. But where?
There are more and more online stores popping up all the time. So it's no wonder you're thinking of starting your own online store to sell physical products. Before you do, you need to know what the best platform is to sell physical products online successfully. After all, it's about making a profit.
With so many consumers heading online to buy what they need, it makes sense to sell your physical products online. It can help you reach a larger target market across the world rather than aiming only at local markets. But if you've never done it before, what platform to choose can be overwhelming.
You may already have a physical store and know you have a wider audience. Or, you may skip the retail store altogether and only want to sell online. Which one is irrelevant. The most important consideration is the platform you use to reach your target audience. There are many to choose from and it's important to choose the right one to suit the type of products you have for sale and your budget.
Choosing the right platform
While it can be difficult choosing the right platform for your online store, do your research before you make a choice. Once you set up your business on a platform, it's difficult to switch to a new one, let alone the high cost of changing your mind.
Selecting a popular platform may or may not be the right choice. They all have pros and cons. You may even be better off with a store on a marketplace like Etsy if you have handcrafted goods. It's crucial to make the right choice to match your needs and the products you want to sell.
What are your requirements?
Work out your goals and requirements to help you select the right ecommerce platform. Write down what you want to achieve from a platform and the features you want or expect.
Once you understand this, compare the available platforms and create a shortlist of the ones that meet your requirements. You should consider:
Your budget for designing and branding your online store
How easy the platform’s scalability is as your business grows
What plugins it offers
What sort of support each platform offers
Analyze competitor websites
Spend time analyzing competitor websites. Write down all the features they use you would like for your store and then check that the platforms that interest you have these functionalities available.
While you may not want or need these when you first set up your online shop, you may want to add them as your business grows. It's important to have a clear, long-term focus on how to develop the store in the future. Also talk to developers who specialize in working on different platforms. Ask for their advice and opinions.
The goal is to select a platform that won't cost a lot to develop further and offers convenience when you want to add functionality. The last thing you want is to change platforms because the one you're using doesn't offer what you need.
To analyze your competitors, consider the following:
Make a list of your competitors
Check out competitors’ online stores and list the features they use that you need for your store.
Prioritize the features for better focus during development, even though you may not add them right away.
You may plan on adding the WooCommerce
plugin to your WordPress website only to find out how much it costs to add all the features to your online shop. Also keep in mind, adding too many plugins can slow down how your website operates. If this does slow it down, then you may want to consider whether another platform would be a better option. Customers will lose patience with a site that operates slowly.
Easy to integrate platforms
Depending on the platform you choose, it's not difficult to build a store from the ground up, even if you have little experience. What is difficult is reaching your target audience.
Maybe you already have a huge following on social media or for your blog, and you want to monetize it by selling physical products. The simple solution would be to integrate a shopfront into your site to capture your followers’ attention. Then all you need to do to start with is to market your shop to the people already interested in what you do.
For example, if you already have a WordPress website, consider adding the WooCommerce plugin. Or you may have a huge following on Facebook. Then, Shopify could be a good choice.
Select a platform based on your budget
Ongoing ecommerce site costs are expensive for some platforms. Large businesses need a platform that has all the functionalities, but a small business only needs a lower cost option. This will allow them to look after their customers and manage their products more easily.
An example is Magento’s Enterprise Edition
that costs between $15,000 and $20,000 a year. This is because Magento is popular, and the Enterprise Edition comes with a lot of functionalities and is a popular choice for large organizations.
Magento is likely to be outside your budget, so Spree Commerce
may be a better choice for your business. Spree is a free, open source platform with more than 1 million users. It has the same scalability as Magento Enterprise Edition with almost the same features and addons.
Hosted or self-hosted platforms
Whether you choose a hosted or self-hosted platform depends on your budget and development experience.
Hosted ecommerce solutions are a type of software as a solution (SaaS) hosted on servers you can't access. These are ideal for small to medium businesses who have no experience developing an online store.
A hosted platform will have the ecommerce features you need, such as:
Expertise on security and compliance issues
Online payment options
Reliable technology resources
Ease of use
The main concession with using a hosted rather than a self-hosted platform is you don't have full control of your store. There will be some parts of your shopfront you can't change or customize. The following are popular hosted eCommerce platforms:
Self-hosted platforms is where you host the software on your own server or with a hosting provider. When you run this type of store, you need to source the software and set it up yourself. You'll also need to manage the hardware infrastructure, so you may need to hire a developer and IT person to do this for you if you don't have the skills.
A self-hosted storefront is fully customizable and you have full control. The following are popular for use on self-hosted platforms:
Open Real Estate
Don't forget to check out the backend features before choosing the right platform for your store. Many store owners spend a lot of time on the frontend features and design without thinking about the backend. It's also important to look at the usability and features of the backend as you'll spend a lot of time working through there. Your backend can affect the store’s productivity and can also reflect in the frontend and the overall customer’s user experience.
The features you want in the backend depend on your preferences, requirements and expectations. For example, Magento has a lot of core functions as options right out of the box. This can be good for large organizations, but having so many choices may be overwhelming for some users. Other users may prefer the minimalist look to keep the backend uncluttered.
Then there are platforms like Spree and Shopify that have a simple design. They have fewer tabs than Magento, but still have the functionality and options, and they're better organized.
So remember to take a look at the backend features and options as well as what the frontend has to offer when choosing a platform for your online store.
Open a store on a marketplace platform
Opening a store on a marketplace platform will have a minimal cost, and you need no technical background knowledge to get started. An online marketplace also gives you access to customers through the marketplace database and reputation.
Not all marketplaces are created equal. Some are for niche areas, such as Etsy which is solely for handcrafted goods. Then there's Amazon and eBay where anything goes. But they're a good place to build a business when you don't have the time or money to spend on marketing.
Marketplace platforms work by charging either per listing or sale, or both. You can't customize your store, but the trade-off is easy access to a targeted audience. The following are some of the most popular marketplace options:
When it comes to selling physical products online, there are many choices. The most important decision you need to make is what platform suits you best for the type of business you want to build and the products you sell. You have a choice between hosted and self-hosted platforms, and marketplaces.
Make sure you check out competitors’ websites to see how their stores work, and make a list of the features you need for your store. Set a budget taking into account the ongoing costs and the scalability of the platform as your business grows.
Now you have a good idea how to choose the right platform to use to sell your physical products. Good luck setting up your online store.