Just what are e-commerce platforms? Is blog an e-commerce platform? Is Facebook an e-commerce platform?
If you are a beginner out the online commerce industry, you are in the right place.
Today, I will discuss what e-commerce means, and I will also show you what the best platforms are.
I talk about:
- What is an e-commerce platform?
- Who uses an e-commerce platform?
- Why do you need an e-commerce platform?
- What are the best e-commerce platforms?
At the end of the tutorial, you should have clarity what an e-commerce platform is, and then you can begin to think how you would use it to start your online business.
What is an e-commerce platform?
First of all, what is e-commerce?
E-commerce stands for electronic commerce. In the physical world, we have what we call brick-and-mortar stores—any place where buy and sell happens is a “commercial” area.
E-commerce is the same. It is called electronic because everything is done online.
Instead of putting up a brick-and-mortar store, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars, people opt to sell online. They just keep their inventory in their house.
E-commerce is not just reserved for physical products.
Many people think that e-commerce is just about selling goods that are tangible. E-commerce applies to everything.
Here are the things sold on the e-commerce platforms:
- Physical goods
- Services like coaching, consulting, tarot card reading
- Freelance services like writing, search engine optimization, drawing, videography, animation, and more
- Software systems like calendar management, online classrooms
- Games and apps that you typically find in Google Play or iTunes
As you can see, you can sell almost everything. The things that you cannot sell are those that require your physical presence, like plumbing and carpentry.
However, this does not mean that you cannot sell these services online.
You can book appointments for plumbing service, and it still qualifies as e-commerce.
Most service people do this—they put up websites and get bookings.
Once a customer schedules and appointment, the service person visits the customer’s house to fix the problem.
Again, an e-commerce platform is a website or a software that builds a website where people can buy and sell.
An e-commerce platform is also defined as a web-building software and hosting service where you can create your own store and then sell your goods.
Who uses an e-commerce platform?
The people who use e-commerce platforms are entrepreneurs. All of these are sellers—they are selling either a product or a service.
There are also those who create software, like a reporting analysis software, that people can use for their businesses.
Here are the types of entrepreneurs who use e-commerce platforms:
- Retailers – these are people who sell items on a retail basis; this includes dropshippers and those who create their own products. Retailers are not different from brick-and-mortar store operators. They buy goods in wholesale from a manufacturer, and then they sell to customers piece by piece.
As a retailer, you can either keep your inventory in your house, or you can do dropshipping.
The retailer segment also includes home businesses, like those who bake cakes on a per-order basis.
- Manufacturers – many manufacturers offer their products either in wholesale or retail terms. They either build their own website, or they sell their goods in e-commerce marketplaces. This includes big brands like Apple or Samsung where you can buy the product from their sites.
- Professionals – these are people who offer services, like life coaches and consultants. A great example is a someone who offers a sculpting course—he sells his video courses on his website. This also includes those who sell services like SEO, website building, and writers who published books. This can also include lawyers and bookkeepers who can provide services like consultations remotely.
- Marketers – there are also sellers who do not exactly fit the other categories. These are called affiliate marketers. These are people who promote the products of other companies. If they make a sale, they receive a commission. Affiliate marketers often use blogs or sell video courses to promote their affiliate products.
Buyers are just secondary users. Buyers do not really “use” e-commerce platforms.
They are just visitors to the platform—customers who drop by the shop to look for products or services that they can buy.
Anyone who sells something can use an e-commerce platform. The only thing that matters now is what platform to use.
Why do you need an e-commerce platform?
There are several reasons why you should use an e-commerce platform.
For one, it is rare for an entrepreneur to also know how to code.
You do not need to learn HTML to build your own website.
The core of your business is to sell, not to build. As such, you have to focus in your marketing skills, not your web-building skills.
Here are the reasons why you need an e-commerce platform:
- Traffic – if you use platforms like Etsy, Amazon, and eBay, you no longer need to think about of traffic. These platforms are giants in the retail industry. People go to these platforms with an intent to buy. You only need to wait for a sale.
- Ease of use – you do not need technical knowledge to get started. If you can use Facebook, you can use an e-commerce platform. The same thing applies to Shopify and other platforms where you can build your own online store.
- Tech support – if you get stuck, you can always call customer support. Just call, email, or chat with a support representative and you will get an answer. Many platforms also have a knowledge base. You can a browse this knowledge base to look for answers
- Security – all platforms come with security features. The most basis of this is Secure Socket Layer or SSL. You should not worry about getting hacked or anything like that.
- Customer reach – in e-commerce, the whole world is your marketplace. You are not limited to selling on your local area.
The most important reason for selling on e-commerce platforms is cost.
Instead of spending thousands, you only less than $100 to build your store.
This cost can go up as you add more functions to your store, but this is completely up to you.
What are the best e-commerce platforms?
Now, let us talk about the best kinds of e-commerce platforms.
This section should help you get started to take the right direction for your e-commerce business.
- Marketplaces – an online marketplace is a website where you register for an account, and then you upload your products. This is one of the best platforms because you no longer have to build anything. All you need to do is to upload your product photos and product descriptions.
Here are the benefits of using marketplaces:
- Ease of use – all you need to do is to sign-up for an account. Next, upload your products and their prices. All of the product pages on marketplaces have the same format. It is up to you to price your products competitively to make a sale.
- Ready-made – the platform is built for selling, so you no longer need to integrate things like a shopping cart or a payment method.
- Has traffic – big platforms spend millions in advertising. As such, you are riding on the strength of the company’s marketing team. You no longer have to advertise yourself—just site and relax and wait for a sale.
The best platforms to use are Etsy, Amazon, and eBay. Before you decide on which one to use, read the manual for each website. Understand the fees and the requirements before you register.
- Shopify – this is a platform where you build your own store. The way it works is simple: you choose your theme and then you replace the theme’s content with yours.
Here are the benefits of using Shopify:
- Drag-and-drop – you can add, remove, and edit parts of your store if you want to. What this means is that you can design it and give it a personalized look.
- Fully functional – Shopify is an all-in-one platform. It already has a shopping cart and payment method. Customers just have to click on your products, add them to the cart and complete the checkout process.
- Affordable – the Shopify platform costs at least $29 per month. At this price, your online store is already fully operational. It is up to you if you want to use more services on Shopify—you can purchase apps that can make your store better.
- WooCommerce – to make this work, you have to build your website first in WordPress. WooCommerce is a plug-in that converts your website into an online store. With Woocommerce, you will be able to charge customers money, and you will be able to display products in your online store.
Here are the benefits of WordPress/WooCommerce:
- Free – both platforms are free; however, you have to pay at least $3 per month to your web hosting service provider.
- Flexible – you can do a lot of things with your WordPress store because it is supported by many apps and plug-ins. You can build your store with no dependency on a theme.
- App support – there are thousands of apps that you can install to make your store look and function better. Many of these apps are free. Some are paid but you should only upgrade once your store is already earning.
These are the three best e-commerce platforms that a beginner can use. There are more out there, but they are a tad complicated and expensive. Examples of these are Magento, Drupal, Joomla, and BigCommerce.
Start with any of these three that I told you about. If you want to build a personalized store, choose between Shopify and WordPress WooCommerce. If not, you can always upload your products on Amazon, eBay, or Etsy.
You may find WordPress a little daunting. Do not worry. Here, you can also choose a theme to start from.
There are millions of web pages about how to use WordPress. If you just take the time to learn the basic, you will easily get the hang of it.
Summary: what are e-commerce platforms?
As you can see, there is a wide array of e-commerce platforms.
All of them are used for one reason—to earn money. Because there are so many of them, what you have to think about is which one to use.
Note that not all platforms are equal. Some are built better than the others.
If you are content with earning from a platform like Amazon and eBay, then by all means, use them.
However, if you want to have independence from their rules and fees, you need to build your own website.
Take the time to study the merits of each platform. Understand your own skills, and then think of how you want to go about selling online.
Once you have done these things, it is time to decide which e-commerce platform to use.