Barely a decade ago, only big conglomerates with really deep pockets could afford to set up an online shop. A team of programmers and designers had to be commissioned, and servers, hardware, and sufficient bandwidth had to be obtained in order to build and maintain a store online. E-commerce then was an elusive and tantalizing aspiration for the small-time mom-and-pop shop and the hungry and ambitious fresh grad with something to prove.
Fast forward to several years later, and entrepreneurs can now take their business online without breaking the bank. Amazing new e-commerce platforms have been established so that anybody who has anything to sell can do so online at a mere fraction of the cost. And these platforms are huge, so huge that they are practically household names, and they expanding a seller’s market nationally, or even globally. They have built a reputation of trustworthiness and reliability among customers, giving them a safe place to shop in the otherwise scam-rife web.
If you’re a seller and are looking to set up shop on the internet with the help of an e-commerce platform, but are unsure of where to begin, a good first step is to decide whether you want a hosted or self-hosted one. This choice is similar to whether you want you have your shop in a big mall or build your own standalone shop. The obvious advantage of a hosted store is that you don’t have to reinvent the wheel, plus you’ll get a lot of support on the technical side, which frees you up so you can focus on your product and your business. On the other hand, a self-hosted site lets you have full control of how your site looks and works.
There's an article in Forbes.com that gives an overview of the different e-commerce platforms out there, both the hosted and self-hosted ones.
The article recommends Shopify as the best choice for a hosted store because of its stunning user interface, customizable designs, and a myriad of add-on apps to further customize not just the aesthetics, but bring in various functionalities as well. It also lets have your own domain. The only downside for Shopify is that as of this writing, there is but one, single, generic, uncustomizable checkout page, which can be frustrating, but far from a deal breaker, given the overwhelming plusses.
Etsy is an e-commerce platform that the article was silent on but must be mentioned, as it is one of the giants and has a tremendous customer base. It is a great choice if you sell craft supplies, handmade and vintage items. It is far less customizable than Shopify, so stores all look the same. You don’t get to have your own domain either, but in this case, that may not necessarily be a bad thing, as Etsy traffic gets you a whole lot of exposure to the kind of buyers who will appreciate what you’ve got.
For self-hosted stores, on the other hand, it is recommended that you use Wordpress as the platform for your site, and install the WooCommerce plugin to add the features and functions you need for your store. Wordpress offers tons of goodies and resources for customizing your site, as well as fantastic technical support. Add WooCommerce into the mix and you have ultimate control over the look, feel, and functionality of your online shop.
With these platforms, you can set up shop and start selling quite in a snap, no matter how big or small your operation is, confidently, and securely. Nothing expands your market like an e-store, as you’ll discover.