If you’re getting into e-commerce for the first time, you probably have a fairly limited budget. Fortunately there is a fairly wide range of free or low-cost e-commerce solutions available, including website templates, tools and software, which will enable you to set up an online store fairly easily.
It is, however, important to look carefully at what’s on offer to make sure that you get what’s right for your e-commerce business.
Low-cost e-commerce solutions
Some free e-commerce solutions are very basic: they may have limited shopping cart software or only allow a small number of product descriptions. These essentials may be enough for your e-business at first, but it is important that you choose a solution that will grow with you. Some free solutions are part of a suite or range which will allow you to upgrade as your online business develops.
Think about the features you need for your online store, and make sure these are available within the package, or can be added at relatively low cost. You also need to look at ease of use, which is particularly important if you don’t have a lot of technical knowledge. Most packages will come with a range of website templates, so you can personalise your electronic store.
Look at whether the solution includes hosting. If it does, check whether you need a contract, and how much notice you need to give. You also need to make sure that you have direct access to customer information in case you decide to move your e-commerce website to another host.
One of the early decisions you should make is whether you want to have a standalone e-shop or one that can be integrated into online marketplaces such as eBay or Amazon.
There are also various specialist online markets such as Etsy, for selling vintage and craft items. All online marketplaces allow integration of e-shops, or have standard e-commerce storefronts.
Check whether the e-commerce solution integrates with transaction systems, including credit and debit cards, as well as third-party gateways such as PayPal.