The story of the Internet has been about lowering—and in some cases totally destroying—barriers to entry.
Back in the day, who could compete with the U.S. Postal Service for sending a birthday greeting card? No one, until email and all kinds of e-cards were designed. Now it’s anyone’s game.
The same has been true with retail selling. The web gave us a platform that lets us compete with brick-and-mortar stores as well as with major catalog retailers. Further, e-commerce is a market segment where the barriers have continued to go down.
Today, “off-the-shelf” e-commerce “store fronts” and easy-to-use plugins are creating profitable sites all around the world.
One aspect of successful selling, however, can’t exist solely in the digital world: “Fulfillment”. Internet retailers still have to get their goods to their customers in a fast and reliable way to be competitive. We’ll get back to that point in a minute, but first let’s highlight some of the excellent options you have to start selling on the Internet.
WordPress e-commerce plugins
WordPress has allowed non-techies to create all kinds of beautiful websites and if you want to start selling from your WP site, the tools are no further away than downloading a free plugin. The most popular WP e-commerce plugins allow you to get going for free. They charge when you start to add features. This lets you experiment with a few to see which is easiest to work with and has the features you need. Check out:
- WP e-Commerce
There are others. Explore the WordPress e-commerce plugin directory for user ratings and additional options.
When your aspirations are at a higher level, it’s time to check out the various software packages and cloud-based services that give you all the shopping cart and related tools to create a sophisticated e-commerce website. Most of these allow for a free trial period, so you don’t have to plunk down any cash to see which suits you the best.
Shopify. This is one of the more popular shopping cart/storefront packages. Themes can be customized to get the look you want or you can stick with one of the free or premium themes. Gift cards, customer accounts, blogging, credit cards, flexible shipping rates, unlimited web hosting, SEO, dedicated 24-hour support, and mobile compatibility are some of the main features. Plans range from $14-$179 a month.
Bigcommerce. Thousands of sellers use this package. The basic features are similar to Shopify and it also allows you to sell on various social media sites, like Facebook. It also integrates with sites like eBay, Google Shopping and various comparison sites, including Nextag and Bizrate. Plans go from $35-$200 a month. Some of the more attractive features are not included in the least expensive plan.
Volusion. Plans start at $15 a month and go up to $135 per month. All plans give you social media tools, a Facebook store, mobile e-commerce, storefront templates, free setup, tax rates and online support.
Great fulfillment equals continued success
There are too many of successful web storefronts using each of these packages to list. However, sellers still need to get their products to their customers quickly and efficiently with all the tracking and customer service that shoppers expect today. That’s where partnering with a professional fulfillment service comes into play.
The beautiful thing about the e-commerce systems we outlined above is that all you need is a computer and an Internet connection to have a fully-featured storefront on the web. That keeps costs low. However, providing your own warehouse space, shipping department and tracking systems blows those initial cost savings out of the water.
Fortunately, there are turnkey fulfillment solutions, like KD Mailing & Fulfillment, that are just as sophisticated and easy-to-use as those excellent e-commerce storefronts. They allow you to keep overhead at a minimum while providing world-class customer service, and in today’s competitive environment, it’s customer service that ultimately decides the winners and losers in virtually every market sector.
Contracting with a fulfillment service also hedges your position with regards to upturns and downturns in sales volume. At any time, you can scale the amount of product warehoused to meet current demand. You don’t end up with wasted empty shelf space or scrambling to create additional room in your own warehouse.
Combining today’s excellent and affordable e-commerce software with inexpensive and efficient fulfillment is proving to be a winning combination for many new e-commerce entrepreneurs.