The Brave New World of Online Business and E-Commerce

The world of business is still adjusting to COVID-19. Social distancing orders have moved even more people to do shopping online. As a consequence small businesses have had to adjust, virtually overnight, to different ways of conducting business. The major change—more businesses moving into E-commerce to stay afloat.

The good news? Businesses that recently entered into E-commerce have flourished. In 2020 over 2 billion people used online shopping for their goods or services. That is $4.2 trillion in worldwide sales. If you are a small business owner and looking to enter the E-commerce world—there is no better time than now.

This article has all the information you need to move your business online. To begin, it is important to understand different E-commerce business models. Below is a breakdown of each:

Business to Consumer (B2C)

B2C is the most common E-commerce business model. Anytime a consumer purchases a product or service from an online webstore, it is done through a business to consumer model. This model is everywhere from Amazon and Target to services like Netflix and Uber. The consumer finds a product or service from an online webstore and clicks buy, done!

Business to Business (B2B)

A B2B is when a business sells to another business. Typically, this model is for businesses that want to buy products in bulk and then resell the product to the consumer. These kinds of transactions typically have longer sale cycles, but with a higher chance for repeat transactions.

Consumer to Business (C2B)

C2B platforms enable individuals to market their goods or services to other businesses. The consumer to business model is used If a business needs somebody with a niche skill set. Businesses can find individuals on platforms like Fiverr or Freelancer.

Consumer to Consumer (C2C)

C2C businesses are often referred to as an online marketplace. Consumer to Consumer marketplaces are most notably eBay and Craigslist. Consumers post listings online and usually the website makes revenue from transaction and listing fees.

Now that you have some of the basic lingo under your belt, let’s look at the big picture of why your business should have an online web store.

Top 9 Reasons your Business Should Have an E-Commerce Website

An Edge Over Your Competition

At this point, most businesses have their own E-commerce website. The world of E-commerce gives your business access to 21st-century tools unavailable to brick-and-mortar establishments, and allows your business to innovate to stay ahead of competition.

Increased Sales and Revenue

Businesses with 50% of their sales generated from an E-commerce web store performed better than other businesses during lockdown periods. Around 40% of businesses with an online platform saw increases to their revenue. As more consumers opt for online purchasing over in-store, these numbers are expected to grow.

Cheaper Than a Street-Side Business

Online retail platforms don’t have the same expenses as a brick-and-mortar storefront. Expenses from maintaining a building, paying utilities and cleaning are items that can be eliminated on monthly budget sheets.

Improved Product Visibility and Buyer Engagement

Building an online retail website will give your business access to audience engagement tools not afforded to brick-and-mortar establishments. Inbound marketing has turned product visibility and audience engagement into a science. If leveraged correctly, your online webstore and associated advertising will put your product in front of the largest pool of potential buyers.

Running Your Business From Anywhere

The ease and benefits from remote work have been demonstrated over the past year. Of 10,000 surveyed workers in the US, 23% said that they would be willing to take a 10% pay cut if that meant they could work from home permanently. According to the same poll, working remotely saves time and increases productivity. But the real benefit is the freedom afforded to business owners. Your E-commerce web store is located anywhere you connect to the internet.

The Store Hours are 24/7, 365 Days a Year

Aside from the geographical independence that online retail websites give to businesses, your online shop never has to close for the night. Your business becomes accessible 24/7.

Easy to Measure Growth

With the Inbound Marketing tools, reports and data are calculated and saved in real time. Measuring key performance indicators (KPIs) has never been easier or more efficient. Reports become a breeze.

More Convenience For Your Customers

All business owners know that customer satisfaction is what drives return shoppers. With an online web store, you have control over alternate shipping methods, payment processing and fast customer engagement.

Introducing the Latest Technologies to Your Processes

You will be able to leverage Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for image detection and voice recognition solutions, 24/7 chatbot support, personalized recommendations and custom offerings, as well as fraud detection solutions to keep your website safe.

Website Builders: The Easiest Ways to Build an E-Commerce Website

Website builders have come a long way. You can find easy-to-use interfaces and unending options for customization. Almost anyone can sit down and start building a website. You just need to choose which E-commerce website builder you want to use.

You’ve likely seen advertisements for Wix, Shopify, Squarespace or WordPress.

WordPress is an industry standard. It’s web hosting services are used by large corporations like Bloomberg and Facebook. WordPress is a powerful tool but has a learning curve when compared to other website builders like Wix.

Wix has a wonderful and easy-to-use point and click interface that lends itself to fast customization and edits.

But which website builder is best for selling goods and services? You can ask the internet and the results often point to Shopify. Shopify is an easy one-stop shop where your business can list products without the need for coding. It offers competitive pricing plans to host your online web store and streamlines the buying process for your customer from beginning to end.

Regardless of which platform you choose to build your own E-commerce website, buy your domain name. The domain name is the first thing your customers see before entering your online shop, and using a pre-assigned domain name simply doesn’t look good. It is worth it for your business to purchase your custom domain.

Marketplace Platforms Overview

The second option to start your own E-commerce website is to use one of the top online marketplaces. Compared to website builders, you will get a place to sell your products and this place is specifically built for this purpose. For a monthly fee or percentage of your sales, you will get a set of tools to set up a store and sell your products online and in no time. One of the other things worth mentioning is the fact that online marketplaces often already have a customer base and a brand name. The giants like Amazon or eBay already established themselves in the eyes of the customers:

Top websites for product ideas

Additionally, with the largest online E-commerce platforms you will have access to powerful programs for marketing and boosting your sales. Programs like Google, Shopping Actions, Amazon Advertising or eBay Promotions Manager will make marketing life easier and improve the chances of your store becoming a success. Here is a short list of the top online marketplaces for you to consider:

Amazon
One of the biggest online marketplaces in the world has over 200 million subscribers, as was reported in the letter to stakeholders in 2020. Amazon Prime users spend an average of $1,400 a year, while regular users spend $600. This large client base is the biggest advantage of the platform, so all you have to do is to choose the best selling plan for your business.

eBay
Ebay is the second biggest player in the world of online marketplaces. With 187 million active users worldwide, eBay is probably the best place to buy electronics. However, there are a lot of popular categories. It has only two primary models for selling: insertion fee or selling fee per listing.

Walmart
Walmart’s invite only marketplace uses commission fees, monthly or annual fees.

Etsy
This marketplace is the best place to go for handmade or vintage items and craft supplies. Operating for more than 15 years, Etsy has built a strong reputation in this niche.

Alibaba.com
This multinational technology company offers a number of websites and services that will help your business to reach a new global audience.

Probably the biggest drawback of online marketplaces is the lack of customization. You will get only the features that the vendor will offer you, and nothing more. It can work for a small business or if you have a low budget. However, if you want to introduce something new to the market and maintain complete control over your store, you should probably consider building your own custom E-commerce website.

“E-commerce isn’t the cherry on the cake, it’s the new cake”
—Jean Paul Ago, CEO L’Oreal

The Advantages of Building Your Own Custom Online Shop

Customization

The power of customization cannot be overstated. Having control over how your site functions is what makes building your own E-commerce store impactful for your customers. You have the power to create a visually pleasing and easy to navigate web store limited only by your imagination.

Controllable List of Features

Your custom online shop can have already existing features and at the same time, you can introduce entirely new functionality and become a market innovator. A custom solution allows you to provide maximum convenience and the best user experience for your customers.

Unique Shipping Options

Selling objects that are of a consistent size and weight with no special considerations is one thing, but the greater variety of products your E-commerce store offers, the more diverse your customers’ shipping concerns will be. In turn, a custom E-commerce solution will seem even more appealing. For one, your customers may want the choice of different delivery services, whether that’s FedEx, UPS, DHL or the U.S. Postal Service.

Industry-Specific Limitations

Your business may sell products that require adherence to defined rules and regulations that limit how your product can be handled, stored or shipped. An example would be perishable food products that require cold-chain logistics or liquids and gases that need special containers. Since each carrier has their own guidelines for such products, your customer needs to be informed of the shipping nuances. If this is the case, then a custom E-commerce solution is the best choice for you.

Flexibility With Third-Party Integrations

Custom online web stores can host a variety of third-party applications. This allows your business to integrate separate features onto your website that can be utilized by your customers.

The Highest Level of Security

A custom E-commerce website gives you full control of security functions. Business owners have the responsibility of keeping their customer’s data safe and secure.

Internet security is constantly adapting to new cyber threats. Machine Learning-powered fraud prevention and fraud detection solutions are among the available options that can protect your website. With an E-commerce website you can leverage such technological innovations and focus on the business side of your company—leaving security to the professionals.

Using any Payment Processor You Want

Having the choice of any payment processor on your website benefits your business and your customer. You can use any payment method that you need.

To explain in more detail, we have a whole separate post on this topic.

Prices and Features Comparison: Website Builders vs Marketplace Platforms vs Custom Development

The construction of your E-commerce website depends heavily on your budget constraints, time and the desired list of features. With a trusted and experienced software development partner, custom development can be the most secure and flexible way to build a web store. Here is a quick comparison between the most popular ways to create your own E-commerce website:

Website BuildersMarketplace PlatformsCustom Development
CustomizationMediumLowHighest
Opportunity to InnovateNoNoYes
Required IT ExpertiseMediumLowHigh
Level of SecurityLowLowHigh
Timeline2-12 MonthsLess Than 1 Day3-9+ Months
Prices$350-$200,000+Monthly or Per Item Fees$60,000-$300,000+

The market prices are approximate and every case is unique, so it is wise to seek consultation so you know that you are getting the most out of your choice.

Essential Steps to Build a Custom E-Commerce Website From the Ground Up

The process of building a custom E-Commerce website may vary but in most situations you will probably have a process that includes the following steps:

Market Analysis

A great place to begin your journey to success is to conduct market research to identify the main competitors that offer similar products and services.

Setting Business Goals

After getting to know your competition, establish your pricing strategy and calculate the required minimal revenue targets. Calculate what additional expenses you may encounter and anticipate what pitfalls could influence your bottom line.

Creating Unique Selling Proposition

You need to know how your online store will be different from the competitors and what additional value it will bring to your customers. Setting a series of brainstorming sessions might help you craft a USP and reinforce your initial idea.

Finding Partners

It can be daunting to find a reliable software development partner capable of delivering high quality custom E-commerce development services. Run through the list of possible options while considering your budget and expectations to pick the best one with a proven track record and highest rated reviews. Additionally, you will need to partner with logistic companies to deliver the best customer service possible.

Getting All Paperwork Done

You need to be aware of all possible laws and regulations in the area you plan to operate in. To avoid legal issues you should get a consultation and some help from an experienced law firm.

Picking Free Domain Name, Web Hosting Provider, and Payment Processor

A catchy and truly unique name is one of the key factors that will help you break through the market. Along with the name, you can choose a web hosting provider and decide on the payment options.

Define the Features You Need

Once you have a clear and Unique Selling Proposition, deciding on the initial features and possible future upgrades for your web E-commerce store will be a breeze.

Plan Scalable Project Architecture

Scalability is one of the key benefits of building a custom E-commerce website. Discuss with your software development partner how to grow your project in the future.

Build a UI/UX Design

The other important factor is how your website will actually look. It must not only be convenient and user-friendly but also attractive and memorable.

Set Up a Plan For Marketing Activities

The main determinant of a website’s success? Proper marketing activities. Before your development team builds an online store, your marketing team must have a plan that includes SEO, advertisement, personalized outreach, engagement with media and a set of discounts and promotions.

Development

Following the previous steps with a proficient development team, the entire development process is smooth and easy. Just watch as your dream is finally coming to life!

Test, Deploy and Launch Your Website

After the development phase is complete, quality assurance experts are a must. Before launching your website, make sure you did everything possible to make your E-Commerce website bug-free.

Get Feedback From Customers and Make Adjustments

After launch, your customers will provide feedback on all necessary changes that should be made to make your online store better. Just listen closely and react fast!

Continuous Support and Improvements

You can continue your business relationship with your software development partner by making ongoing development agreements for additional support and improvements to your shop. If you don’t plan to improve your store and add new features, you still need to hire at least one expert on a part-time basis for the maintenance purposes.

ARE YOU INTERESTED IN HIRING A DEDICATED DEVELOPMENT TEAM?

Learn all the details on Dedicated Development Team model for software development projects

Read the article

The Pitfalls In Building A Custom E-Commerce Website

Now that you know how to build an E-commerce website step by step, let’s take a look at the most common mistakes that businesses tend to make in this process.

Reinventing the Wheel

Study your competitors and existing solutions. With a custom project you are always in danger of wasting your time and budget on inventing features that are already tried, tested, and standard. The team of experts can help you to analyze your project and inform you on what parts of it actually need to be built from the ground up. For example, things like promotional campaigns or referral programs could be copied from the market leaders.

Poor Estimation

Just like with any custom project, it is easy to underestimate your budget. Be ready that your expenses will most likely be higher than you initially expected. Prioritize the most important features on your website.

Not Enough Attention to Marketing

As mentioned above, marketing strategy is a key element of starting your own E-commerce website. But sometimes the basic moves are not enough to grab the attention of potential customers and ultimately, finding a place in the market. Make an additional effort to come up with some unique elements in your marketing campaign that will help your store stand out!

Our Expertise in Building E-commerce Websites

SPD Group has over 15 years of experience delivering research, technology consulting and software product development services to our partners. Leveraging such technologies as Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, the Internet of Things and Cloud Computing we strive to deliver cutting-edge solutions in each project. As for custom E-commerce web development, we are involved in developing and improving marketplace startups for well over a decade.

In one of our recent cases, we created not just another custom E-commerce store, but a powerful white-label B2B and B2C E-Commerce platform that has gained recognition all over the world. Our platform combines the advantages of a marketplace and a personalized website to offer a variety of features, all thanks to an advanced white-label customization engine. Sellers on our platform are able to use multiple types of back-end functionality which are not available on website builders or online marketplaces like Amazon or eBay. Additionally, we are proud to say that we created a complex payment framework that supports over 20 payment systems. We were able to connect all three payment gateway integration methods: Direct Post, Hosted Payment Gateways, and Integrated methods for different payment systems. Each method operates differently. This was an initial challenge. Additionally, we successfully implemented 3-D Security protocols for credit and debit transactions on both mobile and online platforms.

Other important features included on this platform include flexible reporting and sales analytics, single sign-on integration with a client website, fraud detection and prevention functionality and last but not least, a variety of customer loyalty programs and promotional campaigns.

Eventually this project was acquired by a bigger company and we were able to grow our team to over 100 experts. This was possible from the type of partnerships we developed with our clients. We worked via a dedicated development team model and in this newer iteration of the project, we not only worked on features and other aspects of the custom E-commerce store, but also provided our expertise on unification and additional platform consolidation requirements that had been put in place by the new owner.

Summary

How to Set Up Your Own E-commerce Website?

You have three main options: to use a website builder, connect with an online marketplace platform or build your own from the ground up. Each of these options has its own benefits and drawbacks. The choice largely depends on your budget and your desired list of features.

Should I Build an E-commerce Site From Scratch?

You should build your own online store if you require a specific list of unique features, multiple payment methods and maximum security.

How Long Does it Take to Create a Website From Scratch?

It is safe to assume that you need at least three months to launch a project with a limited list of features. But every scenario is unique and requires an individual approach.

How Much Does it Cost to Create a Custom E-commerce Website From Scratch?

The price tag starts from $60,000, at least it is a market average at the moment. Once again, depending on the list of features and a timeline, the price can be very different, rising to $300,000 and beyond. Keep in mind that the eventual cost of a project is usually higher than initial estimation.

Conclusion

In 2021, it is hard to imagine a business that is not represented online. Having a cutting-edge E-commerce website can still help your organization stand out from the competitors. All three options to create it: website builders, marketplace platforms or custom websites can work for different situations. However, if you have a desire to innovate and use your online store as a tangible boost, then custom development is a way to go. Find a reliable software development company with a proven track record that will be able to share your vision in creating something that will make an impact on the market. According to eMarketer, the share of E-commerce sales will only grow in the next few years.

E-commerce in Retail

So, if you are ready to build your custom E-commerce website feel free to contact SPD Group for consultation and learn how you can implement innovations like Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning for E-commerce Fraud Detection and Prevention. We have the expertise and experience to provide you with guidance to create the project of your dreams!

Further Reading

  1. E-commerce Statistics in 2021 – https://ecommerceguide.com/ecommerce-statistics/
  2. Design and Implementation of E-Commerce Website for Shopping – https://www.researchgate.net/publication/335126262_Design_and_Implementation_of_E-Commerce_Website_for_Shopping
  3. E-commerce Web site design: strategies and models – https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/E-commerce-Web-site-design%3A-strategies-and-models-Wen-Chen/5ea25711d52b7742253124fa7b9468bb49ceca04

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Roman Chuprina Technical journalist at SPD Group, covering AI/ML, IoT, and Blockchain topics with articles and interviews. May 18, 2021