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According to estimates, there are about 1.8 million online stores in the United States. Over the past two decades, the e-commerce market in the U.S. has grown from $27.61 billion to $861 billion. During that time, new technology has made it easier than ever to start an online store.
1. Compare Off-the-Shelf and Custom Online Store Platforms
When e-commerce was an emerging market, people who wanted to open an online store had to start from scratch. This required them to either have some coding and web design skills or hire someone who did. Today, there are a variety of e-commerce platforms to choose from that make it easy to start a store without any coding knowledge.
The two main options for e-commerce platforms are to use an off-the-shelf solution that you can implement right away without making any modifications or to purchase a platform that is customized to meet your specific needs. The advantage of off-the-shelf solutions is that you can usually get started immediately and they cost less than custom solutions. This can work well for small start-ups with relatively simple requirements. However, as your business grows, you may discover an off-the-shelf solution can not keep up with your traffic or lacks the features you need.
Custom solutions take longer to implement and cost more, but provide more flexibility, particularly as your business grows. Custom platforms also tend to be faster and more stable because they are designed to work specifically with your business and products, unlike off-the-shelf products that must be able to support a wide variety of businesses.
2. Structure Your Business as a Limited Liability Company
All businesses carry some risks that range from owing creditors money if the business doesn't make a profit to paying settlements to customers who are injured by using your products or services. Establishing your business as an LLC protects you from the liabilities of your business. It also provides increased flexibility, less paperwork and tax advantages. Different states have different regulations, so do your research before you file.
3. Explore Cost-Effective Packing and Shipping Options
Packing and shipping products are two of the largest expenses for many online sellers. It is important to find a good balance between ensuring your products are protected and shipped in a timely fashion and cutting costs so that you can maintain your profit margins.
Design your mailers and product boxes to closely fit your products so you aren't wasting space in shipping boxes. Use pouches and padded envelopes instead of boxes when you can. Pack as many products as you can in a single box. Use lightweight, custom packing materials. Consider the value of using a third-party shipping service, rather than packing and shipping yourself.
4. Hire a Freelance Marketing Team
A quality marketing plan is critical for attracting and maintaining customers. You can do some of the marketing yourself by utilizing tools such as WordPress themes for your company website. However, most business owners don't have the time and expertise to handle this function on their own. You can make up for this by hiring a freelance marketing team. You can find the right marketing professionals by selecting a consultant on online job platforms and compare their experience, cost and reviews before hiring.
Starting an e-commerce store can be an easy way to launch a new business. Another good thing to keep in mind is that you can always use a financial app that will help you manage your finances, thus you remove extra pressure of paperwork!These tips will help you get started on the right foot.