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What is an Ecommerce Storefront?

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  • Written By: Tess C. Taylor
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 04 November 2016
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Thanks to the Internet, many organizations are able to take advantage of the electronic commerce, or “ecommerce,” storefront model for conducting business transactions online. Ecommerce is handled completely over the Internet and is most often based on a website which features products, services and other commodities that can be provided to customers. In addition, most ecommerce storefronts include images and descriptions of goods or services offered, pricing information, a shopping cart feature, payment processing system and customer service contact information for the benefit of customers.

There are many advantages of using an ecommerce storefront as a way to do business globally. An ecommerce storefront is a low cost way for businesses to sell services or merchandise using a completely web-based system. This is especially helpful for a small business or virtual company that wants to do business on an international level without requiring an actual physical storefront or full staff.

In addition to being a low-cost option, an ecommerce storefront can be operated around the clock to better provide information and access to resources for customers. In contrast to a regular storefront, a web-based storefront can be accessed outside of regular standard business hours. This increases the chance of making more sales and attracting customers from around the world.

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Another interesting feature of ecommerce is that the web “store” can be customized to create a specific branded image of the organization. Over time, this Internet storefront can be adapted as the organization changes or as new products or services are added. It is also much easier to promote an ecommerce storefront by placing Internet advertisements in online publications, running social media marketing campaigns and networking with other online entrepreneurs.

Oftentimes, the ecommerce storefront allows organizations to sell products without having to maintain an actual physical inventory. This is referred to as drop-shipping, and it is becoming a cost-effective way to sell a wide range of merchandise online. This type of virtual business helps to promote seasonal or specialized products that are popular with consumers or can be linked with online auction websites to bring in more business.

Many businesses that have traditionally done business using physical storefronts are now also using a virtual store to attract business from the millions of consumers who now do a great deal of their shopping online. In addition to seeing many more virtual stores being created, ecommerce allows even the novice entrepreneur to offer something for sale quickly and inexpensively online.

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manykitties2
Post 10

@emtbasic - You're right that PayPal is a great option if you don't have good credit and still want to set up an ecommerce storefront. Though if you want to become a certified user you still need to provide a credit card and be able to link your PayPal account up to bank account in good standing. These could be barriers for those struggling to get setup.

I think one of the main reasons people try to stick with 3rd party payment options like PayPal is that the consumer trusts them and they have some consumer protection in place.

I haven't found PayPal to be too heavy handed on their fees, though I must say that their exchange rates are terrible, so you may find something better if you are dealing with a lot of different currencies.

KLR650
Post 9

@hamje32 - I think what your friend did was smart. She may not have made a lot of money, but she got a lot of expertise.

Every time you do something like that, it is easier to do it again if you want to. And you take away a lot of fear of the unknown.

Also, if she found that she really liked it she could always set up a side business doing it for other people and make some money that way. So many people are trying to sell things online that there will be this kind of work for a long time to come.

Nepal2016
Post 8

@lonelygod - That was one thing I learned when I was setting up my business. Everyone is trying to make a buck off of you.

You are right, though, having that function can be essential for a lot of businesses, even if they are not a retail store. There is lots of competition now, and some user-friendly products out there, so shop around. You may find a bargain.

emtbasic
Post 7

For the less technical, or maybe for those who have credit issues and can't get a merchant account to take credit cards, there is always the PapPal check out.

This page lets you set up a shopping cart and then it links to PapPal for processing. Their fees are higher than some merchant banks would be but there's less fine print and you don't have to have good credit. Just a thought. It's pretty easy to do.

lonelygod
Post 6

There are a lot of businesses that lend themselves to having an ecommerce storefront, even if you don't have a traditional product to sell. For myself I work in graphic design and offer set packages for those who are interested in a good deal and just want something simple done.

I noticed that when I was setting up my ecommerce storefront that some free flash website builders charge you to add a Pay Pal cart and ecommerce storefront to your site. Having this kind of interactive payment system is vital for most sales so it is a shame they charge so much for it.

lluviaporos
Post 5

On my writers forum the other day someone was talking about how they had set up their own ecommerce storefront and wanted to know about open source ecommerce software and in particular shopping cart software.

They were planning to sell copies of their e-book through this website. On the face of it, it seems like a wonderful idea. Once set up, you wouldn't have to do much to maintain it, because people would just be paying, then downloading a file.

In addition, you wouldn't have to share any percentage of your sales with a third party like a publisher or an agent.

But, you know the biggest problem with that is advertising. Publishers have the clout to push your work

. Even if you self publish through Amazon or somewhere like that, at least you know people might find you through a dedicated search.

Whereas without an already established fan base, people have no reason to go to a new website, and even less reason to buy a book once they are there.

I'm not saying it can't be done... I actually think with the right kind of viral internet campaign you might manage to make some money. But it would be very difficult.

pastanaga
Post 4

@Charred - I agree the most important aspect of setting up an ecommerce business is deciding on what items you are going to sell.

The thing is, there are so many different venues for selling items, particularly crafts, or second hand things. Music and art (particularly stock photography) and writing all also have established places that will sell for you.

Yes, you have to give a percentage to these websites for their services, but in return you get access to an already established site, often with enormous advertising capacity.

Personally, unless I had something so unique and special and in demand that word of mouth would spread like wildfire, I would try one of these venues first, rather than dive into the expense of setting up my own website, even though ecommerce software is quite easy to come by and use now.

After I had a group of loyal customers, then I would think about shifting to my own site.

Charred
Post 3

@miriam98 - The real issue for anyone wanting to set up an ecommerce site is not how do you do it, but what are you going to sell?

The Internet is flooded with ecommerce sites and not all of them will make money. You need to line up some suppliers for an in demand product, and put together a decent marketing campaign by buying advertisements online.

In other words, treat it like a brick and mortar shop in that sense. Having it online just makes it easier to set up. Success or failure will ultimately depend on product demand, pricing and marketing.

miriam98
Post 2

@hamje32 - Yes, I think you can find shopping cart software that will get you started. Some of these are open source solutions while others you have to pay for.

It depends on how technical you are. If you are not that technical at all, I’d go with the paid solutions which basically take you by the hand from start to finish to complete the store.

I think these products go for a few hundred dollars, and like you said, they have a whole bunch of wizards to simplify the process.

hamje32
Post 1

My coworker ran an e-commerce store for quite some time. It was a highly specialized business; she was selling these small refrigeration units that were energy efficient or something like that.

She said that she used open source storefront software to help her set up the shop, along with the hosting server’s wizards as well.

She made a little extra money on the side, but after awhile couldn’t dedicate anymore time to the business so she took it down.

But she proved that it could be done, and while not everyone is going to get rich, you can make a decent part-time income. I’m sure you can make a full-time income, too, if you want to make a go of it.

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