The U.S. e-commerce market brought in more than $504 billion in revenue in 2018. It’s expected to grow to more than $735 billion by 2023.
With so much potential in the market, it’s the perfect time for entrepreneurs to get started selling products online. Today’s sellers have a ton of options to make this happen. Here are five of the most popular.
Your own e-commerce store
Building an e-commerce store from scratch is the most traditional option. It takes some work to get all of the pieces together. But it also gives you the most control.
With this option, you need to find your own website hosting and domain. Then you need to actually design the layout, add products and fill it with content. Of course, you can hire a designer or developer to do some of this for you.
When you’re done, you’ll have your very own site that you can control every aspect of. You have the freedom to add new products, change content and fiddle with the back end functionality.
Hosted e-commerce platforms
Hosted e-commerce platforms differ from dedicated e-commerce sites because the majority of the work that goes into creating the site is already done for you. Basically, this SaaS offering gives you all the functionality of your own e-commerce site. But you don’t have as much control over the details.
Shopify, BigCommerce and Big Cartel are all examples of this. Each one allows you to quickly set up a storefront from a select set of options. Often, you can choose from themes and templates. And some even offer further customization options. They also give you instructions for adding products, photos and other content to the site.
To your customers, this type of site might appear very similar to an e-commerce site that you set up on your own. But if you have very specific design or back-end preferences, they might not be available. Additionally, this type of site is often easier or less expensive to get up and running. But they usually charge monthly fees that may exceed basic hosting fees over time.
Marketplace sites include things like Etsy, eBay and Amazon, where small businesses can sell their products alongside other sellers. On the back end, these work fairly similar to hosted e-commerce platforms. But there are usually fewer options for customization. Most of these sites also charge a listing fee or take a percentage of each sale.
However, these sites have one very clear benefit over other options — a built-in audience. Amazon gets nearly 59 million monthly unique visitors. EBay gets nearly 27 million. And Etsy gets nearly 16 million who are specifically looking for vintage or handmade products.
These sites are less personalized to your own products. In searches, your products will most likely show up alongside others from competing sellers. But the chances that you’d get all of those visitors to your own website are slim. So if you’re able to create attractive listings that set your products apart, this could be the option for you. Additionally, some sellers make their products available on these platforms, while still keeping their own dedicated sites for loyal shoppers.
Today, about 72 percent of U.S. adults use at least one social media platform. So for businesses, it makes sense to meet customers where they already spend time.
The options for selling products on social media vary by platform. Facebook, for example, allows page owners to set up storefronts right on their business page. Instagram also has a feature that lets users create shoppable posts. Basically, users just click on a post to see the products pictured, then they can follow the links to complete a purchase right within the app.
The built-in audience is definitely the key benefit of this option. However, many of the people spending time on social media aren’t in the mindset of making purchases. So you may have to do more work to convert buyers than you would on a dedicated e-commerce site where people are already looking for products.
E-commerce add-ons give you an option that sits somewhere between building your own site and using a hosted platform. You create your own site and then use plug-ins or pre-made options to facilitate things like payments or buy buttons.
This makes the process of getting up and running easier and can save you money in the long run. However, there are a lot of moving parts to organize if you go this route. So it can get a bit complicated. And you may have to worry about certain components of your site experiencing glitches at differing times.