There seems to be absolutely no limit to the products and services you can buy on-line these days, from an egg cup to a house and from training to cleaners, the options are almost limitless, in fact I will make a bold statement and say if it can be sold over the internet, someone somewhere is doing so.
But where are all these internet based shops appearing from? OK, so the likes of Argos or M&S and other large retail chains, it’s expected, they already had large websites to complement the bricks and mortar business, so would logically have hundreds of thousands of pounds to spend capitalising on this new market. But what about all the smaller niche shops which are out there selling software, crafts and football kits etc?
Most of these smaller niche e-commerce sites are either small companies or private people who want their share of the on-line sales; and it’s actually quite a simple and inexpensive process to get yourself an e-commerce site set up. The first thing you will need is a domain name or URL, this is the name you see appearing in the top of the browser, or what you type in if you go to a site (e.g. www.etc etc) these can be bought as cheaply as 99p, however for a good tld such as .co.uk or .com you will have to spend a little more, but still under £10!
Next you need a host, find a well established one who are in the UK, or whichever country you are based in, then have a look at your fantastico control panel, in there you will probably see one click installs for several e-commerce packages, install one and learn how to use it. Trial and error will play a part, but all your questions on functionality can be answered by a quick Google search, or failing that join a relevant forum.
Now you need something to sell. I can’t help you decide what that would be, but try to stick to something you know, it will make building the site and writing product descriptions much quicker. There are lots of companies out there who will take orders from you and process them, shipping direct to your customer, so there is no need to hold stock.
A word of caution though, there are several companies out there who specialise in ripping people off providing a combined all in one service, which sounds too good to be true, it is! They will provide the domain, hosting, shopping cart, and products for you, the problem is that you will find yourself subscribed to a service which thousands of other people are all signed up to, and the products are all the same and not even very cheap.
OK so assuming you avoided the pitfall above, you should have everything set up and ready to start selling for around £100, Ah, you have no visitors to the site, that’s where SEO comes in and that’s where things can become a bit pricey, but I’ll talk more about that next time.