There are multiple factors to be considered when a company, or an individual, wants to build an e-commerce presence on the Internet. Below I will discuss, in simple technical terms, what is needed today to build an e-commerce presence.
In my opinion, the most important factor to consider before looking at anything else is the who are your customers, and how many potential customers your company is going to serve. This will determine the other factors needed, such as the hardware, software, networking capabilities, website or mobile app, etc. Determining that early will help you know what resources your business or company needs. For example, if you are a small flower shop in downtown Ann Arbor, you probably don’t need to have a native mobile application in the Apple AppStore or Android PlayStore, nor you will need a high scalable backend system with dynamic databases to host your website on.
Another factor that you have to consider is the feature set required to launch your website, or as product managers liked to refer to it as the Minimum Viable Product (MVP). This will be things like the ability to products catalogs, shopping cart, ability to place orders, acceptable payment methods, ability to create user accounts, and many other. Also, another important thing to consider is whether a website would be enough for your business or a native mobile app is also required for those customers on the go. Defining the MVP will help you in determining the cost needed to launch, as well as how long this MVP will take to be developed and tested.
When building any website, including an e-commerce one, I believe that choosing the hardware first is more important than choosing the software. The reason for that is the fact that switching between software is a relatively easier process compared to trying to switch the hardware. That being said, if you host your own website in-house, switching hardware component might not be as hard.
I consider hardware and software as a one unit since they go along together. For example, you can’t run a Windows software on a Mac hardware, therefore you have to choose both together in order to have a fully functional system.
For e-commerce specifically, picking the right software could require multiple trial-and-error attempts. First and foremost, and as mentioned in step 1, defining the MVP will help you pick the right software that offers the options you need. There are a lot of e-commerce software to choose from, some with big features set and price tag, and others with minimal and lower prices.
Websites like Wix.com and Shopify offer a wide range of hardware and software packages for users to choose from, with different features and options based on their needs and product type. Those websites are based on a subscription model, where you pay a monthly fee in return for hosting and running your e-commerce presence on their servers. In addition to that, they offer security and scalability, so you don’t have to worry about that compared to in-house hosting.
Other similar options, includes opening online stores on already established e-commerce websites, like Amazon Seller and eBay. With that, all you have to do as a seller is to create a seller account, list your items with descriptions and pictures, and wait for the customers to buy them. With Amazon Fullfilment, you have the option to send them your product and they will ship them and send them to customers on your behalf. You can also leverage their advertisement tools to promote your items such as in eBay’s Promoted Listings.
That being said, if you are launching a big e-commerce company, then you might want to consider developing your own tools, or leverage 3rd party platforms like Magento. Building an e-commerce website requires a lot of time and effort, as well as a thorough testing. In addition to that, availability and up-time is critical especially during busy seasons like Black Friday and Christmas, therefore having a 24 hours support is something to keep in mind.