Top three ways to start an e-commerce business and sell things online

The e-commerce boom is not slowing down anytime soon. If anything, more and more consumers are shopping online every single year.

Thanks to improvements in technology and global logistics, online shopping is now more convenient than ever. As a result, it makes the idea of starting an e-commerce business incredibly appealing.

There’s huge potential here; running an online business has relatively low costs if you know what you’re doing. In most cases, you can run everything from home, and all you need to worry about are the cost of acquiring products to sell. 

With that in mind, what are the best ways to start an e-commerce business and sell things online? A handful of approaches come to mind, but today we will look at the top three ideas that seem to be the most popular. 

1) Create your own website

The first approach is one that hundreds of businesses have implemented. It’s a simple concept; you create your own e-commerce website and start selling items online. There are some benefits and drawbacks of this approach, which we’ll get into in a moment. 

These days, it is fairly easy to build a website from scratch thanks to all the different website builders out there. Your first port of call is researching the different web builders and picking one to use. Alternatively, you could hire a web designer to build you a completely bespoke site from scratch. It all depends on how big your budget is – for most new e-commerce business owners, a website builder will be more than fine. 

From here you develop a branding strategy, make the site look nice, and start adding products. You want to create a lovely online catalogue that entices consumers and gets people willing to splash the cash. 

It all sounds so simple, but is this the right approach for you? Let’s look at the pros and cons: 

The pros of creating your own e-commerce website

Ultimately, the biggest advantage is that you have more freedom and control over everything. It’s your website, so you can set your own prices, choose delivery methods, implement your preferred transaction methods and so on. Plus, you don’t have to deal with any fees as you’re selling products directly to the customer.

This can mean that your products sell for less than they do if you choose the second e-commerce option in this guide. 

In summary, here are the main advantages of creating your own e-commerce website: 

  • Cann add as many products to your store as you like
  • No sellers fees to worry about
  • Opportunity to sell at lower prices while making a bigger profit
  • Complete control over transaction methods
  • Complete control over deliveries

The cons of creating your own e-commerce website

On the other hand, there are some substantial disadvantages to consider. Primarily, you’re doing everything from scratch.

There’s no help here, which means it can be harder to market your store and find customers. It can also be much more expensive to run your own e-commerce store when you consider things like domain names, servers, cybersecurity, etc. 

To sum up, here are some reasons you may not like this approach: 

  • Far more costly
  • More to worry about
  • Harder to market your brand
  • Less chance of instantly finding customers

Creating your own website can be a great idea, but it requires more patience and more investment. If you pump time and money into this approach, you may reach a point where most of these cons aren’t issues anymore. The key is ensuring you get off the ground and have stellar promotional material to give your business a boost from the word go. 

2) Sell on existing e-commerce platforms

The second method is even easier than the first. Instead of going through all the effort of making a website, you use existing e-commerce platforms. 

Three of the biggest ones that come to mind are: 

  • Amazon
  • Ebay
  • Etsy

All you have to do is create seller accounts on any of these platforms, and you’re basically up and running already. From here, you can list products and tap into the existing user base to sell lots of things, very quickly. 

By all means, if you want to get the most out of this, you still need to invest time and money. Look at Amazon, for example. It’s a massive online marketplace, which is both good and bad. You get to take advantage of millions of people using the site every single day. But, you have to try and stand out from these to get people to buy your products. If you visit this site you’ll see that marketing agencies exist specifically for platforms like Amazon. An extra investment here can improve your marketing/advertising strategy and drive more sales. 

The same goes for all other e-commerce marketplaces; understand how to play the algorithm and make your products stand out. It is worth working with specialists as they’ll teach you how to make your business work on these online stores.  

Of course, it’s not all fun and games – there are some pros and cons to think about as well. 

The pros of selling on existing e-commerce platforms

We already went over the main pro: you’re selling on an established marketplace. This means there’s already a huge selection of customers visiting the site every day for you to hook in. It reduces a lot of your marketing efforts as you don’t have to worry about things like SEO or trying to compete with other websites. 

Here’s an overview of the main advantages: 

  • Loads of existing customers to reel in
  • No SEO woes
  • Much lower operating costs
  • Support from the platform you choose
  • Far easier to get started

The cons of selling on existing e-commerce platforms

Alongside the pros, there are some cons. In reality, the biggest disadvantage is that these sites usually take a fee from your sales. It’s how they make money from sellers, and you just have to get used to it. 

For a full view of the cons, see below: 

  • Seller fees can potentially reduce profit margins
  • Harder to create a proper brand
  • You’re stuck using the payment methods offered by the platform
  • You have less control over everything
  • May be limited to how many products you can list

For most e-commerce business enthusiasts, this method is better than the first. It is easy to set up and you can get started right away. As you start generating sales and making money, then you may consider the idea of making a website and branching out. 

3) Dropshipping

The final way to start an e-commerce business is more of a method than anything else. It can incorporate both ideas above, but the way you sell products is different. 

Above, we’re talking more about making products or purchasing stock that you pack and ship yourself. 

With dropshipping, you’re listing items on either your website or an e-commerce platform, and then buying them from elsewhere but getting the item sent directly to your customers. So, you only buy something when a purchase is made via your store. It’s a unique approach with a few advantages and disadvantages. 

The pros of dropshipping

Most people will opt for dropshipping if they want an easy way to make money without any lingering overhead costs. You don’t have to pay for storage space, you never have to worry about running out of stock – it’s great. 

Here are some of the biggest advantages you’ll see:

  • A very low-cost idea
  • Customers cover the cost of shipping
  • Extremely convenient if you want a home business
  • Potentially wider profit margins

The cons of dropshipping

As with all things, there are cons that follow pros. Dropshipping is great, but you rely on finding good products at good prices to buy and sell. This isn’t always easy, meaning you may struggle to either find things to list or get people to buy what you’re selling. 

For most dropshippers, these are the main drawbacks:

  • No control over the supply chain
  • Really hard to build a proper brand
  • Difficulties sourcing profitable products
  • Harder to resolve issues customers have with products

Overall, dropshipping certainly has potential. It might be worth trying it out and seeing how things go. But, for a long-term e-commerce business strategy, it’s probably the worst of the three. 

You’ve seen these ideas – now weigh up the pros and cons, check your budget and decide which one is right for you. All will help you set up an e-commerce business and sell things online!