E-commerce 101: The basics of how to start selling online

E-commerce 101 involves an online commercial transaction. It is essentially about selling and buying products online, something we have increasingly been doing for some years. In the last year and a half, as a result of the Coronavirus pandemic, shopping online has become the norm. Brick-and-mortar stores had to close their doors.

As a result, Central& Eastern Europe witnessed a 21.5% growth in retail e-commerce sales in 2020. The Middle East& Africa region was at 19.8% growth, while Latin America recorded a 19.4% growth. According to Statista, the number of e-commerce users is expected to amount to 291.2 million by 2025. So, in this article, we’re going to explore some of this e-commerce business 101 data, and successful e-commerce platforms and review an e-commerce 101 course.

Let’s kick things off with a bit more e-commerce data.

E-commerce 101
E-commerce 101 involves an online commercial transaction.

E-commerce 101 presentation

It is about 50 years old! Yes, it’s a “middle-aged fella'”. In 1969, the first American e-commerce company was founded. It was called CompuServe. They were relying on a dial-up connection. For those of you old enough, you know how unreliable that is.  3 years later, students from MIT were selling cannabis online via ARPANET.

In 1979, Michael Aldrich invented electronic shopping. Well, calling it that is a bit of a stretch. It was basically a modified TV, with a computer processing transactions connected via a telephone line.

In 1990 we witnessed the wonders of WorldWideWeb, and in 1994, a guy named Phil historically used his Mastercard to buy a Sting album on the internet for $12.48.  That’s when New York Times came out with the headline: “Attention Shoppers: Internet is Open. It was the first time a person used internet encryption technology to make an online purchase.

Then, in the 1990s, we see Amazon, eBay, and Alibaba starting on their way to changing the face of retail forever. The era of online marketplaces had officially started. The digitalization of the financial system continued. Elon Musk, Peter Thiel, and a bunch of other guys founded PayPal in 1999, and in 2000 Google launched AdWords.

From 1997 to 2016, employment in the e-commerce sector in the US increased by a whopping 80%, as reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics (BLS).

Then, in 2009, the prodigal son arrived – the Bitcoin. Then we have Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Instagram shoppable posts, and well, here we are – 2021. The world is buying digital art via the blockchain, and people are trading crypto. But let’s get back to e-commerce.

So, how to start selling digital products online?

Well, for starters, it is a highly competitive environment. Nevertheless, it is the future, and it’s changing the way we shop and behave as customers. So, let’s dive right in and show you the ropes of e-commerce marketing 101 and the industry as a whole.

If you want to learn and study the matter even deeper, you can always look for an e-commerce 101 course covering all the basics. Hold that thought, though! We’ll get back to the course after we look at some general e-commerce data and good practices.

So, according to a recent study, by 2040,  95% of all purchases will be made via e-commerce. The main reason why customers choose to shop online is comfort and 24/7 availability. More than %43 of e-commerce traffic comes from organic Google searches.

E-commerce is not only about B2C – selling to direct customers. The B2B sector is also thriving. A 2020 Data and Share Market Analysis shows some interesting facts:

  • 35% of Google searches bring sales within 5 days
  • More than 50% of buyers purchase via mobile phone
  • Buyers are more likely to buy more if they have free shipping as a condition
  • 80% of online shoppers won’t shop again at an online store that has problems with return policies
  • 55% have stated that they rely on online reviews to make buying decisions

So, as you can see, before you start an online e-commerce 1010 store, there are a lot of things you need to know and take care of to ensure the success of your business. Let’s take them one by one.

E-commerce 101 business examples

There are several categorizations you can make here. We will go with the three most important ones:

  1. the products/services they sell
  2. the customers/parties they conduct business with
  3. the platforms they operate on

So, you can categorize online merchants by the type of services/ products they sell online. This way, you will have:

  • Online stores that retail physical goods

So, they could sell clothing, furniture, electronics, and all sorts of physical goods that you buy for yourself. You purchase them on the retailer’s website, and you can either have them delivered to your door or pick them up from a physical location.

  • Services as products

Whether it’s your Netflix subscription or hiring a consultant/ freelancer online, you do that through an e-tailer’s website. You can either buy their services directly from the website, like hiring a copywriter on Upwork, or you buy a consultation meeting, etc.

  • Digital products

It isn’t just NFTs that you can buy online, although they’re one of the hottest trends in the digital marketplace at the moment. Anyways, we’ve been buying digital products for some time now. E-books are the epitome of digital goods. There are also Udemy, Coursera courses, and even audiobooks if you’re a fan. So, digital products exist in the digital realm. You don’t need someone to deliver them to you or go pick them up somewhere. So, no delivery costs.

Ecommerce platforms
There are a lot of things you need to know and take care of your business.

Based on the parties involved

  • B2C – straightforward; the company sells to end-users
  • B2B  – the company sells goods or services to another company; some products could be both for B2C or B2B, like Slack, or Zoom
  • C2B – probably the newest kid on the block; according to this model, an individual sells value to a company, like in freelancing
  • C2C – a consumer-to-consumer business model is a transaction made between two individuals, but mediated by a platform, like eBay, or Etsy
  • G2B – as part of this model, a government provides value for a company
  • B2G – it is the other way around; a business sells products/ services to governmental institutions
  • C2G – every time an individual pays taxes, it could be considered a C2G transaction

E-commerce 101 platforms and specific statistics

Ok, now let’s get more into the specifics of e-commerce platforms. An online store is as important as a brick-and-mortar one. Unfortunately, an e-store is more than just a website. It needs a certain platform to support e-commerce payments 101 and manage the deliveries, stocks, and other intricacies. It also needs to rank high in Google search results and promotions. One way to do it is through affiliate marketing links. Here’s a complete guide to that.

So, what are the most used e-commerce platforms out there? According to Career Cliff statistics, 42% are custom-made or small e-commerce platforms. 11% of e-commerce businesses use WooCommerce, Magento, or Oracle Commerce. Shopify is next with 9% of the marketplace, followed by Magento Enterprise with 6%.

So, of course, your next question would be: What are the Best E-commerce platforms out there?

There are a lot of e-commerce solutions on the market at the moment. Business owners need to make a decision based on budget, needs, and preferences. So, let’s take a look at some of the most popular e-commerce platforms on the market now; perhaps it could help you decide if you are at this very point.

  1. Shopify

Currently, about 430,000 websites use Shopify. Is quite new on the market, but it has earned its reputation as a reliable and cool solution. It allows clients to scale their business quite effectively and offers a very up-to-date, intuitive interface.

Ecommerce store
It is quite new on the market, but it has earned its reputation as a reliable and cool solution.

What is more, Shopify’s template designs are very well-made, and the flexible shipping rates, automatic taxing, and numerous payment gateways make it a great choice.

Shopify also allows for social media integrations, and it has a built-in SEO feature that does not really live up to its reputation. That might be one downside to the platform. The second one could be that it’s only made for small to medium online businesses. It’s for unicorns. If you’re one, it’s fine!

2. Magento

About 170,00 websites were using Magento in May 2020. Overall, the platform is quite robust, user-friendly, and scalable. It offers an extensive range of tools to help run your online store easily, such as:

  • multiple stores
  • numerous locations
  • different languages
  • a lot of product types (configurations, groups, categories, bundles, downloadable)
  • multiple-warehouses support
  • it also supports a wide range of currencies and price tags

So, compared to Shopify, it is a much more complex e-commerce platform, able to support about 500,000 products and thousands of transactions per hour. It is also highly customizable and complex, so you might need a cohort of Magento developers to help you manage it.

3. Salesforce

It is a CRM tool that can help solve customer service and marketing challenges. It supports:

  • cloud deployment
  • wide range of applications for customer service and marketing
  • it allows you to build your own portal or app for customer/partner communication
  • extensive functionality
  • many integration capabilities
  • a lot of pricing models

However, Salesforce is quite an expensive tool, and it has a steep learning curve. It is not an easy-to-master CRM, but it is a complex one for big businesses.

4. WooCommerce

Although it looks like a WordPress plug-in at first, it is much more than that. You have various templates at your disposal and quite a few customization options, order management, and free shipping capabilities. It is best for small online shops, and it works flawlessly on WordPress websites. The learning curve is small; you don’t need much HTML or CSS knowledge to master it.

5. Big commerce

BigCommerce runs on its own servers and helps build and manage an online store from anywhere. It’s a SaaS; you pay a monthly fee to use it, like most e-commerce platforms. You have a range of customizable templates to start with, and you don’t need any web design skills. However, if you want to,  you can tweak the HTML and CSS for even more customization.

As with Shopify and most such platforms, if BigCommerce decides to change its ecosystem radically or if it shut down, you’d have to migrate your store to a different platform. So, yes, you might say that the safest thing to do is to develop your online store from scratch. However, that takes some time and is quite an investment if you’re not a developer yourself.

So, starting out, one of these e-commerce platforms will help you to sell your first products in a hassle-free manner. For the future, as your company grows and develops, you could consider your own custom-made online store written in code from zero.

What about online marketplaces, like Amazon?

Yes. You can sell on somebody else’s platform, and that would save you the trouble of creating or customizing an e-commerce platform yourself. Amazon is one of the biggest marketplaces that connect sellers with buyers. Furthermore, all the transactions are managed by the platform, so you have no control over that. However, using an online marketplace like Amazon, eBay or Craiglist can help you reach customers and sell your products much easier than on your own website.

So, many benefits can point you in the direction of an online marketplace. As a whole, here’s what you’ll get or have to pay for joining an online marketplace:

  • It cuts marketing costs – the platform is already known and brings heavy traffic all the time.
  • It allows you to branch out internationally with ease
  • You can sell both on your online store and Amazon for an additional source of revenue
  • Customers will be able to compare prices easily
  • You can sell 24/7
  • It can generate trust between your product and customers, as they usually feel safer buying from Amazon than from a website they’ve never heard of
  • Customers will first look to big retail sites, like Amazon, when they need to buy something.
  • Of course, as a business selling on Amazon, you will need to pay a fee to the online marketplace platform, so your products will have to be more expensive on the platform than on your own website.

Nevertheless, marketplaces are growing at a rapid rate. Putting your product where your customers usually buy from will positively affect your revenue streams. What online marketplaces should you consider? Well, there are lots of them out there:

  • Amazon
  • eBay
  • Walmart
  • Etsy
  • Alibaba
  • Bonanza
  • Fiverr
  • Upwork
  • Fruugo etc.

E-commerce 101 and Social Media

It goes without saying that you need a strong Social Media presence to expand the reach of your online store, drive sales and build a brand identity. Although some of them feature some sort of online shop, the main social media platforms are not an alternative to online stores. It’s true, there is Facebook Marketplace, but that’s mainly for C2C. Instagram also has a checkout option that enables customers to purchase the products they like right there, on the spot. Businesses can add product stickers on an Instagram story, which would redirect them to the purchasing page.

Nevertheless, the main goal of social media is to create a community around your brand. It is about promotions. As a retailer, you’ll use these platforms to display your products, promote your brand and engage with an audience of potential clients or fans. Social media can humanize online retail to the point where it makes it personal – customers feel like they’re part of the family.

One thing is for sure here: you need a social media presence to build a brand and ultimately sell your products. There are tools that can help you optimize your social media presence and automate many of those tasks. Here’s one.

Dropshipping 101 E-commerce without inventory

You’ve probably heard about the drop shipping company Oberlo. They have also released a free e-book that’s called just like that Dropshipping 1010: How to start, run, and grow an e-commerce business without inventory Basically, in 12 chapters, you’ve got all the essentials of dropshipping, from ground zero to growing a profitable business, and how to market it.

Now, what’s dropshipping? Dropshipping is a relatively new e-commerce model. The main difference from the classic retail standard is that the seller does not stock any inventory. A third party or wholesaler manages this aspect of the business.

One of the most popular e-commerce platforms that also support dropshipping is Spotify. You need to locate a supplier from anywhere by looking through suppliers’ databases or through an app that automatically connects you to thousands of providers. This is what Oberlo does, actually.

Oberlo is a marketplace that Shopify developed. What it does, basically, is import products from anywhere in the world into your own Shopify store just with the click of a button. Your job will be then to promote these products, build a story around them and sell them. When a customer places an order on your Shopify store, all you have to do is authorize the order in Oberlo, and the original supplier will take care of the delivery. As a matter of fact, you can have AlieExpress as a supplier. Import certain products into your store through Oberlo, and promote them. That’s all the things you’ll have to worry about. The rest is taken care of by the platform and the supplier who will deliver the product.

The benefits of dropshipping

So, the benefits of dropshipping as an e-commerce business are quite clear here:

  • Less capital required
  • You don’t deal with stocks and ordering products, warehouses, shipping, or tracking.
  • It mostly requires just a laptop
  • You have a wide selection of products to sell

So, as you can see, e-commerce is booming. In 2020 there were about 24 million e-commerce sites out there, so you’d better start now. The most number of orders are usually put between 8 pm-9 pm. Mondays and Sundays are the days with the highest traffic.

This is pure e-commerce 101 knowledge that you need to put into good practice. There are tools and courses out there that can help you do just that.

1k a day fast track – webinar review

Yes, the name of this webinar is quite pretentious, in your face, and their approach is very “salesy”. So, that might push you away at first. It’s understandable. Usually, programs or courses that promise to make you $1,000 per day, with no effort, are pretty much a scam. However, the Merlin Holmes e-commerce 101 course here is a bit different.

The author is Merlin Holmes, a marketer from Denver, Colorado, who looks like he’s got more than 10 years of experience in affiliate marketing.  Although his claims of making $1K/day are a bit too hyped, the information in the course is pretty cool, and the training process is legit. So, without further ado, let’s dive right into this 1K A Day Fast Track Review.

The bedrock of 1k a day fast track webinar

The course covers the basics of e-commerce but really focuses on affiliate marketing and how it can get you to make that sum of money fast. As usual, we advise you to set reasonable expectations before starting such a course. Whilst it is possible to earn $1,000 a day from affiliate marketing, it requires a lot of work and, more than that, time.

So, the 1K A Day Fast Track course lasts for 6 weeks, and it is based on a combination of e-mail marketing and paid traffic. The four main points are:

  1. Find The Best Possible Offer
  2. Create a Compelling Poll
  3. Get Paid to build an e-mail list
  4. Make money from that e-mail years for years to come.

While how you can get paid to build an e-mail list is quite unclear, Merlin Holmes’ real trick is showing you how to access much cheaper traffic sources that will help you get into profit faster. The cheaper traffic sources will come from a Tier 2 type of audience – less competitive and lower-income. So, if we break it down, the course teaches you something like this:

  • Seek out what people are buying
  • Single out a few products to sell as an affiliate
  • Research everything there is to know about these products
  • Write down a compelling headline
  • Turn the headline into a question
  • Create a poll with a question related to these products
  • Use paid traffic strategies to get people to answer your poll
  • The visitors will have to leave their e-mail addresses to answer your poll
  • You will thus build a list of subscribers
  • You will then promote your affiliate products to this list that you’ve built.

The benefits of buying this course

The training is genuine, and the trainer is an experienced affiliate marketer. So, you’ll be sure to have access to top-shelf information.

Moreover, it takes 6 weeks, so you’ll have plenty of time to touch on a multitude of topics, such as headline copywriting, the choice of products, or software solutions.

The course will also teach you how to set up a Clickbank account, how to get top links, how to write e-mail sequences, and where to find perfect images.

If you follow the training, you could definitely make a decent income, and if you don’t like the course, there is also a money-back guarantee. Nevertheless, I’m not sure how that works. It needs a bit more looking into.

You can sample a 90-minute free webinar before you make the final buying decision. It will help you get a taste of what you would pay money for.

Now, the course is so complex that everyone can learn something from it. You can learn how to make money without selling your own products through affiliate marketing. The strange thing is that Merlin Homes does not mention the phrase “affiliate marketing” anywhere along the way.

A detailed account of the 6-week course

So, the courses look something like this:

Week 1
All the marketing and e-commerce essentials.

You will learn how to use ClickBank to look for the best commissions and the products that sell the most.

Week 2
Setting up commission accounts, seeking out the products that sell.

Week 3
Development and deployment of your initial poll.

Week 4
Automating your selling systems.

Week 5

Creating the ads using Merlin’s platforms and setting up your campaigns.

Week 6

Planning, organizing future income streams, and how to keep things rolling.

The disadvantages of the 1k a day fast track course

The first one is the price. The cost is considerable, and it could be prohibitive for some people. As you probably have seen on the website, it costs $997. However, this is not all the money you’ll have to pay. There will be some more costs associated with putting Merlin’s method into practice. For example, you’ll need to purchase a domain name (if you haven’t already got one). ClickFunnels and e-mail marketing tools cost money as well.

So, in the end, the total cost of investment could be more than $1,000. It is not just a course that you buy to listen to. You need to put it into action as well. So, if you decide to purchase it, then it’s like making your first affiliate marketing investment.

There is also another small technical problem that we have identified. The program is mainly focused on paid traffic. If you’re a newcomer buying this guide, then you’ll go through a lot of trial and error before you fine-tune that. Starting with paid traffic as a novice can be tough because you’ll pay a lot of money initially, and you might get discouraged and give up easily afterward.

If you’re well-versed in the art of affiliate marketing, then yes, you can buy this course, follow the method along, and experiment with the paid traffic structures and audience that Merlin talks about. If you’re just getting started, paid traffic might not be a good idea.

Let’s put a conclusion to it

So, as you can see, e-commerce 101 is great. It is the future, and you don’t have to sell a certain product to make good money off it. Affiliate marketing is one way of selling products by recommending them to an audience with no warehouse, shipping, or stock costs.

Dropshipping is another method. As opposed to affiliate marketing, you have to get more involved, and hands-on, promote the products and build a story around them. What is more, you also have control over the products. Although an overseas wholesaler ships them, you have a say in how you market the products.

As an e-commerce business building a website and sales platform, you have to deal with all the intricacies of having a store. You have seen it. You are more involved, and the investment is much bigger, but it can be more fulfilling. Now, it’s up to you to choose the kind of business that best fits your skills and interests. One thing is sure – e-commerce is here to stay.

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