Build Online Stores

There is always a demand for developing online stores, as many sellers wish to sell their products online. There are many manufacturers & traders, that sell products through retail stores & marketplaces yet they may opt to sell online through their own domain or website.

What can be sold online:

1. Physical Goods: Mobile Phones, Laptops, Garments, Groceries, Plants, etc.
2. Digital Goods: Photos, Illustrations, Documents, Templates, Photos, Audio & Video Files, etc.
3. Service: Appliances Repairs, Online Tutoring, etc.

Most customers may not have the technical expertise or, the time to develop an online store on their own. You can help customers by building an online store for them at a very minimal cost like USD 50.00 or so. There are ways to build online stores using a web browser and without writing a single line of code.

Key Terms / Concepts

Most online stores follow B2C, B2B or Hybrid Model.

A. B2C Model

In this model, products are directly sold to the end-customers. Products are usually sold in low quantities like 1 or 2 units to each customer with or without discounts.

B. B2B Model

In this model products are manufactured based on demand. Products are listed with a rough price based on quantity (often referred to as “MOQ” or “Minimum Order Quantity”). Buyers often discuss about their requirements in detail with sellers before placing an order; sellers quote different pricing depending on buyers requirement such as customized colors, logo, package, shipping, partial/credit payments, etc. This is very common across manufacturers that prefer sales only in bulk.

C. Hybrid Model

Sellers target both B2B & B2C customers.

Technical Infrastructure

PART A: Software

Customized Software: Sellers can build a complete software based on their business workflow. Developing own solution significantly increases startup costs, delay going live and you will have to plan everything in detail well ahead. Unless the details are accurately provided, programmers may not complete developing the online store software on time. There are many instances where changes are incorporated during development, which in-turn affects the time taken to complete developing the software. Then the software needs to be thoroughly tested for user experience, errors, and so on – this will again add more delay. Online store software can be developed using different technologies and requires one or more developers with strong technical expertise.

Ready Made Software: Using popular (and stable) ready made software can help you go live in minutes, as they are already tested and used by several hundred sellers. You have to align all business operations according to the software, which may not be suitable for all businesses. Use of ready made software is recommended if you are on tight/experimental budget; you can start with a ready made software, build your business and then decide to build your own software based on your experience (this saves a lot of money and time). You can explore options like a) Saas based software like Shopify, that charge every month (plus transactional fee for every sale) b) Use Open Source & Free software, which is typically available through various web hosting providers.

PART B: Hardware & Network

In order to make your online store visible to the public, either you need to a) have your own technical infrastructure or, b) lease technical infrastructure.

Self-owned: You can create your own technical infrastructure. But be aware of expenses towards computing hardware, networking equipment, firewall appliance, Internet connectivity, redundant power supply, physical security, 24/7 technicians, etc. will increase overall startup and periodic maintenance costs. It is recommended to contact professionals to estimate these costs (usually thousand of dollars).

Leased or Rented: There are several web hosting vendors that provide a range of solution, depending on business requirements and budget. You can choose from shared hosting (multiple owners sharing the same infrastructure, yet mostly secured) or rent/lease a dedicated server (cost will vary depending on hardware/software technology used). Shared hosting may range from $ 0.99 per month or higher, depending on vendor. Dedicated servers may cost $ 100.00 per month or higher, depending on various factors.

In general:

A. Consider Shared Web Hosting if you expect few hundred visitors a month.
B. Consider Cloud Web hosting, if you are expecting a large volume of visitors quickly but not very sure of the numbers. Cloud hosting is elastic in nature, which means you will pay a minimum charge and pay more as you grow (based on resource used).
C. Dedicated Servers should be considered if you plan to keep everything under your control and, expect thousands of visitors every day (you may be charged additional for network traffic usage).

Tip: Start with Shared Web hosting if you are expecting up to 500 to 5,000 visitors per month (5 to 30 GB network traffic per month approx.).

PART C: Domain

You may choose a domain name of your choice, as there are 100’s of TLD’s available from several domain name service providers. Domain names vary in cost depending on various factors including extension (.com, .store, .fashion, etc.) and tenure (1 Year, 2 Years or 10 Years).

While some customers may have the domain name(s) registered, you can help other customers by walking through the domain name registration process and options (many customers may not be aware of the new TLD’s).

Open Source & Free Software

Open source software providers often give away the source code for free (some vendors charge); You don’t need to write code to install these software, rather follow simple instructions (web based) to install and use. You can evaluate the features by installing the software on your local computer using WAMP or XAMPP. Some hosting providers will install these software for you, through specific plans or, provide a 1-click installer to install the software making it easy for newbies.

Following is a list of open source & free software:

Most of the software listed above include the source code as well; this means you can fully customize the software as per business requirements (either you need to know the programming language or, you can hire a developer).

Expected Features

Most sellers expect the following features in a software to manage their online business.

A. Inventory / Stock Management: Refers to how stocks are managed.

Options

1. Sellers maintain stocks according to their actual inventory.
2. Sellers list product images along with other details, purchase from somewhere based on the orders they get (this practice is more flexible as you don’t have to invest in all the products that you would like to sell).

B. Payment Management: Refers to how payments are managed.

Options

1. Sellers collect payments online by integrating a payment gateway.
2. Sellers collect payments through their payment mechanism like bank transfers, check, etc.
3. Sellers collect payments after products are delivered.

C. Shipping Management: Refers to how products are delivered & collected.

Options

1. Sellers manage shipping (delivery, returns, etc.) using their own delivery team.
2. Sellers use 3rd party delivery team through partnerships (for example: FEDEX, USPS, etc). You have sign-up with each partner and integrate one-by-one.
3. Sellers integrate 3rd party delivery mechanism (for example: shipengine, shippo, etc). You can use multiple shipping partners by signing up with one shipping aggregator.

D. Order Management

Sellers can approve or reject orders; manage refunds, returns & cancellations. Usually sellers manage through the admin panel, either on their own or by a team. Sellers may outsource order management activities to contractors.

E. Customer Management

Sellers moderate customer feedback, ratings & reviews and so on. Sellers view overall statistics of order statuses, products, etc. and take strategic actions.

F. Sales Management

Sellers use email lists, coupons, etc. to attract buyers. Sellers may use the features available within the software or, use specialized vendors for specific purposes (for example, sellers may use a online software like Mailchimp for managing email marketing).

In short there are many facilities expected by a seller (more than the list mentioned above) and software should have above features as a basic standard.

Finding Customers

You can advertise through traditional marketing techniques, digital marketing activities, social media marketing, talk to retail store owners, etc. to get online store development orders. Many of them may not be aware of free & open source software; a well educated approach on open source software increases the chances of you get an order for online store development. You can explore outsourcing sales & marketing activities (search for tele-callers, digital marketing professionals, etc. via www.upwork.com, www.fiverr.com and so on) if you prefer; there are many agencies available specifically for managing sales & marketing which you can consider.

Target Audience / Industries / Verticals

You can target the following list of audience (to start with):

Appliance Repairs
Arts, Crafts & Toys
Bakery & Pastry
Boutique
Car / Bike Wash
Catering / Cooking
Clinics
Computer Repair
Construction & Repairs
Consumer Durable
Corporate Gifting
Dance Class
Day Care
Delivery
Digital Marketing
Electrical & Electronics
Natural Energy
Event Management
Farming
Fitness & Gym

Flowers
Freight Forwarders
Furniture
Garments
Groceries
Hotels
Hostels
Housekeeping
Import & Exports
Juice Shop
Laundry
Manufacturing
Media
Mobile Repair
Mortgage
Music Class
Nursery
Nutritionist
Organic Products
Package Materials

Painting
Pest Control
Pet Supplies
Photography
Plumbing
Real Estate
Recruitment Agency
Rentals / Resale
Restaurants
Salon & Spa
Spices
Stationary Shop
Sweets & Savories
Sports Items
Tailoring
Travel & Tourism
Tuition
Vegetables & Fruits
Web Development
Yoga

You may target existing sellers that sell products through B2C platforms like shopify, amazon, esty, etc., as they may consider an affordable alternate. You may also reach out to sellers via B2B platforms, which typically has a lot of manufacturers & traders.

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