Katia Lavoie | Journalist
November marks the beginning of the holiday shopping season, which is happening more and more online. Are you in? "It's not easy to sell online, but if you're successful at it, you'll make money," says David Grégoire, founder of Mister eCommerce and SnapShop eCommerce.
There's a good reason why the Novembre Bleu initiative promotes online buying and selling in Quebec during this busy shopping season. The numbers speak for themselves: In one year, retail e-commerce increased 17.2% compared to 3.4%* for total retail commerce.
According to Grégoire, there are currently 5 million online stores worldwide, and that number continues to grow. "Some of those businesses sell a lot and have made it through the process. It's worth it," he says.
To succeed, you need to put 3 online e-commerce pillars in place:
. Product pages
If you're missing either of these elements, it's very likely the venture won't work out.
The right tool to make life easier
Since none of these steps is easy, there are solutions to help you through the process. None of them is perfect. They require time, effort and/or money, but they'll help make the process a bit smoother.
1. Comprehensive solutions
If you have more than 10 products to sell online, Grégoire advises that you choose a comprehensive solution that offers a number of services, like marketing and payment systems. These solutions cost anywhere from $30 to $120 a month and give you additional management tools.
- He first recommends Shopify, a "proven solution, now used by 500,000 merchants around the world." The e-commerce platform is easy to set up and has everything you need to sell online. One small downside: Shopify only offers unilingual sites.
- Another option Grégoire recommends is Panierdachat.com, a bilingual solution that's a good place to start if you're short on time and money. If you're new to e-commerce, take a look at Votresite.ca (in French only), a service that guides you through the process.
With Mister eCommerce and SnapShop, Grégoire will put your products online at rates starting at $2 US (about $2.52 CAD) and $6 per photo or product, depending on the service. Based on his experience, 80% of merchants quit at this stage.
2. Online "shopping centres"
You'll remain unknown on Amazon and eBay, where competition is global and limiting. But these online shopping centres are still a good choice if you sell mass-produced products and don't have a traditional store.
If you want to be known for your work and want your unique creations to be associated with you, forget about Amazon or eBay. "But these sites are effective if you want to be selling from Day 1," Grégoire concedes.
- For marketing needs, Grégoire recommends Facebook ads. However, he warns that the conversion rate, meaning ads that convert to actual sales, is hardly ever more than 0.5% to 1% when you're just starting out.
- If you already have a physical place of business, the simplest way is still email marketing.
Artisans and other small-business owners who want to use the Web to sell small volumes (10 items or less) can use a buy button that customers can click to pay by credit card. It integrates directly into your website--no programming needed. This accessible alternative is available for as little as $9 to $10 a month.
- Grégoire recommends Snipcart, a shopping cart platform that's been around for many years and is a global success.
No matter what you choose, don't give up. Take the time to consider your needs and talk to other business owners who use these solutions. You'll be better prepared to overcome the obstacles and make your online business profitable!
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*Statistics Canada, January 2017 figures