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Selling printed t-shirts, books, and other merchandise have become a popular business choice, especially for artists and entrepreneurs. Print on demand is a popular way of offering your audience with custom-made goodies like t-shirts, mugs, books and other items to get customers and increase sales. This is a powerful way to attract more visitors within the niche of your business. However, this type of product sourcing must have powerful marketing strategies and must be built on a high-performing e-commerce platform that supports to yield productive results.  If you are passionate about designing and printing creative stuff, print on demand is a lucrative business.

What is print on demand?

As discussed, print on demand is the business of selling creative designs printed on t-shirts, print on demand books, mugs, hats, or any household items. If you are creative enough, you can start your own print on demand business, too. The print on demand is a trending business idea that has brought a significant change in printing compared to the traditional way of printing. When it comes to traditional printing, it is done through bulk orders alone. However, with print on demand, the business saves money only by printing items as per the requirement.

Benefits of print on demand business

– No required to maintain an inventory. The design is kept digitally and the items are printed only after the order.

– The items can be printed individually and can be customized easily as well.

-The quality of digital printing is much better than traditional printing as it leverages modern technology.

-Once the item is ready with design, it can be sold easily worldwide.

-Making changes doesn’t cost you much as bulk printing is not involved.

Step by step guide to starting a successful print on demand service

Starting an online print on demand business might not cost you much, but you must give your time, hard work and dedication. Here is a detailed step-by-step guide on starting a print on demand business with a little or no investment.

Pick a niche

Before you do anything else, first choose a niche that you are interested in and that is most likely to flourish. Some of the possible ideas include comics, vintage, sports, healthy living, 70’s vibe, movies, etc.

Your niche must be capable of attracting a wide audience. After selecting the niche, you can do research in google trends to find out how great it is. You can extend your research to Instagram, Facebook, Reddit, Pinterest, and Twitter as well.

If there is very little conversation happened in a certain niche. then it holds less potential for a print on demand business to build around it. Once the niche is finalized, choose the product ideas within the niche. Some of the most common and popular products include print on demand t-shirts, phone cases, posters, mugs, books, hoodies, pillows, etc. While there is a wide variety of choices, stick on to the market needs and ensure that the designs go along with the products and the niche. You can contact sellers to source the products, consider drop shipping as it is worth it.

Choose software

The next thing you need to do is to start a successful print on demand service is to choose the best designing software. You must choose software like Photoshop that supports both pixel and vector format. You can start with freebies initially, but if you are looking for offering professional services, it is highly recommended to use high-end software. Free ones come with limited features and less flexibility. Adobe Photoshop, WonderShare, Corel draw, Gravit, etc. are some of the software that helps you to kick-start off.

Build your store

This is another important step of your print on demand service. To showcase and sell your product to your target audience, you need an online store. Both your customers and drop shippers will connect with you through the website only. Creating an online store is a significant part and an elaborate process, but there are readymade e-commerce stores that can make the entire process hassle free and affordable. Once you have created your online website, you can showcase your products and you are already with the platform for customers and drop shippers to approach you.

Print on demand Business mistakes to avoid

If you are planning to launch a print on demand service or struggling to make sales out of your existing store, here are some of the common mistakes to look out for and how to correct them.

Expecting immediate success

While this is true with any other business, this can be crucial for your print on demand service. You have to actually commit a lot of time to drive sales out of your niche. Because there are already plenty of sites on the web which is already popular among the target audience and the competition you have to face is huge. To run a profitable print on demand store, it requires a lot of work and time and yes, patience, too.

Selling generic designs

One probable reason your print on demand business is not working well might be because of the generic designs you sell. As a print on demand industry is already so big, there is no shortage of basic designs. To start driving profit out of your business, you need to work on a specific niche, yes a very particular one that is not in demand right now but has the potential to go viral.

Trying to set unrealistic delivery time

As a print on demand service sells products that are literally printed as per the demand of customers, it will take a bit longer time to ship than readymade items. Yes, most customers crave for fast delivery, but setting an unrealistic timeline or print on demand delivery is the wrong approach.

Unclear terms and policies

We are living in an era where customers are very much demanding. They want to know and have the right to know what they will get before making the purchase. They also would like to know how long the process would take and what should be the next step if they are not satisfied with the products. Delivery time, shipping fees, and return policy if any, must be clearly mentioned on your website. Believe it or not, users are actually reading shipping terms, privacy policies and return procedures.

Investing in ads before your store is ready

Yes, you have to focus on marketing strategies to reach out to people and ads are an excellent way to increase your reach. But never invest in advertising until you have a full-fledged website set-up with all policies and terms in place and have enough designs to satisfy the demands of your customers.

Not collecting customer reviews

Product reviews actually help your new customers to understand your products, it’s quality, your services, and gain trust in your brand. It is important to collect reviews from the customers who have purchased from you. If you are not asking for reviews, you are missing out on plenty of future sales.

You can either follow up via mail or link to your review section on the order page. It is also a great idea to follow up with the customers to know more about the customer experience. This becomes crucial, especially if you are new in the industry.

Traditional print on demand business models require large financial investments and takes up a whole lot of time to set up and launch. However, with print on demand business with less inventory handling, quick processing, etc., it is an ideal option that comes with huge potential for success. All you need is any good designing software and a web store to kick off your business. If you have got passion, creativity, and skills to design, you are all ready to go.

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Amazon made its first ever sale in 1995 for a book. From book to selling everything of your needs, it’s was a long journey for the giant. It is still thriving, because it adapted to the trends, and it modified its products and business model accordingly.

This is what trend do to the eCommerce market. It keeps changing, and you have to adapt to it to keep on running the business. You never know the type of products you would find on the internet for 20 years from now. What we know now is certain things are trending, and you should acquire them before it’s too late.

At first, eCommerce revolutionized from physical products to digital products, which made not just books, mobile phones, furniture, etc. available but also an array of digital products like e-book, software, games, and other applications.

Then came the era of selling services online and now people are using sites like Thumbtack, Urban Clap, Freelancer, etc. to purchase services. Let’s not forget how users are purchasing subscriptions for online video streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

The growth of eCommerce as a market is unstoppable today. The more items it’s adding to the catalog the more it’s growing in terms of market value. You can imagine the growth by the fact that eCommerce was a 1.3 trillion market in 2014, and experts believe it will cross the 4.5 trillion mark by the end of 2021. It’s a huge number.

Back in time, computers were luxury and so was online shopping on web browsers. However, today despite computer are no more luxury, mobile phones have taken the place. Since 2016, there has been a 15% growth in the number of sales happening through mobile phones and this only increase. About 73% of the eCommerce sales by 2021 have been expected to happen on mobile phones alone.

What next? Well, forget mobile. Smart assistants like Google Assistant and Amazon’s Alexa can today make a purchase with just a mere voice command. Imagine you speaking on your Google Home smart speaker “Purchase a calculator from Amazon”. Be ready to get amazed as it is already happening in most parts of the world. Forecasts predict that 55% of the online sales by 2022 will happen by voice. A new era of voice eCommerce is setting in.

Want to get amazed by numerous such trends? Check out this infographic to find out many such facts you probably don’t know yet:

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The modern world has changed beyond recognition. Each year, millions of people travel around the world for work, attend conferences, or vacation. They need facilities while traveling to a different place. However, either it turns out to be very expensive or cheap with inadequate facilities. This is where the Homestays and private apartment rentals become significant.

Airbnb is one such successful rental business that allows people to rent private apartments, houses or even rooms. While it’s not the only player in the segment, it is true that Airbnb is the market leader. That is why, on a global scale, people with similar business instincts are trying to build various vacation rental management software solutions like Airbnb.

If you are wondering how to use this idea to make your own profit, you are in the right place. Before getting into the core matter of how to build a website like Airbnb and the cost involved, let’s explore the business model of Airbnb.

The Business Model of Airbnb

Firstly, Airbnb solves a common problem and Airbnb business model is made for a mass market that connects different markets in a unique way- travelers, tourists and experience providers.

If you have used Airbnb, you probably know that it employs a full-fledged digital channel. Here are no third parties involved like front desk executives or booking agents. You can search, make reservations, manage listings, and experience through their website or mobile app.

How Airbnb Works

– Hosts list out details of their properties with other information like amenities offered, pricing, etc.

-Airbnb sends a team with professional photographers to the property location to click high-quality pictures of the property.

-Users search for a property in a city they wish to stay and browse options.

-Travelers make a booking through Airbnb and pay the amount mentioned by the host along with the transaction fees.

-Host confirms and approves the booking.

-Travelers stay at the place and finally, Airbnb pays the amount to the host after deducting their share of the commission.

Significant Features of Airbnb

Despite the seeming simplicity, there is a whole set of functions in the backend which are essential for the stable operation of a website like Airbnb. When you develop a rental service like Airbnb, ensure that these essential features are enlisted.

Filtered search

Strong filtered search is the core feature of Airbnb. They make it quite easy to find an apartment by location, price, preferred time of check-in, and various other parameters.

Geolocation

This allows users to easily find nearby available houses, which are crucial for a tourist who is traveling to an unfamiliar place.

Booking management

A strong available and booking management is essential so that service providers can clearly specify their ability. Users can book on dates that are convenient for them. This feature facilitates the successful booking and avoids double bookings.

Secure online payment

Websites like Airbnb must make sure that providers deliver what was booked and buyers pay the agreed price. The best way to achieve this is to take payment from the buyer in advance and transfer the payment to the provider only after delivering the service.

Review system

Any peer-peer marketplace works based on trust between strangers. Each user has a detailed profile page with their real name, pictures and other essential information. Both customers and providers can view and leave reviews after getting indulged in business.

Communication between guests and owner

The ability to exchange messages between guests and hosts and communication between users also leads to the efficient operation of the business.

How to Create a Website like Airbnb?

Do you want to create a location-based peer-peer marketplace like Airbnb? Peer-peer marketplaces are quite complicated to create and requires a lot of work. However, with modern technology and advanced tools at your fingertips, it no longer takes months of work and fortune to make your project happen.

There are 3 different ways to build your own site like Airbnb.

  • Using a marketplace SaaS solution or marketplace

SaaS solutions have already automated the work for you, so you don’t have to spend your valuable time building the technology. Instead, you can focus on other areas of your business. With this, you need not have to install anything or have a server. You can simply create your website with their online tools in as little as a few minutes and configure it according to your use case. These closed source marketplace platforms do everything, including hosting and facilities to create and launch your own marketplace within no time.

Choosing a SaaS marketplace is a quite affordable solution as there is no extra set up fee included. Before making the payment, you can also run a trial to see how the platform work, what all features you get before making the actual commitment.

The ready-made solutions are nothing but a ready to deploy program, which helps to create a website like Airbnb or any other e-commerce site with full functionality. Once you have the solution in hand, you need extensions to make the site function in the right manner. You need the platform to be customized, your website cannot look exactly the same as your competitor. It must have personalized themes and outlook to set you apart from the competition.

The total cost of a SaaS website would come around $1200.

  • Using an open source market platform

Use an open-source marketplace platform or Airbnb clone script that comes equipped with all features and functionalities to generate revenue from your vacation rental business. It comes equipped with all the features like advanced search filter, guest-host communication, wishlist feature, multi-currency support, and additional features like server requirements, admin dashboard, and monetization features.

You get a 100% source-code, which you can install on multi-domains and use for various different niches.

Cost: Such solutions come around $999 for a regular license with free installation and 1year free support and upgrades.

  • Build a website from scratch

Now, this is the most elaborate, time consuming and expensive way to create a vacation rental software like Airbnb. This involves developing the whole website by dividing it into parts and considering each part microscopically. The whole process includes front and backend development. It is a time consuming a laborious process, which would take a minimum of 2-3 months.

Cost: It would cost you around $40,000-$56500 to build websites like Airbnb considering the individual cost of each module and functionality.

This is just an average time and cost estimate to develop an app like Airbnb. To know the exact price of developing the site from the scratch you need to decide what all functions to include.

When an idea to travel to a vacation spot comes to your mind, what is the thing you search for? Certainly an exciting and incredible travel experience at a reasonable price. This is the reason behind the ever-growing popularity of Airbnb- the one-stop destination for all backpackers to discover renting choices in terms of a small apartment or a luxurious resort stay.

With people nowadays love going on vacations often or travel for work purposes, no wonder apps like Airbnb has emerged as an impressive business idea.

The development cost depends on a number of factors like:

-Type of platforms- iOS, Android, or both

-Number of people employed in the project (project manager, designers, developers, testers)

-The technical complexity of features and testing.

While an app like Airbnb with basic features cost around $25,000-$30, 0000, but the price of an app with advanced features that work well on all platforms starts from $40,000. However, building an Airbnb clone is recommended over building a website from the start as it comes with a different advantage to boost your rental vacation rental software.

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Whether you are just starting your e-commerce business or you already have one for some time, the platform you use for your online store can truly make or break your business. Not only does your e-commerce platform features decide the display of your products and selling to the customers, but it also plays a huge role in attracting new users and scaling your business over time.

Once you have a well-defined business plan in place, consider these factors to choose the best e-commerce platform that suits your needs.

  • Products you plan to offer
  • How to scale your business?
  • How much control you have over your e-commerce website?
  • What tools you have to integrate with the platform?
  • Budget
  • Template design or a custom design
  • What experience is your audience looking for?
Common E-commerce Mistakes to Avoid 1. Looking just at the initial price tag

This is the major pitfall; it’s been put up in the front for a reason. It is easy to read tag lines like “flat fee” and think why can’t I buy it as it is cheap. The upfront sticker price on one e-commerce platform might be lower than the other. However, that doesn’t mean that’s the only price you have to pay. When calculating the pricing, the important thing to consider is the duration for which you are going to use this platform. For eg, if you are just looking for a platform to a 1-3 years’ time frame, then the upfront cost is decisive. However, if your time frame is above 5 years, the true price can even out. It is critical to consider the complete ongoing investment that is vital for accelerating the growth of your e-commerce store in the long run.

2. Not defining your target audience

You have the products you want to sell, you have a business strategy, and you have a website – what more could you need? Having a business idea is not just enough to truly be successful with an e-commerce business. One of the major mistakes a business owner can make is not clearly defining the target audience. To understand your target audience, you will need to take a deep dive into the market research and make sure that your target audience has a need for your products and how to communicate to them in a language they understand.

Understanding and defining your audience will allow you to create an experience that resonates with them. It will also help you create a brand message that entices them to buy from you again. In every e-commerce business, be it B2C or B2B, you have to place your customers first. In-Depth market research will help you identify who your real “customer” is.

Market reach to find out the target audience typically involves

  • Learning customer needs and pain points.
  • What solutions customers have tried in the past, and why they didn’t work?
  • Knowing the values important to them.
  • Finding out where they engage with content online and how.
  • Testing what languages resonates with them.
  • Addressing the problems your products can solve for them.

With this information, you can get your products in front of the right audience and communicate why your products are the best for them and how it stands out from other competitors.

3. Not choosing a scalable platform

E-commerce platforms that are hard to scale harm the growth of your online store. The major reasons why some platforms lack scalability is because they don’t support multi-sites and multi-tenancy, and rely just on their local servers. Don’t make the mistake of thinking small, if you have the vision to expand into new markets in the future, and offer a wide range of products, then your website should be set up to accommodate this, yes right from the beginning.

If there is one factor that decides the destiny of your business, it has to be the scalability of your e-commerce platform. Your online store must be able to change and grow in order to meet the demands of customers. One of the critical components that directly affect your e-commerce platform’s scalability is its database. As the database is the central part of your e-commerce platform, its ability to scale will directly impact how well your website can expand. To judge the scalability of your database, there are some main factors to look for.

  • Scalability of database infrastructure– It is important for your database infrastructure to have scaling capabilities through load balancing to handling a large demand on your site. If the database fails due to overload, having a fail-over plan where a backup server takes up the responsibilities of the database will ensure that your online store is always available. It is recommended to have cloud infrastructure if scalability is all that you are looking for.
  • Locking and input/output speeds-When choosing a scalable platform, you need to consider the locking and input/output speeds of the database. Understand its underlying hardware and how it handles processing requests. If the hardware and software capacity is not enough to handle the demand for inputs and outputs, locking becomes an issue.
  • Caching and indexing- Caching and indexing also help improve scalability, and they reduce the demand on hardware resources. Creating a cache of commonly requested queries implies that the output is always available instead of having to be retrieved whenever requested.
4. Customizing the wrong way

Many businesses choose a rigid e-commerce platform and then try to customize their requirements and internal systems to fit the platform. However, it is not the right way. If you know your requirements and goals, you must pick the best e-commerce platform that fits your business. Above all, it might be flexible enough to accommodate customizations of any degree. Take time to do research on each of the e-commerce platforms you are considering. Before signing up for it, ensure that you have fully understood the essentials. Ensure that the functionalities and e-commerce features required for your business are included.

5. Too many features

Yes, your e-commerce platform must be rich when it comes to features, but there is no point in having plenty of features that are not useful for your business. This also relates to scalability where you have more features that you actually need. Not only you aren’t getting any value for your money, but you are paying for the features you don’t even need.

When choosing an e-commerce platform, make sure that you meet the minimum essential requirements but also allows you to add new features and capabilities once you expand. Likewise, the performance of e-commerce sites continues to worsen when you add third-party features and functions to enrich the shopping experience. Why it happens is because you failed to test on overall performance when having those additions. Understanding e-commerce features carefully is critical but it’s just the first step. You have to think carefully about how you will integrate certain features and how they will impact your business.

Launching or re-platforming an e-commerce business can be a disruptive process. If done properly, it comes with significant benefits for your business. However, it is critical for your business when choosing an e-commerce platform to clarify objectives and to think things through. Having the right knowledge about the common mistakes many businesses can help your company to determine whether you are ready to take up the challenges.

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The eCommerce industry is booming and global e-commerce sales are likely to reach $4.5 trillion by 2021. Not many industries are eyeing towards such a bright future. Starting an eCommerce business is one of the most profitable ideas of recent times. While managing an eCommerce marketplace was not quite easy earlier, now with technology and plenty of resources, it is easy to manage an online marketplace by choosing the right eCommerce platform.

12 best eCommerce platform features to consider

Choosing an eCommerce platform is the most crucial decisions you make in your eCommerce journey and that has to be chosen wisely.  To help you with choosing a platform that suits your business, we have put together 12 features to find the best eCommerce platform.

Product catalog 

The product catalog is the online repository of products you want to sell. The catalog has to be intuitive and easy to update to promote the products. It must also be able to meet the requirements of your niche and should help your buyers find what they are looking for. While choosing an eCommerce platform, make sure that the catalog can represent an item with different attributes and see whether it can support several product categories and subcategories.

Easy customer interface

Another essential feature you must pay attention to when you create an eCommerce website is a comprehensive and user-friendly customer interface. If you want to engage and retain customers in your eCommerce website, you must make the user interface the most simplistic so that customers can enjoy fast and convenient shopping experience. While choosing an eCommerce platform, ensure it allows you to create a clear navigation system between website windows, product catalogs, etc allowing visitors to return to previous pages without having to start again from the beginning.

Personalization

Customers are constantly looking for a personalized experience while shopping online. When choosing an eCommerce platform, look for platforms that come with a recommendation engine that provides personalized suggestions to purchase items based on their previous purchase. Online stores must also be able to keep their customers engaged in new and unexpected ways to attract and retain customers. Loyalty is no longer a single points program, it is all about offering holistic products with a distinct business strategy that transforms a product into an experience.

Multiple payment gateways

Shopping sites with multiple payment gateways is a great way to boost conversions. You also need to figure out whether you just need a payment gateway or a payment service provider as well. Getting an account with a full-service provider has multiple benefits in terms of set up and monthly fee. Additionally, if you plan to grow your online store globally, you will have to use both local and international payment gateways to gain the trust of the global market.

Mobile optimized shopping cart

In the era of fast-growing mobile technologies, customers prefer to make purchases on the go through smartphones. A scalable eCommerce website design and mobile-optimized shopping cart save you from spending money on a mobile version of your eCommerce store. Long forms, distracting checkout pages, etc are big turn-offs. Tailored experiences improve customer experience, increase conversions and establishes brand loyalty.

Customizable

Some enterprise eCommerce platforms offer the option to add new features through plugin store, whereas some offer the addition of features through custom development only. Choose eCommerce solutions that offer automatic integrations of plugins so that you can implement those features based on your specific requirements. It must make your eCommerce store look great on any device with no design tweaks or extra coding.

Flexible Shipping

Shipping demands have changed drastically in recent years and customers expect fast delivery. Your eCommerce platform features must support different shipping methods and allow calculating the shipping cost based on cart total or based on weight. While many brands begin by taking a simplistic approach to shipping like offering free shipping, the most successful merchant’s leverage strategic shipping options to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Tax and account calculation Integration

If you are an eCommerce store targeting a global audience, it is significant to abide by the tax laws of different countries along with their currency requirements. You must also make sure your tax platform integrates smoothly with your accounting platform. With an inbuilt tax management system, you can segment sales tax by country, state, and postal code, which works regardless of what product you are selling. The best eCommerce platform for small business not only makes tax calculation a breeze, but it also allows you to spend more time growing your business and less time on compliance.

Built-in Customer review systems

Customers today want to be sure that they can trust your business before making a purchase. That is exactly why you must have a built-in customer review system to build up trust among customers. A customer review system is an essential eCommerce platform feature that creates widgets for the site to collect reviews and additionally, the system can also measure social traffic to see how does this affect sales and conversions.

eCommerce analytics

When you run a retail store, you can ask the people coming in to understand how your business is doing. But with an online store, you can’t have access to the customer in the same way. That is why eCommerce analytics become critical. There are some metrics and key performance indicators for eCommerce that you must monitor and an integrated eCommerce analytics system can help you with that. Most of the eCommerce software comes with its own analytics platform.

Google merchant integration

Google merchant is the tool that helps you upload your product listings and add product information so that it can be showed up in related google shopping results. This allows driving significant traffic to your product pages. Having google merchant integration is useful to reach out to customers across the globe. Google shopping integrations give your eCommerce business a boost to reach out to customers across the globe.

Checkout process

When it comes to the eCommerce checkout process, simplicity is the real deal. Implement one easy step for your customers to complete a purchase instead of a 5-page checkout. Condensing the checkout process in your eCommerce website to a few steps will not only make the checkout page aesthetically pleasing, but it also increases the convenience of users. To improve the user experience, you can also include optional registration during the checkout process, single sign-in option or social media login.

To wrap it up

To choose the best platform, start by defining the eCommerce objectives and long term goals of your business. It is important to know how the platform supports the business you can evaluate the ability of each platform to deliver core functionality to support your business needs. Online buyers are not just looking for competitive prices anymore. They expect full service from an eCommerce business. It is this expectation you should mirror while choosing an eCommerce platform.

By following the points discussed above, you must be able to evaluate each and every major dimension of an eCommerce platform. However, as we move into a modern digital age dominated by IoT devices, it is extremely important to choose the best eCommerce solutions that would help you grow today as well as tomorrow.

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E-Commerce, a business sphere, which when came, disrupted the entire commerce on the globe. With eCommerce becoming popular, which used to be a local market, evolved unimaginably and grew into a global marketplace with products and services being sold through the internet.

It all started way back in 1995 when Amazon sold its first product- a book. From book to selling everything one can imagine, it was a long journey for Amazon, and so was it for the concept of selling and buying stuff online.

In 2018 eCommerce was a $2.3 trillion market, and experts estimate that it will grow tremendously to cross the $4.48 trillion mark by 2020.

If you too are an eCommerce enthusiast and thinking about investing in this lucrative market with your online venture, this guide will make you an expert in a very explicit domain where most entrepreneurs struggle to match.

I am talking about a perfect way to choosing an eCommerce platform. A decision which can prove to be a deal breaker if your calculations miss even by a decimal point. E-Commerce platforms are one of the earliest decisions in starting an eCommerce business, and trust me; you would know how crucial they are after reading this article.

Be advised that this article will still prove to be useful if you are already using an eCommerce platform and not sure if it was a correct choice? So let’s just jump into the very crucial discussion.

Why eCommerce platforms so crucial in your eCommerce venture?

When Amazon sold its first book online, it was a different scenario. Back then, the facility to order something online and paying for it to the courier boy on delivery was a sensational innovation. However, today, eCommerce has become much more than just listing a product on a website.

There is competition; massive competition among different eCommerce businesses. Running an eCommerce business in 2019 is an array of user experience, supply chain management, strategic planning, competition research, cutting-edge marketing, and an infinite number of other things.

In all this, an eCommerce platform, also called as eCommerce CMS, plays as the base of your business. It is responsible for automating and streamlining the business operations and different activities that otherwise demand human intervention.

Selection of your eCommerce platform is directly proportional to how your business behaves on the following 4 grounds:

  1. Business Growth: How quickly you can grow your business?
  2. Operation & Running Cost: How much should you invest to become competitive?
  3. Level of Customer engagement: How much engaging is your website to attract customers?
  4. Business Goals and objectives: How flexible is your website to accommodate competitive businesses goals?

The best eCommerce platform you can choose would let you come out with flying colors on the above-mentioned aspects. These four factors decide if your business would thrive or would quit the league in the middle of the race.

Why choose an eCommerce platform and not develop from scratch?

In addition to the points explained above, an eCommerce platform is much more crucial for an eCommerce business to succeed in the current market. You see, an eCommerce platform is a ready-made application that allows a business to execute complex functions and also enables it to easily accommodate all other missing functions through custom integrations.

For example, an eCommerce platform may come with essential features to manage the simple buying and selling of products. However, it becomes innovative and invincible when you can also integrate cutting edge solutions to it. They can be anything from adding a popular CRM API, Inventory Management System API, Mobile app Web service API, to an email marketing tool API.

As the backbone of your business, an eCommerce platform offers a ready-made environment to build an online shop by just using a GUI or starting a custom development on top of it. For example, an open source eCommerce platform like Magento comes inbuilt with so many functions, which you can use as they are or you can also customize it. Features you can expect to come inbuilt with such a platform may range as follows:

  • Back-end interface
  • Front-end interface
  • Support for Extensions
  • Customer Management System
  • Order Management System
  • Shipping Management System
  • Integration with popular APIs: email, SMS, inventory, etc.
  • And much more.

In contrast to this, when you think about developing your entire eCommerce solution from scratch, you are dragged back in time. With eCommerce platforms, you get basic eCommerce setup ready-made, and this setup is almost similar for any eCommerce platform you choose from the market.

Now, when you decide to build everything from the beginning, you would be re-building what’s has already been built by others. You are not doing anything new, except for re-inventing the wheel to build a cart. When you can purchase a wheel and use it in your project to build the cart, why would you waste your time, money, and effort re-doing the same stuff again.

Unless, you are thinking about re-inventing a non-circular wheel, you would be wasting your energy re-building the same wheel again and again.

What does a perfect eCommerce platform mean?

A perfect eCommerce platform is a myth. Or I can say, the metrics we generally use to measure an eCommerce platform are a myth. The most obvious and false metrics of measuring an eCommerce platform today is “Popularity”.

Truth to be told- “A perfect eCommerce platform is not the one that is popular but the one that delivers the goals and objectives set by you for your business.”

A pro tip for choosing the perfect eCommerce platform would be identifying your goals first and then beginning the expedition to find the best-fitted platform. To find a competitive eCommerce platform, you first have to make your business goals and strategies competitive. A platform matching your checklist of competitive aspects would be the one crafted for you.

Different approaches to acquire an eCommerce platform

Once, you have your checklist in hands, you would come across the fowling six options to get your best-suited eCommerce platform. There are various aspects that influence the most suitable approach based on the size of the venture and future plans for scaling up.

Approach #1: Build your own Platform

This approach was well explained in the previous section while clarifying why you should not re-invent the wheel. I don’t totally decline this approach. It offers you complete control over everything about your website and business. However, there are other approaches as well, and they offer a similar kind of control and in a much quicker way. That’s why this approach is not common these days.

Approach #2: Traditional Enterprise platforms

These are basically the enterprise level platforms suitable for building large scale businesses and you require a whole team of developers to acquire them. You have to purchase the license of the software which would be renewed yearly. In return, you get access to develop your own solution on top of the ready-made platform.

If you are thinking about starting a large scale eCommerce business, and you can also afford the annual renewal cost plus the cost of managing your technical team, eCommerce platforms like Hybris, Oracle Commerce, and IBM Digital Commerce would a perfect choice.

Approach #3: Open Source eCommerce CMS

They are similar to traditional enterprise eCommerce platforms expect you don’t need to purchase the license to use them.  So you are free from annual renewal cost. However, there would be the cost of development on top of the platforms. You would be hiring developers, server admin, and site admins to manage everything.

Open source eCommerce platforms have few of the biggest communities. Their members are highly active and they develop and sell various ready-made modules that can readily customize the platforms for specific goals.

For example, Magento, PrestaShop, OpenCart, WordPress-WooCommerce. You can find thousands of ready-made modules and extensions on the internet, which you can use to add new features to your platform. For example, to add a PayPal payment gateway in your Magento site, you can purchase and install PayPal Extension.

These solutions are suitable for launching small to medium-sized businesses. You have the choice to host your website on a server of your choice. However, some of them are a little complicated and you would require a technical team to manage your site for you.

Approach #4: Cloud platforms

Cloud platforms are nothing but a cloud extension of the open-source CMS explained just now. The popular eCommerce CMS vendors partner with cloud services and offer their platforms already hosted on specific cloud servers. This eliminates the need for manual installation and hosting as they come readily installed on the cloud servers.

Please note that you can find a particular CMS being offered by multiple could servers. For example, you can find PrestaShop cloud version hosted on cloud servers like IONOS as well as Microsoft Azure.

The cloud version of Magento CMS is called as Magento Enterprise Cloud. Other examples of cloud platforms could be Demandware, Salesforce Commerce, and Volusion.

These solutions are suitable for starting small-scale eCommerce businesses in lesser investment. However, you would feel the need to invest more and purchase paid modules to stay competitive.

Approach #5: SaaS platforms

Often times, we get confused between Cloud and SaaS platforms. We use them interchangeably but they are different from one another. One major difference is a SaaS platform is built on single codebase and they do not allow the access to the source code. Another difference is they come with fixed monthly charges and they do not have any open-source counterpart.

While Shopify is an exception, which allows an API-based access for limited third-party customizations, most of the SaaS platforms do not allow third-party customizations.

You would be offered with a ready-to-use cloud-hosted platform where you can setup the site in few minutes by just updating some details on a web-based dashboard. You won’t get the cPanel access as they are closed- source.

Solutions like Shopify and BigCommerce are the perfect choice for those who do not want the hassle of managing the site and just want to sell products on the go. Most of the eCommerce entrepreneurs started their business on these platforms to gain the market and later moved to large-scale solutions for upscaling the business.

Approach #6: Turnkey Enterprise platforms:

I find this approach more suitable for any scale of business. It is a controlled combination of benefits from all the above approaches. With turnkey enterprise eCommerce platforms, you get a ready-made solution similar to SaaS, where you can setup your site on the go. Plus point is, you get the source-code access as well, making it possible to customize the platform on need and also get the flexibility to choose your own hosting server.

One more benefit is unlike SaaS or traditional enterprise platforms, you don’t need to pay any monthly or yearly recurring fee. However, this could also be a drawback as you would have to pay an upfront one-time cost. This approach can land you with best eCommerce solutions if don’t want to pay recurring charges and can afford an upfront cost for once.

Setting up the site could be a little complicated with source code access, but your eCommerce solution provider generally gets this part covered for you. This approach gives you the freedom to control your future investments as you would be paying only for the customizations you want.

Solutions like Genstore, which is based on MEAN stack, also give you ultimate control over your business and you would be ensured of the scalability of your site with the power of Node.js. Be advised that biggest eCommerce names like Amazon and PayPal are based on MEAN stack itself.

To conclude

Starting an eCommerce business is a gigantic task and one should be informed enough of all the pros, cons, and challenges of venturing into it. I have made eCommerce platforms comparison, now the decision is yours to choose the best eCommerce platform based on your venture capital and size.

I have written a one-step guide on How to create an online store and make $1000 on your first month? You should read it to comprehend the crucial aspects in minute details. I have also talked about the decisive features you should always anticipate in an eCommerce website builder irrespective of the business-size and approach.

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Payment Gateways have been around for a while now. As an e-tail entrepreneur, eCommerce payment gateways are the ones fetching money in and out of your company. As a result, they also become prime targets for hackers and scammers.

In 2018, Thales Data Security reported that 75% of retailers in the US have suffered cybersecurity issues with their eCommerce sites.

One thing that is certain that eCommerce is more susceptible to hacking than any other sector and so are the eCommerce payment solutions. To keep an eCommerce store safe and conduct protected online transactions, one needs a highly secure payment gateway for the business. 

This article gives a clear comprehension of the payment gateways and reveals numerous decisive influences that you should ruminate while choosing different payment gateway services for your eCommerce store.

How important are eCommerce payment gateways?

They are the one managing the cash flow in and out of your business. They are responsible for not just managing the online payments but also offering the best user experience to the eCommerce customers.

Did you know that few of the top factors for heightened shopping cart abandonment rate are directly associated with the UX users get from the payment gateways?
  • 28% of customers abandon a shopping cart for a complicated checkout process
  • 19% of customers do not trust the site with their credit/debit card information
  • 8% of customers cannot find their preferred payment option on the site
  • 4% of credit cards get declined due to technical errors

That’s a huge loss of sales!

Now you must be wondering how to get a perfect eCommerce payment gateway integration so as to avoid these losses and also keep the transactions safe from any kind of breach?

Well, that’s a nice question, but the answer is a little complicated. It’s not that you can simply make a Google search for best eCommerce payment solutions and integrate the ones on the top in the list. Not every payment gateway is suitable for everyone. Not even the ones in the top of the list.  

Let’s understand from the very basic.

What is a Payment Gateway?

A payment gateway is a business solution that facilitates payments through cards on online stores and also the brick and mortar stores. The setup of a payment gateway may include a software or even hardware.

Payment Gateways facilitate the cash flow in three steps:

  • Step 1: Encrypt the data transfer or communication between the merchant and the payee.
  • Step 2: Request approval from the card issuing bank or finance company.
  • Step 3: Proceed to the next step once the issuing bank/company approves the transaction.
Examples of Payment Gateways:
  • PayPal
  • Braintree
  • Stripe
  • Square
Are Payment Gateways and Payment Processors same?

Many a time, we use the terms payment gateways and payment processors interchangeably. Though they work a little same but are entirely two different entities.

Simply, a payment processor is responsible for analyzing and transmitting the encrypted data.  The encrypted data may include an array of information like card number, holder’s name, expiry date, CVV, 3D secure pin, and others. In short, the transmission of any data required by the bank to authorize the transaction. For example, the POS machines used by brick and mortar retailers are payment processors. They generally read the card information and send to the associated parties.

While payment gateways are ones transmitting payments between the customer’s bank and the merchant’s bank. They are mainly the POS used for online transactions or card-less transactions to organize eCommerce payments. Several payment processors also offer their own payment gateways. For example PayPal.

Examples of Payment Processors:
  • Card Networks: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, etc.
  • Card issuers: Banks and finance companies that issue cards.
  • Independent processors: First Data, Vantiv etc.

Note: If you are integrating an eCommerce payment gateway solution, it might use its own payment processor (ex. First Data, PayPal, Square) or use any third-party processors (ex. Braintree with PayPal). They may also include both software and hardware components.

Types of Payment Gateways

As an eCommerce store owner, you can integrate three types of Payment Gateways on your site or mobile apps:

1.      Total off-site Payment

Such payment gateways redirect the user to a third party site where he/she has to fill up the payment information and request for the authorization from the issuing bank. For example, PayPal takes users to its own page once they click on the Pay Now button on the eCommerce site.

Advantage:
  • Payment security is managed by Payment Gateway
  • Card information is secured by the Payment gateway
Disadvantage:
  • No control over the payment process
  • Payment UX depends entirely on the gateway provider
2.      Combined Payment

As the name suggests, the user completes a few of the steps on the e-commerce site and then directed on the payment gateway page to complete the transaction. For example, the Stripe payment gateway lets you fill up the card information in the checkout page and redirects to the Stripe page for the authentication process.

Advantage:
  • Payment security is managed by the Gateway itself
  • You can control and customize the form’ UX for filling up the card details
Disadvantage:
  • You cannot control the UX after the form filling step for card information
  • Adds up one extra step in the entire checkout process
  • You are entirely responsible for the safety of the card information.
3.      Total On-site Payment

It’s clear now. Such Payment gateways allow you to handle the payments and data transfer through your own server. Your site is entirely responsible for both data encryption, posting, and payment authentication.  These are mainly used by large eCommerce sites, which have their own infrastructure for safe online transactions.

Advantages:
  • Absolute control over the payment process and UX
Disadvantage:
  • With absolute control comes absolute risk on your servers.
Top Payment Gateways comparison (Fees & Charges)

The following table is an e-commerce payment gateway comparison based on the fee and additional costs per transaction taken from the merchants. Please note these are the standard plans and charges. These companies also provide custom plans with more control and benefits. You can contact them or visit their official sites to know the custom plans and charges.

 

Payment Gateway Processing fee/transaction Additional charges/transaction

1.        

PayPal 2.9% $0.30

2.        

Square

2.75% (Swiped) 3.5% (manually entered)

$0.15 (only for manually entered)

3.        

Stripe

2.9%

$0.30

4.        

Apple Pay

3%

NA

5.        

Amazon Pay

2.9% (domestic ) Up to 3.9% (International)  

$0.30

6.        

Authorize.Net 2.9%

$.30

7.         First Data 1% to 2% or $25 to $35

$.25 to $.35

8.         Braintree 2.9%

$0.30

Considerations for best eCommerce payment Gateway integrations

We have already discussed most of the aspects that define a good merchant payment gateway. However, there are various other aspects that make a Payment gateway suitable for certain kinds of eCommerce businesses.

·        Not all support all kinds of payments

Every payment gateway does not support all kinds of cards. Also, many payment gateways support payments within a certain geographical area only.

·        Not all support international payments

There are various payment solutions that do not support international transactions but they are really good when it comes to domestic payments.

·        Not all are safe for every kind of business

Some payment gateways do not support specific business niches. You have to be very careful about this. For example, there are separate payment gateways for adult rated websites. In addition to this, a payment gateway must essentially be certified by the PCI-DSS standards. Discard a solution that is not PCI-DSS compliant.

·        Offer multiple payment gateways

There are various reasons for offering multiple payment options on your site. One of the biggest reasons is the sense of choice they give to customers. As we know not all payment gateways are same you would need different payment options for different situations.  For example, a domestic payment gateway, international payments, and payments from different issuing banks and companies.

·        Look for the best user experience driver

As we discussed in the section for the types of payment gateways, different types of payment gateway integrations offer diverse user experience. You should inspect the same and integrate payment solutions as per your requirements on the user experience perspective. For example, choose PayPal if you seek off-site payment gateway and do not want to manage your own server. Choose stripe if you can do with an additional step added in the checkout process.

Consider their charges and payment fees

Of course, this is one of the top considerations. Inspect your budget and select a solution that fits in it. I suggest starting with a single but efficient solution even if it is a bit costly. You don’t want to lose your early customers from the checkout page.

E-Commerce Payment Gateway integration is a crucial step in starting your own online store. In addition to transaction safety, a payment gateway is also responsible to offer the best UX.  A majority of cart abandonments occur when payments gateways fail to offer the desired UX. Some make sure your selected payment gateway services are not just safe but also let users enjoy hassle-free shopping experience. With a better knowledge of price, safety, features, and compatibility, you would definitely make the right selection.

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Various studies have found that a major proportion of consumers these days prefer renting a product rather than buying it for good. To be precise, the population of such consumers is over 77% in the US itself.

With the growing popularity of online rental services, the particular business niche is flourishing at an unprecedented rate. Not just the new businesses and models are emerging but also a wide range of new products are being added to the catalog each day.

Started from per-to-per house rentals, the catalog has grown to accommodate anything you can imagine. No matter what you want- a gaming PC, refrigerator, furniture, kitchen appliances, or even a dress for the upcoming wedding reception, rental marketplaces have got everything covered for you.

This article will cover everything you need to know about a rental marketplace business. I am going to include major business aspects as I target aspiring eCommerce entrepreneurs who are looking for innovative business ideas to make money from the eCommerce market. So let’s start from the basics.

What are rental marketplaces?

An online rental marketplace is no different from a peer-to-peer marketplace like eBay. However, instead of selling an item, such marketplaces allow people to put on rent. Similarly, instead of purchasing the item for good, they allow the customers to purchase the rental plans. The role of the admin is however similar where he/she can moderate the site, collect the commission, and manage the users on the site.

In short, there are three types of users on a typical rental marketplace site:

  • Admin- Owner of the site
  • Renters- People who put their rentable items on the site
  • Customers: People who are looking for items on rent
Popular rental marketplaces for different products

Based on the business models and types of products, here is a list of some popular rental marketplaces in the industry these days:

  • House Rental – Airbnb
  • Cars Rental – Turo, Hertz
  • Dresses Rental – Rent the Runway
  • Books Rental– Chegg
  • Movies Rental – Red Box
  • Games Rental – Game Fly
  • Equipment Rental – Herc Rental
  • Appliances Rental – Direct Appliance Rental
  • Furniture Rental– Cort, BFR
How beneficial is an online rental business?

The generation in 2019 is more practical, tech-savvy, and travel-enthusiastic. They understand it’s more practical and easy to rent an item with low recurring cost rather than buying it for good with a huge upfront cost. The rental marketplace businesses are more popular among the bachelors and youth.

It’s comprehensible considering youth prefer moving around in search of adventure, experiences, and job. It’s unwise to buy stuff and move them from one town to another. That’s where renting works like a charm and give a cost-effective way to utilize the resources when required and return them when not required any more. 

Rental marketplaces give a two-way benefit to both the renters and the customers:

  • Renters can make some extra money from the stuff they don’t use anymore
  • Customers can get items with ease and lower cost till the time they need them

Just take Airbnb home sharing for example. It lets a homeowner make some extra money from a spare room or home, while it lets a customer rent a homestay for a lesser price as compared with hotels. 

How online renting marketplaces work?

The online renting business model works in three major modules: Renter Module, Customer Module, and the Admin Module. Each module is responsible for a specific set of task and possesses the corresponding level of access to the platform. 

The renter module involves
  • Registering a renter account,
  • Listing an item/property
  • Updating item details
  • Updating deposit and rent/month
  • Accepting a booking request
The Customer module involves:
  • Registering as a customer
  • Placing a search query
  • Getting search results
  • Selecting an item/property
  • Sending booking request
  • Updating Booking details: Rent start date, Duration of rent
  • Making payment
  • Receiving the rented item

The Admin module simply acts as a moderator of the platform. The Admin looks out for the customer support and also manages every user on the site. An Admin-

  • Approves/Disapproves a new renter account
  • Approves/Disapproves a new customer account
  • Verifies Customer and renter details
  • Manages the listing and their categories
How rental marketplaces make money?

As the name suggests “Rental” there is definitely the subscription revenue model involved in any such business. However, businesses find many other models also efficient in generating secondary revenue. Here is a breakdown of the primary and secondary revenue streams in a rental marketplace business:

Primary revenue for the business:

Subscription cost paid by the customers for the rented item.

Actual revenue for the owner/renter:

The owner of the item gets to keep the revenue generated from the subscriptions purchased for his/her items.  The actual revenue for the owner is = Subscription cost – Commission to the admin.

Actual revenue for the site owner/Admin

The actual revenue for the site owner is the commission earned from the renters. However, we have seen many rental marketplaces using secondary channels to generate extra revenue from the business. For example-

  • Featured Listing: Taking extra fee from the renters to add their items/properties in a highlighted/promoted catalog. More like paid advertising on the platform to get better visibility.
  • Ads model: Embedding Ads on the site and getting paid by advertisers. For example, Google ads Network.
Key factors for success in the rental marketplace business

Starting a rental marketplace is not a tough task. However, surviving the competition is indeed a challenge.  Inspired by Airbnb, Chegg, and Rent the Runway, many aspiring entrepreneurs have started their rental spaces. Everyone is trying their best to keep up with the market and generate as much profit.

If you want to survive this heat of competition, you need to perfect yourself on the following key aspects:

  • Quality: offer the best quality of the product for renting. Inspect the items/properties first before approving them for your catalog.
  • Support: Never compromise with customer support. Especially for your existing customers. Address and rectify the grievances as quickly as possible.
  • Unique Selling Point: Offer additional benefits stand out in the crowd. For example, extra discount, lower rent, personalized offers, movement assistance, quick support, etc.
Major challenges in an online rental business

The challenge of running an online rental business is totally a deal breaker for those who can’t plan for the worst situations. Every step in a rental business is a challenge:

  • The customers would always want the best quality item.
  • The renters expect to retrieve the item in the original condition.
  • The items might break or get damaged in the rent tenure
  • The items might break or get damaged during the transit
  • You have to spend on servicing and repair of the items
How to tackle the challenges in the online rental business?

None of the challenges are insane or impractical. Customers should expect the best quality and renters should be ensured of the item’s safety. As a business owner, it’s your job to minify the risk and expand the profit marketing despite these challenges. Here are a few tips you might want to consider to mitigate the challenges to the minimum:

  • Verify the renter detail before approving the account
  • Inspect the item/property before renting to a customer
  • Verify the customer detail before approving a subscription
  • Inspect the item/property after being returned by the customer
  • Offer insurance to the owners with expensive products/items/properties
  • Use geo-location filter to suggest the nearest items and avoid long transit
What is the easiest way to build a rental website?

There are many ways to build a rental marketplace site. Of course, you can develop your site from scratch if you have the tech skills, time, and money. However, I am talking about easier and economical options like turnkey rental marketplace software.

A turkey rental marketplace software solution offers a ready-made script that you can customize and set up your website in a day or two. You don’t have to code your site from the scratch when ready-made site builders are already offering better solutions.

The best thing is, they also offer the source code access so that you can customize your site by yourself or hire any developer to do it for you. In short, these scripts let you have full control over your site and get your business live in a quick time.

For example, you can purchase a turnkey Airbnb clone script to launch a home rental on the go. Moreover, you can use the same script to rent an array of other items and properties. For example, you can start a car rental, boat rental, dress rental or a furniture rental marketplace. The scripts from popular vendors also come with ready-made mobile apps too. 

Just make a Google search, you would find dozens of Airbnb clone in the market. Take some time to research and test them all. I am certain you would find the perfect fit for your business plan in no time.

3 custom features for a competent rental marketplace in 2019

While you are searching for the perfect rental marketplace software for your business, I recommend you also make sure to add the following there features if not there by default. These features can give you an extra upper hand against your rivals and add to your USPs.

  • Custom request:

In addition to the items and properties listed on your site already, it would be perfect if customers are able to place a request for the items that are not listed. In this way, you would always get an idea of the popular items you should add to your catalog.

  • Rent-To-Own:

This is more like a policy than a feature. Many rental sites are offering a way to rent a product for a specific time and then later own that product paying a minimal upfront cost. Using it a customer can actually choose to purchase the same item for a used-item price. You can add some brand new items to the catalog from your own inventory and can actually sell them over time.

  • Direct Selling:

It is better to also have the features for direct eCommerce selling. If anyone wants to buy instead of renting, you can still grab a customer. It will add an extra channel of revenue where you can function both as a rental marketplace like Airbnb and product marketplace eBay and Amazon.

The scope for rental marketplace businesses is unlimited. As the cities are growing and more users are getting familiar with the eCommerce sites, the customer base is also expanding exponentially. Starting a rental marketplace business is one of the best eCommerce business ideas of 2019. It’s the best time to leverage reasonable rental marketplace software solutions and venture in the market with a boom. At least you won’t have to spend millions on website development like it used to be a few years ago. 

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No matter what’s the trend, grocery supplies will always be in demand. People will constantly buy their daily supplies from the grocery stores. However, the challenging part is inviting customers to buy from your business.

Running a grocery store online is a great business idea to attract as many customers by offering a more convenient way to shop from the stores. With added benefits like home delivery, diverse product catalog, and better discounts, you can make your grocery supplies business more prevalent among this special segment of consistent shoppers.

Online grocery delivery businesses are already a trend in developed countries like the US, UK, Japan, and France. One-fourth of their population shops grocery supplies online, and the rest of 55% to have shown a great interest in adopting this trend.

In short, the consumer base is already quite massive, and it’s logical expecting it would grow mammoth in the impending future.

If you are interested in clutching a stake in this lucrative pie, it’s time you set up a grocery store online or start a grocery delivery service of your own.

How to start a grocery store online? We will get into that soon enough. Before that, let me introduce you to this business model. It’s crucial you know who the top players are and how these businesses function to make money.

Online grocery delivery service business model

The online model of a grocery business is purely based on the marketplace model of eCommerce. All the top players like Instacart, Amazon Prime now, Good eggs, and Peapod follow the same model. They set up a grocery store online in two major steps-

Step 1: They tie-up with the local grocery stores/farmers/producers/whole sellers, and

Step 2: Establish a robust and fast delivery network to deliver the orders to the customers.

Here is a flow chart that will make the business process clear to you-

In short, this flow makes your business more of a grocery delivery business rather than an online inventory of grocery supplies. It’s because-

  • You don’t sell from your own inventory.
  • Your website connects the sellers with the buyers.
  • Your business takes care of the delivery of the orders.

Hence, you would not actually be selling stuff but promoting, and then delivering the ordered stuff to the customers. However, the customers actually don’t bother if you are selling or connecting. For them, you sell grocery online and also deliver orders to their homes.

How to make money with a grocery delivery business?

As explained above, it’s purely a marketplace. So there are four stakeholders in an online grocery delivery business.

  • Business owner –Admin
  • Store owners- Sellers/Vendors/Whole-sellers/Producers
  • Customers
  • Delivery partners

You can adopt both primary and secondary revenue generation streams to make money.

Primary revenue streams

The primary revenue streams ensure that cash flows directly from the stakeholders. Here is a breakdown of the same:

Commission model

You can charge commission cut from the sellers on each sale they make through your online grocery selling platform. It’s quite the straight forward. However, you can further customize this model to maximize your profits and attract as many sellers to your platform. You can charge

  • Different commissions from different sellers
  • Different commissions on different product categories
Subscription model

This revenue model actually is a two-way money maker. You can apply this model to both the customers and the sellers on the platform:

  • You can charge monthly subscription costs from sellers to let them sell on your platform.
  • You can charge monthly subscription costs from the customers to let them use the platform or avail additional benefits like free delivery, exclusive offers, etc.
Hybrid model

This is actually a more realistic model considering the extreme competition in the market. As the name suggests, it’s a mix of multiple models. You can adopt both the commission and subscription model to maximize your profits and also attract more sellers on your platform.

Amazon prime now is a perfect example here. It follows the commission model with the sellers and the subscription model with the customers. With Amazon, prime subscription customers can avail free grocery delivery services and many value-added services.

Secondary Revenue streams

In addition to the above streams, you can adopt numerous other ways to make some additional money with your grocery delivery business:

  • Featured sellers: Charge extra fee from sellers to promote their stores or products on the site.
  • Value-added services: Sell extra value-added services with the additional cost from the customers.
  • Speedier delivery: Charge extra fee from the customers for availing priority delivery services.
  • Scheduled delivery: Charge an extra fee and let customers schedule the delivery in a preferred time-frame.
Challenges in an Online Grocery Business

The online grocery business is not as simple as it seems. The nature of the grocery products and delivery mechanism makes it quite a challenging task in the real sense. Here is how-

Complex storage infrastructure

I know I said you would not be selling from your own inventory. However, if you look at the perishable nature of the grocery supplies, the sellers actually have to bear the cost of managing a complex inventory. If the total cost of operations is more for the sellers, it would automatically raise for you as well.

Intricate return and replacement

It’s simple for regular online stores, but not for the grocery stores where most of the product are perishable and cannot be resold. Regular stores have enough time to manage issues like delayed delivery, wrong item delivery, and returns. However, grocery supplies do not give you enough time frame for such mistakes. If you deliver the wrong or spoiled product, the cost is lost for good. You cannot re-sell spoiled milk can or an opened cheese packet.

Low-profit margins

Today, shoppers choose an online counterpart of a physical store for two reasons- Home delivery and cheaper prices. However, considering the cost of storage of perishable items, delivery infrastructure, and quality assurance, it’s quite challenging to maintain low cost on the products.

How to tackle the challenges in the grocery business?

If there are challenges, there are also ways to tackle them. With proper business planning you can adopt an array of strategies to maximize the profit and survive the challenges:

  • Integrate Just-in-time inventory management to reduce storage and wastage cost.
  • Tie up with as many local suppliers, producers, farmers, and whole-sellers.
  • Tie up with local brick and mortar stores who want to expand their reach.
  • Partner with a reliable delivery service provider with a big-sized fleet.
  • Add more non-perishable products in your catalog.
  • Offer nearby pick up services to let customers order online and pick up directly from the stores.
  • Integrate iBeacon in your physical stores to merge the online and offline shopping experience.
How to set up a grocery store online?

Now that we have a good comprehension of the business model, revenue streams, challenges and the ways to tackle the challenges, it’s time we get into the technicalities.  So how to start an online grocery delivery business and set up your store online?

Let’s cover everything step-by-step

Step 1: Select the perfect business model

Select the business model that suits you the best. I would not recommend the inventory model, as you can see the issues in the challenges explained above. A pure marketplace operation would always be a less risky and more beneficial strategy.

As per the revenue models are concerned, go for hybrid approach and adopt at least commission and subscription models. Additionally, you can practice any of the models explained above in the article. Now, let’s move to a very crucial part.

Step 2: Find a groovy domain name

You would be creating a brand by starting a grocery delivery service. You need a domain name that is synchronous to your brand identity. Moreover, you would not want to make it complicated by selecting a really hard to spell name. The best approach to choose a great domain name would involve the following recommended practices:

  • It should be available with the .com extension
  • It should be easy to remember, pronounce, and type.
  • It should be as short as possible
  • It should be completely unique from other brands
  • It should not contain hyphens

After picking up a great domain name, verify it on the following grounds before registering:

  • Ensure other variants are also available (like .com, .net, .us, .uk, .info, etc)
  • Ensure the social media usernames are also available in the same name.
Step 3: Get the required software solutions

The software solutions required for implementing an online grocery delivery business plan demand a multi-faceted approach. A single touchpoint or website would not be enough. Every stakeholder must be connected with an easy to use touchpoint to make your business completely online. Besides that, for every solution, there are different ways to implement them at different cost and time consumption. Let’s comprehend in detail.

How to get the required software solutions?

There are two major ways to get all the software solutions required to start your own grocery delivery business:

Outsource or develop from the scratch

Gather your business requirements and outsource the development task to a software development company. However, this approach would involve an uncapped investment, as it is a very time-consuming process to develop all the solutions from scratch.

Alternatively, if you have the skills, you can develop them all by yourself. Conversely, it is very unrealistic considering the size of the development and number of solutions you would need.

You need a more realistic, speedier and cost-effective way to develop the software solutions. That’s why the next approach is a perfect method in my opinion.

Purchase and customize a turnkey solution

There are many software development companies who have already developed the solutions and sell them as ready-made products. These solutions are open-source code, self-hosted, and fully customizable. You can purchase them and customize the source code to personalize the features and UI according to your need. Get the most suitable solution and customize it.

For example, to start your grocery delivery business, you can buy an Instacart clone script. Such clones scripts possess ready-made features like that of Instacart grocery delivery business. The biggest advantage is-

  • You get every feature as ready-to-use and by default
  • You don’t have to waste time and money developing from scratch
  • You can customize the source code to match your custom requirements
  • You can customize the theme to match your custom brand identity.

You can use our Gencart Instacart clone script to setup your grocery delivery business in just a few hours. This is a ready-made script enabled with every set of features required to set up your business. Besides that, you can also get the ready-made native Android and iOS apps by choosing the respective packages.  It’s purely a one-time investment and does not demand any monthly rental or usage fee. You can host your website on a server of your choice. Being developed on LAMP stack it is highly optimized and easy to use.

Why a turnkey script like Gencart?

You can use any good clone script from the market you find perfect for your cause. It’s not about Gencart. It’s about the ready-made scripts.

Why would you want to re-invent the wheel to build your grocery delivery business? The ready-made online store builders, save you from the extra expense, where-

  • You don’t need coding skills to start a business
  • You can set up a site or application in a few hours

Gone are the days when only coding experts could think about creating an eCommerce site. Today, with these clone scripts, you can –

  • Create an online marketplace without coding.
  • Create a web-store by using a graphical user interface.
  • Test the free trial versions and online demo before buying the script.
Software required for online grocery delivery service

Be it any solution or approach, here are the software solutions you would need to start an online grocery store.

Many ready-made solutions in the market combine one or two solutions in one and make applications usable by multiple stakeholders. For example, you might also find that the mobile app for the customers can also be used by the sellers to manage their stores and orders. Whatever be the case, you need the software implementations for all the above-mentioned stakeholders. So, ensure if the software vendor is offering them all in one or the other form.

Features to look/develop in a grocery delivery solution

Whether you are purchasing a ready-made script or outsourcing your development, you need the following features for running a grocery store online

Fundamental features for a grocery store Admin
  • Product management System: Features to upload a product, browse product listing and their details, manage product categories.
  • Product Catalogue system: Manage different categories of products, add products to the featured listing, add products to multiple categories, etc.
  • Seller/Store Management: Allow seller sign up, approve/disapprove seller sign-ups, monitor seller product listing, ban/dis-ban existing sellers, seller messaging, etc.
  • Commission/subscription management system: Revenue management system to set commission rates, create subscription packages, and set package rules. Based on the revenue model, the admin should be able to browse detailed analytics of the sales made, commissions earned, and seller details.
  • Shopping Management: Manage product pages, product details, product mapping, category pages, and virtual cart, etc.
  • Check out management: virtual cart review, checkout process, payment gateways, and shipping options, etc.
  • Order Management: Conform an order, track seller order status, order status update to customers, and invoice generation, etc.
  • Product delivery management: Assign shipping method, schedule order-pickup, track shipment, and confirm order delivery, etc.
  • Return Management: Set return rules, Map return methods to products, exclude certain products from return rules, schedule return Pickup, track refund/ return status, generate return invoice, and return-slip generation, etc.
  • Review Management: Write product review, seller review, Approve/disapprove reviews, show reviews on the product page and seller page, and delete certain reviews.
Fundamental features for the customers
  • Mobile Responsive UI – The website should be accessible on mobile devices. However, getting a customer mobile app is also recommended.
  • Browse products based on geo-location – Filter the product catalog and store-listing based on the serviceable geo-locations.
  • Browse stores: Besides regular product catalog, customers should also be able to browse different stores and sellers separately in the serviceable locations.
  • Google Maps integration–Google Maps integration to let users track real-time product delivery status.
  • Payment processors–multiple payment gateways to support most of the popular payment methods like PayPal, credit cards, debit cards, and digital wallets.
  • Google Analytics integration– every website needs Google Analytics for tracking SEO and other metrics.
  • Dispute management system–An integrated ticket system is a plus point. Otherwise, the script must support API integration for popular ticket systems like Zendesk.
  • Social sharing–Integration with social media platforms for sharing wish list, product pages, and other details with friends on social media. Should also support social media login.
  • Multi-Currency and multi-lingual support–useful when operating in multiple locations.
Advanced features for a grocery marketplace
  • Order request- Features for the sellers and admin to accept/reject an order request.
  • Shipping algorithm- Integrated Google Map and Algorithm to select the most suitable route for delivery.
  • Live chat system- Ability for users to communicate with the support in real-time through integrated live chat or Facebook Messenger bots. The same can also be used to build a seller-to-admin support system.
  • Dedicate dashboards– Every user should have a dedicated dashboard with corresponding features and access control to manage their tasks and browse other concerned details.
  • Robust search system– Advanced algorithm to search products based on multiple aspects like keyword, categories, price, seller, geo-location, etc.

Grocery shopping will always stay in trend. It’s a fundamental human need, and people constantly look for convenient and cheaper alternatives to do that. From small grocery store ideas to the biggest chains of stores, a perfectly crafted disposition can make you a successful entrepreneur in this niche.

You just have to know the important aspects, business opportunities, challenges, and their solutions-  sell grocery online is not tough with the right technology, correct trend analysis, and planned marketing. You just identify the opportunities and pick up the resources you can capitalize on, the technology part is nowadays well-covered by the turnkey solutions.

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A $214 billion industry that is expected to touch the $400 billion mark by 2021 is indeed a great arena for investment

This is the reign of digital transformation. The new possibilities of digitization have changed the specifications and demands of business operations to a great extent. Not only the requirements have altered but also the perspective of entrepreneurs have shifted towards innovative alternatives to make mammoth profits in lesser investment. Just discover an unrivaled niche and deliver the experiences in the best way and boom! You now own great business.  

Early entrepreneurs of the service industry identified the concept of online on-demand services marketplace platforms to offer an organized medium for requesting home services in the easiest way possible. The best approach to do that was identifying and accommodating all needed home services on a single online marketplace for services.

It was not as easy as it sounds. The concept is simple but not its implementation as a software solution. In fact, the business organization was also a big task as it was difficult to build both ends of the marketplace concurrently.

Guess what! Entrepreneurs did that job, and the concept became a massive hit. You can guess the level of success by the fact that the service marketplace industry today has gained a market of over $214 billion and is expected to grow over $430 by the end of 2021.

What’s hot in the service marketplace industry these days?

The concept made a huge success in its early stages itself. By meeting the day-to-day needs of the people from the comfort of their homes, the business opportunities grew and took different forms.

Stats prove that –

42% of the adult American population has used on-demand services the previous year. It actively includes services like ride-sharing, wedding planning, day-to-day help like plumbers, mechanics, beauty treatments, etc.

There is another fact that-

22% of Americans have offered some kind of on-demand services on one or multiple service marketplace platforms. This dynamically includes driving an Uber cab and offering on-demand skilled labor such as repairing jobs.

Out of the 22% of American who have offered some kind of services last year, 51% admit that they have been able to improve their earnings in this process. No doubt experts believe that global demand for on-demand services is increasing by 49% each year.

What’s in it for the entrepreneurs in the coming era?

Both technological innovations and business trends are evolving as we speak. The trends are shifting and various traditional services are gradually moving to the online sphere. Here are a few trends that I believe we will see soon-

  • Similar on-demand service marketplaces will merge

With this growth rate and an increasing number of startups in the segment, some may keep ruling while some may die because of incompetence. In all this, many of the similar platforms may find a better deal in merging with the good going competitive platforms.

This may also include, global service marketplaces gaining the local counterparts in different countries on the globe. A similar trend is also being seen in the product marketplace segment. Also, we might see a B2B services marketplace extending to the C2C segment and the vice versa.

We can take a cue from the merge of Yardsale and FOBO in 2015. Who knows, we might see a similar pact between Thumbtack business and Task Rabbit, or between Freelancer and Upwork.

  • Product marketplaces will extend to the service industry

The product marketplace industry is also not untouched with this trend. By partnering with existing businesses, service marketplaces may explore some additional value to the customers. For example, Amazon extended into online Grocery delivery service with Prime Now. You never know, the same platform might also provide on-demand services as the business model is not dissimilar. It just requires a MAP integration and a listing of local service providers instead of grocery stores.

It’s just about capitalizing on the existing popularity, customer’s base, and credibility to venture in a new market. Google has done a similar innovation with its recent launch of cloud gaming platform “Stadia” and Apple with its video Streaming service Apple Plus.

So, I think that existing brands will capitalize on their assets and extend to the service marketplace industry to capture a broader market.

  • Innovative ways to deliver more and services

No doubt innovations are still going on and business are coming up with advanced services and faster ways to deliver them. With this trend, one thing that is sure is we will see more innovative ways to deliver quick services and the waiting time will reduce significantly.

We can learn this trend from an array of examples in both service and product marketplace industry-

  • Uber adopted the trend in developing countries and is now offering from luxury cars to Tuk-Tuk service in its list.
  • Uber extended from cars and offered Electric bikes, helicopters, and even boats in certain areas.
  • Airbnb took a different route from hotel aggregators and accommodated home-stays which was never seen before.
  • Amazon included Prime video and Amazon Music in its Prime subscription package to entice as many customers to its primary platform.
  • This is cool. TaskRabbit provides service on its platform using which you can hire a tasker to stand in a queue for you. Queues may include for restaurants, special events, or even to buy the newly launched iPhone.
Which is the best business model for a service marketplace?

You need a marketplace business model way before you need an on-demand service marketplace website or app to run your business. The first step for laughing your business is developing an unbeatable business model. The popular on-demand service marketplaces follow one or all of the following three business models-

Transaction model

It’s the simplest and most popular of all. Customers book a service, marketplace assigns a tasker and gets the job done. In return, the service marketplace platform charges a commission cut from the earning made by the tasker. The more task request your platform gets, the more commission you earn.

Lead model

It’s more like offering a bidding service to the taskers. These platforms mainly connect a customer to all the taskers on the platform. The customer submits a task requests and all the taskers bid to perform the same. Depending on the bidding algorithm they assign the task to a tasker and marketplace gets a cut from that. Some marketplaces charge on per-bids too.

Subscription model

This model has proven its significance in both service and product marketplace industry. Here, instead of charging a commission on each task, the marketplace asks the customers to subscribe to a membership package. Based on the packages, Customers can make as many task requests during the subscribed period. Some marketplace asks both the customers and taskers to buy a membership plan for their corresponding access to the platform.

Update yourself with the emerging technologies

Business industry, Marketing, and Technology, all three are deeply interlinked with each other. With innovative technologies, entrepreneurs get innovative business ideas to capitalize on and new marketing tools to promote themselves.

As a business aspirant in the on-demand service marketplace industry, you must possess the skills to know when something is trending and how to capitalize on it. No doubt, the service marketplace segments is being ruled by many giants and it has enough of the startups already, but there is a lot more to go yet.

Especially, when you can adopt innovative ways to offer the same services with greater speed, convenience, and efficiency. You must keep yourself updated on the potential opportunities, pain points of the customers, and innovative ways to solve them.

Make a head start

Next big stuff is the speed of capitalizing. You might find a fantastic idea, and an effective marketplace business model, but if you can’t realize that on the right time, it’s a failure for sure. You must stay aware of the technological feasibilities to implement business ideas into software with easy investments and speedier delivery time.

I am telling this because the biggest mistake aspiring entrepreneurs make is building their software implementations from scratch. This does not only waste a great amount of time, money, and resources but also the time that could have been capitalized on developing the business with a perfectly timed launch.

Make a head start and go for ready-made software solutions. There are many on-demand service marketplace scripts available on the market. You can use any of them and save a great deal of time, money and effort. For example, if you like the lead-based business model, you can go for a Thumbtack clone script with bidding algorithm. If you like the transaction-based model, you can buy a TaskRabbit clone script.

E-commerce is a mammoth industry and on-demand service marketplace is one of the largest stakeholders. The global scenario and massive adoption of service marketplaces have generated enough opportunities for entrepreneurs to launch an online marketplace for local services as well as of the global standards. The signs are optimistic and it is a great time to venture in a billion dollar industry.             

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