It’s hard to believe, but the concepts and technologies behind online shopping and ecommerce have been around longer than some of us have been old enough to use the Internet.
Even though connections were painstakingly slow (although we thought 56k speeds through dial-up were “all that”), and web design left a lot to be desired back then, the first ecommerce technologies were being developed – even as far back as the late 1970’s.
Now let’s fast forward to the 1990s…you know, when the Internet began to look at least a little more sophisticated:
It wasn’t until 1994 that e-commerce (as we know it today) really began to accelerate with the introduction of security protocols and high speed internet connections such as DSL, allowing for much faster connection speeds and faster online transaction capability. Industry “experts” predicted explosive growth in e-commerce related businesses.
Source: Spirecast: History of E-Commerce
It was in 1995 that Jeffrey Bezos sold his first book from his newly launched online bookstore, Amazon.com.
And so, ecommerce – at least as we know it today – was born…although it would be many years further down the road before the first online storefront appeared on the internet.
How early ecommerce pioneers helped pave the way for modern online store owners
Two online retailers that have stood the test of time are Amazon and eBay. Both online sites were developed in 1994 and launched in 1995.
Throughout the years, both sites have evolved – and continue to evolve – so they can keep up with the expectations of modern online shoppers.
For example, Amazon realized the necessity to go beyond niche selling in order to reach more consumers. As a result, the organization began expanding its offerings, as well as opening its doors to affiliate marketers. Today, Amazon supports and operates retail web sites for many famous businesses, including Marks & Spencer, Lacoste, the NBA, Bebe Stores, Target, etc.
eBay also started out as a niche platform. In its humble beginnings in 1995, eBay’s atmosphere was a lot like a virtual “garage sale” for individuals. In other words, one person’s junk became another one’s treasure…as long as they won the online “auction” process with their bid.
Today, the basic concept of buying and selling on eBay has not changed a whole lot – but it certainly has exploded! According to Statista, a site that analyzes data from more than 18,000 sources, eBay reached 157 million active users in the second quarter of 2015.
Things to consider before you start your own online storefront
More entrepreneurs have already discovered the importance of having a strong online presence. Many of them are continuously attracting new leads and business through effective online marketing techniques. They know that having a website with quality content and well-managed social media platforms contributes significantly to their success.
Building an online storefront may be a logical next step for these already successful small business owners – especially those who are ready to grow and sell to an even larger consumer base.
If you are brand new to the concept of selling online, then you may understandably feel a bit intimidated by the thought of starting out on the monster platforms, such as eBay and Amazon.
Fortunately, there are many ecommerce builders and tools available which allow you to start and grow your online storefront at your own pace. Even better? Many of these platforms are intuitive, user-friendly, and straightforward.
Simple online storefront suggestions
Possibly one of the simplest places to start your first online storefront is on Facebook. This is especially the case when you already have an active business page with loyal and engaged followers.
Brands of all sizes have been building strong communities on Facebook for years. As well, this social media site remained the most popular choice of all the major social media platforms for businesses and users alike.
If you already have a business page set up, then your next step in creating an online storefront on Facebook is as easy as setting up a new tab. And, since Facebook makes it easy for business owners to target and boost posts based on users’ specific interests, attracting them to your page and online storefront is not any different than the steps you should already be taking for building your other online communities.
One of the best things is that with the help of ecommerce builders, you need neither have technical knowledge or coding experience – all of that is handled, which leaves you the time and freedom to focus on building and managing your online storefront and bringing in new customers, all while keeping your current customers satisfied.
One recent article via Website Builder Expert, “How To Set Up a Facebook Store To Sell On Facebook,” shares more details behind setting up an online store on Facebook. It also provides a list of some of the current ecommerce builder software and apps available for helping you set up get set up quickly and instantly.
Stand-alone online storefront ideas
Many small business owners may decide upon going with a separate, stand-alone option for their online storefront, rather than integrating their store within the larger ecommerce platforms or their Facebook pages.
It turns out that there are several ecommerce builders for stand-alone online storefronts. Most can help business owners get started selling online quickly and easily, regardless of their level of experience with online sales and marketing.
An example of one of the up-and coming ecommerce builders is called Spaces. This particular platform is quickly developing a good reputation among entrepreneurs who are just getting started with ecommerce and online sales and marketing.
What makes Spaces unique to some of the other stand-alone ecommerce platforms is its focus on niche selling, which is kind of reminiscent of those early days of Amazon.
Now that almost every major retailer has online shopping available, some people may feel a little overwhelmed when they’re going online in search of one specific item.
From clothes, to jewelry, to books, to services…and more: Spaces lets its users easily set up nearly any type of specialty shop or shops:
Whether you’re selling physical products, subscriptions or digital downloads, Spaces fits your business and your bank. There’s no limit to the number of products you can sell or the number of Spaces you can create. It’s free and easy to use.
Sounds pretty cool, right?
Over to you
Regardless of the route you take for building and maintaining your online storefront, one of the most essential things you can do is to start and continuously engage with your potential and current customers. Being social online has never been easier, and it can make a huge difference in how successful you are with your online storefront.
Are you considering a leap into the world of ecommerce, or have you already started? I would love to hear more about your suggestions and experiences. Please feel free to leave a comment below.