For people looking to sell online, there are basically four options for setting up e-shops. The choice is not easy, as all the four options have their own merits and drawbacks.
Social media platforms like Facebook, WeChat and Instagram are free and handy, and thus popular with young entrepreneurs seeking to try their luck with minimum investment.
Simply by setting up an account and posting a few photos, one can get going.
But strictly speaking, they won’t be full-functioning e-shops as the platforms won’t facilitate e-payment and other important tasks like keeping transaction records.
Marketplaces like Taobao and eBay are also common choices for many e-vendors. These cyber supermalls that sell almost anything draw in huge traffic and are therefore preferred by many wanting to set up e-stores.
There are some fees involved for maintaining an account, and sometimes for making transactions, but the set-up cost is relatively low. One does not have to worry about payment platforms either.
That said, the store owner will have no access to customer information, a key asset for online businesses that want to do remarketing or targeted promotion campaigns.
Some e-vendors, meanwhile, are also complaining that the marketing costs to gain visibility on these jumbo platforms, which are packed with millions of similar offerings, are getting increasingly unaffordable.
Creating your own online standalone shopping site not only lets you track customer behavior and design tailored marketing programs, but also help you run all kinds of sales analysis and accounting reports.
But this solution is expensive in terms of the hardware and software investment needed. It also takes time to build.
For budget-tight small and medium-sized firms, or for e-vending beginners, a popular option in recent years is using cloud-based software service, says Davy Ma, managing director of Media Explorer Ltd., a Hong Kong-based Web services firm.
This solution in a way strikes an ideal balance between costs and functions.
Shopify and WIX are major foreign providers of such service while Shopline and MagicCart under Media Explorer are some of local contenders for this growing market.
Although such readymade software does not allow companies to tailor-design everything on their shopping sites, they do offer quite a lot of standard templates and flexibilities, and they charge as low as a few hundred dollars a month, Ma points out.
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