Trading products and services via the internet has never been more accessible, yet with so much competition and such a wide variety of options when choosing marketplaces, payment providers, strategies and suppliers - success is sometimes as much of a challenge as it ever has been. We at Crucial Web offer help with many of the challenges faced when starting an eCommerce business and making key decisions about eCommerce technologies.
Whether you need to launch an online shop, need better inventory management or want to reach new customers and markets - we are ready to advise, design and create whatever you need to achieve your growth targets and commercial goals.

What Is An eCommerce Website?

First, some definitions:

We cannot define eCommerce without also understanding the nature of the exchange of goods and services – plus, of course, the internet itself. (E)lectronic commerce is a digital and computerised way for people to connect with each other over the web and to buy/sell just about anything they choose to. eCommerce software makes it possible to create your own internet shop for relatively little cost, when compared to the much larger investment needed to create an equivalent physical shop. The ease with which retail sites can be created and the wide variety of online eCommerce platforms and marketplaces means that online shopping and trading is an exciting space to explore.

On the simple end of the eCommerce spectrum, we find sellers placing adverts on high profile auction and product listing sites, such as Ebay and Amazon. Often, these sites make the process of exchanging goods for money, plus handling communications and in some cases also handling deliveries and any returns quite straightforward. There are some major downsides, however, with this approach since these platforms tend to take a significant cut of any profits and may even take control of any arbitration and communication between sellers and buyers.

On the more advanced end, large corporate retail groups operate their own vast infrastructure networks which promote and sell items to large numbers of consumers and also facilitate sales by the smaller independent sellers. Examples of these businesses are Amazon, AliExpress and Walmart – who each use huge teams of people and even robotics and Artificial Intelligence in order to remain competitive and profitable.
eCommerce payment and marketplace systems
Most eCommerce businesses fall somewhere in the middle of these two extremes and carry out many of the same tasks as their larger competitors, but do so on a smaller scale and with appropriately scaled down tools and workforces. A common challenge for new and existing eCommerce managers is maintaining continual growth while ensuring that the project’s technology and infrastructure are able to support the increasing rate at which customer demands need to be responded to. The combination of needing to find new customers, generating new sales and to keep everyone happy in the process means that explosive growth requires diligent attention to detail and great insight.

Trading online allows a great deal of creativity and can certainly be fun for those who are inclined to puzzle solve and who love to help people to fulfil their needs. However, the complexity of achieving sustainable success at scale means that sooner or later most projects will need specialist help with specific challenges of various kinds.

Types of eCommerce

There are numerous strategies for eCommerce and many software tools that go along with them. These various approaches can be categorised according to the degree to which they are managed by third party service providers as opposed to being managed by the eCommerce site’s operator (e.g. you). A willingness on the part of project owners to take on more responsibility allows for a higher potential for profit but comes with greater risks and higher setup and running costs.

Common examples of eCommerce project include:
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Marketplace focused: Seller primarily focuses on using platforms such as Ebay and Amazon. Products are typically ‘dropshipped’, meaning that they are not physically stored by the seller and are shipped directly from suppliers to the customers. In this case the sellers is acting as a ‘middleman’ and success depends on diligent sourcing of competitively priced products. This is an ideal way for new businesses to get started with little investment being required and with minimal risk – however, competition is fierce and performance is heavily reliant on third parties.

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3rd Party Managed Online Shop: Many successful businesses have used established eCommerce service suppliers such as Shopify as a base from which to build highly effective online stores. This approach allows anyone to access most of the features that are needed to generate explosive online sales performance, including good site speed and search engine optimisation by default. The development costs for this approach are relatively low and results can be achieved very quickly when compared to creating and entire shop from scratch via fully custom software development. This approach supports both dropshipping and other forms supply chain options too – making this a very attractive solution for a wide variety of situations.

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Multi Channel: Larger projects may include a hybrid combination of managed online retail services, marketplace listings and some custom website development too. In general, the more custom development that is undertaken, the more flexible the business operations can become and the more self reliant too. These benefits allow for a wider range of marketing possibilities, data collection, tracking, monitoring and optimisation and can therefore yield a potentially higher return on investment (ROI) than less self reliant approaches. Success here will require significant understanding of technology and sales/business techniques, plus far greater financial outlay than the previous two options.

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Cutting Edge: This is usually the realm of some of the largest corporations in the world and involves large in-house research, design and development teams who work full time to develop fully custom eCommerce solutions. While these projects may make use of other service suppliers and even free open source software solutions, they will tend to create proprietary software for their own use and invest large amounts of resources into the process. The large budgets of these projects means that every conceivable effective avenue of optimisation and promotion will likely be tested and used.

A wide variety of possible eCommerce models exist and it is likely that businesses will shift and change their approach as they grow and adapt to changing markets. Sustainable growth means becoming self reliant in the right way and paying careful attention to all the steps in the supply and retail process in order to fully optimise available resources.

CRUCIAL eCommerce Services

Our technology consultation services and marketing strategy process are perfectly suited to eCommerce projects and we are well placed to advise both new and established businesses. Whether you are seeking to better understand your options for online commercial growth or have already identified specific needs within an existing plan, we are ready to help you move towards your goals.

The list of our services will continue to grow as the world of eCommerce changes and evolves. At present our team offer the following specific services:
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Customised Shopify store configurations: Including bespoke Shopify theme designs.

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Full webshop software development: Fully custom retail websites, including open source retail solutions such as WooCommerce for Wordpress.

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Payment gateway configurations: Including Worldpay, Paypal, Stripe, Klana & various cryptocurrency service providers such as Bitpay and tokens such as Bitcoin, Ethereum, Monero, Hive & many others.

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Product Inventory Management: For marketplaces and webshop installations.

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Product Fullfilment Solutions: Integration of services from third party product fulfilment centres to hold physical stock and handle deliveries to end customers. Examples of ethical fulfilment services are Fulfilment Crowd in Great Britain and Verde in the USA.

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Marketplace Integrations: To connect your site to platforms such as Ebay/Amazon, plus automate inventory management between them.

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Social Media Platforms: Configuration and integration of eCommerce features on popular social sites, including Facebook, Youtube & Instagram.

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Search Engine Optimisation: Increased rankings and exposure of eCommerce sites and pages within search engines through various options, including on-page optimisations, inventory optimisations and other SEO techniques.

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Physical 'Point of Sale' (POS) systems: Various options to allow payments to be integrated in bricks and mortar premises.

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Training: We ensure that employees know how to make the best use of eCommerce software.

eCommerce is a huge subject and we are always learning about new solutions, strategies and technologies. If you need help with any aspect of eCommerce that we have not mentioned here, please don’t hesitate to contact us to discuss your requirements.