Get started with online sales quickly and easily

There are many ways and solutions for getting started in online trading. Some people feel their way around cautiously, while others go straight to the start with their own extensive online shop and broad product portfolio. Whatever the first step to your own virtual sales room: It should be well thought out and planned with a view to the target group and the products on offer, so that time and, if necessary, costs are kept within limits.

The following chapters are intended to provide an overview of the topic of e-commerce and answer the following questions, among others:

  • What options and solutions are there for creating your own online shop?
  • What sales platforms are there and how can I use them?
  • How do I ensure that my shop is found on the Internet?
  • What options are there for online payment?

Choosing the right solution for your own online shop

Your own online shop

It is becoming more and more natural for Internet users to order products online and – depending on the product – at best use them straight away. Consumers expect a modern and visually appealing website that, in the best case, integrates an online shop that works smoothly and in which one can orientate oneself well.

The website and online shop should provide up-to-date information about the company and its products. In addition, factors such as service quality and contact options for the consumer must be right. If a customer doesn’t get an answer to their email until a week later, they’ll surely look elsewhere next time. Even rather simple factors such as the amount of transport costs can have a positive or negative influence on the purchase decision.

Due to the wide selection, it is not always easy to find the right online shop solution for you. Of course, the current situation of the company and the objectives of the establishment must be in the foreground. If an expansion or change of the own product range is planned in the long term, this should then also be found in the online shop.

At first glance, many e-commerce websites and online shops look similar: They offer product catalogs, search functions, “shopping carts” or special offers and promotions. However, anyone who dares to take the step towards e-commerce must first be as clear as possible about which service and which tools they want to offer their customers. With the eBusiness-Lotsen, the Federal Ministry of Economics and Technology has issued   a compact checklist with necessary questions and considerations regarding the goals and requirements that should be taken into account when entering e-commerce.An overview: which solution is the right one?Expert tip: arguments for the right shop softwareExpert tip: avoid the three most common mistakes when choosing the online storeSuccess factors for the online shopLegal security of online shopsShop widgets and rental shops for beginners

Online marketplaces as a sales platform

The “online shopping centers”

Sales platforms or online marketplaces actually have a similar principle to shopping malls in the real world: buyers can find various retailers and providers and in most cases a wide range of products in one central location. To do this, all shop operators use the platform’s preconfigured shop and payment system. The advantages for customers include a wider range of goods, which often also include niches, cost advantages when shipping goods, a tested shopping system and thus a certain degree of security when buying online. Due to the range of the platforms and the correspondingly high number of customers, there is usually a rating system by other users that can serve as an orientation when making a purchase.

A big advantage of the online marketplaces are the offered and integrated services and functions: Automatic order and payment processing including reminders and payment in installments, support in the event of revocations or complaints are usually included in the fees incurred. The design options are of course also limited to the options offered in terms of design and structure of the shop. In addition, there are of course fees for sales made.

The biggest and best-known brands in this area are Amazon and eBay. However, there are also  alternatives that have similar functional models – also for medium-sized retailers. Creative platforms such as DaWanda or Etsy are also online marketplaces, but are mainly used by private providers.

Local marketplaces are on the rise: Private or municipal providers are creating marketplaces for a specific region where retailers can register their products and their availability. Customers can then use the website or a mobile app to search for specific products in the vicinity, reserve them or have them delivered on the same day. In this way, the advantages of brick-and-mortar retail are combined with those of online retail.

Online marketplace Amazon

The advantages of Amazon for retailers

Amazon  is one of the best-known and strongest brands not only in the German mail order business. The Seattle-based e-commerce giant, which started in 1994 as an online mail order company for books, now offers everything from electronics to clothing on its platform. Because of its popularity, Amazon is of course also of interest to online retailers in order to offer new and used goods – such as books, for example. In addition, Amazon sellers are offered a wide range of services that extend to payment options and logistics services.

The advantages for both sides are obvious: The online retailer benefits from Amazon’s reach and large customer base and does not even need their own shop to sell their goods on the Internet. Amazon, on the other hand, is expanding its product portfolio without any risk of goods and increasing its sales via commission accounting for sales made on the platform.

Amazon as an e-commerce solution is particularly suitable for providers who have little experience in online trading and the optimal provision of content on the Internet and who therefore want to dock onto an existing platform without great effort. The advantage of the platform is that retailers can offer their products online in an appealing way for buyers without having to worry about SEO and other external marketing measures and thus their findability on the Internet. Amazon itself has already integrated corresponding functions on the website. The programming or configuration of your own web shop is largely unnecessary,  logistical services the company also offers. It should not be forgotten that Amazon itself also trades in products and thus competes in a certain way with the sellers on the platform.First steps on AmazonAdministration and dispatch of orders

Online marketplace eBay

The benefits of eBay for merchants

The online marketplace  eBay is an additional sales channel for commercial sellers of all sizes – both brick-and-mortar retailers and online retailers – that makes a wide variety of goods available to potential customers worldwide. From fashion and furnishings to household appliances, computers and car accessories to toys, art, music or jewelry, everything can be found in the range. Auctions, used items and rare and unique items still make up part of the offers, but the majority of the items sold on eBay are now new and are offered at fixed prices. The large reach and the strong marketing volume are two main advantages for commercial retailers to use eBay as an additional sales channel. eBay sees itself as a “partner of the trade” and not as a competitor.

The company’s sales principle is based on two pillars: 
1) A seller lists an item on eBay. He determines whether bids will be accepted within the framework of an auction or 
2) whether buyers can purchase the item directly at a fixed price.

EBay grew up with online auctions. The principle: sale against the highest bid. A minimum price, which is determined by the seller, applies to bids. Buyers bid on the item during the auction period. When the bid time expires, the buyer who has placed the highest bid wins. In the case of a ” Buy It Now Offer “, the first buyer receives the item who is willing to pay the price set by the seller. The two options “auction” and “buy it now” can also be offered at the same time. This means that the auction is ended prematurely, should a customer be prepared to pay the “Buy It Now” price beforehand.
Today auctions are still an important part of eBay. But more than 71% of the goods on offer are now sold in a fixed price format.Getting started on eBayThe most important eBay tools

Alternatives to Amazon and eBay

Other online marketplaces: Rakuten, Yatego and Co.

The high-reach market leaders Amazon and eBay, with all their advantages and disadvantages,  face a  large number of smaller providers . There are differences not only in the business model, but also in the price structure, which interested retailers should take a good look at on the websites of the respective providers.

Internet World Business  compared the three providers  (formerly hitmeister),  and (formerly Tradoria) in an extensive three-part series,  taking into account above all the aspects of costs, structure and operation as well as marketing and SEO. It is worthwhile to get   an initial orientation here before deciding, for example, on Amazon or eBay as a complete solution.

A well-  read whitepaper from also  discusses a number of selected marketplaces (including hitmeister, Rakuten and Yatego,, OTTO, Zalando). The study also points out pitfalls, gives practical tips for optimizing sales and summarizes technical requirements as well as important legal background for engagement on sales platforms.

Another reading tip is the Internet  magazine Take-me-to-Auction : Here you will find regular news and interesting background articles on the above-mentioned platforms.Expert tip: The Rakuten e-commerce platformDo-It-Yourself (DIY) and creative platforms: Etsy and DaWanda

Guide to choosing an e-commerce platform

Guide to choosing an e-commerce platform

There are of course a variety of factors to consider when creating a general e-commerce strategy. It is important to decide which shop solution or which marketplace to choose, how best to set it up technically and organizationally, and how much time, money and, if necessary, personnel one must or can invest.

E-commerce beginners should therefore first consider a complete, complete solution that does not require complex installations or configurations and offers existing interfaces to various payment options. In this way, the effort that would be required to program your own shop can be reduced. When deciding on e-commerce activities, it can also be determined whether the right direction has been taken and whether this step is paying off.

In principle, the choice of a platform solution depends on what a retailer wants to achieve with his online offer:

  • If you don’t want to sell your products online at all, but just want to offer Internet users a point of contact on the Internet (where you can communicate your opening times and contact details, for example), choose a simple website or blog (e.g. using  WordPress ).
  • If you want to present and sell your products online, a  plug & play  version is sufficient in most cases. Rental shop solutions are also conceivable: For a low monthly rental fee, your own shop can be completely web-based in the browser based on the principle of a website construction kit. In addition,  hosting  is included in the price.
  • If you sell products but are generally unknown as a retailer, platforms help people find your offers easily online. Amazon and eBay not only offer that, but also provide clear access numbers to the online shop.
  • If you as a retailer want to set up professionally right from the start, customize the design of your shop and connect your online offer to existing interfaces, then you should consider more complex solutions such as Oracle / ATG or  plentyMarkets . The connection of online shops to an existing IT infrastructure can, however, be very time-consuming and complicated. That costs time and money and requires IT knowledge and human resources. Cooperation with an appropriate partner should be considered here.

The BVDW provides a comprehensive overview of the various platforms and offers   . The overview supports you with questionnaires and checklists when analyzing which requirements a system should include, which systems are available for selection and how these can most easily be adapted to existing IT systems or put into operation.

Legal basis

Special legal framework

In general, not only when trading on eBay or Amazon, special legal framework conditions apply to commercial sellers. In the case of distance selling, i.e. when making purchases via the Internet, the telephone, the television or when ordering from the mail order catalog, customers naturally cannot directly examine the goods on offer. In order to offset this disadvantage, the legislature introduced special regulations for distance selling. They grant customers extended rights and impose extended obligations on distance selling traders.

It is advisable for dealers to use general terms and conditions that cover the most important points such as guarantee, exchange, return and warranty. You can find a  sample  for this on the HDE website in the internal area. Customers must, for example, be granted a right of withdrawal on online platforms such as eBay. In the case of the product offer, the corresponding entry must also contain information on cancellation or return. Since June 13, 2014 there has been a new consumer law line, which states that customers, regardless of the value of the goods ordered, have to pay the return costs themselves. However, the dealer is free to assume the fees incurred as a gesture of goodwill and in the interests of competitive strategies. More about it  here (in the internal area).

Caution is also advised when illustrating the online article. Because here, too, the rule is that you cannot simply research suitable images on the Internet and then use them. Texts describing the offer may not simply be copied, because the copyright applies here as well. So if you want to be on the safe side, you can take your own photos of the products (attention: if the photos are taken by an external photographer, he must give him the license for commercial use) and write your own accompanying texts, which also give the offer a more personal touch give.Guidelines for Selling Goods on the Internet

Marketing and multi-channel sales in e-commerce

Reasons for multi-channel distribution

Stationary retailers are getting into online trading and starting their own web shops and sales activities via social networks. E-commerce companies are discovering offline channels for themselves and, like Zalando, regularly rely on pop-up stores. The  multi-channel distribution , so the sale of products through multiple channels is definitely a trend and is adopted by more and more retailers. This is the result of an  e-commerce study in which the HDE is also involved.

There are several  reasons to get started with multichannel e-commerce :

  • Developing competitive advantages: by combining several online sales channels and retail stores, you can reach different target groups and gain additional customers through different channels.
  • Establishing new forms of contact and ordering for customers and opening up new sales channels.
  • Better fulfillment of customer needs taking into account the changed user behavior – towards the Internet and online product comparisons.

As a general rule, retailers should ensure that all offers that they make available to their customers offline and online, offer target group-specific offers in the various sales channels and that they clearly focus on their own business. The various channels should therefore be very well coordinated and ideally complement one another.

A good and in-depth overview of success factors for good multichannel e-commerce is available on the  Internet World Business ,  t3n  or website .Expert tip: Combination of brick-and-mortar and online retailExpert tip: Digitization – what will be important for medium-sized retailers in the future?Sales increases with broad marketing commitmentSocial Commerce: Social networks as pillars of online trading

Payment options and merchandise management systems

Mobile commerce: shopping and paying with your smartphone

Of course, when stepping in the direction of e-commerce, you have to think about the  online payment options  and, if the number of online sales increases, about the possible use of an inventory control system.

Mobile commerce is a special form of e-commerce using wireless communication (e.g. via WLAN) and mobile devices such as smartphones or tablets. Online shops are still not generating a lot of sales via the mobile channel, but access via mobile devices is constantly increasing. 51 percent of smartphone owners in Germany now use their device for shopping . Mobile payment options are also used much more frequently – and some of the traditional payment options depend on them.

More and more shop operators are therefore thinking about a mobile optimization of their online presence. Retailers who want to jump into the mobile commerce trend will again find valuable practical tips at t3n  .Payment systemsExpert tip: Online payment knows many waysThe use of merchandise management systemsExpert tip: Optimizing online trading through an inventory management systemExpert tip: Innovative payment concepts for multichannel retailers (case study)

Logistics and returns

Expert tip: The 5 most important tips for organizing logistics

Frank Iden, Chairman of the Management Board,  Hermes Logistik Gruppe Deutschland GmbH , reveals what is important when organizing logistics:

Frank Iden

1. Choosing the right shipping partner : Reliable shipping is essential for the success of a shop. Retailers should pay attention to a comprehensive parcel shop network, high service standards and low damage and loss rates.

2. Use business tariffs and save money : Small and medium-sized retailers benefit from special shipping conditions, such as the Hermes ProfiPaketService.

3. Think customer-oriented : Premium services such as after-work delivery or taking returns at the front door increase customer satisfaction.

4. Increasing security in a targeted manner: Cash on delivery items, identification services or the exclusion of the neighborhood tax increase shipping security , especially for sensitive goods such as medicines or technology.

5. Coupling shop software with logistics : Special interfaces integrate shipping processing directly into the shop software. This saves time and simplifies the process. Parcel service providers such as Hermes provide shipping APIs free of charge.

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