June 06, 2012, 10:40 AM — Ecommerce is taking a bigger portion of overall retail sales in the United States. According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, consumers spent more than $194 billion online in 2011. With this kind of spending, it's not surprising to see more small businesses moving some, or all, operations online.
Fueling the ecommerce movement is easy-to-use software that makes it inexpensive for a small business to add ecommerce to a business website. For less than $100 per month, you can add an ecommerce component to grow your existing small business and reach new customers, or even start a new online business.
If you already have a business website, a good option is to integrate a standalone shopping cart--including open-source shopping carts--for ecommerce functionality. This is a good fit for those who want more control but would otherwise need technical expertise or an IT staff to host and manage an ecommerce site.
Another option that suits most entrepreneurs and small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) is hosted ecommerce software. A hosted solution will provide everything from domain name registration to the tools you need to build an ecommerce website, including the shopping cart, with minimal tech and website design knowledge required. Many will also take care of PCI compliance in order to keep your customers' data safe.
How to Find the Right Ecommerce Software Platform
The best reasons for using hosted ecommerce software are the low cost and lack of IT requirements. Another benefit to hosted ecommerce is that many solutions are designed to grow with your business. You typically won't pay for features you aren't using today, but you have the option to upgrade services and features as needed.
Most ecommerce platforms will provide the basics to get you started. This includes customizable site templates, an integrated shopping cart, search engine optimization (SEO), email marketing, inventory management and analytics. All you need to do is create an account and use store management tools to customize your ecommerce presence.