Every year the number of online businesses in India grows, a move goes against the physical stores, which have been shrinking due to the crisis in the country. According to the survey, between 2015 and 2016 online store growth was 21.52%.
If, like thousands of Indians, you also plan to start an online business, know that this is a segment that continues to be promising. Indian eCommerce revenues are expected to grow by 15% by the end of 2017, according to the survey.
But to sell online, which platform is most suitable: website or virtual store? Most of the time the virtual store is the best solution, but that does not mean that you cannot make sales through a website. In fact, in some situations, it is even recommended.
In this article, you will know what it takes to sell over the internet, what are the differences between the solutions and what to use to create your online business: Website or a Virtual Store? Let’s go ahead!
What is a website?
The term website has a comprehensive definition that usually includes several types of pages on the internet, so here I will refer only to the institutional site.
The institutional website is used by companies, professionals, and freelancers as a way of presenting their business or services. It can be quite simple and serve as an online version of the business card or be a more complete and informative, even allowing for sales.
Institutional sites vary widely, but there is a basic page structure that is often present in all of them:
Homepage: It is the main page of a website, which acts as a showcase and encourages the user to navigate the pages.
About: The page that brings information about the company or the professional.
Products/services: A page that presents the products or services offered.
Contact: The page that displays the contact forms, such as address, phone, email, and map. It may also contain a contact form.
A website can have many other pages, such as a blog, team, clients, and portfolio and of course, a sales page, as we will see below.
When to sell through a website?
To make sales through the Internet it is not mandatory to have a virtual store. Depending on the type of product or service you sell, you can do this through a website.
Some situations that may fit into this online sales model:
- When you sell only one product or service;
- When you own a small business and online selling is just a complement;
- When sales volume is reduced and an eCommerce system is not required to manage orders, customers and stocks; or
- When your site does not make sales but receives donations.
For example, here are some deals you could sell through a website:
- A professional who sells a digital product, such as a course;
- A private tutor who schedules classes through the site;
- A craftsman who wants to exhibit and sell his art through the internet; or
- A non-profit institution that accepts donations.
Solutions to sell with a website
You can conduct sales on a website in several ways. One is using an eCommerce module, which adds the store as one of the pages of the site. In site builders, such as Site PRO, it is an optional feature and allows for a number of configurations. It is also possible to create a standard virtual store.
The one, who has a WordPress site, can count on WooCommerce, a free plugin created exclusively for this CMS. It is currently the most popular eCommerce platform in India and the world.
Finally, those who want to do something very simple can add a pay button, such as PayPal, EBS or Pay U. It is compatible with most platforms and allows the sale to be done safely and easily.
What does it take to sell online?
It is important to know that some features are necessary for you to sell over the Internet, whether you are using a website or online store. These are: Domain, Hosting, SSL, and Payment gateway.
The domain is your Internet address, such as www.milesweb.co.uk, and hosting is the server where it is stored and that makes it available on the internet. Both are needed, even if you do not make any online sales.
The SSL certificate, in turn, is recommended on websites and essential in virtual stores. It is the one that guarantees the security of the transactions, by encrypting the information that is being exchanged on the site or virtual store.
Finally, the payment gateway is the system that will allow you to receive payments over the internet, by means such as credit card, debit card, and bank transfer. For this, you can use payment intermediaries, such as PayPal, EBS or Pay U, and others, or integrate your store directly with the means of payment (banks and credit card flags, for example).
What is a virtual store?
The virtual store is a type of site dedicated exclusively to the sale of products and services over the internet. Its structure is created for this purpose and therefore it has very specific characteristics.
One of them is the homepage, which in this case is usually a showcase of promotions and products, with attractive and commercial images and texts. The internal pages also follow an eCommerce structure, with navigation by categories, subcategories, and filters. This organization varies by store, but the goal is always the same: to help the user find what they are looking for.
An eCommerce also has a management system that includes:
- Customer and order management;
- Product registration;
- Inventory management;
- Promotions and discount coupons;
- Freight settings;
- Payment gateway; and
- Dashboard with performance indicators of the virtual store.
Unlike a website, the virtual store is much more complex and laborious, which usually requires a dedicated team, depending on the size of the eCommerce.
Types of virtual store
There are several eCommerce solutions available in the market, suitable for different sizes and types of online business. Among the simplest and most economical are the ready-made virtual stores, which work in rental mode and usually include hosting, SSL and payment gateway. This type of platform can also serve larger virtual stores with more robust and customized solutions.
We also have free eCommerce platforms (open source) such as Magento, OpenCart, and Prestashop. They offer more flexibility, but require an initial investment in the deployment, since the store needs to be customized according to the needs. It is also necessary to install SSL and hire the web hosting separately.
It is also possible to create a totally customized solution, but with a superior cost of deployment and maintenance, since you will need to evolve with the system as well.
Which is more indicated: website or virtual store?
As we have seen, both the site and the virtual store allow selling product or services over the internet, each one being more suitable for a type of business.
If you want to sell only one product or service, in small quantities, and do not need a system to manage customers, orders and inventory, creating a website may suffice. On the other hand, if you want to build an eCommerce with several products, and make lots of sales, then it is best to choose a virtual store!