In 2017, if your business isn’t online, it’s nowhere. A remarkable 96 percent of Americans shop online, and 81 percent of in-person purchases are made only after consumers use the web to research products and prices. If you are considering starting a new business, you can’t ignore the importance of e-commerce.

Fortunately, in 2017, starting an online business is easier than ever. Using the following tools, e-commerce entrepreneurs can open a business and start selling more products at faster and cheaper rates than ever before.

Payment Processing

Making sales and collecting payments is how a majority of businesses function, but few brick-and-mortar, point-of-sale systems have e-commerce counterparts. Therefore, online businesses – and businesses moving online – need to find a reliable online payment processor to be successful.

Fortunately, there are more than a few payment gateways to choose from, including PayPal, Stripe, Authorize.Net, Braintree, and dozens more. While entrepreneurs are surveying their payment processing options, they should consider the following questions:

  • Does the gateway integrate with the shop’s current platform?
  • Does the gateway enhance user experience?
  • Can the gateway scale with the business?

Instead of expanding a business’s reach, as e-commerce is meant to do, an overly complicated, glitchy, or limiting payment gateway will drive consumers away. Therefore, entrepreneurs must test processors before committing to one forever.

Inventory Management

Manual inventory management is timeconsuming and prone to errors – especially as a business grows. However, businesses that operate solely online must have an accurate count of their available product or risk overselling their stock and angering customers.

Inventory management tools can come in a variety of shapes and colors, so entrepreneurs must be careful to choose a system that works with their business. Rarely does a spreadsheet cover a business’s inventory needs; at the very least, a business should record product quantities, locations, and histories of transactions, including resupply orders. Some inventory management systems might rely on hardware, such as RFID tags, to ensure every item is in its place. Because maintaining reliable inventory is so important to business success, it makes sense to devote time and effort to finding a high-quality inventory management system.

Shipping and Fulfilment

Unlike in physical stores, in which customers collect their purchases in-person, e-commerce requires businesses to deliver their goods. Thus, businesses need reliable shipping and fulfilment tools, to ensure their sales are sent securely and safely to their intended customers.

Because shipping is such an integral part of e-commerce, it is vital that tools integrate well with other aspects of the online store, including payment gateways and inventory managers. Easily one of the most flexible shipping and fulfillment solutions online, Shipstation combines with inventory management software and a variety of payment processors, so entrepreneurs can be confident their orders are correct and ontime.

Customer Support

Unless online businesses build customer support tools into their websites, customers have no hope of receiving answers to questions or gaining guidance on their purchases. Good customer service goes a long way to persuading customers toward a business and can be responsible for developing loyalty and encouraging return visits. Therefore, customer support tools are essential to e-commerce.

However, what customer support means depends on the business and brand. There are a few online customer support options, including:

  • Site search
  • Self-service center
  • Live messaging
  • Call center
  • Social media

It is wise to offer more than one way for customers to find support, so no customer will feel abandoned and alone in an online store.

Email Marketing

Contrary to social media marketers’ ardent belief, email is not dead. In fact, email marketing remains one of the most effective ways to keep customers involved with specific e-commerce businesses. Email newsletters should offer engaging content that drives customers back to their digital carts – but more importantly, email marketing should be regular, reminding customers often of their recent positive experience with e-commerce. To do this effectively, businesses should rely on email marketing tools, like Mailchimp, AWeber, and ConvertKit, which automate email blasts while providing personal touches that encourage engagement.

Cart Abandonment

Brick-and-mortar stores have little chance of understanding customers who decided not to buy, but e-commerce allows businesses to study cart abandonment in-depth. Cart abandonment tools, like Ghost Monitor and Granify, compile data on customer behavior before and after a full cart fails to convert. Armed with such information, entrepreneurs can alter various aspects of the business to better suit customers – decreasing their abandoned carts and increasing their sales.