E-Commerce has revolutionized the way we shop in the past 3 to 5 years. The rise to the popularity of websites like Shoppe and Lazada, to name a few shows how much our society embraces the idea of purchasing online and how we had in our hands the tools to conveniently compares products from the comfort of our couch.

Currently with the world hits by a pandemic, the needs to buy online grow by leaps and bounds. With the imposed movement restriction to control the virus spread, Malaysians have been spending more time online and have shown more willingness to purchase items online now. Many economic experts predicted that the way we do business will never be the same again even after the world recovers from the Covid-19 pandemic.

This opens new opportunities for new businesses to start or simply to continue and expand from the existing business.

In this article, we want to briefly provide a guide on how to start an e-commerce business. This is meant to be a straightforward technical guide. We will try to cover the strategy aspects (Digital Marketing) in other articles.

#01 Decide on Your Ecommerce Platform – Hosted, Self-Hosted or Marketplace

Hosted Platform

Hosted platforms, in a nutshell, offer an all-in-one e-commerce solution that comprises hosting, a shopping cart function, and technical support.

The Pros of Hosted Platform

  • You won’t have to go through the hassle of purchasing a web server and installing your e-commerce software.
  • Payment gateway setup will be simplified and straightforward
  • You will get to choose how your website looks like from the variety of pre-designed templates. No need coding to customize.
  • Low starting cost with monthly charges starts at RM55

The Cons of Hosted Platform

  • Lesser control on the customization parts i.e. layouts and where you want to display the products
  • and your content will not be portable when you decide to take your website elsewhere.
  • While the hosted platform will normally charge a low monthly subscription fee, be aware of the additional charge that will incur if you decide to add custom functionality or increase the number of products

Some popular Hosted Platform are:

  • Shopify
  • Easystore
  • Sitegiant

Recommendations

We recommend you go with self-hosted if you have the time or fancy of building your own e-commerce store. You don’t have to spend a lot of money in the beginning and this is important is you are still validating ideas or products you wish to sell.

Self-Hosted Platform

Meanwhile, the Self-Hosted platform gives you control of the technology you use and customization you required. Most likely you will need an experienced web designer to do the setup.

The Pros of self-hosted platform

  • More options on choosing a web hosting that will give the best performance and value.
  • You have control over the content and can easily transfer to another server whenever you want
  • Great control on every aspect of design and customization. This is very important for established businesses with branding guidelines.
  • More features can be added ie. Custom checkout and other fancy marketing strategies
  • Cheaper in the long run.

The Cons of self-hosted platform

  • Require technical skills to set up the website. Most of the customization work will involve some form of coding.
  • Higher initial investment compared to the Self Hosted platform
  • More maintenance work ie monitoring hosting, updating plugins, and time of updating the website can be longer.

Some popular Self-Hosted Platform

  • WordPress WooCommerce
  • OpenCart
  • Magento
  • Prestashop

Go with Self-Hosted platform if you wish to have professional looking e-commerce and wish to have an advanced marketing functionality.

To be continued…