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4 killer apps for launching an online business

To profit from Internet sales, you will need a website. Although this might seem simplistic, the choice of your website can influence how people will see and interact with your online store in many ways. Getting the right look and feel to your website will determine what kind of customers you attract.

It will also determine whether you can build and maintain your e-commerce site on your own or if you will need someone familiar with coding and a technical support staff to maintain your site. Many companies create third-party apps that can help you track demographic data from even the most basic of sites to keep you focused on making money.

Integrating your e-commerce site with an established payment processor, like PayPal, is also important. Although credit card and debit card sales on the Internet are increasing, there is still a need for services like PayPal, especially in niche markets.

• WordPress / WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a shopping cart plugin for WordPress. The two platforms work hand-in-hand to create an e-commerce platform. The only way you can use WooCommerce is if you have a WordPress site. The fact that WordPress is a hugely successful content management system makes it a great way to start an online store.

If you already have a WordPress site, using the WooCommerce plugin is well worth it, but if you are using a different platform for your web presence, migrating to WordPress might not be the best idea for you and your business.

Setting up a WooCommerce site is easy to do. No special programming knowledge is necessary and it is a simple plugin for your WordPress site. Maintaining and running the e-store is also easy to do. It has an intuitive interface and a modern design to keep up with changes.

Unfortunately, the themes and templates for WooCommerce are open source and do require some knowledge of coding to use. If you have a friend or employee that is familiar with simple coding, making changes to the look and style of your e-store is simple. WooCommerce also has a paucity of apps and market tracking software. For larger stores, or if you like to keep a close eye on the demographic makeup of your market, this could be difficult to get around.

• Magento CE

Magento is a long-established name in e-commerce sites. Magento CE (community editor) is a free, open-source shopping site creator. Magento Enterprise Edition is a paid version for larger retailers.

Although there are many technical issues with installing and using Magento CE it has the beauty of being a great e-commerce solution that has been downloaded and installed by over 150,000 customers. The company was started in 2007 and it is one of the largest e-commerce solutions available. There are many third-party themes and customizations to create a truly personalized web store.

Magento does not have a standalone payment processor. Your site will have to integrate with a processor such as PayPal, 2Checkout or Authorize.net to collect money. This integration will limit your stores ability to offer credit or gift cards.

Magento also has no official customer service.

• PrestaShop

PrestaShop is also an open source e-commerce site platform. Unless you are knowledgeable and skilled with coding, you will need to find someone to set up and maintain your website. You also have to supply your own website. This adds another level of complexity to establishing your e-store. The initial software is free, but add-ons cost money and once you start building your website the costs can quickly become very expensive.

PrestaShop is not the easiest software to use. It has a relatively steep learning curve and creating a website for an e-commerce site and maintaining it can be time-consuming. Although it comes with a number of impressive features to help you maintain and optimize your e-commerce site you will have to pay extra to integrate it with PayPal, Amazon or to connect with social media sites like Facebook. PrestaShop does have excellent technical support and a very active community support group.

• Shopify

When it comes to e-commerce, Shopify is a giant. With over 100,000 customers, it is the standard that all e-commerce sites are judged by. Multiple plans are available and there are no setup or transactions fees.

Your website is part of the package and the company has a huge range of apps that you can add or install in your storefront to make shopping and demographic tracking much easier. There are numerous themes than are included with the service or you can create your own.

Shopify has also proven that it can grow with your company. It has customers ranging from tiny Internet start-ups to multi-million dollar e-commerce sites.

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