Back in 2000, just one-fifth of Americans had bought something online. Seventeen years later, 79 percent of adults in the U.S. have shopped online. People are embracing e-commerce, which creates business opportunities for entrepreneurs.

Starting an e-commerce store takes time, energy and capital. As the saying goes, there’s no such thing as a free lunch. If you want success, you’ll have to invest some of yourself into your endeavors. But before you clean out your bank account or secure a small business loan, consider these five cost-effective ideas for launching an e-commerce business.

Free Website Design Options

Many people quake in their boots at the thought of starting an e-commerce website from scratch. But these days, it is easy to do, using a hosted platform. You can also create a logo for free without formally studying graphic design. The internet has made sticking to a budget while starting an online store a simple task. Free Website Design

Prioritize Organic Search to Start

Upon launching your website, your priority will be getting it noticed. How? While it may seem tempting to serve ads all over the web to entice a wide range of customers, paid advertising strategies can quickly eat up your budget. It’s a better idea to develop an organic search strategy right off the bat by engaging in relevant keyword research, targeting keywords within your niche and writing content that will rank on search engine results pages. Search Engine Optimization (SEO) will help put your e-commerce business on the map without costing an arm and a leg. Once you’re more established, you can pursue paid marketing ventures. Prioritize Organic Search

Drop-Shipping Packages

One of the biggest risks in starting an e-commerce store is the possibility of being saddled with leftover inventory. After all, you’re still testing the waters. Buying 1,000 items and storing them in your home is an inefficient use of space and budget.

Some fledgling e-commerce companies try drop shipping, which means you accept customer orders but the supplier ships them out directly. In other words, you never touch the merchandise. However, this does give your company less control over packaging and delivery estimates, so be careful to work with trustworthy partners.

 Drop-Shipping

AI-Powered Customer Service

Entrepreneurs often face a conundrum in the early stages: Do you hire a full-time staff or try to juggle everything yourself (plus outsource certain tasks)? For instance, responsive customer service is an absolute must-have in our current marketplace. But you may not be equipped to pay a customer service specialist or social media consultant from day one. What can you do?

Many stores are turning to artificial intelligence-powered solutions, like chatbots. These interact with clients in lieu of a human respondent having to answer every single query. They can provide answers, gather information and make recommendations for customers. While they’re not necessarily an end-level substitute for human interaction, they can take care of much of the front-end communication. And, since chatbots can respond to customers 24/7 in real time, their responsiveness tends to impress website visitors.

AI-Powered Customer Service

Use Social Media to the Fullest Extent

Last but not least, make sure you’re taking full advantage of social media platforms. Set up official profiles before launching your store. Figure out where your target audience spends time and schedule relevant posts aimed to engage them. Provide them with enjoyable, helpful content, as well as occasional promotions.

These five cost-effective ideas for launching an e-commerce business demonstrate how you can get your online store up and run within a reasonable budget.