Becoming an e-tailer and owning an e-commerce store has never been this easy and complicated at the same time. There are so many ways to set up an e-commerce store and so many choices on which platform to use. In this article, we will discuss some of the top choices when it comes to setting up an online store and how you can arrive at a decision on which is best for you and your needs.
First, let’s talk about the ever-growing demands of the business. In this day and age, having a great product at a reasonable price is not enough to convince people to become loyal customers anymore. You must also make the entire shopping experience fast, easy, convenient and aesthetically pleasing – across multiple devices and operating systems.
To stay relevant and competitive, you need an e-commerce platform that will allow you to sell the right products, provide amazing shopping experiences, and fulfil orders efficiently.
The first step towards having a successful e-commerce store is knowing what your needs are. List down your needs first before even looking at platforms. Knowing the requirements of your business will greatly help in narrowing down your search
Second, determine what your future plans are. Do you plan on adding more products? Having a brick and mortar store? You will want a platform that can accommodate your planned growth and assist in making it easy for you.
Last, you should know your target audience/customers and how best to reach them. How do they find your business? Do they use social media channels? How do you plan to get their orders to them?
List your business needs. Here’s an example of how to.
- store to look and function well. What exactly do you want customers to see and do on your site? Think of navigation, search, as well as the information that you want customers to see and how they should be displayed. You should also think about the customisation options that you need in an e-commerce solution.
- Back office/integrations – Your e-commerce site needs to work smoothly with your back office operations. List the features you need the platform to have to ensure that products are ordered, selected, packed, and shipped successfully.
Also, consider the software you’re currently using (i.e. ERP, fulfilment, accounting, and the like) and see if the platforms you’re evaluating can integrate with them. If not, do they offer built-in features or alternative integrations that can work for your business?
- Customer management – Think about the specific ways on how you can build and manage relationships with your customers. For example, if you communicate with shoppers via email newsletters, then you need a solution that either has built-in email marketing features or an integration with your email marketing platform. Do you have a loyalty/rewards/points program? Make sure it works with your new e-commerce platform.
- Product management – Specify the product management features you need. How
many SKUs do you have? How many variants?
If you have special catalogue requirements, write them down as well. For example, do you sell bundles/? Can customers customize their merchandise? Think about these things now and keep them in mind when you’re assessing different solutions.
- Architecture and security – List the security and reliability standards you need in your e-commerce platform. How should the platform be built? How flexible or scalable is it?
Do you want an open source platform? What certifications and encryptions should it
- Performance/scalability – Make sure that the platform can handle the traffic and data that you have. How does each platform handle heavy volumes of traffic? If you are expecting a heavy influx of customers during sales, opt for a platform that will not crash or become unresponsive in such situations.
- Mobile – Specify your requirements for mobile. Aside from being responsive (which should be a given) what other features should be available on your mobile site? For instance, some e-commerce merchants have “click-to-call” or “click-to-map” buttons on their sites. You need to make sure that the full site features work seamlessly with mobile. (i.e. discount/voucher code fields not showing on the mobile site)
You should also think about how to want your mobile site to be structured in order to avoid issues such as code bloat and increased page load time.
Now that you have a clear idea of what you are looking for, you can put them on paper
And list your required features. To make things more efficient later on, organise these needs in a spreadsheet that will allow you to compare solutions side by side.
The second step would be knowing your budget. You have to determine how much you are willing to spend on an e-commerce platform. Make sure that not so obvious costs like maintenance, consultation, setup costs and the like are included.
Here are some budget factors to be considered.
- Cost of the e-commerce platform – E-commerce platform costs will vary depending on the business’ size, sales volume, and of course, the solution itself. It is always better to start small and scale up so your funds could keep up with your expenses.
- Design and development costs – Building your e-commerce store is another incurred cost. From deciding whether you should use a free or paid template, to buying paid extensions or paying a developer to customize your site for you, these costs should be planned and provided for in advance.
- Maintenance fees – This is usually overlooked and people end up having unexpected costs. You need to think about ongoing development, as well as other upkeep costs such as marketing, integrations, SEO, security management, analytics, and more.
- Transaction fees – Transaction fees differ from one e-commerce solution to another. You may end up with lower or no fees at all by choosing the preferred payment provider of the vendor (like Shopify payments for Shopify). Look into each platform’s integrated payments to see if they integrate with your payment gateway of choice or if you can use any of their payment partners.
- Hosting costs – The amount you will spend on hosting fees also depends on your chosen e-commerce platform. You can go for a hosted solution and let your provider handle the maintenance and update costs, etc. Alternatively, choosing a self-hosted e-commerce setup would mean that setup and management costs would have to be paid for separately.
The third step would now be choosing which e-commerce platform you would want to use. Since you have listed the needs of the business, and have determined the costs that you are willing to pay, it is now time to shortlist the solutions that meet your needs and fit your budget.
In this article, we have listed the top features of five of the most well-known e-commerce platforms of today. We will be comparing the features of Shopify, Bigcommerce, Neto, Magento and Woocommerce to be able to decide which one works for you.
Click Here to see the Feature Comparison Table
Despite all these guides that are available, sometimes it still may not be enough and we may still be confused which of these e-commerce platforms would work best. The number of features and extensions, plugins and applications one can connect and use can be quite daunting. My advice? Talk to a professional.
Hire an e-commerce consultant. Consultants can provide experience and expertise that you or your team may not have. However, before deciding on which consultant to work with, there are factors to consider to get the best professional advice.
- Pay attention to their past work and experience – Years of experience and a strong portfolio are great, but you want to make sure their credentials are relevant to your business. Look for consultants who have worked with companies whose size and business model are similar to yours.
- Set expectations – Be clear on what you expect your consultant to do for you. Communicate which tasks they need to do and their price.
- Determine compatibility – It is not enough that your consultants have the knowledge and experience. You must also look into their work ethic, how they operate and how they interact with your team.
At WhichAddOn, we have not only the most professional and knowledgeable people but the nicest ones as well. We can assist with helping you choose which solution is right for you, set it up, and connect it to any other applications you are currently using or are planning to use.