Choosing An eCommerce Platform? What You Need To Consider
Ecommerce platforms abound these days. The problem is not about finding one; it’s about finding the right one among the masses available.
As ecommerce website specialists, we’re constantly comparing the options, and there are many. We’re partial to Shopify because it serves every stage of business development, and every ecommerce entrepreneur, regardless of their knowledge and experience in the industry. Yet still, we support thorough and informed decision making.
Why does the right ecommerce platform matter so much? And what makes it right to begin with? Think about it like this: you’re choosing a long-term partner (not for marriage, by the way). Someone who is going to help you navigate life, for at least a little while. Do you want a lot of fuss, drama, and financial conflict? Or do you want compatibility and a seamless meshing of interests and lifestyle habits?
The answer is obvious. The point is that doing your homework before making your choice is paramount to saving yourself from complications later on. You’re not just going to jump right into something because it looks good or you’re desperate to find anything. You want to make a fully informed choice.
In this article, we explore these questions, but first, know this:
The power of your offer is highly but indirectly dependent on the strength of the platform on which it’s delivered.
You have a whole gamut of options when it comes to ecommerce platforms, which means you have “freedom” of choice. Freedom is in quotations here because sometimes, too many options can make the head of any business owner spin into a dizzying paralysis. Too much very often equates to overwhelm.
Are you in private label, dropshipping, or retail arbitrage? And if you’re not at that stage of the game yet, we recommend defining that first and then coming back to this guide for next steps.
Know Where You’re At But Prepare To Pivot
When it comes to making any decisions, in life or business, here’s an exceptional word of advice I received in my early days from a mentor: Start where you’re at.
Sounds simple enough, doesn’t it? But let it sit for a moment. It’s easy to get caught up in the romantic ideals attached to running your own ecommerce shop and ignore all of the dull, messy, or otherwise technical issues (aka the slog) of set up and those humble, in-between wins typical of any business, online or not.
Wherever you are right now, it’s critical to know what your goal is. That will help you in deciding on a platform that is going to help you get there. But of course, your goal ties into what your product is and how realistic will it be for you to manage your chosen platform.
Here’s a tip based on years of experience with our own ecommerce ventures and helping our clients with theirs: always stay centered and ready to pivot.
Choosing a platform now doesn’t marry you to it for all eternity. But it should be good enough for where your business is now and where you foresee it a few years down the line.
Business is about solving problems, in two ways: first of all, focusing on the pain point of the consumer, and second, constantly putting out fires. When you get good at both, you’re winning.
What Stage Of Business Development Are You At?
Are you a beginner?
If so, then ease of use and moderate (or low) cost is your main priority. Arguably, that’s the case for any stage of business development, but it’s most important for the beginner who may not be prepared to invest gallons of time or money into a venture that is largely undefined in terms of success.
Are you growing your business?
Arguably, all business owners are regularly looking for ways to grow their business and stay competitive within a tough market. It’s advisable to think, act, and plan as though business is always tough. It’s when you achieve a level of stability and comfort that you feel like you can relax a bit and let the revenue roll in. But it is precisely this point in which things can turn quickly and the industry can take a downturn. So if you have put all your eggs into one basket, that’s fine––diversifying isn’t an essential business approach––but then keep your eye on that basket.
Are you a dropshipper?
Dropshipping is a retail fulfillment method that separates the vendor and supplier while uniting both roles into a seamless buying experience. The platform you choose must be compatible with this business model. If dropshipping as a business model is still a consideration at this point, check out our blog on How Shopify Dropshipping Works.
Key Features of eCommerce Platforms
Does the platform you’re considering fit your budget? If you haven’t yet established your budget for it, then you’re probably curious about how much you should be spending. Unfortunately, the answer is less clear than you’d like because it depends on what your business goals are. For a percentage breakdown of average marketing costs, see this article by Smart Insights.
Timeline & Simplicity
Consider whether the platform you choose will allow you to build your site to an optimal standard within your time frame, ie. with generous padding before your launch date. The last thing you want is to have to scramble at the finish line. Of course, that all comes down to ease of use. How much coding will you have to do?
WooCommerce, for example, may require a huge time investment devoted to the learning curve involved in working out the backend.
Shopify, on the other hand, is designed for beginners. It’s an all-in-one solution that’s accessible to everyone, even those with limited technical knowledge and experience. But it also has plenty of sophisticated tools for analytics, a vast range of templates and themes, and it allows for simple scaling.
To learn more about the differences between two of the most popular ecommerce platforms, check out our blog, Shopify Vs. WooCommerce.
Remember when we warned against choosing a “pretty” platform? The same applies to your customer’s experience. You don’t just want to attract them. You want to reel them in again and again, and the way to do that is by creating an exceptional user experience that is better than the competition.
On the consumer side of things, functionality, design, and capability are far more important than cosmetics for creating a browsing and buying experience that your customers will want to return to again and again. Ensure it will be easy for your customers to navigate and buy. Confusion is not customer-friendly! You want to leave them with an impression that will influence their return to your shop the next time they need to purchase a similar product or service. Create the perfect shopping experience by choosing a platform that helps support that.
Apps help you save time and minimise complications, and that’s no small peanuts. Does the platform you’re considering seamlessly integrate with the applications you’ll need to successfully run your business? New app integrations are always bursting onto the scene, so you have to cherry pick the ones that are right for your business, considering logistics, customer data, and email marketing, for example. Cross-channel and omni-channel marketing give consumers the flexibility to browse, consider, and purchase products using various channels––mobile, desktop, and third-party apps––so it’s wise to choose a platform, such as Shopify Plus, that allows for these integrations (1).
Last, but certainly not least, is support. When you run into issues, you have to navigate them yourself. But if you don’t have any experience with developing web pages or knowledge of server side technologies, you’ll feel overwhelmed if issues arise. The alternative is to hire a developer. Unless, that is, you choose an ecommerce platform that includes support. But not the lip-service kind, the real kind. Shopify is one of the few platforms that offer a reliable support network of experts who can help you troubleshoot and guide you through solutions.
Keep Up The Research...
There are so many ecommerce website builders out there. None of them are wrong, but that doesn’t mean they’re going to be the most effective choice for what you want to achieve. There are also hundreds of trainers on the market too––just visit any athletic gear shop. But the trainers that are best for you, your feet, and your fitness goals narrows down the options quite a bit. That’s why research is so very important.
To learn more about how to switch your ecommerce platform over to a more simplified solution, give us a call. We’re ecommerce website specialists with expert knowledge in Shopify requirements, and we offer a free strategy session for all your Shopify needs, from set-up, to design, to troubleshooting solutions, and more.
May 3, 2021