What To Consider When You Choose Your eCommerce Platform
When starting your ecommerce venture, at some point, you will consider what shopping cart to use. Oddly, despite tons of eCommerce platforms available, it is not as straightforward as picking email marketing software.
Don’t you wish there was an easier way to choose? Here is a list of considerations to help you in the process. Plus, get your download below with the 12 eCommerce platforms for small retailers and startups.
1. Business model and size
Do you plan to play a serious game in ecommerce and scale? Or do you want to turn a profit and run it as a side business?
Your business model for ecommerce defines what tools to use to structure your operations. If you simply wish to test a concept and sell a number of products within a specific market, going with the hosted platforms like Shopify might do well. The setup is easy, you can find a specialized developer from its referral library and be up and running within weeks. See the examples of sites that use Shopify.
If you plan to launch a store with more than 100 items, sell international and differentiate yourself with the highly personalized UX, then going with Magento may suit you better. See the examples of sites that run on Magento.
2. Product kind, assortment and prices
Is your product unique or seasonal (like holiday outfits)?
Product type also factors into the decision. If you are selling unique and seasonal, then a hosted option is best. Plus, you can test the demand for your product, make a number of sales and learn from the experience. It works great for proof of concept.
Do you have more than 100+ products and dozens of categories? Then, you might want to explore a self-hosted custom built solution to save you grief later as you will need to have a robust CRM system. Plus, as you grow your product assortment, it might become expensive to pay shipping charges for each product, given the volume.
Do you plan to sell in US only or handle international sales? If you are selling to customers besides US, you might want to go with a customized Magento or a home-built platform that works with a variety of plugins and APIs. Selling international will require extra bells and whistles in addition to the shopping cart. Going custom, you can reduce issues with translation, pricing and fulfillment.
Do you have easy access to developers? How much would you be able to spend? Depending on the platform you choose, having access to a specialized developer or a team is key. Magento is not intuitive and requires a lot of fine-tuning. Shopify has many extensions, which are plug and play, but you still need to have someone configure them properly. And they do cost.
Alternatively, you can always skip the traditional route and sell via email, social channels or mobile, which might differentiate your business even more. Yet, those channels also require pre-existing list of prospects or customers, or a fee or a specific skillset to develop your app.
5. Switching eCommerce platforms
As you grow your estore, at some point even a homegrown system will become a hassle to operate efficiently. Upgrading your ecommerce technology is what creates leaps in company growth. The switch might cost you from $50,000 up to $500,000, depending on what you expect a new platform to do. Do you want it to run better and have less pain in managing the system? Then, a lower range investment will do. Or, if you plan to double or triple your revenue within the next 12 months, you might have to invest more.
The savings from the re-platforming might come from the reduced shipping costs, especially if you happen to run your estore on the hosted platform. Or, you will benefit from potential ease of integration into other ecommerce technology (plugins and APIs) that will speed bump your operations and give you more control over the front end and back end to optimize for conversion. Thus, consider this move as a long-term investment.
What are the pro and cons of the mentioned shopping carts?
- Easy plug & play
- Best for UX, many templates
- Best to launch and learn what works
- Hosted by Shopify servers
- Good CMS and ability to segment customers
- Includes a blogging engine (good for SEO)
- Infinite customization
- Innovation friendly
- Great analytics
- Integrated with many 3rd party APIs
- Multiple payment gateways
- Owned by eBay
Any platform will have its benefits and downsides; hence it does not make sense to analyze each and every functionality. Just make a list of top must haves and nice haves, and you will find your solution. Also, reach out to people who are running the sites on the platforms of interest. Ask how they find it, how they resolve challenges and what they wish they had known before they chose it.
Want to get a full list of pro and cons, site examples and insights on other ecommerce platforms (Volusion, BigCommerce, Highwire, WooCommerce, CoreCommerce)? Download it from our library.