When it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform there are so many options it can be hard to know where to start.
While it can be simple to set up a website that promotes your business, there are many more crucial considerations for an eCommerce platform, from the flexibility of display to payment processing and integration with your existing online presence. Having an understanding of how some of this fits together will make it easier to have a productive conversation with your digital agency.
We’ve outlined five key questions to ask yourself that will help you to make that choice and begin an exciting journey to building a successful eCommerce offer.
1. What platforms and tools do you already use?
83% of businesses in the UK have a website. So the chances are that you already have some kind of digital marketing and communications programme, centred around a website. If that’s the case it’s important to find out what platform your content is hosted on. The reason for this is that some eCommerce platforms will integrate easily and simply with your existing site. And some which won’t.
To maximise the time your agency has to design your eCommerce offer and get it running as efficiently as possible, it’s best to choose a platform that integrates easily. For example, if your site is built using WordPress then a great choice is WooCommerce. Rather than being a shop offering in itself, WooCommerce is a free plug-in that transforms a WordPress installation into a customisable eCommerce store. It was developed and designed specifically for WordPress and since WordPress powers 30% of all websites WooCommerce has become widely used. The interface is so integrated with WordPress that once your designers have set it up for you, you will hardly realise there is a difference between them.
Check on your web content platform as the first step to making your decision.
2. How extensive is your eCommerce need?
Consider your offer carefully. Do you have a complex product offer or significant product variation? Or do you need to offer digital, downloadable products or tickets in addition to physical products? Considering the complexity of your eCommerce need can help you define whether you need a larger, or what some describe as an “Enterprise” version of an eCommerce platform – or whether a simpler solution is required.
For instance, WooCommerce is great for a smaller scale eCommerce offer, but for a larger, more extensive store you might need to look at a different platform. If you know that you need a larger eCommerce offer then Shopify may be a better solution for you. It works so well because it can manage a variety of product options integrated with an elegant content publishing system. There are a lot of very large brands using Shopify, such as Hasbro, Crabtree & Evelyn, Penguin Books and even the BBC. They are selling everything from toys to audiobooks via the platform so there is no need to worry if you have a diverse product range to get online nor if you have a very large inventory.
3. Do you need a solution that can grow with your business?
Some businesses know that they will always have a defined niche in terms of size and complexity. Other businesses can see wider opportunities and perhaps have already defined them in the business plan. Assessing which better reflects your business is very helpful in choosing an eCommerce platform. For example, while Shopify is extremely good at handling large and complex digital commerce, it is also great for small businesses. It has some very reasonable price options across all levels of business complexity and is elegant in delivering small or large product ranges. This makes it a good choice if you know that your business is planning to expand or diversify its product range in the future. Your agency can start you small and build up with no issues.
4. What payment gateways do they offer?
If you have a preferred provider then it’s important to check whether an eCommerce platform enables plugins for it. For example, WooCommerce provides plugins for the big players like Authorize.net, Stripe and PayPal, but also offers gateways for many small providers too. Whereas Shopify charges you extra to use any payment provider other than its own system. If you want to pay a little extra for convenience there are multiple options, but it’s important to be aware of this.
5. Does the eCommerce provider integrate with your service providers?
You might have shipping, fulfilment, and accounting services already set up. It’s important to know whether your preferred eCommerce platform will charge you extra for integrating or whether the plugins are provided free. It’s also important to understand that platforms that do tend to be free or cheaper will often require you or your agency to do the updating when there are version changes to software integrations, whereas platforms such as Shopify will build those updates in as part of your monthly fee, at no extra charge.
In all cases, the best thing to do is to combine your understanding of your business plan and future needs with your agency’s expertise and experience to ensure that you get a great eCommerce platform, tailored to your needs.
If you are planning to create an eCommerce offer talk to Design Culture about your project.