If you haven’t yet settled on an eCommerce platform for your online store, here are some considerations to think about as you review your options.
Consider your Customer’s Experience
Finding the right eCommerce platform starts with understanding how you want to use eCommerce and what kind of experience you need for your customers. You might begin by asking yourself questions like these:
- What features should the site offer? What do we want our customers to be able to see and do on the site?
- Where are our customers currently shopping? How do they find us there? What sales channels are they using?
- How much customization do we want to be able to do with our site? What customization options are available?
- How do our customers want us to fulfill their orders? What shipping options and status updates do they expect?
- What are our plans for the future of the business? Do we plan to add stores or marketplaces? Do we expect to take a store-by-store approach, or are we pursuing an omnichannel strategy?
- Are there additional fulfillment options we want to introduce? How are new features added to the site?
- How flexible is the environment? Will it easily handle our current order volume? How well will it scale as our order volume increases?
Thinking about these questions will help you begin to create a list of requirements for an eCommerce platform. Keep in mind: the right platform is not necessarily the one that’s the most popular, but the one that effectively addresses your objectives.
Consider your Budget
Understanding all of the potential costs of getting into eCommerce can help you plan and execute your ecommerce business strategy successfully. Depending on the solution you choose, you may have:
- The cost of the eCommerce platform itself
There are many factors that impact the cost of the platform. Some platforms are open source and free to use. To understand the factors that come into play, you’ll need to investigate each candidate’s pricing model and fee structure. Ask questions to learn more about how they charge, what could cause your annual costs to increase, and how changes in sales volume impact your costs.
- Design and development costs
Your design and development costs can vary widely depending on your needs and on the platform you select. Basic sites may be able to use free design templates that get you up and running with minimal customization; you may be able to create the look and feel you want without incurring additional costs. However, most businesses require help in this area to customize their site to create the experience they want for their customers. The investment made here is a function of the amount and type of design and development you need and the skills you have inside your company (or those you must purchase) to accomplish it.
- Cost of maintenance and improvements
Some eCommerce platforms require more from you in terms of looking after site maintenance issues (consider open source platforms), while others (like SaaS platforms) generally take care of maintenance for you. The flip side of the maintenance topic is the topic of site improvements and how they are managed. With a SaaS platform, there may be a tradeoff in terms of the improvements and new features that are available, while an open source platform can provide you much more flexibility to add features and capabilities to your site.
- Transaction fees
Different platforms may have different transaction fees, and fees may vary depending on whether the selected payment provider is a preferred provider for the platform or not. If the platform(s) you’re considering offer integrated payments, you can compare the fees and consider whether you’d have the option to continue using your current payment gateway.
- Hosting costs
As is the case with most everything else on this list, hosting costs are dependent on the platform you choose. SaaS platforms don’t require separate hosting fees, as the cost of using the platform itself provides the hosting. Open source platforms are a different story, and require users to set up hosting in order to use the platform. As mentioned previously, the choice of platform type involves understanding the tradeoffs of each option.
- The cost of the eCommerce platform itself
Consider the Types of eCommerce Environments Available
There are a variety of eCommerce environments to consider, each with its own set of pros and cons. You may find that your business can benefit from exploiting multiple environments. At the broadest level, eCommerce environments can be separated into two broad categories: self-hosted and hosted.
A self-hosted environment gives you the most control, and the most freedom and flexibility, but it requires you to manage some aspects of your site that you wouldn’t have to manage with a hosted site. Running your site on your own server means you (perhaps through expert partners you hire) can manage site updates, add features, and do whatever you want to do, when you want to do it. Some examples of self-hosted environments are Magento, WooCommerce, and Prestashop.
Opting for a hosted situation, where the eCommerce platform provider hosts your site, means that server maintenance and software updates are handled by the provider, so the management and maintenance of the site isn’t something you need to worry about. It also means that you’re limited to the platform’s capabilities and don’t have control over things like the availability and timing of new features. Examples of common hosted environments include BigCommerce and Shopify, as well as Amazon and other eCommerce marketplaces.
Finding the right eCommerce environment isn’t easy! Consider taking advantage of Kissinger’s experience: we can help you evaluate your options and avoid costly mistakes. We’ve worked with all kinds of eCommerce environments and a wide range of eCommerce business needs. We can help you understand how different platforms work and what Sage 100 integration opportunities are available with each one, so you can find the platform that’s the best choice for your business.