5 Questions to Ask Before Choosing an eCommerce Platform
If your retail or wholesale business is looking to expand by entering the online realm, you should know that choosing an eCommerce platform isn’t easy. There are many aspects to take into account, from the profile of your business to the partnerships you currently have and the complexity of the tests that you’re willing to run. Besides these, adopting eCommerce as a business model may involve a lot of costs, from the platform itself from training team members on how to use it. Let’s take a quick look at the aspects you should know before choosing an eCommerce platform.
Custom eCommerce Platform vs Off-the-Shelf?
Depending on which end of the spectrum your business leans to, the way you approach certain things may vary wildly. By taking the predictable path, you take fewer risks and can reduce costs and time drastically. Being unique translates into an increased risk, cost and time that you need to invest to achieve your business goals.
Mid-tier high-street retailers pursue uniqueness and as such, they might favor Magento, an ecommerce platform that can support many requirements straight away. The heavy customization of this platform is what makes it ideal for this category of businesses and their unique needs.
Luxury retailers that sell high-value products but don’t have an in-house technical team could look into Salesforce Commerce Cloud or Shopware. That being said, a custom solution might work best in this scenario, as it would solve problems that are specific to each such retailer.
The platform doesn’t make the business, so there are many other aspects you should consider, from achieving quality product to offering personalized marketing, providing an appealing customer proposition and ensuring a proactive customer service.
What Are Your Long-Term Plans?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years? isn’t only a question for job interviews. When using an eCommerce platform it’s important to visualize how your business will grow in the long-term. A future business roadmap will help you take decisions in a logical order, and will provide structure to your company.
Insights gained from your company and your competitors will play an important role in shaping this roadmap. Keeping your competitors in mind is essential, as breaking away from them would slow down innovation dramatically.
Make sure you’re also thinking about the roadmaps of the ecommerce platforms that you’re using. Take this measure to ensure that the platform’s roadmap is aligned with your company’s, so they don’t diverge at some point.
To get an idea about where each ecommerce platform is headed, get the annual Gartner Magic Quadrant for Digital Commerce, a report that analyzes the completeness of vision and the ability to execute of all the big players. Based on these two aspects, Gartner puts all of them in four categories: niche players, visionaries, challengers and leaders. Assess your current situation, see in which of these four categories you fit, and select the platform that suits your needs the best.
What Licensing Model Suits Your Commercial Profile? And budget...
Ecommerce platforms are not a one-size-fits-all solution. You’ll have to consider that each one comes with a proprietary licensing model and its own costs. How big is your budget? If your company is just getting started and has a small budget, the number of options might be limited.
Keep in mind that there are many other costs besides the cost of the platform itself. For example, hosted ecommerce platforms typically come with a monthly fee that is based on the size of your catalog.
Self-hosted e-commerce platforms might seem less appealing in the beginning, due to their higher initial costs. In the long-run, however, you might actually save money, as there won’t be any additional costs.
On the other hand, if you represent a big retailer, opting for a cheaper solution might not be indicated because these might not meet your requirements due to their limited functionality. Even so, the built-in capabilities of the platform may not be enough for your company’s needs, so you should factor in any personalization services and on-site search, among others.
Are You Considering Running Some Tests Before Choosing a Platform?
Given the costs of buying, implementing and monitoring an ecommerce platform, you should run a few tests before choosing one. If you’d rather innovate than follow the same old beaten path, experimentation should be an essential part of your business. However, you shouldn’t go all in while experimenting. Run tests that won’t affect your costs dramatically, check out the results, and if they are favorable, implement the solutions at a large scale.
The main platforms that may be worth to consider are are Shopify, Prestashop, and Magento. As expected, each of them has a unique selling point. Shopify is a highly-optimized hosted shopping cart serving over 325,000 of businesses worldwide. Despite being a very complex platform, it remains a very user-friendly platform, because of the drag-and-drop interface and easy-to-install themes. This cart comes with a 14-day trial, which is more than enough to get an idea about how it works. It also comes with 24/7 customer support, which is yet another area where Shopify is number 1.
Magento surprises with its flexibility, but loses points because it is not as user-friendly as Shopify. It looks very professional, its categories are very well-organized, but remains a rather obscure option, especially since it has a very long learning curve. If you’re interested in learning more about the downsides of Magento, one of our upcoming blog posts will cover just that! Still, that’s not say that it doesn’t have any advantages. For starters, Magento is an extremely SEO-focused platform with extensive SEO functionality. Magento CE (Community Edition) is available for free, which is great news for small or medium businesses, but also for enterprises wanting to test the functionality of this platform. The Enterprise Edition is more feature-rich, but the price depends on the size of the business. That being said, a lot of the plugins for Magento are available at an extra cost, so you’re required to allocate a budget even for this option.
PrestaShop hits the sweet spot between Magento’s complex powerfulness and the Shopify’s simplicity. As a freemium platform, it can be downloaded and used for free, meaning you’ll be able to experiment on it. PrestaShop is all about customization, and since it enables businesses to launch an eCommerce site within minutes, there aren’t enough words to praise it. Intelligent Merchant KPI and Forecasting are only two of the features that make it ideal for statistics and analytics. Despite being completely free, PrestaShop requires paid web hosting and several paid modules or a template, to create a completely functional store.
If none of these are really up your alley, because they don’t work the way you would like them to, getting a dedicated platform may be the best solution for you. After all, a dedicated e-commerce platform can ensure that your business doesn’t waste any money on unneeded features. Before going on this route, make sure to test the readily-available options thoroughly. Of course, you need experience partner to consult you and discover which platform fits best to your current and future needs.
What Partner Do You Need in eCommerce Development?
If you do not want to hire an in-house team for implementing and maintaining the platform, your best bet is a technical partner. The partner selection process is yet another time and money-consuming process. One of the main criteria is that the partner should put your business goals first. After all, installing, maintaining and monitoring an eCommerce platform isn’t easy. Assess your technical appetite and abilities, and decide the best course of action.
If you haven’t yet decided whether to go with a development team or with a technology partner, look into the pros and cons of each of them. Technology partners already include all the experts that you will need throughout the project, so you don’t have to spend time and money recruiting talent yourself. A technical partner is also often less expensive than a full internal team, not to mention that you can scale up or down a lot quicker and easier.
The downsides of an external team are clearly outweighed by the advantages, and might not even have such a great impact on your business. First of all, the members of the technology partner’s team might have a different culture than yours. You will also have to be aware that the external team might be working on other projects.
Over a series of workshops, discover the best ways you and your technical partner can overcome business challenges. By doing this, you ensure that the collaboration will take place within parameters.
As you can see, choosing an ecommerce platform is not an easy task, as you’ll have to consider a lot of aspects. In some situations, not even after going through these stages you might not find a solution that matches your needs perfectly. If the available options prevent you from achieving your business goals, getting a tailor-made solution on the mentioned open source solutions might be the best option.
To find out how to choose an eCommerce solution and how can be tailored to fit your specific needs, get in touch with us and we’ll detail everything!