Choosing the right ecommerce platform can be stressful, but it is critical to your success. This is true whether you’re starting a new business or adding ecommerce to your existing brick and mortar store. Here are some important ways to evaluate which ecommerce platform will be right for your business.
What’s Your Business Model?
This might be the most important question you ask yourself, and only you can truly answer it. If your business is based on FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon), there’s probably little point in signing on with a full-fledged ecommerce provider. Doing so will just duplicates your efforts and expenses. However, you need a good platform if you’re warehousing your own merchandise or relying on a 3PL firm for fulfillment and drop-shipping.
What’s Your Budget?
The pricing model for building an ecommerce site like Shopify typically includes a one-time setup fee with additional monthly costs. Those costs will vary depending on a number of factors, and on the platform. Extras include training, design services, plug-ins, applications, and a host of other offerings. Make sure that you know your needs going in. In each case get a clear and detailed explanation from the sales rep for why you need something. Understand your expenses before you decide and ensure they fit your budget.
What Features Do You Need?
Some platforms are user-friendly and basic. Ebay, for instance, makes it easy for someone with little experience, a few products, and simple payment processing needs. Amazon’s FBA program is a boon to drop-shippers. Sites like Shopify are feature-rich and offer a high degree of customization. But, with customization comes complications. These are often the sales funnel and autoresponder tools offered by the likes of BigCommerce. They put a lot of power at your fingertips, but may be things that don’t fit your business. There’s nothing wrong with paying a little extra for the perfect fit. Remember, there are few things more frustrating than paying for services you don’t understand, don’t need, or cannot use.
Who’s Taking Care of This?
If you’re handling everything in-house make sure that the one responsible for maintaining your backend and your storefront understand the provided tools and how to use them. If you’re outsourcing to a virtual assistant for product entry, optimization, and database maintenance, make sure there are enough people with knowledge of the platform, and see what they cost. It’s easy finding help with a major provider like Shopify or Magento, but finding someone to help out with a new arrival on the scene can be difficult.
Are You Asking the Right Questions?
Do plenty of research, paying attention to the source of your information. Some sites, like Capterra, have affiliate relationships with many of the businesses they review, which may skew their results; pay close attention instead to user reviews.
Also find out the following:
- What kind of hosting comes with your plan, or must/can you provide your own?
- What’s the server uptime?
- What kind of support is available, and when?
- If it’s a shared server, what additional security and protections are available, especially if you’re sharing server space with a company engaging in abusive practices (like spammy marketing)?
- What are the costs? No, really: what are the costs? Make sure there’s nothing hidden!
- How flexible is the platform?
- What kind of training is available, for how long, and for how much?
While an e-commerce business has less startup costs and overhead it’s still important to invest in the best ecommerce platform and tools for you. This is worth getting right the first time. While we have always been Amazon and Ebay experts we have also chosen to specialize in Shopify since we recognize that for most small business entrepreneurs it is the right blend of features and simplicity at an affordable price. We can help you with setting up your Shopify Store.