Setting up shop online: Finding the right e-Commerce platform for your business
Written by Matt Warren
26th June 2014 • 8 min read
Think of your e-Commerce platform as the concrete foundation of your online store. Get it right from the beginning and you’ve a solid base from which to scale up your business and adapt to changing customer demands. Get it wrong and you may find yourself increasingly dependent on clunky extensions or slow, costly changes.
So whether you’re seeking to supplement a physical store or only trading online, don’t limit your scope from the start. Invest in a platform that will not only suit your immediate needs and budget, but will also support future changes and the direction you want to take your business. To help you decide, here’s a breakdown of some of the current market leaders.
Shopify strikes the balance between quick implementation and customisation. As it’s an out of the box solution, for a speedy launch you can take your pick from their ready to go store templates. Alternatively, with some straightforward CSS development you can adapt these templates to realise your own design ideas or emulate your brand’s already established look and feel.
The speed at which you can set up store is a continuing feature, with card transactions and payment security ready to go as soon as your products are uploaded. With such ease and speed in getting started the only real limitation here concerns future development. This is because your site will be hosted by the Shopify servers and therefore backend access is restricted. This may not be a concern if you only want to make visual design changes; however, if you’re looking for totally unique store functionality you may find Shopify limiting.
With smartphone and tablet usage ever on the up, when embarking on a new e-Commerce site you’d be wise to think mobile. As the ideal scenario of both a desktop and mobile site may be out of scope, responsive sites are a cost effective alternative.
Magento’s responsive e-Commerce templates adapt to different devices with a shopping cart and checkout process that work across all screen sizes. These templates are a great solution to technical or budgetary limitations as they’re out of the box yet future-proofed in the sense of accommodating the increasingly important mobile market.
Beyond its responsive capabilities Magento, or specifically Magento Enterprise Edition, is highly customisable. You can build bespoke landing pages, add shipping or call centre extensions, or configure your site for multiple currencies. There’s the ability to sort large inventories too, with multiple display, pricing and grouping options.
While Shopify and Magento are fast-track options for creating an online store, Ebay is an even quicker choice if bespoke branding is less of a priority. What’s more, it gives you ready access to millions of Ebay users, many of whom may already be after your product.
As Ebay’s whole business model relies on sellers, it’s geared towards making setting up shop as easy as possible. This is great if you want to get your items online while using as fewer resources as possible; however, it’s important to consider the listing nature of eBay. They may have millions of customers but they also have just as many listings, so while it’s fast to get items up, they can be lost in the crowd just as quickly. It’s therefore vital your products are in the most relevant category with the most searchable terms and accompanied by appealing imagery. If you want more control over product visibility, you may want to consider creating your own site, even if this will be in addition to listing on Ebay.
Like Ebay, Amazon is a quick way to get your products online coupled with the potential to be viewed by millions of people. One of the biggest benefits and differentiators when selling via the Amazon marketplace is it enables you to ‘pretend’ to be Amazon. By this we mean your items are a seamless part of the Amazon shopping experience and so to the customer it can seem to all intents and purposes that they’re buying from Amazon. A huge, trusted brand your items are now associated with.
However, also like Ebay, this listing approach means you lose out on the individual visibility of your brand. Yes you’re on the same page as Amazon’s offerings and part of their shipping and checkout experience, but so are countless other brands. If you see yourself as a big market player – if not now then in the future – you’ll at least want your own site alongside your Amazon listing so that you can also drive traffic there and grow your brand status. If you rely solely on Amazon you risk being just another name on a very long list.
If you’re attracted to the simplicity but not the anonymity of Ebay and Amazon, then WooCommerce could be a good option. It’s a WordPress plugin, so ideal if you’re already familiar with the dashboard of this popular blogging tool. You can monitor sales, stock levels, reviews and more general store performance all from the WordPress backend.
There are also lots of WooCommerce extensions for more technical and logistical requirements, as well as a great variety of shop themes. As with Magento, and to a lesser extent Shopfiy, you set the level of customisation depending on your financial and technical capabilities and brand direction.
There are platforms out there for wide-ranging inventories or just a few items, shiny new brands or established shops. By considering how independent or bespoke, simple or technically innovative you want your online offering to be, you can find a platform that meets both your immediate and future business needs.
Veeqo is the ultimate inventory management software that can help making managing your inventory on any of these platforms easy. Get your free trial to test it today.
Written by Matt Warren
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