Why is it important?We’ve all been on websites where the shopping process is clunky, illogical or simply doesn’t work. And when that happens, we navigate away from the site and shop somewhere else. So it’s easy to see why the ecommerce platform you choose is essential to your business success. Not only should it help you to control your sales, your stock and your financial processes – it should also offer a quick, easy and enjoyable shopping experience for your customers.
What are your options?Small businesses tend to choose an ecommerce platform that’s built and hosted by a third party. Whilst larger businesses may be able to afford to design and build a system that’s specific to them, small businesses simply don’t have the budget. But there’s no need to worry about that, because there is a wide range of third-party systems that give your business the features, options and flexibility you need. Some of the most common platforms include:
- Features – before you start looking at platforms, make a list of the things you want your ecommerce platform to do. Take a look at your competitors’ shops, or the ones you like to shop on most and see what features you really want to have. Don’t forget to think about ‘back office’ features too, like how easy it is to update your shop via website data entry, and whether the platform is compatible with any other systems you operate.
- Cost – this is an important consideration because an ecommerce platform is a significant outlay for your business. There’s likely to be an initial set-up cost, and then a monthly fee – and not everything you want may be included, so you might have to pay extra for other features. It’s a tricky balance – go too cheap and you won’t get the functionality you need; spend too much and you’ll be reducing the profits you make on what you sell.
- Technical support – if your ecommerce platform goes down, you won’t sell anything until it’s back online. So you want to make sure you’re choosing a reliable platform that can handle the sales you’re expecting, and that the provider has a good support system so that you can sort out any technical or operational issues quickly.
- Personnel support – whilst this isn’t directly linked to the platform you choose, you need to take into consideration who is going to update and manage your ecommerce site. You may need data entry help, which means you might want to outsource data processing to help keep things moving whilst you get on with your business. You’ll need someone who is either already familiar with the system you choose, or who can get up to speed quickly so you can get on and sell. And you’ll need to build this into your budget.
- Scalability – like all small businesses, you want to grow. So you’ll need an ecommerce platform that grows with you. That means taking the time to think about how you might choose to expand, what other services you might like to offer and the way you want to promote your products. If you don’t yet have a finance system or online stock control, you’ll want to think about that too, so that you choose a platform that can be integrated with other software in the future.