In the world of e-commerce, the options available can be overwhelming. Everything from open source platforms like Open Commerce and even WordPress can run an online store with as little as a basic website and a PayPal account. On the other end of the spectrum there are enterprise level systems like Demandware or a custom Magento system. What's the difference between all these options and what's the best choice for you?
Before you back away this is not another system comparison article. A lot of that is subjective anyways, but mostly I think the system you go with should make sense for your business and not be made based on feature list comparison marketing pages.
We've worked on several e-commerce projects and integrations at Jackson Wynne from all aspects - consulting, branding, design, development, integration and online promotions. When building a business online you need to stay true to your brand, but you also need to make the right decision for the foundation of your business - the system you use.
Picking an e-commerce platform
Perhaps the first and most important decision to make - you need the right fit.
You have to first ask yourself not which system you might think you want to go with, but what system makes the most sense for your business. Hosted solutions versus custom platforms, features, budget, growth are all important factors to consider.
The biggest difference between say Shopify versus a custom Magento build, often times is the difference between a hosted platform versus self-hosted: where running and supporting an e-commerce system becomes responsibility.
For most simple business models, a solution like Shopify is perfect to start. Some customization is available and you won't break the bank growing your business on a scalable, hosted platform. As your business grows and you require more customization, you might start thinking about your options.
Budget permitting, based on your requirements, sometimes one solution might make more sense.
Which features are essential for your online business? One of our clients required a rewards module and that *almost* was the only reason to choose one platform over another, other than budget (with customization, fees can stack up quick).
As part of a marketing strategy, most e-commerce platforms have a side by side comparison of competition. It can be slightly misleading, you really have to see the system for yourself and try it out. Most systems offer a free demo so you have nothing to lose by signing up for a trial and getting a feel for it to see if it will work for you.
Today things may be great but what's your 1 year, 3 year and 5 year plan? Will your existing system support growth?
What happens when you go to customize a part of your online business only to realize the limitations a hosted solution can sometimes impose on you, without even knowing it.
We've migrated dated systems before and it's a necessary move to keep your modern business...modern. In the world of online technology you have to build fast and adapt or get crushed by the competition.
How far can you add on to your current setup? Does it have all the modules you need? Do you need integration of existing services you use (and would it make your life easier)?
The biggest thing to consider here is if you require a specific integration of a module. Is it mandatory or optional? Does it exist on the system you'd like to proceed with? If not how much will it cost to build? Is it even possible to integrate with this system? A lot of hosted platforms offer API integrations but have certain restrictions. How specific your needs are determine what route you go.
If you have strict requirements of what you need - often times you need to go a custom route, which also often means a higher fee. That's when you pull out the ROI calculator and weigh your options.
Choosing the right partner
If you're an online business you likely have an in house team to manage your inventory, update products, handle customer service and so on. Teaming up with the right design & technology partner can make a world of difference.
At Jackson Wynne we work with unique clients as an extension of their business. When it comes to platforms we recommend the best fit based on your needs and your budget and we offer services to make it all work. From the look & feel, the functionality, right down to the email marketing.
Get your e-commerce project in order by considering these points:
- User experience drives action
- Ensure your website is easy to navigate
- Fresh, well designed promotions on a consistent basis
- Great product photography
- Online advertising campaigns
- Marketing Strategy that is followed through on and adjusted
Choosing the right partner can make a world of difference. They can make recommendations to integrate and streamline your business in ways you wouldn't have thought of previously.
Which platform is right for me?
So which system is the best one? That's not an easy answer. It depends - and that will have to be good enough for now. None of them are absolutely perfect, and there are a lot of variables to consider.
The best way to find the right fit is to demo a few systems, write down the features you require, ensure your existing business systems can or could be integrated smoothly and consult with a professional to help you make the best decision for your situation.