Planning a new e-Commerce website? Tearing your hair out trying to choose a platform? Our top 10 e-Commerce tips show you the points every e-Commerce manager needs to consider before committing to an e-Commerce solution.
This top 10 is adapted from our FREE eBook: Independent Guide to Choosing the Right e-Commerce Platform.
1. Define your goals and strategy FIRST
Map out your strategy before you even consider which type of platform to use. Define your goals first and it will be much easier to choose an e-Commerce platform that suits your business and your customers.
- What do I want this platform to achieve?
- How is my business going to grow?
- How can I adapt to ongoing trends in consumer habits and the digital sphere?
2. Will you go open source?
If you think ‘open-source’ means buggy and unsecure, think again. Open-source platforms, by their very nature, encourage collaboration and ongoing development.
The sheer scale of the development communities that spring up around open-source projects mean tweaks and improvements to the core programme can be made at an astonishing rate. This means open-source platforms are often much more robust and reliable than proprietary solutions.
It’s telling that big open-source platforms have attracted buyouts from some of the world’s biggest and most trusted digital giants. Magento, for instance, was acquired by eBay in 2011.
3. Build for scalability
It’s almost always a mistake to build for the NOW.
To maximise ROI and customer satisfaction, it pays to get into a future-focussed mind-set when planning a new e-Commerce website build. Your e-Commerce platform needs to be able to grow and adapt as quickly as your business, or you could end up having to make costly changes within a matter of months.
Worst case scenario: You have to start all over again!
4. Make sure you can customise the platform to fit your business
Certain online retail businesses can flourish with a platform that offers limited scope for customisation. But for most, there will come a time when a deeper level of customisation is required – and existing plugins simply won’t be flexible enough to allow implementation of these bespoke changes.
These customisations may be related to branding and appearance, user-friendliness, back office integration or simply removing unwanted features that slow your site down.
As a rule, open-source platforms offer the most freedom in implementing custom features, as they allow access to the core code. However, this freedom comes at a price – as you’ll have to invest more time and money to employ experienced developers.
5. Hosted or self-hosted?
A hosted platform is provided as a SaaS (Software as a Service) and hosted by the provider itself. If you choose a self-hosted platform, you own the licence to it and can choose where to host it.
Both have their advantages and disadvantages, depending on your business and its goals. We covered these at length in a recent blog post.
6. Ensure your hosting servers are up to the task
You should consider how busy your store is expected to be, and the complexity of its database. If it’s too busy or too complex for your servers to handle, this could impact the speed of your site. If you’re planning a large store, you should invest in specialist hosting to mitigate this problem.
7. Is your platform SEO and conversion-friendly?
If SEO and conversion aren’t key to your strategy from the outset, you could face big problems optimising your site for users and search engines later on. Few, if any, e-Commerce platforms would pass our SEO audit ‘out of the box’ – and many present obstacles to implementing conversion best practice too.
Consider the extent to which you’ll need to optimise these elements, and ensure your chosen e-Commerce platform offers the level of customisation necessary for the changes to be implemented.
8. Do you have the necessary expertise at your disposal?
If you choose an open-source, fully customisable platform like Magento, you’ll need experienced PHP developers on side to carry out the groundwork. Ask yourself: Do I have this expertise available in house? Will I have to employ new staff? Will I use an agency?
Of course, less-customisable ‘closed’ platforms will require less expertise, but may present roadblocks in terms of functionality.
9. Fight the urge to go with the herd
Try to forget the notion of an ‘industry standard’. Of course, there’s a reason why certain platforms become popular – but if your reason for choosing an e-Commerce solution is simply that ‘other people are using it’, you haven’t done your research.
Look into the benefits of a broad range of e-Commerce platforms, and weigh up how they can support your business, your goals and your customers.
10. Project management is key
It’s important to take a rigorous and transparent approach to project management, so your finished website can support the needs of the marketing and sales teams, as well as ticking the boxes in a technical sense.