Before you get stuck into the exciting world of E-Commerce you need to think about your niche. These days it’s not enough to just launch a broad shop for clothing (you’re never going to catch Amazon) you need to find your brand speciality. Is it shoes for people with small feet? Trousers for the long-legged? Backpacks with a bean pouch for hipster students who only drink espresso?
The smaller your niche, and the better you understand your target audience, the easier it will be to sell your products to the right people and design the look that suits you and your users. E-Commerce, like any physical shop, needs to look good and function well.
Are you building your E-Shop yourself or simply looking to get educated before hiring a specialist? Either way, you should get to know your E-Commerce options. There are plenty of open source E-Commerce solutions out there:
Magento is probably the biggest name in E-Commerce right now. Its extensive program offers an incredible variety of features. It’s great for flexible pricing, order processing and is scalable in a way that many other solutions fall short of.
The free community edition has some limitations such as a more rudimentary user search experience, slower page loading and fewer features as standard. However, the community edition does allow you to install 3rd party plugins to expand this functionality but as always these plugins come with a price.
The other downside to this solution is the complexity of the product. Unlike WooCommerce for example, this is a more difficult solution to get to grips with and manage for those new to the CMS.
By far our favourite all-rounder, WooCommerce is very much a plug and play E-Commerce system designed for Wordpress. Its easy user interface and surprisingly comprehensive basic features are great for businesses with less dedicated management resource available and for users who are familiar with the Wordpress CMS system.
It comes with a huge array of free/paid official plugins and 3rd party add-ons. These allow WooCommerce to make up any initial lack of features for a pretty reasonable price. The downside of this is that adding all these plugins can slow down your site if you’re not careful.
Another open source solution OpenCart has been the SME’s favourite for a long time. The interface is user-friendly and easy to learn; it’s lightweight, simple and has a wider array of shipping and payment options that most. OpenCart E-Commerce is probably most suited to the budget conscious. It’s not very scalable so it is often avoided by businesses looking to grow their online shop and sales in the future.
There are a number of premium solutions too:
Shopify is often pitted against WooCommerce as a direct rival as its Wordpress friendly integration is extremely popular with start-up shops and SME’s as an easy solution. The quality of the Shopify themes is extremely high but they are a little more expensive than the premium WooCommerce themes.
If you are looking at developing your online shop yourself. Shopify is a great, stable option. It’s a 'what you buy is what you get' solution and offers unlimited product listings, discount codes, drop-shipping, backups and social media integration as standard.
BigCommerce is a hosted E-Commerce solution and comes at a basic monthly price of $30. While the basic package is limited when it comes to design, with only 7 free templates available, the benefits of working with BigCommerce include:
• Ability to sell physical or digital goods
• Flexible shipping rates
• Easy CMS usability
• Analytics functionality
• Great SEO integration
The only other downside is the sales limit. The standard plan only allows for $50,000 in annual sales which, for bigger clients, is not ideal. On the other hand the Pro packages are pretty reasonable at $250 a months if you’re turning over up to 400k don’t you think?
The level of support, development, features and sales limits are all scaled up in the Enterprise Edition of Magento. For larger businesses and those with high value items, the enterprise edition can give your businesses the stability and reliability that can only be found in a powerful product such as Magento. Of course, this reliability comes with a hefty price tag (and quite right too). The software itself is incredibly well balanced, with a great focus on design, cross selling, SEO, product management and analytics it really meets the needs of the larger E-Commerce market.
The important thing is to pick the one that’s right for you.
The final question to consider before you kick off your new online shop is: “who is going to manage the shop?” Just like your physical store, the online shop needs someone to look after it. While most E-Commerce solutions allow orders to be sent to you by email (or in other ways) once placed, managing that customer relationship, shipping, making sure the stock levels are there, is all resource that you currently have no need for.
Do you have the capacity to do it yourself? If not, do you have the right person available? If you do, do you have the technical skills? Could you learn them?
At Minto we always offer CMS training as a standard part of any of our digital media projects because we believe that it’s so important that you have resource and skills to make the most of your sales tools. The last thing you want is to launch your shiny new E-shop only to let the orders back up or customers abandon their cart.
If you’re going DIY you can find online tutorials, documentation and help forums to skill up (especially for the open source tools). If you’re looking to a professional then talk to your solution provider about training. They will be more than happy to help and your staff to develop the skills you need.
Need help to answer these questions? Or want to find out what more there is to consider? Get in touch today. We'd be happy to help.