All the articles out there, all the data and the information available tells us that the online is constantly growing, that the internet has changed the way commerce functions and that mobile is becoming more and more dominant. And everything is true. We are living in a period where you have to be online, when your business has to be online, has to look professional, to offer great products, but, most of all, your business has to offer your clients an experience (a very pleasant one).
And because the online commerce is growing so rapidly, more and more online e-commerce options are now available. There are hundreds of possibilities to sell online, there are maybe hundreds of thousands of e-commerce development providers out there to help you start your online e-commerce business. And this variety is great, but how do you choose the best platform for you and the best provider?
There are some questions you need to ask yourself before starting. We have gathered here some of the most important questions you should ask yourself and your development partner.
- What are the costs? What are the initial costs and also, what are the further costs if you need to make any additional modifications, upgrades etc? Keep in mind also the costs related to hosting, transactions fees, marketing!
- What about the ease of use? Make sure you choose a platform that you can use easily or you can learn how to use rapidly. You don’t want to have a nightmare when you realize that it is too hard to administrate your online shop.
- What’s the time to release? Take into consideration that if you choose a hosted solution, you can have the shop ready in hours, but if you choose a custom development solution it can take months. Make sure you are fully aware of the duration of the release so you are not taken by surprise.
- Security, how important is this? Well, very! You want to be very careful with this aspect. You don’t want to be the victim of a cybernetic attack, lose any customer information, or your entire shop.
- The aspect of the online shop is extremely important. Make sure you choose the design that best represents your business and makes it pleasant for your customers to look at and makes it also easy for them to navigate through your website. Make sure you choose a responsive design/theme!
- Loading speed is again extremely important. Did you know that on the web 1 out of 4 customers will abandon a webpage that takes more than 4 seconds to load? Take your time and think about this.
- Integration with 3rd parties, here we talk about other systems or software: payment gateways, delivery, ERPs etc.
- What about the marketing component? Is the platform SEO friendly? Too many business owners overpass this aspect. Some platforms offer only basic SEO functionalities, while others offer premium functionalities. Do your research.
So what are the best options of choosing an online platform?
1. Hosted solution
For a small e-commerce store, a hosted solution can be the right choice. It’s easy to set-up, you can be live in a few hours, you don’t need any technical skills, you don’t need to find a hosting provider as this is usually offered in the package and the costs are low.
The functionalities can be very limited, if you need additional features, you cannot develop them as you depend on the ready-made solution. The design templates are also limited and you can find yourself to have the same template as hundreds of other stores. If your business grows or you are not satisfied with the platform you need to start from scratch with a new platform.
2. Open Source solution
You have great flexibility of developing the features that best fit your business needs. You can integrate 3rd parties. There are many developers dedicated to developing high-quality, secure and stable open source solutions for any business. There are almost no limits to what can happen with open source. There are big communities out there with people ready to help and there are thousands of extensions that can add new features to your online store. For example, on Magento there are more than 250.000 online shops, on PrestaShop more than 220.000 and on WooCommerce there are more than 1.000.000 shops… so, that’s a big community, isn’t it?
The price can be high: here enters the development cost, maintenance, hosting, upgrades. The learning curve can be high and when new development is required, the help of a developer is needed. Also, if the core of the platform has been modified, it’s much more difficult to develop.
3. Custom made solution
The solution will be developed according to your business needs and there are no limitations on how to setup your store. You can create the user experience that you are looking for by making the search feature and the checkout process as friendly as possible. You can setup your unique business processes and you can integrate it with your business systems.
The costs can be high, as you might need more programming. You need to find at least one good programmer to help you. Another disadvantage is the fact that the solution is only tested by the ones that have developed it. It’s not like in the case of an open source platform, where the community is large. There is no documentation, so, if you switch for maintenance or for further development to another company or developer, it will be quite tricky. Your development team has to work according to standards.