If you're a business owner trying to decide where to host your ecommerce site, I totally feel you. It has been an intimidating thing to attempt to figure out - choosing an ecommerce platform for my best clients looking to grow their success on the web. All ecommerce platforms are different and some of the top rated sites, to my surprise, lack very important features.
CHOOSING AN ECOMMERCE PLATFORM THAT WORKS BEST FOR YOU...
It's a process. You must consider a minimum of 8 things when thinking about a platform that suits your needs. Every business owner is going to possess different goals and need different features to host their unique products. Not everyone needs 5+ variants per product and not everyone cares about having a super branded shop (although you should!).
Here's a few of the first things I consider:
1. FIRST OFF: WHAT'S THE COST?
It's imperative that you are okay with the total cost of your platform each month/year, since this is an added cost of doing business that will have to be paid, with or without any profit on your end. Most all platforms offer a discount if you sign up annually vs. monthly, and that savings may or may not be worth it depending on how successful you anticipate being.
2. DOES IT HAVE EXTENSIVE MEASUREMENT OPTIONS?
Another factor to consider is whether or not it has a variety of measurement options in terms of weight, related to shipping, of course. Do you want to spend the time translating everything from lb to oz, or vice versa? Make sure you're aware of the shipping units and the process you need to go through to set up your shop, especially if you have a plethora of products.
3. HOW MANY VARIANTS DOES IT ALLOW YOU TO ADD?
I ran into a roadblock with a past client when we were unable to add a large number of variants to her product listings. She was a nutritionist selling ready-to-heat meals for people with dietary restrictions. As you may be able to tell, dietary restriction-friendly meals contain a LOT of variation options, allowing her clients and customers to sub in and out different ingredients depending on their needs. When the platform we used only allowed 5 or less variants, we were stuck.
Luckily, we were able to find an app that allowed us to seek more variants, which enabled us to list at least a few of her products with the range they needed - a rarity in the ecommerce market. Not all builders offer apps created by developers (kinda like WordPress self-hosting with plugins). This is something to note.
4. WHAT IS THE PROCESSING FEE PER TRANSACTION?
This is where they'll getcha. The platforms themselves sometimes require a processing fee per transaction, taking even more money away from you than say, PayPal or Square does already. If you pay more, you might be able to remove the platform-specific processing fee, which I highly recommend. What's $2-5 more per month in your plan cost to remove hefty additional fees? And I'm talkin' 2-3%-of-every-transaction hefty fees!
In addition, you should be seriously weighing the pros and cons for fees through your sales processing system, whether you use PayPal exclusively, Square, Stripe or another payment agent.
5. IS THE SITE DESIGN CUSTOMIZABLE / ARE THERE LOTS OF OPTIONS?
As I said in the beginning, this doesn't matter to everyone (although it should). If your shop is very minimalist and doesn't require a lot of fancy coding, graphic imagery or customizers in general, you may be happy using a service such as Shopify with limited design and template options... and I mean REALLY minimal.
However, if your brand is similar to mine, with defined aesthetic - brand colors, logo and graphics, you may opt for Squarespace - it all just depends on how fancy you want to get with your sales system features vs. your aesthetic features. I'd much rather have an attractive site and minimal shop options, but that's me!
6. IS THERE A THIRD PARTY REQUIREMENT?
In terms of processing your orders, you may want to look into whether or not the platform utilizes a third party system to accept payments (example: Squarespace and Stripe). Sites like Shopify have their own payment system, but others may not. This isn't the biggest inconvenience, but fees may ensue.
7. HOW IS THE CUSTOMER SERVICE?
I'm not about any site building platform that has shit customer service. Sorry not sorry. I'm looking for a live chat that I can use at most hours of the day (and some late into the night) in case I need to ask an urgent question about billing or a specific shop function. I'm also interested in whether or not the customer service reps speak decent English and aren't overly salesy (these two things don't go together, I'm well aware, but I'd rather not get stuck with either).
8. IS IT USER-INTUITIVE?
This is more important to ask yourself if you are a digital marketing professional like myself and you're answering this question for a client. If you don't intend on managing the website for this client, you need to get smart and ensure that your client is able to easily update and change the website at their own discretion.
What ecommerce project are you working on? I'd love to hear all about your latest endeavor - leave a comment below! :)
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BLOGGER: KATHRYN COFFMAN
Kathryn is the lead contributor + founder at FashionablyFrank.com. Obsessed with leading a life of balance, she started the blog in 2013. Since graduating college in 2016, she is now a digital marketing specialist through her business, Fashionably Frank Marketing. She believes a cup of coffee is the answer to life's problems + that all women should embrace a #girlboss mantra.