During the COVID-19 lockdowns, billions of people worldwide turned to online shopping. Moreover, there’s no sign the trend is slowing down.
Many online businesses thrived during the lockdowns. For example, grocery stores provide customers with online ordering and pickup and delivery services. But, if your small business is not online, you’re missing out on the best way to grow into the future.
However, choosing an eCommerce solution can be confusing; you’ll need to decide on everything from a shopping cart, customer service options, and a way to leave a review. Then, of course, you can sign up for an all-inclusive eCommerce platform. That can be great for a micro-business, but you might need custom eCommerce software as you grow.
Ask Yourself a Few Questions
As a business owner, you want to get an eCommerce solution right for your business. It needs to be easy for customers to use, secure, and bug-free. Also, your answer depends on the functions you need and your type of business. Ask yourself these questions when considering which eCommerce system to use.
How much do you expect your business to grow?
If you’re happy making a modest income selling handcrafted items, an all-inclusive eCommerce platform could be acceptable. You’ll pay the platform a percentage of your sales or a small monthly fee. However, a downside to an eCommerce platform is that, at any time, they can change the terms of service. Also, if your business does grow, the fees can become burdensome.
An off-the-shelf eCommerce solution could be an excellent next step for bringing your business online. But, first, you’ll need to create a business website and incorporate a shopping cart, contact forms, and a feedback and review mechanism.
You can get eCommerce plugins for WordPress, but security is often an issue. Also, not every WordPress theme is compatible with these plugins, which can slow down your website’s load time. However, a WordPress site using an eCommerce plugin can work, if it’s not processing many sales all at once.
A custom eCommerce solution can seem intimidating compared to a plug-and-play solution. It can also be expensive, and your sales volume needs to justify that cost. However, if the business is booming and you expect unprecedented growth, custom eCommerce software is the way to go. Therefore, scale the software as you grow; it’s robust and very secure.
Do you need to integrate with other software?
You can often integrate off-the-shelf eCommerce software with your current in-house software. But, just as often, it can’t. On the other hand, custom eCommerce software is highly flexible when integrating with existing in-house software systems.
How fast do you need your eCommerce software?
You could install an off-the-shelf eCommerce solution within a few days or weeks. This option can be acceptable for a micro-business that wants to get going fast on an upgrade.
On the other hand, custom eCommerce software takes much more time to deploy. This timeframe differs because it’s built from scratch to integrate your business and current software seamlessly. If you can wait while your business grows, you’ll be thrilled with the results.
Do you need a unique, customized look and feel?
If you’re happy with ordinary, then an off-the-shelf eCommerce solution could be satisfactory. Then, your shopping cart will look and work like many of your competitors. Just make sure that you choose a commercially available solution that’s easy for your customers to use.
Custom software allows you to create a unique look and feel that emphasizes your brand. This solution can be essential for a luxury brand. But, you won’t need to sacrifice functionality for the sake of style with custom software. Instead, it will reflect your brand while providing a seamless and easy shopping and checkout experience for your customers.
Which payment and delivery options do you use?
Off-the-shelf eCommerce software works with PayPal, Visa, and MasterCard. Also, it’s integrated with delivery services like FedEx, UPS, and the post office. These integrated postal services are satisfactory for most small businesses that primarily ship domestically.
But, if you ship internationally or want to take cryptocurrency, you’ll need a custom eCommerce solution. For example, PayPal isn’t available in a relatively long list of countries. So if you expect to receive orders from Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or Africa, they may not be able to use PayPal. The same is true of shipping options.
You can design custom eCommerce software to accommodate the unusual payment and shipping options you already use. That can include accepting cryptocurrency.
Do you want to give your regular customers special deals?
Personalization is limited with off-the-shelf eCommerce software. As a result, all of your customers will receive the exact offers for the most part.
On the other hand, custom eCommerce software allows you to send special deals and personalized discounts to your regular customers. Moreover, a custom shopping cart can track and update orders and allow your customers to view a list of their past orders. All of this provides a superior customer experience that inspires brand loyalty.
Do you want superior and personalized software support?
You probably already have had experience with call-center operators reading from scripts. Even worse are FAQ pages and chatbots that can’t answer your questions. If your problem does wind up in the queue for tech support, you could be on the phone for quite some time. Finally, once you get an answer, you may not know what they’re talking about and cannot fix it yourself.
On the other hand, working with a developer on a custom eCommerce solution can put you in touch with the team who built it. They can also provide personal support and maintenance for your eCommerce system. It still may take a little time to get your issue resolved, but you won’t be dealing with a chatbot or stuck in a generic tech support queue.
Customized Open Source eCommerce Could be the Answer
A built-from-scratch, 100% customized eCommerce solution is not only very expensive, but it can also take months to deploy. Fortunately, customizing open source eCommerce software, such as Magneto, can reduce the upfront cost, says Pranjal Bora, Head of Product Management at Digital Authority Partners.
An experienced eCommerce software developer can enhance Magneto’s design, functionality, and integration. The fact is, a system such as Magneto provides a robust framework on which to build a custom eCommerce solution quickly.
In a way, a customized Magneto eCommerce system is the best of both worlds; it can be deployed relatively quickly, like an off-the-shelf system. However, you could choose to modify it for expanded payment and shipping options, as well as an enhanced user experience.
Hopefully, this has given you some idea of how your small business can move forward with an eCommerce solution. If you’re happy having a business as a side gig, then an eCommerce platform should be fine. But, if you desire to grow your business, you might need an eCommerce solution that can grow.