Platforms: The Right Tool For The Job

the-right-tool

From ‘The Mast’

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I’ve been told I’m “the right tool for the job” before … not sure if that’s a good thing or a bad thing?

Anyway, back to newsletter. I’ll deal with those personal struggles in my own time.

I remember the time when not only setting up, but running an online store was a real struggle. A lot of it had to be done by custom coding and therefore was really time consuming, expensive and completely unfriendly to the user. It was like the internet didn’t want things to be sold online.

These days, you’re spoilt for choice with the different ‘out of the box’ platforms that you can choose: Shopify, WooCommerce, Squarespace, Big Cartel, Magento, etc . You’re told that “you can get your new e-commerce business up and running within 10 minutes!” Usually, if you’re familiar with eBay or GumTree, then that’s pretty much true.

In this email, I briefly want to talk about what to consider when considering an e-commerce platform. I have a few favourites and believe some are better than others but, more importantly, I believe you need to find the right tool for the job – taking into consideration where your business is at, where you want to be and how you’re going to operate from day to do.

Here’s a few quick thoughts about what to take into consideration when choosing what platform is going to work best for you and your business.

Pricing

Each platform has different pricing structures. Most have monthly fees and some have transaction fees on top of that as well.

Before signing up to any, do some quick math on projected sales and see how each will effect your bottom line. If the monthly fees for each platform vary, check what features each is offering. You may not need all the bells and whistles that some are offering and you might save a dollar.

It’s probably obvious, but it’s always best to start small and scale up. Even if, for the first month or so, you’re profit margin is less cause the fees are higher.

Day To Day

“Does my backend look big in this platform?”

Since you’ll be working in the platform on a day to day basis, make sure the platform fits. Are you comfortable finding your way around the system? Does it make sense to you? Can I run my business using this platform?

If possible, demo the platform. See how a normal transaction process will work between you, the shop owner, and the customer. This will give you a good idea of whether it’s going to work for you.

Most platforms will allow you to setup a demo account – if not, ask the studio or developer for a demo and they can usually show you through a site they’ve set up for that purpose.

Scaleability

I always ask my clients “How big do you want this site to be in the next year?”

Internet technology moves pretty fast, but it’s always worth considering what’s coming next for your business and giving yourself room to grow. Some platforms are great for businesses that are selling a few products here and there, but when they want to expand to 10 categories with 20 products in each, it just can’t handle it.

You may need to choose a platform that you are going to ‘grow into’ as well. It may cost you more in fees upfront, but that’s better than having to rebuild your site on a new platform within a year of launching.

At White Flag, we focus on developing within to e-Commerce platforms: Shopify and WooCommerce.

Shopify

Shopify is a beautiful system for the shop owner. The system to handle and fulfill orders is great, the reporting system is strong and adding / managing products is really intuitive.

It has it’s downsides though. Shopify is primarily a ‘shop system’. Outside of the shop system, you get a very basic blogging system and the text editor to handle content pages has room for improvement.

Shopify is great for small to medium sized businesses looking to sell online. The things it isn’t great for (at the moment) is subscription based business models or running wholesale and retail stores on the one site.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is the e-commerce part of the infamous WordPress. WordPress is currently powering nearly 24% of the internet. That’s crazy.

WordPress is easy to setup and it’s the best blogging platform out there. In the last few years, I’ve used it for nearly every content driven site I’ve built. Adding in WooCommerce on top gives you all the e-commerce tools you need. (Not something I encourage clients to do themselves though – it can be tricky.)

Once set up, WooCommerce is exceptionally powerful. Because you can host it on your own server, you have the ability to heavily customize it. The backend system doesn’t look as smooth as Shopify but what it lacks in looks it makes up for in functionality.

The DIY

Lastly, for clients that are looking to do things themselves, I recommend SquareSpace. Squarespace allows you to set up your own site and guides you through each step. It’s template based and limited in functionality, but for getting started, there is no better option at the moment.

The Right Tool

I hope this has helped give you some direction in choosing your e-commerce platforms.

As I said, it can be overwhelming. At the end of the day, the platform isn’t going to make you the money – you still have to run a good business online and work the platform in the right way to sell your product.

Doing your research up front will ensure that you have the right tool for the job before you get started.

Are you running an online store? What’s your biggest challenge – I’d love to hear about it. Email them through!


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