Are you planning to start an online store this year, but don’t know which platform to use?
More and more entrepreneurs in the Philippines are putting up online stores as a side business or a full-time venture, primarily because it’s low-capital and it’s quick to set up.
In fact, ecommerce is one of the fastest growing industries, not only in Asia, but also worldwide. In its 2015 Ecommerce Benchmark Report , RJMetrics.com mentioned that in 2013, the ecommerce industry has significantly surpassed the growth of brick and mortar stores and the trend will carry on in the coming years.
And one of the biggest choices you’ll have to make when you decided to dabble in ecommerce is what platform to use.
If you are a 9-5 employee who’s planning to launch your first online store on the side, a retailer with a brick and mortar shop who is ready to embrace online selling, or a modern entrepreneur whose goal is to build an ecommerce empire, here are the factors you need to consider to be able to pick the most suitable platform for your business.
#1 What product are you selling
The first and probably the most crucial step in choosing an ecommerce platform knows what product you intend to sell. There are ecommerce platforms that were specially built for digital products while some are for physical products, and there are those that can handle both. Some platforms will allow you to upload unlimited products, but there are some that will charge by number.
Another crucial element to consider is inventory management. If you are just starting out with items that are less than a hundred, you can probably still rely on your good ‘ole spreadsheets, but if there’s an obvious need for a better tool to manage your inventory, an inventory tracking software should be in your criteria because some ecommerce platforms do not offer this feature.
To help you drill down your options further, decide on the following:
- Do you sell physical products? (e.g. clothes, appliances, gadgets, cosmetic, jewelry, sports equipments, medical supplies, automotive, etc.)
- Or digital? (e.g. ebooks, stock photos, audio courses, video courses, software solutions, etc.)
- How many products do you offer?
- How do you manage your inventory? Manual or is there a need for a tracking tool?
- How do you handle shipping?
- Do you have a physical store?
#2 What is your hosting preference?
When it comes to hosting, you have two options - host on your website or host on the ecommerce platform. Hosting your own website and using an open source shopping cart like Rackspace has its pros cons, same as with if you sign up for an all-in-one hosted ecommerce solution such as Shopify.
- You have full control of your source.
- No one can suddenly raise prices on you.
- You can virtually do any customization that many big hosted solutions won’t allow you to make.
- Need for advanced technical programming knowledge or outside technical support.
- Security must be managed in-house, periodically.
- 24x7 technical support for your store.
- Constant upgrades whenever new features are available.
- Most, if not all, all-in-one ecommerce hosting providers are PCI compliant. If you are foreign to PCI compliance, check out this article to know more about this important bit of info.
- Limited capabilities when it comes to customizations.
- Fees and add-on price varies. Some all-in-one ecommerce platforms will require you to upgrade to a more expensive plan if you need more space, features, and other customizations.
Examples of hosted ecommerce platforms: WooCommerce, Joomla, WordPress, Shopify, RackSpace, OLX, EBay, Amazon
#3 Do you need plenty of design customizations?
Draw a mental picture of the overall look of your store. How would you like your online shop to look like? Are you okay with pre-built themes? Or do you want a unique website with a fully customizable design? Most ecommerce platforms come with free and premium themes. Some ecommerce platforms will recommend you to hire a developer to create a custom theme for you. So, ask yourself if you are okay using someone else’s theme or not.
#4 What specific payment gateways do you need?
There are plenty of ways to pay online and you have to pinpoint which ones are the most convenient for your target customers, and if you can offer these to process payments.
According to Search Engine Jounal, here are the most popular online payment solutions.
- Amazon Payments
- Google Wallet
#5 Do you have existing tools that you have to integrate?
Have you built an email list already with a particular mail service like Mailchimp or Aweber? Most ecommerce platforms allow their users to integrate certain services and app to their system seamlessly. Make sure to check with your choice of ecommerce platform if they can support the existing tools you have.
#6 What is your budget?
Last but not the least, do you have the budget for a custom website? Or are you looking to sell on free ecommerce platforms like OLX or EBay? There are businesses that prefer to start selling on free marketplaces to test out if there is a demand for their products online.
However, these marketplaces have limitations such as branding constraints and having the direct competitors side-by-side your product listings because websites like Ebay pools similar products per category. In short, you have less control over your store as compared to the customizations that SaaS ecommerce solutions like Shopify or open-source options like WooCommerce and Magento.
If you are going the custom-website route, it pays to know that this requires the help of a tech person to maintain the site regularly. Building and launching your online store is a continuing process and as you grow, you are inclined to perform improvements such as updating your site’s software whenever a new version is released, posting content and optimizing images you provide, creating email accounts, monitoring comments, checking for spam, responding to webmaster emails, keeping your website secure from hacker attempts, backups, and installing extensions. In short, a reliable tech guy at your fingertips is a must.
What ecommerce platform do you use, or planning to use for your business, and why? Tell us in the comments below.