5 Things to Keep in Mind When Deciding on an E-commerce Platform for Your Business

When you sell anything on the web, yours is an e-commerce company, so choosing the right e-commerce platform – the software or service by which you sell to others via a desktop browser, mobile device or app – is the basis of your entire business. At a minimum, that platform will need to present items and allow customers to purchase them from your site. But there are five important questions to ask when deciding on a platform for your e-commerce store.

1. Flexibility: How flexible does your service or product require your sales process to be?

If you have a service that requires a special process during checkout (perhaps multiple steps or some sort of validation), you should choose an e-commerce platform that is flexible enough to handle any level of activity, from the simplest to the most complex. You should also consider flexibility in terms of the customer experience. Ask your vendor or implementor about those options and what they will cost, as well as any examples they can provide.

2. Investment: How much do you plan to invest in your first platform?

The amount of your investment will be driven, to a large extent, by your choices regarding scalability, integration and software, which are discussed below. Regardless, you will still need to decide if you want to pay a monthly service fee for a web-based platform, which may become more expensive as your site grows; spend nothing on an installed e-commerce solution that resides on a free hosting server like ours; or reach deep into your pockets to fund a familiar, yet expensive, platform that does everything the way you’re used to.

3. Scalability: When (if ever) do you plan to totally rebuild your site?

“Don’t build to scale” is an oft-cited mantra of lean business, and is good advice to follow when trying to anticipate the level of traffic your site will receive, especially in the beginning. You’re more likely to over-build your site to accommodate customers that are slow to come than you are to under-build and end up with more customers than you expected. With that in mind, you’ll need to decide if you want to use an e-commerce platform that will take you only through your first year or so (planned obsolescence included), or select one that can be scaled for use over the next 5-10 years.

4. Integration: Does the platform require integration with many external vendors and services?

Some popular platforms provide an extensive library of “plugins” which help you connect your site to credit card processors, fraud identifiers, address validators, tax calculators, shipping companies, etc. Others will require you to build these yourself, which is very expensive and time consuming. Find out what integrations you will need and if your platform will support them.

5. Software: Do you need to use a particular library or software language?

If you don’t know much about computer languages, no need to worry. Those languages, however, are dialects of the computer code with which your platform is built, so if you already have components you would like to use, this language becomes an important consideration. If unsure, reach out to us to discuss – we’re always happy to help.

These are just some of the items we see clients wrestle with in their first 1-3 years of e-commerce life. While the needs of every business and every entrepreneur are different, we really like WordPress e-commerce solutions for very new and lean startups. Later, you can migrate to a more specialized platform in a planned, orderly fashion when there’s a business case and the time is right. Now is the right time to continue the conversation about this or any other topic. We’re building a startup community to help you connect to other entrepreneurs and be more successful. Join us!

4 Reasons You Should Use the WordPress Platform for Your E-commerce Startup

If your startup involves selling anything on the web, welcome to the increasingly competitive world of e-commerce. Today, you have an almost overwhelming amount of options to help you dominate this space, so your e-commerce platform – the software or service by which you will sell to others via a desktop browser, mobile device or app – could make or break your business.

In brief, your e-commerce platform will:

•     Provide customers with all the information they need about your product or service in order to make an informed decision (photos, videos, in-depth description, price, etc.)

•     Allow customers to add the items they want to purchase to a virtual “shopping cart”

•     Encourage customers to create a profile that stores their address, contact information, and even credit card data

•     Drive customers to complete the purchase and arrange shipping or pickup of the product, if applicable

Even with this basic set of requirements, all e-commerce platforms are not created equally. Some are strictly web-based services which, for a monthly fee, provide you with a login and access to build your own store. Others require software that you install yourself (or have someone install for you), but which also provide more flexibility in branding and control over the customer experience. This may also result in being more cost effective over time.

So what is the best e-commerce platform for your startup? Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is a program that is extremely popular for building websites, but not as well-known for its e-commerce solutions: WordPress.

Depending on who you ask, WordPress is used by anywhere from 25 percent to 45 percent of the entire web – and they can’t all be wrong. So here are four reasons you should consider WordPress for your e-commerce needs.

1. Flexibility

Some e-commerce platforms, especially those employing a subscription service, tend to allow only certain configurations. WordPress, on the other hand, provides extensive flexibility by offering literally thousands of plugins. Having the source code means you can customize your site to your exact specifications, which is important as your store grows.

2. Integration

If your website is already built using WordPress, then choosing it as your e-commerce platform as well is a no-brainer. The integration will be seamless, and will eliminate having to log into two different systems or sync data between the two.

3. Cost effectiveness

By integrating your website platform with your e-commerce platform, you’ll see a reduction in IT costs. Plus, as an extremely well-known, open source platform, Wordpress is easy to use, and there are an abundance of experts out there who know how to use it as well. This will keep your lean startup very lean indeed.

4. Scalability

As a lean startup, you need to spend your money wisely. We recommend spending as little as possible at first to validate your brand, then investing more as the brand and model prove themselves. WordPress is perfect for that, giving you a flexible, inexpensive e-commerce presence with low to no overhead that also grows as your company grows. You can even install it on your own servers, reducing expenses until your store is fully up and running. Or if you choose, you can get free hosting from us!

We’re here to provide services like free e-commerce hosting, to help you make smart decisions when starting your business, and to build a startup community to connect you with other entrepreneurs. Join us!