February 06, 2014

E-Commerce Overwhelm! Which platform is right for your shop?

Whether you already have a shop, or are starting from scratch...

You will inevitably come across the question "What e-commerce platform is right for your shop?"

The answer to this question, well, I only WISH it were simple.

Every platform has it's PROS and CONS

There is no right platform for every business. It really depends on your needs, and the stage of development your business is in.

I'm not here to reiterate the pros and cons of the various popular platforms.

However, if you're curious, there are several existing comparison blogs that go into detail on the various features, pricing and even compares them head-to-head by scoring them.

A few of the good comparison sites to check out {remember, opinions are like.....}

Stephanie Peterson's Fairgroundmedia.com Comparison {short and sweet}

Top Ten Reviews of E-Commerce platforms {easy read chart}

Vandelaydesigns.com Comparison {in depth!}

What I am here to do is to talk about things you SHOULD look for, and consider in selecting an e-commerce platform for your product-based business.

5 Key Features E-Commerce Platforms SHOULD have for Small / Emerging Retail Stores

Easy Set-up

When you're just starting out retailing online, the number one thing you shouldn't do is over-invest. Think about it, unless you're blessed to have an existing windfall of thousands of visits, you have an unproven/un-shopped website.

Investing $10k+ in a new shop with minimal/no traffic {unless you're funded by venture capital} is not smart.

You are likely someone who has an idea of a product or several products to sell, that you've sourced or made. That's it.

Searching for an e-commerce platform that is turn-key is thus paramount.

Look for a hosted solution (domains and shop platform on the same site), that has pre-designed templates and an easy setup process. If offered, sign-up for a FREE trial and test out the shop first. Drop in your photos, hire a friend or DIY some basic graphic design.

Test run the shop, the checkout -- everything before signing on the dotted line and committing any technical design or further graphic support.


Affordable Fees

When you're comfortable, then sign up, and try to avoid putting too much down.

Opt for monthly fees at first unless there is a significant discount, and try to avoid any provider who takes a % of your sales.

You're already going to be giving a credit card processor 2.9% or so, the last thing you want to do is part with more margin!

First rule of entrepreneurship is to always hustle. Don't be afraid to ask for the super-uber-small business price :)

It is common nowadays to only have to buy a template (FREE - $150 dollars) and pay $0 down, plus a monthly fee. This is IDEAL when you're just starting out.

Watch out for any provider that wants to lock you into a contract. You don't know where you, your business or your needs will be in 2 years!



According to PwC's 2012 Multichannel Retail Survey, Canadians are still slow to adopt E-commerce. Second last in fact to the 10+ countries survey.

But why?

We are online... in droves. Canadians are second to the top of the pack in hours spent online (almost 41 a month average, according to Comscore). So clearly, we're not shopping.

One of the reasons frequently cited by consumers slow to adopt online shopping is security concerns.

Not helped by the recent security breaches as retailers like Target and Neiman Marcus {large retailers!}.

Ensure the shopping cart uses SSL {secure sockets layer} certificates and is PCI compliant. Don't store sensitive customer data on your desktop or laptop, including emails and never credit cards.

A fraud detection system built into your e-comm platform is another must-have...one that flags transactions if the address, or CVV doesn't match or if an order is placed outside of the home country of the credit card.

Access control is also key - you want to be able to give developers, or employees access to your e-comm platform BUT you don't want them to be able to edit certain things. Controlled access and variable levels of account users can give you this flexibility.

Lastly, tell your customers about your security measures. Seriously. This is such a missed aspect of e-comm.

Customers, especially older customer may need that reassurance that your platform is secure.

Put it in your FAQs, or put a badge on your homepage or checkout to remind them that you are looking out for their safety.


Content Management

The majority of popular e-commerce platforms for small retailers have built in content management systems (CMS). As they should.

One of the key features you need in a platform is the ability to update content.


Some platforms are more user friendly than others.

Trust me. I had a shop on a platform where I had to email the developer every time I wanted to change the banner photo. It was crazy and cost me $20 a banner. Not good.

As blogging should be a key part of your content strategy, you need to be able to manage your blog content, tagging, and SEO.

This is something you should test out in the trial phase. Try doing a few sample posts, and changing photos and product descriptions. Is it easy?

If so, check check!


Seamless Shopping Cart

Shopping cart abandonment is a big problemo with small retailers. According to Statisa, 25% of abandoned carts are caused by overcomplicated navigation.

Some things to think about... does your e-commerce platform have a quick, seamless checkout process? Or do you have to bounce to paypal and back to your site? Do customers require an account to purchase? Or excess amounts of data sharing?

Are your costs transparent or are there 'surprise' costs that pile on at the shopping cart point?

During your free trial, test out the shopping cart if you can by placing a fake order. Watch what notifications you get in your email, how the transaction processes and put yourself in the shoes of a potential customer.

Was that a good experience or bad?


So, what's your ONE must-have in an e-commerce platform? Share it in the comments!

Happy crafting!

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