Choosing an eCommerce platform is one of the biggest decisions that any online retailer will make. Yet when you’re starting out, how do you know whether to invest in a scalable eCommerce platform or pick one that is simply affordable?
Why is scaling a business important?
With the digital age of commerce, we are seeing more scalable businesses than ever. Having the ability to scale is an imperative element for any business model. For some businesses, scaling can mean moving into a new market; for others, scaling is about introducing new products, hiring new employees, or increasing online sales.
As long as the business can increase its customer base without incurring a large increase in overheads, scale can occur.
For many smaller-business owners and online retailers, scale is important, as it will allow you to expand your customer market and make more revenue. Without scaling, a business can slowly plateau or become obsolete — especially in the competitive world of eCommerce.
Five eCommerce options for the ambitious and the financially responsible
It doesn’t matter if you’re selling 5 or 500,000 units a month — an online business needs to have the same capabilities as a physical store, for example, inventory management, customer service, accounting, and ordering software. A good eCommerce platform will bring all these elements together and integrate them into one slick package.
There are many eCommerce platforms on the market shouting to be heard. To the untrained eye, they all seem like acceptable choices. But before you hastily pick a platform, remember that migrating from one eCommerce service to another is a lengthy ordeal that will put your business on pause for a number of hours to a number of days. See here for the prep works that it’ll take to migrate to Squarespace.
In this post, we’ll highlight five platforms that offer unique features for growth, at various price ranges.
All these platforms have their benefits and challenges. When it comes to researching whether to invest in a scalable eCommerce platform or commit to a more affordable option, it’s not always clear — that is why we are here to help.
WooCommerce allows a business to setup an online store if they have a WordPress hosted website. This platform is a shopping-cart plugin that has fully customizable features. A huge benefit of WooCommerce is its affordability; the software is free to download and install on your website. WooCommerce also doesn’t charge merchant fees, making it one of the most cost-effective eCommerce platforms available.
WooCommerce is best suited to businesses with revenues in the $0-500,000 scale. If you predict your future sales will exceed this amount, think carefully about whether you should be looking to a more scalable eCommerce platform.
Setting up with WooCommerce? Control has a plugin that will send you real-time PayPal update to your mobile and desktop app. Learn more.
Primarily viewed as a content management system (CMS), Squarespace also offers users an eCommerce platform. Prices start at $26 per month with no transaction fees, integrated accounting via Xero, the ability to configure sales tax figures, and inventory capabilities.
Squarespace also offers an upgrade version for “when your business grows,” priced at $40 per month. This upgrade includes abandoned checkout auto recovery and real-time carrier shipping. Squarespace is also integrated with Stripe, so you can set up and start your business within minutes of signing up.
Magento is a world-leading eCommerce platform: you can count Burger King, Coca-Cola, and Nestle amongst its clients. The platform prides itself on being adaptable, open-source, and offers complete customization. Because of these features, Magento has a great ability to scale along with your business.
The Community Edition of Magneto is entirely free and “meets the requirements for the basic eCommerce business needs of today.” If you feel that your business outgrows these option when scaling, Magento has an Enterprise Edition.
Another CMS platform, Weebly also offer users an eCommerce service. Benefits include an inventory tracker, secure checkout, integrated shopping cart, and payment processing via PayPal and Stripe. These features depend on which pricing plan you choose and with prices as little as $10 a month, Weebly is certainly at the more affordable end of the eCommerce price range.
The “drag and drop” nature of Weebly makes it incredibly simple to setup and you do have the option to upgrade your account if you find that your business has outgrown your original plan. However, Weebly’s features are minimal compared to other eCommerce platforms, which may make scaling a challenge.
Targeted toward medium sized businesses, BigCommerce is a simple to use eCommerce platform. It requires minimal setup and is an “all-in-one eCommerce and shopping cart solution.” BigCommerce has a huge ability to scale, making it one of the most popular eCommerce platforms on the market.
For the range of features included — shopping cart, payment gateways, marketing tools, SEO tools, and mobile optimization — BigCommerce is also an affordable option, especially for smaller businesses.
Installing, customizing, and modifying any of the major eCommerce platforms will usually require you to outsource. You can find a freelance web developer, on a service like Upwork, who specializes in each platform. If you have little experience setting up an eCommerce business, this is highly recommended to ensure everything is functioning correctly.
Why should I focus on a scalable eCommerce platform?
In the US alone, eCommerce sales are predicted to hit 548-billion dollars by 2019. In 2014, this figure stood at 305-billion dollars. This is a substantial amount of growth over the next three years.
Having the ability to scale is a must for any eCommerce business. In order to grow, adapt, and change with increasing consumer demand, your website needs to have the capabilities to handle a higher volume in traffic, sales, and transactions.
Don’t go into a business blind. If you want to succeed, then set up your store for it.
For example, you’re an entry-level eCommerce retailer selling clothing products. In your first year of trading you predict that you’ll be handling 5 different lines, have an on-hand inventory of 2,000 units, and expect to handle 1,500 transactions. In your second year, you predict these figures to double as your brand awareness grows. Will your initial choice of eCommerce platform be able to handle your business growth and scale with you?
Changing the backbone of an online store is incredibly difficult and there are huge risks involved including a loss of traffic and sales, damaged SEO, and an impact to your business process, for example, retraining of staff.
When deciding between affordability and scalability, think about whether it might be worth investing money at the start of your online store journey. Every online business needs to think beyond ease of use, be aware of their vision, and consider the implications of not choosing a scalable eCommerce platform right off the bat.
Need more help picking the best eCommerce platform for your business? Take a look at what we believe are the best platforms on the market.