Which platform should I use for my new E-commerce project?
“OK, I’m ready. I want to sell online, but what is the best
E-commerce platform for my needs?”
It’s the question you’re probably asking yourself if you’ve decided to look into the world of e-commerce and if you’re really asking it, it is a sign that you’ve already taken the right approach and are on the right path. Yes, because the creation of the online shop is the first step to enter the e-commerce world, so the choice of the platform is important, like how to choose the right card to play. Let’s immediately dispel a myth: the choice of the platform is certainly the first step to take, but it is absolutely not the one on which to invest the most important slice of the total budget we have allocated to the project. I advise you to use no more than 20 – 25% for the develepment of the web-site. All the remaining budget goes to the “engine”, the digital marketing strategy to get visitors to the site, to research the optimization based on data analysis, to brand awareness, especially if a new brand is being launched. This gap will be levelled over time, when the brand (or E-shop) will start to be known, so we will decrease our efforts in digital marketing but we will invest in new features that will make our online store grow. Obviously these proportions totally change if you are creating a B2B project. However, even if we will allocate a smaller amount of budget to the creation of our e-shop, the choice of the correct platform is essential to get started on the right foot. Making simple mistakes in the creation of the site could make the most substantial investments in digital marketing less effective or even cancelled. So these are some advices on the choice of the technological platform with which we will construct our online shop. In principle there are 4 macro categories of platforms that you can choose to create your E-shop that coincide with 4 different approaches, in which the most important variables are the size of the company and the budget available.
- MARKETPLACE In reality we can not consider them as real Ecommerce platforms (the most famous of course are eBay and Amazon) but big digital markets and also real search engines, an aspect that should not be underestimated. Who does a search on marketplaces is already a customer who has almost certainly decided to buy. It is possible to create your own shop within the Marketplace, in a few minutes and at no cost, with already thousands of potential customers, without spending one Euro in advertising. On the other hand we must be aware of the fact that you will not have your own shop, you will not have your own identity, your own image (mood) but you will inherit that of the marketplace with zero possibility of personalization. The sales commission required is high and we must consider this if we operate in a sector with low margins (think of a consumer electronics store). And we do not forget that in the same marketplace there are hundreds of competitors with whom visitors compare (and change) in the time of a couple of clicks. To sum up, this type of platform is recommended for those with a reduced budget but wants to start immediately or for those who want to test if their products have a good feedback from the market.
- + Quick start, almost immediate
- + Traffic to the store immediately (little investment in marketing)
- + Very low start up costs
- – High commission
- – Lack of corporate identity
- – No customization
- – Direct competition
- PLATFORMS IN SaaS (Software as a Service) MODE are those platforms in the cloud that provide both the hardware and the software. Just register, provide a domain, a credit card and start customizing your online store. An excellent example of this type of platform isShopify, which offers a possibility to create an online shop simple to manage that can be customized, with a fixed monthly fee and considerably lower sales commissions than those required by marketplaces. Even if short time for implementation and ease of use are the main strengths of these types of platforms, it is always preferable to rely on a specialized web agency or a consultant who knows the platform in order to personalize it (and therefore avoid having a “carbon copy” site of others who have chosen the same graphic template), and “performing” at SEO level (Search Engine Optimization) so not to frustrate the investment in advertising. If you have a bit more budget you choose Shopify Plus, the enterprise solution of Shopify for big companies. Also, read the special section below for other SaaS solutions in hig-end. Remember, however, that in general, since these software are “on service”, they are not very popular in terms of personalization, therefore unsuitable for those who want to interface them with their ERP management software. Moreover, just forget to pay some installment fee to see off (or worse vanish) your site. Therefore, SaaS platforms are suitable for PMI with reduced budgets with no great personalization needs but want to get started in short time.
- + Start costs contained
- + Quick E-commerce development
- + No additional hosting costs
- + Lower Commissions than the marketplaces
- + YOUR E-commerce (you are not together with others)
- – Restricted to the supplier
- – Functional limits
- – Limitations in customizations
- – High difficulty of integration with ERP management
- CMS OPEN SOURCE PLATFORMS where CMS stands for Content Management System are open source software used by thousands of online shops and supported by thousands of developers all over the world, making them reliable, secure, scalable and integrable. Among the most used there are Prestashop, WordPress (with the addition of the Woo commerce module) and Magento. Here the level of personalization has no limits, both aesthetically and functionally, thanks to the wide range of additional modules that guarantee the upgrade in terms of functionality, integration with third parties (eg couriers, payment systems, marketplaces, etc.) In this case, contacting a specialized web agency is almost mandatory, making this type of platform, more expensive than the first two, but still within the reach of SMEs, especially if the choice is oriented to Prestashop or WordPress. To dwell between these two solutions just mentioned, I remember that they are both totally free but between the two Prestashop is certainly the most suitable for the realization of an E-commerce with very strong features and used in many high level online shop. On the other hand, Magento should be taken into consideration if the number of products is very high and there is a much larger budget available, also because it requires a more expensive hardware infrastructure to work properly and its complexity in development and daily management make increase project costs. Recently, Magento has been acquired by Adobe, which suggests an increase in license costs. In my opinion, among the open source CMS, at present the solution with the best value for money is definitely Prestashop with which you can have very nice design, functional and easy to manage without spending a fortune. To summarize open source CMS are recommended for SMEs with low budget
- + Preferable solution for medium and long term projects
- + Limitations close to ZERO
- + High level of customization
- + Wide availability of add-ons to expand features
- + E-commerce property
- + Possibility of integrating with ERP, CRM and other platforms, also with Omnichannel optics
- – The support of a specialized agency is required
- – Higher realization costs compared to previous solutions
- AD-HOC PLATFORMS usually custom-made, therefore tailored to the stylistic and functional demands of the company. Obviously this type of approach, precisely because of the high verticalization on the Client, requires very high development times and consequently much more higher costs. And then, if then there is no “feeling” with the agency? To avoid this hypothesis that would cause serious problems to the client I suggest pay a lot of attention when you stipulate contracts, supported by a valid lawyer in order to prevent big headaches in case of “friction” with the agency. In this case the benefits of the high level of personalization play a favorable role also in the integration with ERP management and / or with other business systems (eg CRM or Data Analysis tools) but, obviously, these additions will also be expensive. If the budget is not a problem I would like to point out a SaaS platform that I did not include in the second group because, while retaining all the advantages of the software, it is designed for medium-large companies with high investment opportunities. I’m talking about Salesforce Commerce Cloud which recently acquired Demandware and which, with its complete platform that includes E-commerce, CRM and retail management, is able to cover all the needs of large companies with an Omnichannel perspective. In any case, all the solutions explained in the latter category are recommended for big companies with high investment capacity
- + Total customization level
- + Possibility to integrate with ERP management ERP
- + No limitation
- – Very high development costs
- – High dependance on the WEB Agency that created the site
I hope I have wiped out any doubts on this issue. In case I could not delete them all, write me or contact me by tap or click on the following button.