In 2019, online retail sales grew 56% - and that’s before the COVID-19 pandemic hit and everyone was ordered to stay at home. Despite lower overall spending in the United States due to COVID-19, many retailers who have invested in an ecommerce platform have seen their webstore sales increase by around 43% since the beginning of the pandemic.
That just goes to show you how important it is to move towards an ecommerce platform during the digital age – pandemic or not. Retailers online have experienced a high level of growth and have proven to be much more adaptable when crisis strikes.
So, if you’re at the point where you want to look into an ecommerce solution, there are a few things you need to be prepared for:
- Not all ecommerce platforms are created equally. Be sure to list out your requirements so that you are not sucked into all the nice to have features instead of focusing on the must haves.
- Ecommerce platforms have a monthly fee. Almost all the top ecommerce platforms (Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce, etc. ) require a monthly fee and the price will vary depending on what level of service you get.
- Understand what you are looking to accomplish from this investment. Are you trying to reach an audience that your brick and mortar store likely will never reach because of geographical limitations? Are you trying to provide a better experience for your existing customers? Are you looking to move the bulk of your business online instead of in store? Is your primary goal to grow the company? Understanding what it is you’re looking for will help you prioritize what features and functionality you should really be looking for in your next investment.
- There is a ramp up time. You will have to spend some time and employee resources in order to get this up and running and provide a personalized experience for each one of your visitors.
- Ecommerce is a continuous investment. Like any other technology you invest in for your business, you will have to spend money on upgrades, development, and maintenance as times goes on to stay relevant in your marketplace. But when you do, you can easily pivot your business and stay ahead of the competition.
- Your vendor choice is as important as your software choice. Your vendor should be there for the life of your ecommerce and can determine how successful your business journey into online retailing is. Spending a little extra time upfront to vet your vendor and ensure that they understand your business, the solution that they are offering, the training it takes to implement this, and provide ongoing support as needed is imperative.
Now that you have a better understanding of what you’re getting into, here’s a few things to look into as you begin your search for your next ecommerce platform.
Your Ecommerce and Your Business Management Solutions MUST Connect
We’ve said it time and time again. If you really want a long-term, sustainable solution for your retail business, you need to make sure all your systems are connected. Whether that means you consider a business management solution that plugs into a robust back-end system seamlessly or that you consider an enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution that has a built in ecommerce platform is entirely up to you.
Are you looking for a platform that integrates or one single solution to run your business?
There are pros and cons to each. You might find a more specialized solution when you choose a standalone ecommerce platform, but you might experience some challenges when you upgrade your business management solution or your ecommerce platform. Conversely, a standalone ERP that has a built in ecommerce solution will never be an issue as everything will update at once In fact, many of my clients typically choose this route to avoid any potential headache in the future and use this process as an excuse to future-proof their business as a whole. My best advice there is to consider updating both at the same time based on your business goals and overall scalability. In general, you’re looking to build a solution that integrates all of the following:
- Warehouse management
- Order fulfillment
Keep Marketing Best Practices in Mind
This one seems simple but it typically gets overlooked by companies as they continue to shop for the right ecommerce solution. To make it easier for your webstore to be found, make sure your chosen platform allows you to use your own domain. And, now that more and more people are doing their shopping and research on their phones, make sure that your chosen solution provides a good mobile experience – loads fast, does not glitch, looks similar to the web version, and easy to use the shopping cart. Finally, make sure that the platform that you choose allows you to create the brand look and feel that you’re looking to provide to your customers. Remember – your brand look and feel will evolve with you, so you need to make sure that the platform that you end up investing in is easily customizable.
Keep the Customer Experience In Mind
It’s great if the platform makes your life easier, but unless you provide a positive and personalized experience for your customers whenever they enter your webstore, you’re losing out. Many brands out there provide a personalized experience that suggests products based on their order history or what items they have already looked at.
Future-Proof Your Business
Platform selection is a long and tedious process. You need to find the right solution, right partner, and then go through a long implementation process and learning curve. Make sure that the platform you choose is going to last you well into the future – that it is flexible, adaptable, and scalable so that it can grow with you.
Make Security a Priority
This goes for both you and your customers. You never want to have a data breach situation where your customer’s credit card is stolen. We’ve all heard of these in the news. It has a huge negative impact on your brand and will quickly lose you most of your repeat business.
There’s plenty more to be sure – specific features and functionality - but every retailer is different and is looking to accomplish different goals from their investment. If you’d like to talk through what your goals are, I’d love to help! We can hop on a 30-minute call as we assess your unique business needs and what you need in your webstore to take you to the next growth stage.