Getting an e-commerce store these days is as easy as going online, choosing a pre-existing template, punching in a credit card and BOOM! - you’re on your way! Many templates are great for small business but there’s limits to their productivity and flexibility.
There’s several options including Big commerce, Shopify, Weebly and a new kid on the block SuiteCommerce. These are targeted to small businesses who want a non-techy, no-fuss, easy to set-up e-commerce store. They are all great to a point and have good and bad traits.
While you’re considering your options or if you’re already frustrated by your online shop, here’s 5 signs that it’s time to consider a more serious alternative.
5 signs you need to move on..
- You want to customise the cart, but you can’t.
These carts are great for the simple ‘just work’ scenario. They give you all the right features and options - to get you started, the basics. However, when you want want to customise, either the template, design, product variables, or make the user experience better - forget it. You are locked into their framework!.
Some sites like Shopify can be edited slightly, but they are designed in a way for you to NOT to be able to tinker with it. It is actually possible to break their template and lose your precious e-commerce entirely, thereby costing you a fortune trying to get it back up and losing sales in the meanwhile! It’s very much Apple’s model. Their systems are built to work as they are, not to amend - so don’t mess with it!
- You want more custom features
These can be a variety of things; like better shipping, easier/faster checkout, adding components like AfterPay, connecting to Ebay or Facebook carts, or making the products stand out better. Do your research into each cart and see what official and 3rd party plugins are available. If there is a particular platform you like to use - check what other bolt-ons you can get for it. If there is only a handful, then steer away - as that’s not likely to change. It also tells you that developers aren’t writing plugins for it, which means that they aren’t using it or there is no market for it. Go with the one that is regularly used and has lots of plugins, templates, & bolt-ons.
- The user experience is getting worse.
There is nothing worse than having frustrated customers who can’t purchase, or back out of purchase due to clunky web carts. Abandonment numbers online are staggering.
Did you know?
“The typical shopping cart abandonment rate for online retailers varies between 60% and 80%, with an average of 67.91%. The abandonment rate is the ratio of the number of abandoned shopping carts to the number of initiated transactions or to the number of completed transactions.”
Its really important to be mindful of the buying process and user experience with e-carts. High abandonment means lots of lost revenue for your business.
So if your ‘off the shelf’ e-cart system is getting old, confusing for the user, slow or clunky, it may be time to upgrade to one that can be more responsive not only to your needs, but also provide your consumers with a buying experience that’s effortless and possible with less than 3 clicks!
- Inventory. Knowing your stock levels is key to running your business and knowing your numbers.
Most, if not all of the ‘off the shelf’ solutions do not automate inventory, they are based on you knowing the stock levels, as you’ll need to input this data. These platforms are based on the fact you might be running your e-business out of our bedroom/garage. But when your business starts to stock 200+ products of all various products and sizes, which will require some sort of warehouse - then you’ll need to move on to more automated and robust systems which will give you inventory & stock control (real time stock levels of what’s in stock, what’s low, what’s out of stock etc).
These systems will also cater for considerations for packing, labelling for shipping, plus parcel tracking (integrating with postage and shipping companies). They provide important intel if you want your stock to move faster and leave the warehouse knowing what’s going where, who for, and what stock you have left.
You’re definitely going to ‘need a bigger boat’. As Chief Brody said in JAWS the movie!
- It’s becoming a time waster for your business.
If you are spending far too much time on your website, then it’s definitely time to look to a better system that doesn’t require so much ‘hands on’ attention. If you are spending time, fixing or adjusting orders, checking shipping, checking for cart drop off orders, trying to fix the template or user experience, or getting outside help with plugin and security updates…. Then its time!
So the answer in a nutshell is:
Once your business has grown substantially or you feel that your E-cart isn’t doing what you want it to. You’ll know when you get to this point, as you’ll find you are either spending too much time on it trying to get it to do what you want OR customers are calling you complaining that the site is less than great!
Time to move on..
Perhaps you’ve realised it’s time to invest in a system that will consistently keep working for you 24/7 - even whilst you are sleeping or you're on a sunny beach holiday somewhere. Getting a system that is fully automated is key. But make sure your platform is systematically updated or you have an internal or external team that is managing it.
The world will then be your oyster, so to speak! However, to upgrade to a custom cart isn’t a cheap exercise, but it will pay dividends long term.
Fully customised e-cart options, our recommendations:
It’s the best custom e-commerce there is (you’ll need a web developer to build this, it’s nothing like the easy ‘off the shelf’ systems. And it’s not designed to be. If you want to fly to the moon and back - this system can get you there. Very robust and a lot of big big retail stores use this platform. This is designed solely as an E-commerce platform. Magento has a free option, but to get the proper one. You’ll need to buy the platform. See magento.com
For Wordpress CMS - Use Woo Commerce:
This is a plugin to Wordpress and works very well. Nice clean design and easy user interface. There are numerous plugins you can add to it for better features. If you want customise the design, you’ll need a web developer to do so. That’s ok - as you’ll be able to customise the way you want it. Woo Commerce is a free bolt on, but you’ll need to pay for additional plugins and features. See woocommerce.com
For Joomla CMS - Use VirtueMart or E-Shop:
Joomla is definitely more robust than Wordpress. And probably more customisable than Magento. You can do a lot with this platform. We’ve used lots of E-carts on Joomla over the years, such as Hika Shop, Open Cart etc. Some have great features but bad support, others have it the other way round. Mostly, we’ve found the VM and E-Shop are top of the crop. VM has the largest usage which means lots of support, custom features, websites on how to’s etc. E-shop has “got it all’ and their support is no.1. You don’t have to wait days or weeks for a response, it’s generally within 24 hours! VirtueMart is a free open source See: virtuemart.net E-shop is paid, but its cheap. Only $39US. See E-Shop.
Dot Net Platform:
This is for more the serious tech savvy person or business. This is a lot more complex and not for the home user. This is designed for high end business who want even deeper customisation, functionality, strong security and all round robustness. See: www.nopcommerce.com
There is no exact date or time to jump ship. But the key factors above will tell you “it’s time!”.
If there is one essential take away about finding the right e-cart - always look at the support options first. Do your research, if there is little to no support on a particular platform, as in; little plugins, only email support (no phone or skype), little development updates (you can see their developer updates in the notes sections), or only a small group of people are using it… then stay away.
Technology is a fast train, there are new things coming out all the time. Try to choose one that is already out there in the market, with lots of people using it... as the latest and greatest might not always be the best.
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If you’d still like more free info about understanding your brand, download our FREE Brand Checklist here, it has 18 fundamentals needed to make sure you have all the right elements in place to build a strong and successful brand.
Written by: Craig Edwards (brand consultant / director)