Ecommerce ecosystem has witnessed a steady growth over the past 2 decades. According to a report titled “Worldwide Retail and Ecommerce Sales” by eMarketer, retail eCommerce sales saw a 24.8 per cent increase in 2017.
For an entrepreneur, who wants to start her own venture, the statistics given above is good news. The ecommerce sphere is currently packed with opportunities for new online businesses. If you have an innovative business model that can meet the demands of experience-hungry society, it’s time to take a step forward.
While the online business models may vary, the core idea remains the same - selling online. And to sell more, you need the right tools and technology. Reviewing various ecommerce platforms is one of the critical moments for entrepreneurs looking for the best technology to set up her website. Although there are user reviews and free demos available online to assess a platform yet drawing out inferences can be hectic and bewildering for you.
Besides, taking a good look at articles on the web will bring you across the same parameters of evaluating an ecommerce platform: responsive design, multiple payment options, SEO friendly, and such.
These factors are important from the customers’ perspective. It’s the time that we also talk about the ease, security, value of money, and more that’s in store for the store admin. Apparently, he/she is the one who owns the store, invests money into a venture and manages it as admin. This article is exactly about that.
Choosing the right solution will bring operational excellence and better ROI. To ensure you get both, I have put together the important factors that you should consider before setting up a new online store.
There are three different types of solutions available for an entrepreneur to choose from:
- SaaS-based solution
- Owned readymade solution
- Custom Solution
Opting for SaaS means you will be paying a recurring monthly or yearly subscription fee. Ideal examples are Shopify and Bigcommerce. As long as you pay the subscription fee, you own your online store. It’s never yours completely in the sense the site is hosted on their server and you pay a monthly/annual fee to run your store.
By choosing such a solution, an entrepreneur can avoid the cost of selecting a hosting service provider. Plugins are provided to add more features such as payment gateways and analytics, but you have to pay an additional cost for this.
It’s a pertinent solution for those running small offline shops or selling through Instagram, Facebook page, and other such platforms. Most of the stores running on SaaS-based solutions target the local audience and have limited requirements.
Owned readymade solution
The limitations faced by entrepreneurs who run their online store on a SaaS-based solution paved a way for owned readymade solutions. Readymade solutions offer the perfect balance of features and budget. If you check over a few of them, you will find out a vast array of benefits; the major ones are as follows:
- No need to pay commission behind each sale
- No need to pay annual or monthly rent
- Freedom to choose the hosting service provider
After going through YoKart and similar readymade solutions you can find out that the readymade options are quite suitable for certain segments, like startups, micro businesses, and small and medium-sized enterprises. Value for money and easy options to scale up are the reasons why readymade solutions are preferred to custom or SaaS.
A custom ecommerce solution is most suitable for the stores that need to address specific operational challenges. For instance, if an established business wants to improve the visibility throughout its supply chain and integrate relevant KPIs into its ecommerce portal, it would have unique requirements and need a custom solution to meet them.
If your business model demands high-end customisation, then there are solutions like Shopify Plus, Magento (For Mid and Enterprise Businesses) and YoKart’s GoCustom. Custom solutions are expensive and require an experienced service provider so if you choose this solution for your upcoming store, I recommend you complete the business analysis process first. Gather, document, and analyse the functional requirements before investing in a custom solution as it will help you define the requirements and demarcate your budget, which may otherwise stretch out due to undefined cost.
‘How would I earn revenue’ is the first question on every entrepreneur's mind while she is on the verge of putting her hard-earned or borrowed money into a new venture. To make sure you never get in such a jittery mode decide beforehand the revenue channels you want to include in your business model. The most common revenue streams are,
- Direct sale
Beginnings are always hard, as for startups both profitability and growth are crucial. Hence, in the initial phase, it is wise for a business to integrate features like affiliate management to have multiple sources of revenue generation. Affiliates will not only help you create awareness but improve sales too. You can add two more features to have additional income, such as:
- Featured product listing - List select vendor products on the homepage.
- Advertisement Management - Display vendor advertisement.
Flexibility & scalability
At the point of starting a new venture, it’s nearly impossible for anyone to predict when her business will outgrow the expectations. When in future, the orders will increase, and when you may want to expand your business to new regions. Such questions get answered only when you reach (or are close to) the expansion stage. Flexibility in a solution is gauged to keep up with changing times. The ecommerce platform that you choose today should be flexible enough to meet future requirements. It will be easier for you to scale up in future if you have considered the following factors at the time of setting up a store.
- Can my hosting plan handle more visitors if I run a marketing campaign?
- Can I handle more than 10 or 20 orders every day?
- Do I have enough time to calculate taxes, manage marketing, process more orders, etc.?
Likewise, there can be more requirements which may not look relevant (or be in view) as of now so you can skip the related features today. Such feature requirements become indispensable after sometime when a business has grown considerably and is ready to go to the next level. Planning now will help you add such features with least investment of time, efforts and money in future.
The three different solutions discussed above offer varying flexibility and scalability. SaaS-based solutions give you the freedom to change the design and add new features via plugins. On the other hand, you cannot change your hosting service.
Owned readymade and custom solutions offer you the best of both flexibility and scalability. You can choose your own hosting service provider, get the design of your choice, and change the business model as required. Furthermore, to save time, you can also integrate 3rd party services into your ecommerce website. For instance, TaxJar provides an application that can help you manage your sales tax. You can ask the solution provider to integrate such a service with your ecommerce website.
Imagine you have successfully set up your ecommerce website. After few weeks of marketing, you receive your first order. After a year, you start getting 5 orders on an average. To improve conversions, you decide to tweak the design.
Next thing you know is the entire website is down for an unknown reason. You will lose a few orders if your website does not start functioning immediately. Now, you can imagine the horror of not getting the needed help in real time.
Most SaaS-based solutions offer support primarily via forums, email, and live chat. Basically, what it means is - roll up your sleeves and get to work. If you go for owned readymade or custom solutions, screen sharing-based or on-site support is provided to address the problem in real time. Furthermore, you can sign up for an annual maintenance contract and avail the discount, if applicable. In a few cases, you can expect the technical support to be free initially but in the long run, you need to sign up for an annual maintenance contract.
Choosing a solution is the key factor to determine the profitability of any ecommerce business. No doubt, you do need an ecommerce platform to be SEO friendly, optimised for mobile devices, etc. However, beyond them lie long-term goals, sustenance and of course your budget. With changing market dynamics, you should choose a solution which suits your pocket and satisfies business model requirements aptly. After going through the above information, I am positive that you will get a better insight into the available options and make an informed decision.
Ankush Mahajan, senior digital marketer, FatBit Technologies
Image Credit: Snowing / Freepik