Different organizations have differing needs for their eCommerce strategies. We hope that this article helps you understand where your organization stands in the spectrum and make appropriate choices.
We live in the eCommerce era. Post-covid, eCommerce is no longer an extension of a retail store front – It is an essential channel, if not the only channel that works. A decade back OSCommerce ruled the eCommerce space and Magento was an upcoming startup. Magento went on to become the market leader and was the only scalable option until the arrival of SaaS based eCommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce.
The COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent lockdown have accelerated the eCommerce boom and we have seen an explosive growth in the usage of eCommerce platforms. In the year 2021 alone, the number of eCommerce stores has gone up by a whooping 204%
The total value of eCommerce transactions in 2021 was $4.9 Trillion
It’s high time merchants of all sizes start seriously considering an online presence!
Where to start
Alright, so you have decided to take your business online! Where do you start?
The best way to get started selling online, is to list your products on eCommerce marketplaces like Amazon. These platforms offer:
- The easiest way to list online
- Zero technical skills
- Easy access to a captive customer base
- Delivery and Returns logistic support
However, you cannot build your store under your brand name, and this puts a ceiling on the scope of such online platforms.
Moving to the next level
If you are a bigger merchant and want to establish your own brand, you may choose to host your own eCommerce store under your own website URL. What are the options here?
Our recommendation is that you start with a readymade hosted solution to keep the technical overheads low. A couple of good options here are wix commerce and Squarespace commerce. Wiz and Squarespace are popular website builders, and these would be the obvious choices if you already have your websites built on one of these platforms.
The advantage in these platforms is that these are DIY centric and do not require much technical knowledge to get started. However, these platforms are also limited in their customizability and hence you might grow out of these platforms very soon, as your online sales grow.
Zapier is a popular ‘connector’ platform that helps connect two disparate systems via a graphical interface. Zapier can be used to slightly expand the functionality of Wix and Squarespace commerce – for example, to generate and send custom emails via your company’s email server. You could also map orders to google sheets shared with your suppliers to trigger purchases or direct fulfilment.
DIY for more complex requirements:
The patchwork of Wix/Squarespace commerce will soon get cumbersome as business scales up. This is where more complex ecosystems of Shopify and BigCommerce step in.
Shopify and Big Commerce are systems that cater to a wide range of eCommerce requirements. At the basic level, you could start off with a DIY model. As the requirements get more complex, you could leverage the marketplace for better themes and standard plugins.
They also expose REST APIs that you could leverage to integrate with your in-house systems like ERP and Point of Sale (POS) systems for use cases like reconciling stock and Out Of Stock checks etc. What’s more, there’s a robust ecosystem of partners that help you develop custom themes, plugins and integrations!
Enterprise eCommerce Systems
Shopify and BigCommerce are great choices for eCommerce only businesses. But they fall short of tools when you have offline stores, a network of outlets or have a complex supply chain and delivery networks. Such ‘enterprise’ grade businesses are better off building their own systems based on open source software like WooCommerce and Magento. (Note that Magento has two versions – 1. The Open Sourced Community edition, and 2. The proprietary commercial version owned by Adobe. In this article we discuss the Open sourced community edition). The most important starting point is that you build an in-house tech team or take the help of a good technical partner.
The tech team then takes up the task of building the system based on the open sourced software. This is usually built on an internet ready infrastructure or more recently, cloud platforms like Microsoft Azure or Amazon Web Services (AWS).
Now, this might sound like a lot of work, but the business benefits are immense.
- You can dig deep into the sales data and plan meaningful promotions
- Sync up the online sales and offline sales, stock only necessary quantities of SKUs and benefit from the cost optimization
- Leverage on the wide variety of free plugins for everything from social to digital marketing and paid campaigns to increase your business
- You own your data – no chance of your sales data being leveraged by a 3rd party or a competitor
- Create multi-site shops (to reflect multiple outlets or geographies)
- Integrate directly and in real-time to your financial software to gain cash-flow advantages
- Investment is Opex and tapers over a period of time – leaving you with your online store as an asset and immense flexibility as you also have a tech team to deliver advanced capabilities
Summary: Different organizations have differing needs for their eCommerce strategies. We hope that this article helped you understand where your organization stand in the spectrum and make appropriate choices. We are Imagine Tech would be happy to hear from you and help you in your journey!