The rise of internet coupled with the era of convenience we live in means e-Commerce (more frequently known as Online Shopping) in 2017 has rapidly grown to a staggering $32.56b in Australia. If you're in the business of selling a product or service, an e-commerce site (commonly called an Online Store) is a great way to jump on this growth. So the question then is, do you "build" or do you "buy"? Building a custom Online Store or using an off the shelf Store both have their benefits, but ultimately it depends on your needs and capability. Regardless of which option you choose, here's some things to consider.
This will be the biggest factor between deciding to build a custom site or using an off the shelf solution. Something important to remember here is that just because you start with one does not mean you can't move to the other at a later date. Building a custom site does come with significantly more costs that, depending on where your business is at, may not be feasible. However a custom site offers far more flexibility.
Similarly, while an off the shelf site is cheaper they can be more restricted - and often lack functionality that may be specific to your requirements. For example, some sites restrict which payment gateways you can use which may be an inconvenience for your customers; and other sites often don't allow any access/customisation to the checkout process. Some sites also restrict how you can list products on the site - limiting the format and type of variations/prices you can use; what if you need more than one currency?
Google has made it no secret they are rolling out a mobile first index. This means Google will now create and rank search listings based on the mobile version of content. Why? Because they want to represent the majority of their users. More than 60% of searches come from Mobile. In 2015, about 35% of online transactions were made from Mobile.
When it comes to your Store, ensure the mobile version of the site is user friendly; and make sure you do your research - not all solutions are optimised for mobile. Recently we identified a popular "off-the-shelf" solution that scored 0 in Google's Page Insight for mobile.
As well as the fact Google has said using HTTPS will improve your rankings, using a HTTPS site shouldn't even be a consideration; it should be a definite. If you're selling online, you're dealing with customers credit card information; and no one will be giving you their credit card details over an unsecure site. Your site should support HTTPS/SSL.
Bear this in mind when you're choosing your payment gateway and how they process security/card information (we recommend Stripe).
(Ideally) Your store is going to grow. The larger you become, the larger the opportunity for problems to arise. When you start out, you may not need to pay for features and storage you don't need, but you might need them someday. Similarly, you also need to take this into account with your hosting server. You will only have a low amount of traffic when you start out, but as you grow that host may not be able to handle the higher amounts of traffic. The last thing you need is to appear unprofessional because people can't access your site.
When you're assessing your options, take a second look as if you're business was double the size and see whether it would suit your requirements.
Integrations & Customisations
Many sites offer integrations for a whole range of options eg Accounting, Marketing, Shipping and Logistics. This is where off the shelf sites can become restrictive. Often they are rigid and offer little customisation. With a custom site you can add or remove integrations as you need them and the best bit is they are built specifically for you and your needs. Also consider your customer service here. What can you do (whether off the shelf or custom) to provide your customers with assistance where needed?
We are accredited developers across a range of platforms including Squarespace, Xero, Trade Gecko and Bigcommerce and have built integrations for a range of others.
We have build several online stores for our clients. Premax is an international, multi-currency site that we built which caused a 400% increase in website traffic
So before you look to build your eCommerce store; take a moment to understand what you are trying to achieve; who your audience is; and what your options are. There are a large range of solutions/alternatives available - and choosing the best fit for your business in the early stages will give you the best chance at success.
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