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As a new or growing ecommerce business, you’re probably familiar with many of the ecommerce platforms on the market. You may already be using one and are considering switching to another, or you may be a brick-and-mortar business and are only now expanding into ecommerce.
No matter your situation, the choice you face in your ecommerce platform is one of the most crucial decisions for a business—particularly one in its early stages, or one undergoing a growth period. Yet understanding the pros and cons of different options can be on the technical side for many business owners. You may have an idea of what you want your website to do, but not know how a given platform will affect your ability to achieve that end.
To help simplify your decision, we’ve focused on three key questions each business owner should consider as they choose their ecommerce platform. We hope they bring some clarity to your decision process.
Perhaps the most basic distinction between ecommerce platforms is between “hosted” and “self-hosted” options. Some of the most popular, mainstream ecommerce solutions, such as Shopify and BigCommerce fall into this category. They bill themselves as low-cost solutions that lower the bar for businesses first entering the ecommerce space. You don’t need to invest a lot of funds into development costs and infrastructure, you simply sign up and everything’s already laid out for you.
Self-hosted solutions, on the other hand, require more slightly more technical know-how, but allow for more options and customizability in the long-run. Most importantly, a self-hosted ecommerce platform keeps you in control of your business. You don’t have to rely on the platform to update their services, and you have the freedom to take everything with you if you choose to move to a different platform.
For businesses with enough budget to do their ecommerce store right, self-hosted is definitely the way to go. As the history of the Internet has shown, platforms die. Setting yourself up on a hosted platform would be like tying your entire business model to MySpace. Even a platform that seems stable—like Facebook—can undergo market changes which you have no control over. You don’t want to leave yourself in a position where you have to abandon ship (leaving much of your valuable customer data behind in the process) or go down with a sinking boat.
In many ways, the level of customization you can enjoy on your site is dependent on the talent you are able to hire. In this regard, WordPress is a clear head and shoulders above their competition. As the most popular content management system in the world, the sheer number of skilled WordPress developers gives you no shortage of qualified professionals who can help you build a better website.
But it’s not just the developers who work directly with you—it’s also those who build tools for your platform’s ecosystem. Working with a platform such as WordPress gives you a wider selection of plugins, themes, and businesses who are ready to work with you. Case in point? The WooCommerce plugin is the most popular option for turning your WordPress site into a full-fledged ecommerce business. And if there’s another feature you need—be it social media integration, security protection, or SEO analysis—there are any number of plugins to help you achieve it.
And, of course, if there isn’t anything built, you want access to those who can build it for you. Which of course brings us to another key point…
Even the best developer can be held back by the constraints of their system. If you’re working on a hosted, closed-source platform, you will never have the access you need to customize your work to the highest degree. And while you may not think you need those tools now, it usually doesn’t take long for most growing businesses to discover friction points that could be smoothed over with the right custom tool.
For instance, some stores offer customizable products which require a high degree of specificity from the consumer. Take shoes, for example: if your business sells high-quality footwear, you will need to offer a number of product options to your visitors, from shoe size, to color, to custom measurements if your shoes come in wide or narrow varieties. Or, if you’ve expanded your products to include a line of leather handbags, you may want to offer engraving options.
What about an online appointment scheduler? We’ve worked with a number of clients who are interested in advanced scheduling systems which can update field workers in real-time about appointment changes or bookings, or which follow-up an initial booking with a detailed questionnaire.
For many of our customers, the customization solutions offered by WordPress + WooCommerce come as a complete revelation. They weren’t even aware that these options were possible until we offered the solutions. What kind of customizability could you want for your ecommerce business, if you weren’t limited by your platform’s capabilities?
Your ecommerce platform won’t make or break your business—that’s down to you and the products and services you offer. But choosing an ill-fitting platform can handicap your business, slow down your growth, and leave you without solid footing to face market upheavals in the future.
Accordingly, it’s important to examine your options carefully. You may be sold on the ease of a turn-key solution, but the corners you cut today may cost you in the long run. And you may be convinced you’ll never need the kind of powerful content management system WordPress can provide, only to run into barriers a few years from now as you execute a complex content marketing strategy.
In our opinion, while there’s plenty you can accomplish with popular options such as Magento, BicCommerce, and even Shopify, nothing will prepare you for the future or offer you the robust custom capabilities like the dynamic duo of WordPress and WooCommerce. And considering the low startup costs both offer, there really isn’t a downside.
We’ve dug deep into this issue, weighed the weaknesses of different platforms against each other, and decided to specialize our services in the WordPress ecosystem. If you have further questions about how WordPress + WooCommerce as an ecommerce platform can serve your business’s needs, contact us. We’d be happy to set up a meeting to discuss e-commerce web development.