E-commerce is booming now. According to Statista, by 2022, global retail e-commerce sales will reach 6.54 trillion US dollars. And it’s twice more than in 2019.
Many businesses are now moving sales online. So if you decide to “catch the wave” and develop your e-commerce shop, you should know where and how to start and, in particular, how to make it fast and affordable.
How to start an Ecommerce site
The process of developing websites for online shopping is basically similar to the process of creating other websites. However, you can run into common mistakes that could lead to losses and a waste of time.
Here are five factors to consider before developing an e-commerce website:
- E-commerce platform
You can either build your own custom platform from scratch or use an out-of-the-box CMS and customize it. Each of these two options has its pros and cons, which we are going to analyze below.
- Customer base Consider the expected traffic and the number of customers that determine the platform. A small online store with limited traffic will cost less than a website targeted at a huge audience. Moreover, this factor also affects the choice of CMS.
- Required features
If you need some specific features to correspond to your business model, you need to consider them when creating your site.
Unfortunately, many companies do not delve into developing a sound marketing strategy. Apart from standard online shopping features, think about managing the abandoned carts, automated email newsletter, up-sell and cross-sell technologies, and other features to drive traffic and convert leads into customers.
- UX/UI design
Compelling visualization and usability are the keys to grabbing the attention of users in today's digital world. A trendy web design that reflects your brand's unique style multiplied by a meaningful UX is a long-term investment in your online business.
These are the fundamental factors that will affect the success of your online store. But the most important here is choosing the CMS platform the store will run on. Let's look into the details.
Ready-made CMS vs custom development
CMS is a content management system, a set of scripts for creating, editing, and managing site content. As already mentioned, you can pick an out-of-the-box CMS and customize it for your particular needs or develop a custom solution. But what is better? Let’s compare these two options according to the most common aspects important for any business.
The majority of out-of-the-box solutions offer ready-made e-commerce website templates that can be customized to a certain degree. There are also open-source systems that offer unlimited customizations as their code is in open access. It means you can take any open-source CMS, rebuild it and customize it to get the desired functionality and design.
With custom development, you get a solution 100% tailored to your particular needs. When drawing up a future online store specification, you can consider each tiny but essential detail. As a result, you’ll get a platform with only those features your business requires.
Using an already existing CMS is usually cheaper than developing a custom one. Many platforms are open-source and initially free, but you’ll probably have to pay for add-ons, plugins, and premium prebuilt themes. Some platforms could charge a relatively low fee (up to $300). This fee depends on how complex your online store is: for example, an online shop with hundreds of products and tons of sales will pay much more than a relatively small store.
So, when it comes to developing an online store using the existing CMS, the are several things having a significant impact on your budget:
- Development of custom logic not standard to chosen CMS
- Installation, theme adjustment, modification of extensions, customization
- Third-party integrations, such as inventory system or POS integration
The development from scratch usually requires a lot more resources: it applies for time, people, and therefore money. In most cases, you’ll pay a double price in comparison with development on popular CMS solutions. Consequently, you should conduct a detailed financial and beneficial analysis to see if building the solution from scratch is viable for your business.
On average, professional development using ready-made CMS takes at least three months. Ready e-commerce platforms allow us to use and customize one of the templates that significantly speeds up development and delivery.
Since a custom platform is a more complex project, it will take a significant amount of time. Such a task takes six month minimum. In general, the optimal time for e-commerce websites developed from scratch is 12-18 months.
And the critical notice to both options: the more additional functionality and modules you need, the more time the developer will spend. Accordingly, the higher will be the site's final cost, formed to solve your specific tasks.
Maintenance and Tech Support
Very rarely, you can just make a website, get the result, and stop there. With your business development and changes in the market, you will have to improve the existing functionality over time.
As already mentioned, existing CMS platforms offer ready website templates faster and easier to update. It’s a common practice when such manipulations are made by a vendor who developed the solution. Moreover, you do not need to have any on-site technicians to have everything done correctly.
The maintenance and support of custom e-commerce solutions require much more resources. In such cases, you better have an on-site developer or even a team responsible for the full project implementation, including the after-release support. Eventually, this leads to higher costs.
Popular CMS platforms
There are many platforms for building an online store. We gathered those that are suitable to create online stores of various levels of complexity:
But not all of them can cope with high traffic, some of them have only paid options, and some are not so easy to use for non-technicians.
If you decided to develop a website using ready builders, drawing on our e-commerce development experience, we would offer to consider the Magento platform.
Magento is the platform that meets the majority of business needs and perfectly covers such processes as marketing, third-party integration, SEO, scaling. Magento is one of the most scalable website building tools, and it benefits from a large community. However, it also requires a lot of developer skills and significant investment.
Let's evaluate the features of the platform.
Magento has one of the most extensive functionality you will ever find in terms of E-commerce software. It is the exact reason why the majority of Magento customers are large businesses.
Magento has a user-friendly and intuitive administration interface. Using the control panel, without any additional tools, you can:
- Enrich the product catalog;
- Upload, view, and edit images;
- View statistics of visits and sales;
- Edit attributes and their values;
- Assign related and similar products;
- Manage pricing rules and many more.
It also offers a powerful tool for filtering the catalog by both product and system attributes and import and export data for processing.
The system allows:
- Implement cart and catalog pricing rules;
- Manage discounts and promotions for selected products;
- Manage banner sites;
- Automatic email distribution;
- Manage abandoned carts;
- Apply up-sell and cross-sell technologies;
- Maintain sales statistics and analyze business performance.
SEO (Search engine optimization)
Magento has not spared such an important aspect and offers special functionality:
- Bulk editing of page metadata;
- Automatic generation of the sitemap;
- Creation of pages with product collections according to specified filters and the ability to edit them separately from other pages.
An online store on Magento can withstand any load, regardless of its stage of growth. The system remains stable when:
- There are sharp loads during the high increase of visitors during promotions and sales;
- A large number of orders;
- Constant high user activity on the site.
An online store on Magento can be integrated with:
- Payment systems;
- Analytics systems;
- Courier services;
- CCRM systems;
- ERP systems and many others.
Community and Enterprise editions
There are two versions of the platform: Community and Enterprise Edition.
Magento Community is distributed for free. It uses the same core as Magento Enterprise, is stable, and has flexible customization options using modules. Magento Enterprise differs from the free version in advanced functionality: faster page loading, the ability to segment users, more marketing tools, an integrated automatic backup system.
To sum up, Magento is an optimal tool for business of any size, and it has a variety of tools to help your business grow. And along with that, Magento development requires such resources as a dedicated dev team, time, and money.
Comparisons in the tech world are a popular topic for discussion. When choosing a technology or a platform for your next project, you should pay attention to your initial goals to make the most reasonable decision.
In the case of e-commerce websites, the business should understand what is vital for them: full customization and unique UX/UI/features which are possible with solutions developed from scratch, or time-to-market and cost savings, possible with the CMS platforms. But, in high competition, most businesses choose CMS platforms that help them be "faster and stronger."
If you decided to develop an online store, we highly recommend the Magento solution. We've been developing online shops on Magento for 11 years. Having a lot of experience in that area and a bunch of Magento specialists, we guarantee high quality and smooth solution delivery. Contact us for a free consultation.