Selecting an eCommerce CMS for 2019: What You Should Be Considering
According to a detailed study undertaken by research firm Statista, global eCommerce sales are growing at an unprecedented rate with the industry predicted to be worth $4.8 trillion USD dollars by the end of 2021.
With this in mind, it may be surprising for you to learn that very few organisations take the time to do their own research as to what may be the best eCommerce platform for them, rather relying on the preference of the first digital agency or two they approach.
Now this may seem like a solid strategy, however in this article we’re going to challenge this premise and delve deeper into what really makes a suitable eCommerce platform for specific business sizes, and how you can make a choice that will really work for you and your organisation over time.
Don’t get too hung up on upfront prices
You’re in business to make money, so why shouldn’t you be conservative when it comes to the initial price of your eCommerce build? Well, nobody’s saying that, but when it comes to software development of any kind, it’s the ongoing support costs that really matter.
Sure, if one provider is trying to sell you an eCommerce website for $40,000 and another for $30,000, you have every right to query why something that appears to be like-for-like is $10,000 more, but what you really should be looking at is the maintenance costs associated with each option.
At OSE we offer four different eCommerce CMS options, each tailored to a specific market sector with very different ongoing support costs. Not only this, but each of these platforms require considerably different levels of development expertise, therefore meaning providers will need to hire developers who can support those platforms at varying cost points, which will be passed on to you the consumer.
So, ask yourself this. Can you sustain a platform which sounds great, has all the bells and whistles, but might cost you way more to support? My advice, be very careful which platform you choose.
Know your workflow and connected application requirements
If you’re an eCommerce retailer, chances are you’re going to need to connect your CMS to the following applications:
- An ERP system or integrated accounting package
- An email marketing service
- One or more social product feeds
- A shipping service or shipping calculator API, and
- At least two payment gateways
If your head is spinning or this information is completely new to you, it’s important to recognise that these services, although seem like they can just be bolted on to work with any eCommerce system, definitely work better with some CMS’ over others.
If you’re thinking, “oh it’s probably just the smaller providers that don’t do the job”, it’s not that simple. Many of the major brands you know and love simply don’t have extensions or plugins for eCommerce systems or are flawed in some way. So, when selecting your eCommerce system, check online for any known issues with your proposed CMS and the integration between that CMS and your external applications.
Investigate platform flexibility
Unfortunately, web developers can’t always provide you with the functionality you’re looking for, and not for lack of expertise. Often the platform you choose simply won’t allow them to complete mission-critical tasks for you, which can mean you may be left in a world of pain down the track.
To avoid this, do your research as to the flexibility of your eCommerce CMS. Some CMS’ are extremely flexible, provide developers with unlimited capability to deliver custom functionality, whilst others are locked up like Fort Knox.
That being said, a more simplistic eCommerce CMS can be well suited to many small businesses who just want to sell products online and are not looking for a complex solution or are really in “Phase 1” of their online journey. These CMS’ have all the basics, are flexible enough and generally have low maintenance costs. So, regardless of what stage your eCommerce business is at, take the time to step back and take a look at your business roadmap. Where do you want to be one or two years from now, and will a simpler CMS get the job done?
Hosting choice is just as important as your CMS
Did you know that if you host your website overseas and the majority of your business is in Australia, you could be waiting in excess of a second longer for each of your pages to load?
This may not sound like much, but if you’re an eCommerce retailer, I encourage you to host your website locally because this really affects how your customers view your service (and whether they stay at all).
By hosting your website in any one of the major data centres here in Australia, you can really enhance your user experience in terms of improved load times, increased page responsiveness, and decrease your website bounce rates dramatically.
With up to 60% of eCommerce traffic coming from mobile devices these days, you need to be aware that the quality and location of your host matters. Just to be clear, this does not mean throwing money at expensive hosting is the solution, it means you should have an agency run a performance audit on your website to determine where you can optimise your service. More often than not, unsuitable hosting is only part of the problem, badly written code is just as bigger contributor to website performance issues and decreasing eCommerce sales.
There are many facets to choosing an eCommerce CMS that's suitable for your business, and these are just a few. However, if you gaze down the rabbit hole, you'll soon see how incredibly important this component of your business is, and can become a major asset or hindrance depending on your choice.
2019 is a great time to start an eCommerce business, but ensuring the engine that powers your business is working for you is a must. Taking the time to review the technical limitations and strengths of the market options is well worth it and can save you lots in the long-term, so don’t just rely on the advice of others, back up their advice with your own research.