What I Learned About Ecommerce Platforms

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I’ve worked with many e-commerce platforms over the years, including BigCommerce, Shopify, and Magento. I learned that not all platforms are suitable for all businesses.

The benefits of the right platform include improved efficiency, better buyer engagement, and higher conversions. But migrating from one platform to another is painful. The process is often messy and expensive. One wrong choice can destroy an entire company.

So, the decision requires a lot of research and due diligence. Here are some questions to consider.

Not all platforms are suitable for all businesses. BigCommerce is a popular choice, as are Magento, Shopify, SAP, Miva and many others.

5 questions about the platform

What does your business need? The platform’s sales representatives often claim that they have the perfect solution for your business. They can highlight features and stats and flood your inbox. I once met with representatives from SAP, the platform. Their goal was to offer “solutions” without knowing what I needed. Many of these solutions were not relevant to my situation.

Before discussing features, a good rep will ask you, “What do you need our platform to do?” If the representative can’t explain in 30 seconds how their platform meets your needs, it probably won’t.

Can you handle it? Even if the platform has the right features, are you set up to manage it? Do you have the internal resources to maintain and develop it?

An otherwise perfect platform is useless if you don’t have time to use it.

What resources are needed? Consider the onsite and offsite resources needed now and in the future. Should you hire a third-party development company? I have worked with teams of internal and external developers, with successes and failures. I have already led an external team experienced in one system but inexperienced in the new. I also fired development companies that lacked initiative.

Try to imagine what resources would be needed for a potential platform, recognizing that needs will likely change once you’re online.

Is it scalable? Can the platform easily support a growing business? In 2020, I launched Lighting Reimagined, my current employer, on BigCommerce. A big attraction was the platform’s minimal and open API structure that synced with many third-party apps, making it easy to optimize and improve. Sure enough, within a year we had received customer feedback for conversion improvements, which we implemented through the BigCommerce App Store.

Another scalability factor is the impact on your operations. Today, I can generate 1,000 orders in a week. But what about 5,000? Will the system support this volume? Will its servers handle the traffic? Will my shopping cart page crash without warning? A platform with “99.99%+ uptime” sounds attractive until you hit 0.01% when your site goes down.

What is my budget? It may be last on the list, but your budget is arguably the most important. How much money can you spend on the platform? Businesses that can barely afford Shopify can’t afford Magento or SAP.

All stakeholders must agree on a budget. Starting with a minimal viable product and scaling it up has saved me a ton of money over the years. That’s what I did with Lighting Reimagined on BigCommerce. I spent what we needed when we needed it instead of paying for features we may never use.

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