Noémie Soetekouw, Digital Marketing Executive at OneAgency, outlines some of the key areas to consider, and with expert advice from one of our developers, Jake Nichols, describes three of the best e-commerce solutions.
While having a website and an online presence may seem obvious for any new business, many long-established, customer-facing businesses have not had the need to use this channel to trade. Primark, for example, has not been able to sell one single item since the start of the lockdown as they’re not offering an e-commerce platform to customers. Going from sales of £650 million each month to zero, the fashion retailer’s numbers speak for themselves and demonstrate the absolute need for an omnichannel retail presence.
Indeed, the recent impact on retail caused by the devastating effects of COVID-19 has shown the necessity for businesses to look at other ways to survive. Retail businesses need to continue to provide a service and maintain a customer base that will last through and after this crisis.
Right now, two options are particularly popular amongst small businesses. This is especially the case with a lot of local grocery stores and bakeries who, while movement and social interactions remain restricted, are choosing these solutions in order to be more easily accessible online.
Setting up an e-commerce platform – this solution means businesses can keep trading, processing orders and taking payment. This is a great solution for those who have products that can still be fulfilled easily through postal services or via click and collect services. A full solution is offered so orders can be taken electronically 24/7.
Installing an order collection system – this solution allows the consumer to place orders through the website, the customer will then be contacted for payment and to arrange delivery or collection. This is a very simple option, which can be form-based and manually processed, or an order form can be downloaded and then emailed back to the business.
Setting up your online business can seem like an insurmountable task or a chore, but fear not, there are many platforms available that allow you to build an online shop in just a matter of hours. Here is our list of three of the best e-commerce solutions and their specific features.
Shopify is a Software as a Service (SaaS), a platform that allows you to create an e-commerce website in a short space of time, either using an existing theme or by building your own custom design.
· Shopify has over 100 ready-to-go professional themes created by designers, making it straightforward for any developer to set up and tailor to your needs.
· The online store includes a shopping cart suitable for mobile commerce, so your customers will be able to visit your site and buy from their phone or tablet.
· With Shopify, you can collaborate with a Shopify expert who will help you customise your shop. Customer support is available for just about every 3rd party integration possible: payment providers, product reviews, wish list, etc.
· SEO is simplified with Shopify, meaning your digital marketing teams can manage the natural referencing of your online shop directly from the CMS. You can modify titles, meta descriptions, URLs, ALT tags and H1 tags.
· With Shopify, it’s very easy to expand your business internationally. This e-commerce platform makes it easy to create a multilingual online shop.
· Pricing-wise, it’s a very affordable option, especially when considering the ease and speed at which you can get started. The subscription starts at £20/month for small businesses.
WordPress is the ultimate Content Management System (CMS) and many plugins will allow you to set up your online store in just a few clicks. WooCommerce is the standout option to set up an online store within either an existing or new WordPress site.
· WooCommerce is THE WordPress e-commerce plugin. This extension is used by 30% of e-commerce websites across the globe.
· To install a plugin, it takes only a matter of seconds, or minutes – the same applies to installing WooCommerce.
· WooCommerce fits in seamlessly with WordPress and ensures easy admin. All essential e-commerce functionalities are available, including order management, means of payment, delivery, etc.
· Also statistics on e-commerce activity are very well displayed and easy to understand. However, we would recommend linking your shop to Google Analytics to obtain more detailed data.
· If you are thinking about starting to sell internationally, the WooCommerce plugin is ideal to help you achieve this as it has a currency conversion feature. This tool allows you to convert your prices into foreign currencies and receive payments in your currency.
· While the WooCommerce plugin itself is open source and free, much like WordPress, there are many complementary WooCommerce extensions that are chargeable. Plugin prices vary, but there are many affordable options.
Bigcommerce is for those who might have outgrown the first two options and need a more specialised solution. This e-commerce platform works through the Cloud and allows you to create an online store quickly.
· BigCommerce was the first e-commerce platform to integrate Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) into online stores. This integration simplifies category pages and product pages, thus improving page loading time, user experience and search engine optimisation.
· It works in a similar way to Shopify, meaning that you can set up an account and pick a theme or make your own. In addition, BigCommerce offers templates created specifically for smartphones for shopping cart optimisation.
· BigCommerce is more user-friendly for knowledgeable developers, which means that this option might be better for stores that can hire a developer.
· It caters to larger organisations better than Shopify due to enhanced product management that is neat and unique so shop owners can customise just about anything for their products.
· This e-commerce platform comes at the price of £29/month, although most users find the £80 plan (Plus Plan) to be more suited to their needs.
Now there’s Facebook Shop
To add to the already long list of e-commerce platforms, Mark Zuckerberg has recently announced the launch of new features transforming two of our favourite social media platforms, Facebook and Instagram, into true shopping destinations. This piece of news is not really surprising, as, throughout the last few months, the integration of new features on both platforms paved the way for real e-commerce functionality. The new feature, called Facebook Shop, will allow online merchants to create customisable online storefronts. It is still too soon to have an informed opinion on these new features, but it is definitely a new chapter and an impressive evolution for what was originally a social-focused platform.
You should never underestimate the importance of having a viable online platform for your business, particularly if you have a retail business. Hopefully, we have helped you more clearly understand the benefits of having an e-commerce platform. If so, why not open an online store to develop your business and boost your turnover?
But if you still don’t know where to start, here at OneAgency we can help you start your project and accompany you as you develop the design, development and integration of your online shop. So, get in touch today, give us a call or fill in a contact form.