Most successful local businesses started out serving their communities, and either stay at a comfortable level or continue to grow over the long term. They tend to be limited by the potential client base in the area, or perhaps by supply-side ceilings or the availability of relevant employees.
In many cases, they might have a website, but it’s little more than another one-way advertising channel, like an entry in a phone book or newspaper advertising. They might even take payments online for products and services, although it’s separate from the site itself, for example through online banking or a payment service such as PayPal.
If you’re running a business and feel like you could grow if only you could reach wider audiences and serve more customers, it might be time to switch up to a full ecommerce site. But why would you need to do that?
What is ecommerce?
Put simply, ecommerce is doing any business online where money changes hands. But while that can encompass banking, insurance and finance, it tends to be used most often to mean online retail.
An ecommerce website consists of two main parts: customer-facing front end, and the back end, which is where all the transactions take place. Both need to work in harmony – they’re both working to the same end: to turn visitors into customers.
What are the options?
We’ll look at two main choices for setting up in ecommerce: WooCommerce and Shopify.
If you’ve already got a website that was built using WordPress, but it doesn’t have ecommerce capabilities, a relatively straightforward way to upgrade it is with WooCommerce. It’s essentially a WordPress plugin that lets you add a shop front to your site. You can add and remove products, descriptions and photos, and the plugin will take care of the financial transactions. Then it’s up to you to fulfill the orders.
WooCommerce is a great design-led solution, as your branding can stay intact and it allows additional design abilities that are sometimes limited with other platforms, and any SEO and marketing will still be pointing to exactly the same place.
Another popular option is Shopify. It’s a means of selling online where little to no technical knowledge is required of the vendor. You simply set up an account and a pricing plan, design your site in a simple, step-by-step way, and populate it with products.
Although it’s hosted by the company itself, you can still have whatever domain name you want. Shopify takes a cut of the price when you sell, but you can reduce this by changing your pricing plan – pay more in set fees, and you’ll pay less per transaction, which becomes more viable as you grow larger. You’ll also get the backing of a support team.
The simplicity does come at a price, however. Compared to WooCommerce, where you’re in complete control of the installation and any plugins and enhancements, with Shopify you’re limited to the add-ons, mods and design options that it approves. While that’s great for security, and suits 99% of small retailers, it might limit functionality and choice if you want to offer more complex options.
No wrong choices
If you’re focusing on a design-led approach which is what we are all about then WooCommerce gets our vote every time. That said, if you have a complex stock management system then Shopify offers more integration flexibility.
Both are great solutions, however, and are only getting better as time passes.