Thinking about opening an online store? One of the first decisions you’ll need to make is which eCommerce platform you’ll use. An eCommerce platform is the software application that lets you manage your website, with options for also managing operations, sales and marketing. There’s a lot to consider, from ease of use and the marketing tools it accommodates to design and customization options, multimedia capabilities and tech support. And that’s in addition to the features we all associate with online shopping like the shopping cart, payment options and shipping options.
The first thing to do? Get really clear about what you want your site to look like and how you want it to function – or better yet, what your customers will expect it to look like and how they will expect it to function. The customer experience can make or break you. That’s especially true in an online environment where people feel free to comment, good or bad – and share, share, share.
There are many options for eCommerce platforms. Most will let you test the waters with them for at least two weeks, and we certainly encourage you to do so to get a true feel for the platform’s features and usability. Here, we’ll take a look at one of the most popular, Shopify, which is offering a special 90-day free trial due to Covid-19-related economic conditions. And we do mean popular – more than 600,000 businesses in 175 countries use it, and more than one billion orders have been processed on it. Here are five reasons to consider choosing them.
- Build a site that represents your brand your way
Your product or service is amazing, right? Show it off in a way that’s authentic to your brand. Shopify has more than 75 themes to choose from, with unique, customizable styles and layouts. It’s more than the look, though. Themes also come with specific features and/or apps. Explore the features each one offers; you may wish to use one of their free themes or a paid theme, depending on your business needs. Some things to consider are the theme’s speed (load times), which mobile devices they support, built-in sales features and level of customer (you) support. You can also invest in Shopify apps to further personalize and optimize your site. Generally speaking, if you’re just getting started, a free theme should be everything you need to stand up a great online store. Their drag-and-drop store builder means you can create your site without needing coding or design skills.
- Sell anywhere, to anyone, anytime
Where do you want to be able to sell your products and services? Your own website, of course. But there are so many additional possibilities, from social media sites such as Facebook and Instagram to online marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay. In person, too, at street fairs, farmer’s markets, pop-ups and the like. The Shopify platform lets you sell online or in person, just about anywhere. You can extend your reach by adding a Buy button to a website or blog, essentially turning it into an online store. And Shopify gives you a mobile-friendly, secure checkout option to add to sites, too.
- Unify your operations
Small retailers routinely struggle with operational challenges like integrating sales, product in stock and inventory data. Managing all of these systems in one place can make a huge difference. Shopify reports that 1 million businesses use them to unify their sales wherever they sell, and that when they do so, their revenue grows 30 percent, on average. That makes their point of sale (POS) system worth looking into if you sell in a store and online. With it, you can streamline operations using unified reporting to gain insight into trends, or advanced inventory features such as inventory forecasts to guide decisions on where/how much of an item to stock. You can get creative with features that enable customers to browse in your stores but buy online, buy online then pick up in the store (up-selling opportunity!) and more. You can make returns and exchanges easy, create customer reward programs and more with Shopify apps.
- Take advantage of marketing tools
Shopify has added marketing-friendly features that help you find potential customers, attract them to your online store and keep them coming back. Blogs and SEO tools help you build your audience, and ensure they find you first whenever they search for a product or service like yours. Ready-made email templates make email campaigns easy. You can target likely prospects using Google Smart Shopping and Facebook ads. There are even Shopify apps for automating it all, too – giving you back time in your day to dream, plan and create. And if you’re not getting the results you want, Shopify marketing experts are available for hire to make sure you do.
- Keep everything running smoothly
It’s so nice to have everything in one place, isn’t it? Shopify gives you an intuitive mission control dashboard you can access from anywhere via a computer or mobile device. Among the options: centralized fulfillment for processing and shipping orders and managing inventory; the ability to accept credit cards securely; integration with more than 100 third-party gateways such as PayPal; and analytics and reports for faster, better decision-making.
There’s an entire library of blogs and podcasts on shopify.com to help you succeed, as well as Shopify Compass with step-by-step guidance, on-demand courses and live workshops. And if you’re new at this or just want to level up your online game, this is pretty cool – Shopify has shared 50 exceptional Shopify stores to inspire entrepreneurs. Go ahead – open for business!
Vice President of Strategy and Marketing Services
From legacy Fortune 100 institutions to inventive start-ups, Ryan brings extensive experience with a wide range of B2B clients. He skillfully architects and manages the delivery of integrated marketing programs, and believes strongly in strategy, not just tactics, that effectively aligns sales and marketing teams within organizations.