1. What e-commerce platform is the right one for you and your retail business?
Sure you can build your e-commerce website in WordPress and add WooCommerce to it, but WordPress was originally designed as blogging software. Feature after feature was pushed into it allowing it to do a lot of things, but does that make it a good platform for your retail website? Explore the various e-commerce platforms to pick the one that is best for your retail website and make sure you know the pros and cons of each before deciding.
Some e-commerce platforms to consider include:
- Big Commerce
- Magento (now Adobe Commerce Pro)
- Square Space
Let’s not forget websites like eBay, Amazon, and others that allow you to sell through their website. All are valid options that might be right for you.
2. What credit card payment processor do you wish to use for online retail transactions and does the e-commerce platform you are looking at support it?
Payment processors, like Stripe and PayPal, allow you to process credit card transactions for a fee. The account is hooked into your bank account, so deposits can be made automatically. Many of them allow you to set your deposits frequency in accordance with your banking terms, so you do not find yourself going over your banking transaction limits and incurring unnecessary expenses. Before purchasing an e-commerce platform solution, check to see that it supports the payment processor of your choice or if they offer a payment processor feature of their own. Pay close attention to any additional transactional fees charged by the e-commerce platform. For example, at this writing the Shopify e-commerce platform has a variety of plan options. One of those options charges 3% on top of the 2.9% +.30 cents from the payment processor. For a few extra dollars a month, you can have a plan without the extra 3% fee. Only you know which plan is going to work best for you. Think about your payment and banking needs before committing to a platform.
3. What security measures are taken to make sure hackers cannot ruin your website or get to customer information?
Within 4 minutes of installing WordProcess with WooCommerce, my security event log showed multiple instances of hacking activity hitting WooCommerce endpoints. When I checked out some of the endpoints, they looked like some of the endpoints used by the gardening website that lost my account and order history. It is important to have a strategy in place to restore your website and customer data. When choosing an e-commerce platform, understand what prevention is in place and outline a plan to re-establish your retail shop should a hacking or ransom event occur.
4. How do you wish to handle images for your website and products? Would a mesmerizing video entice customers to make a purchase?
There are a lot of options when it comes to photography and video for websites. You could use free stock art, purchase stock photos, provide your own photos, or create a detailed shot list and hire a professional who can make your product images sing, creating a deeper desire for your product. For example, let’s say you are an interior designer or hospitality business. You are not going to snap a quick photo with your phone and slap it on your website. You’re going to hire a professional photographer like Bartholomew Studio to make your product look sensational and desireable. A quick phone photo is not going to create the same mouth watering craving for your product that a skilled professional photo will. When thinking about video, consider a video you shot yourself on the retail website main page vs a professionally formatted video that is so captivating, customers can hear the sound of machinery slicing through wood, even though the video is muted. To get exactly what you want for your retail website, keep yourself open to options. A one-stop shop could be nice, but don’t be afraid to hire different professionals for website design, search engine optimization & marketing, and photography.
5. What are the tax implications for the products you sell?
Make sure you have a good CPA or tax consultant for your retail shop. Ask your CPA, not your website developer, what sales tax you need to collect on your products and for what states. You can also find out more about taxes at your state’s Department of Revenu website (PA Folks).
6. Is an extra plugin or application needed to automate tax calculations during checkout? What is the annual fee?
This is one of those gotchya areas where some e-commerce platforms charge extra to make your life easier. Did your CPA tell you you need to enter one tax value or one for each state you do business with? How will you update this tax rate when it changes next year? If there is just one rate, perhaps manual updates are fine, but if you find yourself having to update 50+ changes every year, it might make an upgrade worth the money. Understand what you need and research whether a platform offers these things out of the box or if they are add ons with yearly fees of their own.
7. Is there an extra fee for automated shipping fee calculations during checkout?
The setup you select can mean the difference between a great customer experience and a shoddy one. It can also make your life as a retailer easy or complicated. You could increase the price of your product and provide “free shipping”, you can manually enter thousands of zip codes and associated shipping fees for each, you can create a flat fee shipping rate for different price ranges, or you could buy an application or plugin that talks to shipping providers and does all the shipping calculations for you. Some applications even let you create and print shipping labels right from the e-commerce platform interface. Know how the shipping features function, so you are not surprised when your retail website goes live.
8. If someone adds items to a cart and then does not finish the checkout, is there a “did you forget something” cart reminder email that goes out?
Imagine you are sitting on your sofa shopping on your laptop or mobile device, there is a TV show playing in the background, and a child or teenager screaming in the other room. You get up to address the issue, leaving the shopping process incomplete. A reminder is beneficial to your distracted customer and ensures you don’t lose sales. Not all platforms offer the feature. Put it on your checklist, if it is important to you.
9. Will you need any automated workflows?
If you are selling digital products or online events and workshops, you can save a lot of work and create a seamless customer experience by setting up an automated workflow. Make sure the automation ensures the credit card processed successfully before it sends out the digital product or event information.
10. Does the platform offer helpful Search Engine Optimization (SEO) setting or tools?
At the very least, you will want a platform that provides sitemaps for major search engines, like Google and Bing. Without this, the only way people are going to find your website is through word-of-mouth or other marketing strategies that encorporate your website.
In summary, take the time to explore a variety of e-Commerce platforms and the feature sets they have to offer. Create a checklist of what you require for ease of use for you and your customer, inventory control, finance workflows, automated product workflows, etc … A lot of time is going to be spent setting up your e-Commerce website. Once products are entered and customers start rolling in, you may have difficulties exporting the data to another platform. Pick something you are going to be happy with.