Say you see the benefits of adding ecommerce to your online presence. Now what? How can you add that online shopping experience to your website?
Integrate ecommerce into your existing website
If you have an up-to-date website that reflects your company well and does its job, the simplest plan may be to hire a developer to integrate a shopping cart into your current website. Get your designer on board as well to make sure the new section is visually as well as technically integrated.
- How will your customers shop? Do they need to search for products, do you need to be able to provide a wonderful browsing experience, or do you have just a few items to present on a single page? There’s a temptation to choose the most robust solution you can afford, but it’s usually more successful to choose the simplest solution that will meet your needs.
- What language is your website using? We work with clients who have part of their sites in ASP and part in PHP, but this makes it harder to get help when you need updates or repairs. If you can match the tech of the shopping cart with the tech you already have, it will simplify future maintenance.
- What is your developer good at? If you have a developer already, you’d be wise to choose something with which your developer already has some expertise. Implementing a known solution is likely to be faster, cheaper, and more trouble-free than trying out something new.
If you have a WordPress website, there are plenty of good plug-ins. You don’t have to consider the language, but do think about the other two points. With WordPress, you have a choice between shopping cart plug-ins like WP Ecommerce and WooCommerce or integrating an ecommerce platform like BigCommerce. Costs vary.
One more possibility is your developer’s house brand — a custom ecommerce platform or one they’ve built in-house for their clients’ use. At this point, this is a lot like building your own car: a good hobby, but unnecessary and liable to cause problems down the road. If your developer goes out of business, you’ll be stuck with something that is hard for everyone else to work on.
Build a new website.
If it’s been a few years since you updated your website, it’s probably time to make changes anyway. Building a website with ecommerce in mind allows you to establish a clear path to conversion for your shop.
You’ll still need to choose an ecommerce platform and you should use the same criteria, but you have the option of choosing a hosted ecommerce platform like BigCommerce, Shopify or Volusion. You pay a fee to companies like this, and they handle some of the bother — secure hosting, for example, and things like inventory management, shipping price calculation, and such. All three of these major players have WordPress plug-ins, so you can have a beautiful website without the limitations of the ready-made templates at the hosted services. If you have a brick and mortar business and want to add ecommerce functionality easily, this can be a good way to go.
Link to an ecommerce site.
You can set up a hosted ecommerce site with a service like those listed above and link to it from your existing website. There are some real drawbacks to this approach:
- Your ecommerce site doesn’t get the SEO benefits of your company site’s content.
- Your visitors may not get the seamless experience today’s consumers expect — chances are your shop won’t really look like your website, and navigation to and fro will not be smooth.
If that doesn’t bother you, this could be the least expensive option. As is so often the case, it’s probably not going to be the most successful option. In the long run, it will probably be neither the cheapest nor the most effective choice. However, if you have a website built in such a way that integrating ecommerce isn’t practical and you’re not ready to build a new one, this could be a temporary solution.
If you choose this for a stopgap while you decide what to do next, be sure to set up Google Analytics to track both sites together.