The great thing about Magento…

There’s an inside joke about Magento that goes “The great thing about Magento is that it can do anything, the bad thing about Magento is that it can do anything…” the subtext being you (or a team of professionals) have to figure out how to make that anything happen.

And it’s on this point, the total cost of ownership where I see the majority of businesses fail in their due diligence before choosing an eCommerce platform. While it’s true Magento is the most popular eCommerce platform, that doesn’t mean it’s the simplest to configure or the easiest to maintain.

As a retailer (interested in eCommerce) your core strengths are sales, product knowledge, and customer service. Unless you’re in a very small minority of midsize businesses your core strengths aren’t database architecture, software development, data management and cyber security. 

If you’re considering an eCommerce platform/provider for your small to midsize business, let me share some of my firsthand knowledge as a 10 year eCommerce veteran working for businesses just like yours. 

  • Skip the entry level set-it-and-forget-it solutions, anything you forget will soon be forgotten by your customers as well. Any eCommerce business requires some hands on effort, how much is up to you.
  • Avoid enterprise class platforms, until you’re ready for enterprise solutions…. That one sounds simple but it’s actually more nuanced than it might first appear.

The entry-level, set-it-and-forget-it solutions are a trap. They lure you in with “it’s so easy, anybody could do it” sales pitches and once you’re in you realize why anyone could do it, there really isn’t much to do. No built-in best-practice features, no customization for your unique product strategy and worst of all, no real upgrade path to speak of.

The reason I recommend against full-blown enterprise solutions for startups is the cost. The pitch you’ll likely hear is, “Why grow into a solution when you can have it all right from the beginning?” Sounds good, until you realize that bells and whistles rarely equate to revenue for a new site. Sure, you’ll eventually need those features to improve and manage your business, but getting the cart (pun) before the horse here can be a costly mistake.

Think of it like a luxury car with no gas in the tank, pretty to look at but it doesn’t go anywhere. The funds you’ll spend on hosting and licensing before you actually need enterprise level features could be put to better use, especially so for a startup.

Ok, so clearly I recommend the mid-tier solutions i.e. Magento, Bigcommerce, Shopify etc. These platforms give you all the tools you need to get started and can easily take you into 10-15 million dollar range, where you’ll be generating enough revenue to re-consider enterprise solutions as the need(s) arise.

But there’s more to eCommerce than just picking a cart and going online. Things like SEO optimization, product catalog updates, monthly promotions, reporting, inventory management, price updates, multi-channel integrations, and on, and on, are all necessary if you’re serious about eCommerce. 

If that last sentence doesn’t give you pause, it should. Catalog updates, site maintenance, and inventory management alone can require a full time employee(s) and all the expense that goes along with them. 

So what’s my recommendation?

In a nutshell, my recommendation is don’t try to reinvent the wheel. Leverage the knowledge of people that have done this before and spend your time on marketing your business. I’ve tried to keep the industry jargon to a minimum here, but there is one term I want you to know and that’s “Full Service eCommerce Website Management” or fully managed eCommerce for short.

Like anything else in business, you should look for ways to leverage the economy of scale. Don’t know how to select, configure, and install an eCommerce platform? There’s someone out there that can do that for you. Don’t know how to efficiently load and maintain an eCommerce sites product catalog? There’s someone out there that has already learned how to do this quickly and affordably. Leverage their knowledge and focus your time on what you do best. 

If you’ve read this far I don’t suppose you’d be shocked to learn I might just know of such a company… a group that can design, launch and host your site, load and update your product catalog, remove discontinued items and make sure your inventory is always up to date and more. 

In my best 1970’s commercial announcer voice, “Sounds expensive you say?” Actually no, quite the contrary. Happy to setup a quick call or chat to discuss if your interested, but suffice to say just about everyone I’ve discussed this solution with has been surprised at how affordable it is. 

Thank for reading and as always if I can help with any eCommerce or local SEO concerns feel free to reach out anytime.

#ecommerce #magento #bigcommerce #shopify #xolights #lightsamerica #onlinesales

Kayak River Fishing

Earlier this spring we bought a couple of kayaks and started fishing the Chattahoochee and Etowah rivers with them. Yes fishing from a kayak, it’s not as crazy as it may sound. First of all these aren’t the typical whitewater kayaks you sit inside, our boats are referred to as sit-on-top kayaks. Sit-on-top kayaks are much more stable than traditional kayaks (especially for beginners) and are best suited for slower moving, calmer water. But why fish from a kayak at all you ask? Well much like the old sled dog saying: “If you’re not the lead dog the view never changes”. Fishing from the bank can get downright boring, and the scenery most definitely never changes. The kayaks allow you a freedom that’s hard to replicate, even trying to walk up and down the bank to find a good fishing spot is a chore in many areas.

Caper at River Launch

The kayaks are easy to paddle, relatively comfortable, and actually stable enough to stand up in and cast from. That last part may sound a bit hard to believe but as long as you pick a model known for its stability (check forum reviews) and its as wide or wider than your shoulders, standing from a kayak shouldn’t pose much challenge at all.  But even if you’re perfectly content with remaining seated for your entire fishing trip, kayaks offer a “fish eye view” that’s hard to recreate with a standard full size boat or john boat for that matter. They’re also highly maneuverable and that can pay off big time on the river, some of the techniques I use for positioning just wouldn’t be nearly as effective with an aluminum john boat.

Spotted Bass

That maneuverability is key in any river fishing trip as the river itself provides propulsion for at least half your trip (float down, paddle up or use a recovery vehicle and coast the whole way). Using the eddies, lulls, and shoals to your advantage is much easier in highly maneuverable “boat”. We went with “Ocean Kayaks” but brands like Native Watercraft, Malibu, Hobie, and Wilderness Systems offer fine fishing kayaks as well. I recommend reading reviews from other kayak owners as a way to get familiar with the pros and cons of the various boats. A couple of sites I recommend are River Bassin and American River Fishing (be sure to check your state). Try to get second and third opinion on a kayak before purchasing one, and when you do find a boat that sounds right for you shop around, there are plenty of deals to had.

Turtle

A bit about accessories, if you buy your kayak from a retailer you’ll probably get the hard sell on a high-end paddle. High end paddles are fine, they make paddling more efficient and enjoyable but by no means are they necessary. We went with the low-end paddles and have no real reservations about that decision. Sure later on we may upgrade to the sleek carbon fiber models and sell ours on Craigslist but we’re in no real rush.

River

Bridge

Crane

Many areas require flotation devices and if your river of choice has areas with swift water I’d definitely recommend wearing one. When purchasing a lifejacket keep mobility in mind, full-size traditional lifejackets weren’t designed for fishing and you certainly don’t want to have to take the life-vest on and off in such tight quarters. Luckily there are flotation devices designed for fishing that are slim enough to leave on and they come in several different price ranges.

When picking the right tackle for river fishing keep a few of these tips in mind. You’ll want to pick shorter rods (I like the cork handled models) than you’d typically use for traditional bass fishing. Often times you’ll be close to overhanging branches and 7′ deep-cranking rods just wont cut it here. In the last 3 or 4 months of river fishing my gear has taken more abuse than in years of lake fishing from a full-sized boat. Given the fact that you’ll be in such tight quarters for such a long time, accidents are bound to happen, leave the iPod and expensive sunglasses at home. Pack light but pack right. Bring plenty of water, snacks, a map if you’re going far and maybe even a set of dry clothes, just in case..

River Bank

Lastly a little about river navigation and safety. If at all possible, try to avoid remote areas and or fish with a buddy at least until you’ve become acclimated with your boat and fishing area. At the risk of being overly alarming the most important thing on the river is your safety, check out maps and river descriptions beforehand so you’ll know what to expect. Err on the side of caution and again until you’re sure of your own capabilities its better to drag your boat alongside rough patches of water, than to try and navigate them as a beginner.

Another Bass

River kayak fishing is a blast, you’ll see things and discover areas you never knew existed all just a stones throw from your home. You’ll get up close and personal with all types of fish and animals, and you’ll be getting a great workout to boot.