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

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