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To say that now is the time to pivot to an e-commerce strategy is an understatement. If your company isn’t already doing business online, now is the time to get on board with e-commerce. And if your business is selling online, this is a moment to make sure that everything in your e-commerce strategy is in tip-top shape because the competition is growing. But before you panic and rapidly build an e-commerce component to your site, there are a few questions every business should ask to find the best solutions that will provide the most successful online shopping experience.

Know Thyself

Most businesses can be categorized as small or large scale for the purposes of e-commerce. So which one does your business fall under? You might be surprised.

Small Business

A small business is one that tends to be more “mom and pop shop” style with privately-owned companies who generally have a lower number of sales, accounts and services. A small e-commerce business might have a product range of 20-100 products. They generally deal with a smaller number of buyers and might be business to business sales. A good example here would be a small wine producer. Generally, they’ll produce a certain amount of different wines each year selling most directly to retailers such as restaurants, with some cases going directly to customers who might visit the vineyard.

Large Scale aka Enterprise Business

Large scale businesses generally deal with a far higher number of accounts (into the hundreds of thousands), and many more products and services than a small business. The inner workings of a large scale e-commerce business is its own ecosystem, built to scale with thousands of products, some of which may even be competing with one another, while some may complement one another. Oftentimes, large scale e-commerce is business to business, although it very well can also be business to consumer. A classic example of an enterprise-level business would be Amazon which sells millions of products to millions of people around the world on a daily basis.

So why does it matter whether you’re a small business or an enterprise business? Isn’t e-commerce, just e-commerce? The answer is, well… no.

So What Is an E-Commerce Site Really?

An e-commerce site is an online space that showcases and facilitates the sale of products and services. At their essence, e-commerce sites can be broken down into 4 main components.

Digital Marketing

The digital marketing component of an e-commerce site is the space that is used for promoting products, it includes banners, online ads, search engine optimization, analytics and data management, and anything that promotes your products online, driving traffic to your e-commerce site.

Content

Content in an e-commerce site refers to the descriptions of your products, the pricing and the photos or visual materials of the products themselves.

User Experience

User experience is the overall experience a customer will have while shopping on your site, from the initial entry into the site to the moment the package or product arrives in their hands. User experience can run the gamut from the color palette of your site to the clarity of your photos, and the font your content is written in. It also includes the ease of payment and how quickly your actual product arrives in a customer’s hands.

Engineering

This component of e-commerce is the behind the scenes work that makes the site function well. It includes servers, code, infrastructure, data security and much more. It’s a bit like the foundation of the operation, if the engineering isn’t good, the whole thing could fall apart.

Existing Platform Vs Custom Site

Every good e-commerce site will have the above pieces in place. But there are lots of choices when it comes to selecting how you will manage your e-commerce. One option is to use a plugin or pre-existing platform such as Magento, WordPress, WooCommerce, or Shopify, etc., to handle your e-commerce. This method costs less money upfront and usually does business by requiring clients to pay a percentage of their sales in exchange for use. A plug-in or mass-produced platform has worked out any kinks and usually has a very streamlined system for easy delivery of goods that is not time-consuming to master or implement.

On the other hand, there are businesses (such as Pixel506) that can build a custom e-commerce site or plugin from scratch. A customized site gives the client far more control over the whole shopping experience but requires more work and problem-solving ahead of time. For example, with a custom site, the client will have to figure out his/her own shipping methods and how to efficiently manage this process.

Which Option Is Right for Your Business?

Let’s say you’re an online bookseller with 75 different titles for sale. You’re probably not going to want to invest thousands of dollars in a custom e-commerce site upfront. A plugin that has already been tested and proven efficient is most likely what would work best in your case. Now on the other end of the spectrum, if you’re an IKEA-like furniture store with thousands of products, some of which compete with or also complement one another, a pre-existing model might not be the best option. Perhaps you want a little more control over the shopping experience and also need some customized features within your website.

Regardless of your business, you’ll want to make an educated decision when it comes to selling online. The first step is to decide whether you’re a large enterprise style business or a small mom and pop business. From there you’ll better be able to determine your e-commerce needs and what type of platform will best meet them. And while we’ve made a case that generally smaller businesses might lean towards using a pre-existing platform for e-commerce, while enterprise business might prefer customizing its e-commerce, this isn’t necessarily always the case. There’s no one right model for e-commerce.

In our next article, we’ll go more in-depth into each of the 4 components that make up an e-commerce site.

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