The View from England

What’s the best ecommerce platform for your business?

Most ecommerce business owners are not internet experts. We rely on service providers to guide us. Similar to hiring accountants and lawyers, we often use ecommerce consultants and developers to help with our online store.

But can we trust them?

Unfortunately it is not always easy to separate the cowboys from those who have your business’s best interest at heart. So-called experts attempt to bamboozle us into their way of thinking. It can cost us money and, worse, severely damage our business.

It can cost us money and, worse,…

Free advice

I recently read arguments in forums regarding the best ecommerce platform. Two self-appointed “experts” stood out. One argued passionately for custom, bespoke coding for producing the most efficient system. Such a system, he claimed, could minimize the use of machine resources and thus be lightning-fast. And by being bespoke, the system could exactly match a business’s needs.

He then went on to reject WooCommerce and WordPress, saying that they were poorly designed databases, not at all suitable for ecommerce, and liable to be slowed by poor extensions. He suggested that if you had to use a content management system, Magento was better because it was designed for ecommerce.

The other “expert” also rubbished WordPress for the same reasons. He then stated that the obvious solution was a headless CMS with a front end such as React, Angular, or Vue.js. Such a system, he wrote, could be designed to match the requirements better.

These arguments are, by themselves, true. They are difficult to refute especially for a non-expert. But they miss the point.

The proposed solutions are likely to be expensive, which the “experts” had no problem with. But is the extra expense worth it? A simple site using WooCommerce on WordPress could be set up for a fraction of the cost. To be sure, it would likely be less efficient and perhaps cover only 90 percent of the business’s requirements.

The real question is which option is better for the business.

Converting visitors

For the business, what matters is getting visitors to the site and converting them to customers. The fact that the site may need a bit extra processing power, or take one extra second to load, is likely immaterial.

It is all too easy to trust consultants and accept that their proposed solution is correct. The trick is to ignore their rationale and come up with realistic solutions. What do you really need the system to do?

It is also a good idea to have a look at a consultant’s portfolios. What have they done for other merchants? I looked up the portfolio of both forum posters and was not impressed.

The person who suggested a custom bespoke platform had one notable example, a driving instructor. The instructor had a four-page site advertising his driving school and prices. It was an attractive, static site — well designed, fast to load, and nothing fancy to distract the visitor. Very good content.

However looking under the hood was a different story. The site used Magento! A massive overkill. The site would have been simple to set up using only HTML — no PHP, no database, no JavaScript. But that would have been much cheaper to build. And much cheaper to host. I question whether the developer had the customer’s interests in mind.

The other “expert” had no portfolio — all hat and no cattle, so to speak.

So next time you hear a self-professed expert rubbish a solution and explain why it’s bad, be wary. Has that person asked what’s important to you and your business? In his list of recommended features, is there anything left once you have crossed out items that don’t impact customers? How much does it cost to recover from his recommendation?

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