Co-founder, Head of Product & Growth at Open coast, lead teams building our core platform and scaling customer acquisition. @big_rigg
Small businesses are America’s lifeblood and contribute almost half of the country’s gross domestic product. Still, there are some who have the impression that small businesses in the country are actually shrinking, especially when driving through American cities and seeing lots of vacant storefronts.
The reality is that the small business sector is growing, but the channel has changed; it’s online now. As a percentage of e-commerce in total retail – currently about 14%— continues to grow year after year, it’s helpful to understand which software vendors are using to sell online and which features new merchants seem to be using.
In general, consumers like products that are easy to install and configure, be it a new flat screen TV or a piece of software. Eliminating as many frictions as possible always bodes well for a positive user experience. When it comes to setting up your ecommerce store, always assume that the business owner or salesperson who will be using that store has low to intermediate technical proficiency. So any solution that requires the consumer to manage a database, host, or input code to set up their front end will be a deal breaker for most users.
Instead, managed solutions where all components of the store are handled by the software vendor are preferred. This is primarily why Shopify is over 2 million active stores worldwide, as it is known to be the easiest to set up. Another out-of-the-box option is that if a user wants to start monetizing their personal website or blog, they can simply add WooCommerce to their WordPress site, which provides e-commerce functionality with no fees or monthly charges for standard features.
There are other providers that make installation even easier. For example, India-based Dukaan allows a user to set up a shop in less than a minute. This is made possible by allowing users to sell directly from their Whatsapp accounts, which is still the case today the messaging app of your choice for most Indians. One of the founders of Dukaan, Suumit Shah, recognized a lack of mobile-first options for traders and saw an opportunity to beat the incumbents by building a simpler, faster and more intuitive platform.
A robust app ecosystem
Once your store is live and your business is up and running, unforeseen needs will arise. In these situations, you ideally want add-ons, extensions, plugins and apps that you can easily integrate into your store to address the specific function you desire. For example, if your backend operations feel a little disorganized, you may decide you need a better inventory management system. You may also want email notifications when one of your products or raw materials is running low.
Building something like that from scratch or having to migrate your store to another CMS that has this capability would be a huge undertaking. The best ecommerce store providers have a robust developer ecosystem that makes it easy to integrate third-party apps to achieve desired functionality. Shopify has about 8,200 apps in its app store. As businesses grow, their needs change, and it’s essential to add out-of-the-box changes to an existing platform to scale.
User-friendly design options
Your store should have a striking design. This is a big deciding factor whether people decide to stay on your site because a well-designed store exudes trust and legitimacy. But a well-designed front-end can be priceless when you factor in the cost of a designer and developer to turn that design into usable code.
Fortunately, there are two ways to solve this problem. The first, and in my opinion, better option is to use a retailer whose interface has no-code, drag-and-drop tools. It allows you to create layouts and quickly prototype different store looks to quickly determine what works and what doesn’t. Providers like Squarespace and Wix are probably the best for this.
The next best option is to choose a pre-designed theme. Most ecommerce platforms offer a range of free and paid themes. If those aren’t enough, you can turn to third-party theme sites like Themeforest, which offer thousands of themes compatible with your store’s software.
The amount of ecommerce software out there is huge for both B2C and B2B. With this plethora of options, it comes down to which platform is most complementary to your business use case. Despite companies in different industries having different needs, a few universal requirements are starting to emerge: easy installation, robust app ecosystem for simple add-ons, and non-technical design options. Fortunately, these experiences have been considered by ecommerce software providers, and almost all of them have included some version of them in their core offerings.