Welcome to #TheGreatBuild, a series dedicated to starting an ecommerce business from scratch. In this series, the founder of A Better Lemonade Stand, Richard Lazazzera, shares the lessons he learns and the strategies he tries as he builds his own ecommerce business from the ground up. This series has been created with the intention of showing other new entrepreneurs what it takes to start an ecommerce business so it will hopefully inspire them to start their own online business, too.
To read all the blog posts included in this series, navigate using the Table of Contents down below.
Table of Contents
- #TheGreatBuild: Choosing a Niche & Product to Sell Online
- #TheGreatBuild: Product & Niche Evaluation
- #TheGreatBuild: The Great Reveal of My Product & Niche Selection
- #TheGreatBuild: Make, Manufacture, Wholesale or Drop Ship
- #TheGreatBuild: Negotiating with a Manufacturer
- #TheGreatBuild: Choosing a Shopping Cart
- #TheGreatBuild: Pivoting
- #TheGreatBuild: How to Build a Brand Persona
- #TheGreatBuild: Unveiling My Brand
- #TheGreatBuild: DIY Product Photography
- #TheGreatBuild: How to Launch a Business
- #TheGreatBuild: First Month Revenue & Marketing Report
- #TheGreatBuild: Behind the Scenes of a 6-Month-Old Ecommerce Business
How to Choose the Right Shopping Cart
Choosing a shopping cart can be one of the most important decisions you’ll make for your ecommerce business. The good news is there is no lack of ecommerce shopping carts on the market. The bad news is that there is no lack of shopping carts on the market. Choosing the right shopping cart can be a daunting experience if you’re new to ecommerce, unsure of exactly what you are looking for, or don’t have technical knowledge.
When choosing a shopping cart for your business there are a few things you should consider:
- How big is your product lineup?
- What are your must-have features? (Gift certificates, cart abandonment recovery, etc.)
- How technical is your team? (Non-technical backgrounds should use a hosted solution)
- What is the time frame you want/need to be up and running?
- What integrations do you require, now and in the future? (Email marketing, fulfillment warehouses, dropshipping integration, etc.)
As you might probably suspect, there is no single shopping cart that will cater to everyone’s circumstances. However, there are a handful of carts on the market that do stand out and are chosen time and time again as the leaders in the industry.
Hosted vs. Self Hosted
After careful consideration, we decided to narrow our choices down to only fully-hosted ecommerce solutions, leaving us to decide between Shopify, Volusion, and BigCommerce. For those who don’t know what “fully hosted” means, this will be particularly important to you: A hosted platform will act as your IT (Information Technology) department and handle all the technical stuff including where you host the contents of your site, security, patches, and updates. You literally just log in and start building your site.
A self-hosted platform means you need to pay separately for space online to host your website and all of its contents. You need to download and upload the ecommerce software to your site as well as configure it. You will also be in charge of managing security, updates, backups, and patches. This also means that if you do get hacked, you need to handle that as well.
Here are my thoughts on the fully-hosted vs. self-hosted debate: Advanced users that want absolute control over every aspect of their store will always choose a self-hosted solution. It’s the only way to have full control. But advanced users are also that — Advanced users. To them, they already have the knowledge and skills necessary to manage security, patches, and hacks. If you don’t already possess these skills I think it’s absurd to try to learn them for the first time when you are setting up your online business. It detracts significantly from:
- Business operations
- Business success
- The joy of starting a new online business
As an ecommerce business owner, you should be an expert in your product, your industry, and your business — not IT. For most people, ecommerce will already be a steep new learning curve with lots to do and learn including SEO, SEM, PR, fulfillment, manufacturer relationships etc. The last thing you should be worrying about is making sure your site is live, updating software, applying patches, and dealing with security issues.
One of the bigger arguments against a fully hosted shopping cart is the prices. There are many self-hosted carts out there that are free so many people don’t necessarily like the idea of paying a monthly fee for their cart. However, the prices for carts are pretty reasonable these days — most platforms start around the $20-30 mark per month. If you break it down, depending on your price point and margins, it means you need to sell an extra product or two each month to cover the shopping cart cost. Another way to look at it is to place a value on your time, let’s say a modest $30/hour. If you spend one extra hour each month managing your site security, updates, etc. then you could have paid for a fully-hosted solution.
Below is a pricing chart of some of the common carts on the market. I highlighted my 3 finalists: Shopify, BigCommerce, and Volusion.
The Best Shopping Cart for #TheGreatBuild
After carefully evaluating my options I have decided to go with the Shopify ecommerce platform for #TheGreatBuild. Below, I break down why Shopify is a good fit for this project:
- How Big is Your Product Lineup: Our product lineup is small. We will be starting with 1 series of 8-12 styles and may later expand to be selling several series at the same time. Regardless, we are not going to be selling hundreds or thousands of different product so Shopify will work well for this.
- What are Your Must-Have Features: We really don’t have too many feature requirements. The most important is abandoned cart recovery features (cart abandonment rate is around 70% for ecommerce stores so this is really important) and coupon codes.
- How Technical is Your Team: Our team isn’t very technical and I want to be able to control the website as much as possible once it’s built. Using Shopify’s platform will make all of our lives much easier once we are up and running.
- What is the Time Frame You Want/Need to Be Up & Running: We have more than enough time to build a website on almost any platform but once again, with Shopify, you can be up and running much quicker
- What Integrations Do You Require: For this project, we require integration to our Mailchimp account. Also considering future integrations, Shopify has several integrated apps for fulfillment warehouses.
Here are some other features of Shopify that I believe will help make #TheGreatBuild successful:
Ease of Use
To make a very cliche comparison, Shopify is a lot like Apple. Although Shopify may not be the most feature-rich cart on the market, everything works smoothly and efficiently. It’s a breeze to set up a store and the interface makes for a great experience.
Ability to Customize Feature Set
Another reason I have chosen Shopify is for their app store. Shopify has a large app store and it’s growing every day. Any features that Shopify does lack upfront usually has a solution in the app store.
0% Transaction Fees
Up until just a few months ago, Shopify used to also charge you 1-2% of your total transaction for every transaction on top of your monthly fee. With Shopify Payments, that is now gone. On top of that, Shopify Payments is integrated right into the platform which is really slick.
Constant Innovation and Vision
It needs to be said that Shopify is moving at breakneck speed when it comes to innovation and moving ecommerce as a whole forward. In just the last few months they acquired Canada’s top design and user experience company, released Shopify Payment to business owners in Canada and the US and launched a new point of sale product for physical store owners.
By going with Shopify, I feel confident my business is being supported by a company that’s constantly pushing boundaries and innovating their product. For more information about Shopify’s features and services and why it’s a top-recommended shopping cart and ecommerce platform, then check out our Shopify Review.
Shopify is very easy to use and has a sleek user interface, designed with simplicity in mind. It is one of the best platforms to start an online business, and it has the ability to scale with you as your store grows (I personally know people that have started with Shopify that are now making several million in revenue and still using it). I truly believe Shopify is the best overall ecommerce platform on the market for most new ecommerce businesses. They make starting an ecommerce business as easy as possible so you can focus on growing it.