eCommerce Made Easy

How to Select the Right Platform for Your Online Business

March 19, 2024 Carrie Saunders Episode 46
eCommerce Made Easy
How to Select the Right Platform for Your Online Business
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Whether you are looking for an eCommerce platform, blog platform, email service provider, or so forth, how can you choose the right platform for your business?  In this episode, we'll explore strategies for effectively gathering the information necessary to make informed decisions when selecting your next platform.

From determining your business needs to testing how easy a platform is to use, we will systematically go over key areas to keep in mind when looking for a new platform. We’ll even go into areas to consider that most online resources don’t even mention! So tune in to determine which software platform is right for you and your business.  

Find out more information about the Business Visibility Made Easy Course at www.ecommercemadeeasypodcast.com/bvme

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Carrie Saunders:

One of the questions that I get asked a lot is which platform is best to use. It could be an e-commerce platform they're trying to decide on, a blog platform, an email service provider, etc. Usually something that they're trying to solve to solve a problem in their business and make things better. Right? I'm sure you've been there. I know I have. You may be worried. If the software is reliable, is it secure? Will it grow with my business? Are there any hidden fees? So today we'll be going over tactics I use with our clients and even with ourselves to help them gather the information needed to make an informed and comfortable decision.

Carrie Saunders:

Welcome to the e-commerce made easy podcast. I'm your host, Saunders. When we started this business, all I had was a couch, a laptop and a nine month old my main goal To help others. Now, with over 20 years in the e-commerce building industry and even more than that in web development, I have seen a lot. I love breaking down the hard tech and to easily understandable bits to help others be successful in their online business. Whether you're a seasoned e-commerce veteran or just starting out, you've come to the right place. So sit back, relax and let's dive into the world of e-commerce together. Welcome back to the e-commerce made easy podcast.

Carrie Saunders:

Today, we're diving deep into how to determine which software platform is right for you and your business. There are so many out there. How can you possibly figure out which one is best for you? As you probably expect, that answer can vary greatly for each business. However, there's a systematic way to help make that decision easier and help you make the best choice for you. We'll even go into some areas to consider that most online resources if you search out there, don't even mention so. Let's dive right in.

Carrie Saunders:

So about two years ago, in 2022, we were in the situation we were wanting to find a new email service provider. I knew we needed to get a proper newsletter platform. We had been sending newsletters prior via system directly connected to our shopping cart, but it was very outdated and we actually hadn't sent newsletters for about three years prior to me making this decision to start sending newsletters again. And the one that we were using, like I said, was outdated and it didn't have the features we needed to, like automation, tagging, et cetera.

Carrie Saunders:

One of the first steps I find that people skip is so important is to define your needs. Do you have any specific features that are unique to you and or your business. Do you have any specific needs from staff or customers? Are there features that they require? So don't forget to keep either customers and or staff in mind. If you have staff, this is super important. So make sure not to skip this step.

Carrie Saunders:

I find that people will jump into picking a platform before evaluating their specific business needs that they have, and they'll fall into the wrong platform and regret it later. So for us, back into 2022, when we're picking out an ESP or email service provider, first I need to look at the features that we're a must have for us and features that I wanted to make sure we were wanted to grow into. And so when you skip this step, you can get sucked into nice to have features that softwares can boast and you can completely forget about what you actually need yourself, for you and for your business. So once you've done that, next I want you to pick your top three platforms that you found, based upon those features you actually need, and I want you to work through the questions that we're about to discuss with each of these software platforms that you found. I would caution you that picking more than five to evaluate it's going to make you end up confused in the end. So sticking with about three is just right. So please don't be tempted to pick like four, five, six, seven or more. Pick your top three, because you can always come back and redo this evaluation if you don't find the perfect fit. From those top three and typically I find the first ones you run into one of those is probably going to be the one that's a good match for you. Just based upon the things you've searched, you know you're going to land on probably the ones that are going to be a good match for you. So when we were picking that new SP, esp, I found three main software platforms to choose from. It really helped me in making a decision when I didn't have too many to look at. So again I really want to stress let's just look at three, two or three, maybe four, but you're really stretching if you go to five. Okay.

Carrie Saunders:

So once you've narrowed down your top three, then you want to go through these next steps and questions. So first off, the question that's usually asked first is pricing. What are the monthly fees? Or is there a yearly fee? Are there any processing fees? So let's say you're wanting something that can process sales on your website and it's not an email service provider, or it could be and it still can process sales for you, but either way, are there any processing fees whenever you receive payment? Are there any ones, in addition to say, the payment processors that they provide? Also, how much is it going to upgrade to new features and get a bigger site or more advanced features as you grow and as you need it?

Carrie Saunders:

Also, let's go now into the ease of use. You're going to want to look at both the customer side and this even goes for email service providers too, because they provide email templates and landing pages and things like that or if you're looking at a shopping cart or a blog platform, how does it work on the customer side? You want to make sure it's easy for your customers, but you can't forget about the people running the software you and or your staff. So what's the admin interface like? Is it easy to use it, easy to set up the things that you need to set up in it? Make sure you don't skip this step, because I've seen a lot of people will go for a piece of software because either it works great for them the customer side or the admin side and they forget to look at the other side of the coin and they really get stuck in something that they end up not liking because they didn't evaluate both the customer facing side as well as the administrative side.

Carrie Saunders:

Also, is it easy to add new features that you may want in the future? Look at the ease of that as well. Do they have add-ons you can turn on? Is there is a plug and play? Can you just plug it into another piece of software if you need some more features? So look at that. So then we're going to go a little bit more into features and inclusions. So what does the tool have already built in? So these are going to be features that are going to be probably beyond what your absolute requirements are. But look at those features. Are there any that really pique your interest, that you think are going to help you grow in your business? Do you need any features that it doesn't have? Note those and then note whether they're critical to your business operations or not.

Carrie Saunders:

Also, what built-in integrations does it include? When you're evaluating a software, it's good to find that they have quite a few built-in or add-on applications that you can add to it. This shows maturity in the software program. So if it's a new software program, you're probably not going to find many other integrations with other software. So let's say it's an email service provider. If it doesn't have really very many integrations with, say like a blog software like WordPress or e-commerce software, then it's probably a bit newer and not as established and you might not get the quality that you need out of it.

Carrie Saunders:

Also, whenever it's a product or program that takes payments, what payment processors does it integrate with? This can be quite the deal breaker. You want to make sure that there are several options for you when receiving payments, because some people prefer, for example, paypal, some people prefer Stripebetter, some people prefer Square. There's all kinds of different payment processors out there AuthorizeNet, elevon. There is just so many out there that you want to make sure that there are several options in. Do they work for you and do they work for your customers? I find offering at least two different payment methods is a good idea for your customers. Some people love PayPal, some people don't like PayPal, for example. Some people love Square, some people don't. So really think about that.

Carrie Saunders:

And then, if you're doing this, to be selling things in your digital goods place you're selling services or you're selling downloadable goods. Does that allow that? Make sure it's got that core feature if you need it, and does it have an easy and compatible taxing system with your area? This is super important and it's probably covered in most software out there, but sometimes you'll still find that the tax system is a little bit clunky. You want to make sure that it complies to your requirements, that you need for your business and where your business is located.

Carrie Saunders:

There's something people think is an afterthought. It really should be a forefront thought, because this can really take up a lot of time and money for a business owner If this isn't done right in the software already. And then, if you're selling physical goods, does it have an easy way to integrate shipping into it? What sort of shipping options are there? Is it only flat rate, where you can only charge a flat amount per order, or does it integrate with UPS, fedex, dhl, all the popular shipping programs that are out there Canada Post if you're in Canada, etc. So make sure it is compatible with the shipping methods that you want to be using for your business or are already using for your business.

Carrie Saunders:

And then, excuse me, if you have the need for subscriptions, does it have that feature built in. Sometimes? This is again another afterthought that people aren't thinking about. Or would you want subscriptions, maybe in the future Maybe you already have this five, ten year projection that you do want to have subscriptions in the long run. Make sure it's got that so you don't have to change software platforms down the line if you don't have to. Also, something people don't think about is what sort of business reporting does it include natively in the software? If it's an e-commerce system, it's a really good idea for it to have some sales statistics where you're already built into it. This really can make digesting what's selling well, what needs improved, a little bit easier than trying to correlate this with an analytic software or something else external. It's really nice when it's built into the software. So look at that as a nice to have, or it might be a must have for you to depend upon your sales process and how you sell things.

Carrie Saunders:

Also, we're going to want to look at the design and customization. Is it easy to customize the design of the website? That's kind of hard to say. So is it easy to customize the design of the website or are you going to need a developer? And honestly, there's nothing wrong with either way. Sometimes having a developer customize your website is better because you get an even more unique website and you're going to stand out more. But how easy is it? Either way? You need to look at what are your needs. Can you hire a developer? Do you need to be able to do it yourself? So look at that as you're looking at how easy it is to customize the design. Is it already mobile ready? Is that built in? It should be anymore. That should be just standard nowadays, but you need to double check that anyway.

Carrie Saunders:

Also, is it naturally good at search engine optimization? There are some software out there Most software anymore is naturally pretty good at search engine optimization, as long as you do the administrator or putting in appropriate content to match that and to fill the built in technical search engine optimization features that it has. But make sure it does have that. Make sure it gives you the flexibility of changing your page title All of them should, but make sure it has that. Make sure you can do a meta description, because meta descriptions aren't necessarily used in search engine optimization, as we've talked about before, but they will draw a customer from a search into your website if it's written well. So make sure you have flexibility of those things. Make sure you can use headings, heading ones and headings twos and anything that you're writing, whether it's product pages or blog pages or landing pages for your email service provider. Make sure that's all flexible and that you can do proper search engine optimization in there.

Carrie Saunders:

And then customer support. So this is something I find sometimes people forget to check Does the software provide support included in a software service or is it separate? How responsive is that included customer support, if they have it? Most software does have included customer support, at least in some form or manner. How fast is the response time? You know if your site is down or if your email is not going through. How fast can you get somebody on a chat or on a phone or to respond to email? It's super important when things go wrong that you can get a hold of support quickly.

Carrie Saunders:

And what about third party support? We're considered a third party support provider for several shopping carts as well as WordPress, and sometimes that's a better support than the built-in support. I know a lot of people choose to use us for their support for their software because they've built a relationship with us and they know us and they know that we have their best interests at heart too. Not saying that, sorry, the cats are running on being crazy in half as today. Not saying that built-in support isn't like that, because I've totally experienced a. Built-in support has been great and I will talk about that here in a minute. But you might want to look also. What are the third party support and that can actually also show you the popularity of the software. If there are a lot of people providing support for a specific software platform, then it's probably very popular in general. So that's also another way to evaluate how established the software is. And then, finally, there are some things that we should talk about that a lot of people don't think about because one they don't know about it.

Carrie Saunders:

If you are receiving money on this software that you're evaluating, is it PCI compliant? That stands for payment cart industry standard, I believe is what it stands for. I'm trying to remember the acronym right now I can't, but it's basically how do you receive payments and are you doing it in the secure way based upon the law? You need to make sure anything that you're using that you receive payment through is PCI compliant. It's a simple question. You can ask the service provider or their software.

Carrie Saunders:

Also, ada compliance. A lot of people miss this and forget about this ADA compliance, especially in the United States. I know I'm not quite sure about what the other countries require, but in the United States, ada compliance is required of all public-facing websites, so you're going to need to make sure is it easy to be ADA compliant with it? Most software will probably be ADA compliant out of the box, but when you change things on it, you need to make sure that you can change them in a way that's still ADA compliant. And then, if we're outside of the US, there are things like the GDPR compliance, which you probably have heard of. So if you're in the EU, you're going to want to make sure that the software you're using can adhere to the GDPR compliance standards, and there may be some other ones that affect you as well. This isn't quite a fully comprehensive list, but these are the most common compliance elements that we find our customers need is the PCI compliance, ada compliance and GDPR, or two or three of those. So make sure that you're researching what compliance standards are needed for your location and make sure the software you're looking at does support those compliances so that you don't get in troubles of business.

Carrie Saunders:

Okay, so once you've evaluated all these questions and I know this is a lot, so make sure you come back and re-listen to the episode, if needed, for each of the platforms that you're considering Once you've evaluated all these questions, for all the platforms, that's hopefully three, no more than three, right? Is there a clear winner? If there is, then great, you're probably done. If there's more than one, that's kind of a good winner then you want to probably start asking around to other business owners who use the software platforms that you're looking into. Ask them what do they love most about it? What do they like the best? What do they like the least? You many times get some clues from there. Make sure you're asking open-ended questions so that you're not persuading their answer to be a certain way. So make sure you're open-ended questions like this. It usually gives you insights to details you may not be able to find or discover on your own, and you may even want to do this, like I said, even if you've found a clear winner, just as a double check on your own.

Carrie Saunders:

But keep in mind, though, that while others' opinions are helpful, it is ultimately your decision in your business. So pick which one is right for you. For example, when picking our email service provider, I didn't pick the most popular one. It was not the one that was talked about the most. In all the business groups that I was in, I picked the one with the best match to the features that we actually needed and as a bonus, it came at a better price, especially when you were growing and hadn't lost subscribers. I found their free trial and customer service with that free trial to be excellent and we'll link to them in the show notes too. And it's continued to be excellent customer service ever since using the software for two years now. When I have a question and usually I can figure out the answer on my own, but sometimes I do get stuck, even as a tech service provider when I have a question, their answers are always concise and complete and very helpful. So and I've been super happy, like I said, with them ever since. So getting a good idea of their customer support and customer service, as we mentioned earlier, is very important.

Carrie Saunders:

All right, so let's recap this week's episode.

Carrie Saunders:

First off, define your specific needs to you and your business. Again, I can't stress this enough. This is so important. Then I want you to pick up to three software platforms to evaluate, based upon your needs that you determined in step one, and then, after you've done that, you can go through the detailed list we laid out in this episode and then review to see if there's a clear winner and, if there isn't, get some outside help or go back and evaluate a few more software platforms. But again, try to do no more than three at a time where you're gonna have so much information swirling around in your head that it's gonna be difficult to really clearly see which ones are standing out from other ones, and it can be hard to transition from one platform to another. So when you do this, you wanna make sure you take your time in this process, because it will pay off in the end.

Carrie Saunders:

All right, so that's it for this week's episode, the e-commerce made easy podcast. If you're listening on YouTube, be sure to hit that subscribe button, and if you're on our podcast, make sure you follow or subscribe on whatever podcast platform that is your favorite, so you don't miss out when we release new episodes. As always, we appreciate your feedback. Drop us an email to podcast at bcsinjoneeringcom. We would love to hear from you and we will see you next week.

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