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The perils of going with a generic ready to use e-commerce solution.
11th June 2013

shoppingcartsWoke up today to the news of a major name in ready to use e-commerce websites has entered India. They now add their services to the already crowded market for one size fits all e-commerce solutions. The USP of these sites is that they allow any vendor to launch an online shop in a matter of hours instead of the weeks it takes to create a custom e-commerce website.

Now it might appear self serving for a custom web design company to talk about the perils of using these e-commerce site engines but the points raised below are still valid.

Starting with the technology instead of the concept - reversal of normal design principles

When vendors go in for the ready-to-use, up-in-a-day e-commerce services, they are consciously choosing technology over concept design. What that means that they are not interested in presenting a unique concept to sell to the customers. They are satisfied with putting up their products to customers as is hoping the products will be enough to sell them.

A good e-commerce initiative starts with a great concept. A great concept is simply a different way to approach customers. A good e-commerce concept gives a customer ammunition to make the buying decision. It differentiates the seller in the mind of the buyer. It also evokes a feeling response in the customer either in the form of curiosity or just plain interest.

Without a good concept to approach the customer an e-commerce website will fade into the background.

Growing pains; When you need to make changes, its a struggle.

Most of these ready to use e-commerce website providers serve hundreds or thousands of clients. They will not have the time and space to look into your unique issues and problems. If your issue does not fit into their existing framework then you are out of luck!  In my experience running an e-commerce store definitely requires a lot of tactical changes. You have to roll with the customers requirements and the speed at which you respond will determine your sales.

Giving customer support when you yourself are waiting for customer support!

If you are running an e-commerce website you need to give customer support to your customers. But with the ready to use websites you yourself are using their customer support which is shared by hundreds or thousands of vendors like yourself.  So the response time to your customers is doubled by the response time from the providers support team. Now not all customer issues will require you to dispatch a customer support ticket yourself but there will be enough of them for you to go running to the e-commerce service provider.

Its not your system. Adapting to a system that might not be as efficient as your own.

Most of these websites come with their own fixed system on how to serve the customer. It might be a step by step process logical from the providers point of view but might bug your customers who would want a faster more efficient system. I have not met a business owner yet who does not swear by his own system. Entrepreneurs are the best at efficiency. But this advantage is lost when you have to adapt to a fixed, rigid, non-responsive system.

When does a ready-to-use off-the-shelf e-commerce system make sense?

Now don?t get me wrong. There is a place for such systems and providers, in fact, a huge need. There are a lot of businesses that just want to put their products online without fuss. This will work when

  • The products are so niche or unique that no extra marketing or conceptualization is required
  • The business does not expect much sales but does need to have the products online for the occasional sale
  • The business wants to test the waters and does not want to commit to the cost of a custom website.
  • The business is genuinely not able to afford anything better.

Comparison  of custom versus ready-to-use e-commerce solutions

Custom E-commerce design

Ready-to-use e-commerce solutions

Flexibility in design and conceptualization

Fixed design and structure, limited opportunity customization

Work flow as per business practises

Work flow as per predetermined system settings

Choice of hosting & software

Fixed hosting and software

Feature list as per project scope

Fixed feature list to choose from

Support depends on web designer.

Robust support system in place

More prone to bugs and issues

Usually a tried and tested system

Security and updates must be maintained

Security and updates automatically maintained by the software provider.

Medium to high cost but with choice of custom features

Low cost, choice of packages with fixed features.

In conclusion I would say that if you are serious about your online e-commerce initiative then custom is the way to go as it gives greater flexibility and control.

Cheers,
Ron

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