Choosing The Best eCommerce Platform for Your Business

How to choose the best ecommerce platform for your business

One of my customers, a small artisan jewelry e-commerce that sells globally, has faced a challenge lately. As their operations are growing, they need a platform that allows control and customization of their marketing efforts. But their shop is based on a server that limits their operations and allows few targeting and advertising options.

This is a situation that happens frequently to many small businesses that decide to transition from brick and mortar to online. When focusing only on initial costs, some owners don’t consider the growth and expansion of their businesses – something that can happen quite fast in the online world.

To help you out, in this article we are going to discuss how to choose the best e-commerce platform for your business. 

  • The different types of e-commerce
  • Popular e-commerce platforms available

Different Types of E-commerce Platforms

Whether you’re expanding a brick-and-mortar store, looking to find an enterprise-level solution or even starting a business from scratch, your e-e-commerce platform has a huge impact on the profitability and stability of your business.

There are three main e-commerce platform options: 

  • Open-Source
  • SaaS (software-as-a-service)
  • Headless commerce

Open-Source Ecommerce Platforms

Open-source e-commerce platforms are solutions in which you can modify all aspects of your website code. This type of platform is popular with middle to big organizations that have a development and IT team and want to all their e-commerce environment.
For many businesses, open-source e-commerce platforms are complicated, expensive to maintain, and require technical knowledge that some teams might not have.

SaaS e-commerce platforms

SaaS e-commerce solutions are ideal for businesses owners that want to avoid complexity from running an online business. Instead of building and developing an online store, you essentially “rent” the platform. A cheaper solution for those who can’t afford a development team. Etsy and Shopify are examples of SaaS e-commerce companies.

Product updates, security, hosting, PCI compliance, and every other task that comes with managing your own software are managed by the SaaS provider. Some SaaS platforms even provide marketing and growth services.

On the other hand, there is often a lack of flexibility and customization due to the closed-off portion of code on a SaaS solution. So, take this into account when choosing these services.

Headless Commerce Platforms

Headless commerce is a version of Commerce-as-a-service in which the shopping cart is separated from the CMS.
In these use cases, brands often use a design experience platform (DXP) such as Adobe Experience Manager and Bloomreach or a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. Then they plug in a separate e-commerce shopping cart solution, like Magento or WooCommerce.
This solution is more complex than SaaS e-commerce platforms but still less complicated than an open-source solution. It demands more resources and time from online shop owners.

Popular e-commerce Platforms for Small Businesses

Due to costs, simplicity, and assistance, Saas e-commerce platforms appeal to small business owners. With the increase of new online shops year after year, we also see an explosion of this service. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular e-commerce platforms available in the market and hopefully you will be able to make the right decision, according to your business goals.

Shopify

Shopify  is the most popular e-commerce platform in English-speaking countries. Entrepreneurs tend to choose the company because of its friendly interface and the many integrations available, including Amazon services. It also includes a built-in CMS, multiple themes for your site (and a third-party marketplace offering more), and blogging functionality for your online store.

Even if you never managed a website before, the easy step-by-step guide wizard shows you what to do in a few clicks. If you need to get your businesses up and running quickly, this is the platform to go.

Shopify Price: Free for 14 days; from $29/month and 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for Basic Shopify plan with unlimited products

WooCommerce

If you already have some experience with websites or use  WordPress, WooCommerce might be the e-commerce platform for you. Instead of starting over on a different platform, this WordPress plugin seamlessly integrates into your WordPress site for easy selling.
Installing WooCommerce is also easy and this explains why this platform is so popular. You can manage your orders, create coupons, and view sales reports from your WordPress dashboard. As Shopify, WooCommerce also offers an extensive amount of integrations and extensions, making it easy to customize your online shop.

WooCommerce Price: Free for standard features on a self-hosted WordPress site; from $29 for additional extensions; transaction fees depend on payment gateway. WooCommerce is included in the $45/month (billed annually) eCommerce plan from WordPress.com.

Wix eCommerce

If your goal is to create a complete website where e-commerce is a part of it and not the main attraction, then Wix is for you.
It’s a powerful site builder—but it doesn’t skimp on the eCommerce features like order tracking, automated sales tax, and abandoned cart recovery. When you first sign up, you tell Wix what kind of site you’re looking to build, and it makes a few suggestions. Then you get the option to choose from one of more than 500 templates or answer a few more questions and let Wix’s “Artificial Design Intelligence” do it for you.
Wix also provides an onboarding to-do list that covers adding shipping rates to adding advertising on Facebook or Google. As the platform is one of the most popular site builders around, you can count on a nice variety of apps and extensions to customize your website.

Wix Price: Free for 14 days; from $30/month Business Basic Plan; transaction fees depend on payment gateway with Wix Payments charging 2.9% + $0.30.

Square

If you want the option to sell in-person as well as through your online store, Square is the best choice. Your online and offline orders are all organized under a single dashboard but in terms of customization, the platform is a little limited compared to other competitors.

Due to its characteristics, it is most suited to small, independent businesses with small catalogs with little variation, such as artisans, crafters, thrift shops, and artists.

Square Price: Free with 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for unlimited products and a Square branded site; from $12/month (billed annually) with 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction to use a custom domain and remove ads.

nopCommerce

nopCommerce is an open-source eCommerce shopping cart solution that allows you to upload an unlimited number of products, manage several stores from one admin panel, and increase sales with built-in marketing tools.
nopCommerce offers powerful out-of-the-box features for effective B2C and B2B sales, without any restrictions, and is free. As it is open-source, you might need to have some coding knowledge. Customer support isn’t available for free. You need to count on their documentation portal, community forum, or subscribe for their premium support services.

nopCommerce price: Free and open-source.

Lead Generation: A Simple Definition

Lead Generation Easy Definition
Lead Generation Easy Definition

In this article, you will learn:

You probably already heard the term lead in a podcast or a meetup. If you googled “lead” on Google, you got thousands of different articles, videos about lead generation techniques, leads on Facebook, marketing leads…

The amount of content about the subject is immense. So, let’s filter it a little and start discussing the definition of lead and understand the different kinds of leads according to their qualifications and which life-cycle stage they’re in.

What's a Lead?

A lead is a person or organization who indicates interest in what you are selling, be it a product or a service. Leads usually share this interest after opening a company’s communication (by sharing contact information, like an email, phone or social media handle).

Let’s say one beautiful morning you answered an online test to understand which vitamins are ideal for you. To receive your results, you need to share your name, age and email information. When you receive your results in a beautiful email, together with the list of supplements resulting from the survey, you receive a little message from the e-commerce that provides them. Yes, you are now a lead and that’s what it feels like.

whats_a_lead_definition

From a business perspective, the information that the vitamin company collects about you and others from this online test responses helps them personalize communication to address your needs.

Sounds simple, right? But wait. Leads are part of a broader life cycle that involves turning a visitor into a customer.  

 Let’s take a look at the different types of leads. 

They are classified as such according to their qualification and their placement in the marketing funnel.

Information Qualified Lead (IQL)

These leads are located in the very beginning of your buyer’s journey. They are usually called “cold leads” and are looking for more information about a subject or a problem they are facing. At this stage, your company should offer helpful information about a topic relevant to your customers’ query. That’s also the moment you can request personal data like their name, email address, location, etc., in exchange.

Marketing Qualified Lead (MQL)

Marketing Qualified Leads are contacts that are already engaged with your marketing efforts. They already identified their problem and are looking for a way a company can provide a solution. An MQL can be generated through an offer landing page (e-book, white paper offer), after filling a form, for example. These leads are called “warm leads”.

Sales Qualified Lead (SQL)

This is the stage where contacts who’ve taken actions express their interest to make a purchase. An example of an SQL is a contact who fills out a form to ask a question about your product or service. They are the desired “hot leads”.

Product Qualified Lead (PQL)

If your company offers free trials, then the Product Qualified Lead appears in your funnel. The PQL are contacts who’ve used your product and take the action to become a paying customer. PQLs usually contact the company to know more premium options or extra features they can access upon purchase.

Service Qualified Lead (SQL)

If your company offers different service plans, with upgrades and focus on upsales, Service Qualified Leads also appear in your funnel. They are contacts that would like to upgrade from a basic to a premium plan, for example.

Aren’t sure about your lead generation strategies? Maybe you need a Marketing Consultant. Learn here how a marketing consultant can help your business.

Tips for Lead Generation

Now that you know a little bit about the different types of leads, here are a few tips to use when building lead gen campaigns.

Define your ideal lead

Go over your sales history and check which kind of leads close more. Identify characteristics that they have in common: demographics, geography, behaviors, where they were generated (lead generation channels), etc. This way, you start determining and understanding your buyer persona(s), your ideal customer(s) and prospects. Also, knowing who you are talking to makes it easier for you to tailor your content, messaging, and develop your product and services.

Create offers for all different stages of the buying cycle

Not everybody that visits your website is ready for an offer or to talk with your sales team. An IQL is more inclined to search for an ebook or a whitepaper while an SQL might want a 14-day trial prior closing a deal.  So, make sure to create offers for each phase of your sales funnel, offering CTAs over your site. 

I know it isn’t the easiest task, it demands time but, trust me, there is no other way to convert quality leads for your business.

Link your CTA to a dedicated landing page

It might sound weird, but I usually see small businesses and startup owners that don’t create dedicated landing pages for their offers. They drive people to their homepages, for instance. And this is something you want to avoid even if your CTA is about your product or service.

You should be sending people to targeted landing pages that are relevant to what they are looking for and it is explicit in your campaign. Your landing page must include an opt-in form. You don’t want to lose an opportunity to convert a visitor into a lead, right?

Use social media strategically

Social media is still a helpful and low- cost lead generation source. The key here is to use your channels strategically for achieving your goals.

Start by adding links directly to high performing landing pages within your Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, LinkedIn, and other social media posts. Tell visitors that you’re sending them to a landing page.

Stay flexible and be dynamic

Your lead generation needs to be flexible. People change, trends are coming and going, behavior shifts.

Use A/B tests to determine which CTAs perform better, which landing pages have higher conversion, and which copy engages more your personas. Experiment, try out new layouts, new content formats, advertising channels until you find your right formula.

How to Start Your Marketing Plan

How to start your marketing plan - Tips
How to start your marketing plan - Tips

How To Start Your Marketing Plan

Whenever I talk with small business owners, all possible doubts come out about their marketing initiatives. To get off with the right foot, I always say you need to breathe, set aside some time for you and your business, and put on paper all that you want to achieve, when, how and with which resources. With the following steps, you will be able to start piecing up together the essential elements for your business’ marketing plan.

1. Understand your Business

I know that nobody knows your business like you do. But periodically, I advise business owners to perform a checkup and answer questions like: What’s your company current situation? Are your business goals being reached? Who are your clients right now? Access your numbers, feedback from clients and your competition.

2. Define your Target Audience

A target audience is a technical term used to define your ideal customer. In this point, try to work as a forensic policeman. List everything you know about your ideal customer: where they live, what’s their gender, their age, and even their behavior (what they like to watch, their favorite restaurants, where they shop). Deeply understanding your consumer will guide you when deciding which strategy would be the best for your marketing efforts.

3. Get to Know your Competitors

Let’s not be naive. Your product can be the best in town but it isn’t the only one. So, don’t be afraid and check out what your competitors are doing. Get to know their prices, their services. And then compare them to your business. Try to understand your uniqueness, how you differentiate from the others.

4. Make a List of Your Goals

Now things start to get more interesting! When you set your annual marketing goals, try to be as clear as possible when answering the following questions: What objectives do I want to achieve? Which targets do I want to hit? An example: “Reach new customers on Social Media”.

5.Outline Strategies

Now that you know what you want, it’s time to plan how you are accomplishing those marketing goals. Try this method: Take each of your goals separately. Study them and list actions, right below it. Be clear with your milestones and review them periodically. Let’s take the previous example of “Reach new customers using Social Media”. We need to be more specific in our goal, so let’s refine it to: Getting 50 new Instagram followers organically every month in the first quarter. and your strategies can be Increase profile presence posting at least 2 photos per day Research hashtags that are trending in your segment and use them in your captions Engage more users using giveaways contests Not that hard, right? And don’t panic if you see that one of your strategies isn’t working out. Adjust it to your reality and keep going.

6. Set your marketing budget

I know budget projections aren’t the most fun part of planning. But to keep everything under control and to understand which promotional expenses and marketing strategies give you the highest return on investment, you need to go through it.
Base your budget on your business plan. Include all the information documented in your marketing plan to create financial projections. For example, include the Instagram ads expenses you expect to incur and what your expected results will be in terms of new customers, sales and profits, according to your previous goals. 
And don’t worry. Your financial projections will never be fully accurate. You will always need to tweak or tailor something to make a project more affordable in the long run. 

7. Hands On

Regardless you are willing to go deeper and write a 100 page document or trying to keep things simple, these steps are great to guide you in your planning. As I said before, you know your business better than anyone. So, write a marketing plan that is ideal for your business needs.
Now, let’s get started!

Want to revise your marketing plan? Now that you know how to start, let’s understand deeply your business needs. Drop me a Line now and Let’s Talk!

How a Marketing Consultant Can Help Your Business

Marketing consultant that help your business
In this blog post, you will:
So, you are struggling with your marketing efforts and are thinking about hiring a consultant. At the same time, you don’t know if this professional is what your business needs. Don’t worry. As a marketing consultant myself, I got your doubts covered.

First things first: what do marketing consultants do? Marketing consultants are advisers. They work with companies to develop and put your marketing strategies in place. Consultants assist you in the creation of a detailed marketing plan, your business’s market message, and identification of the right marketing mix to spread your message.
Most marketing consultants – my case included, also work in the implementation of the marketing strategies, evaluation, and optimization of marketing campaigns. We ensure that your company gets the best results from your marketing efforts.

When you are starting your company or if you are the owner of a small business, usually you can’t count on a marketing department to advise you. Below, I listed the most common problems I hear when someone is looking for a marketing consultant. If you related to one of them, yes, it’s time to look for a marketer to help you.

You aren’t getting the results you expected

Marketing consultants review your previous marketing efforts. They also provide targeted solutions or new plans for your company.

You are neglecting other areas of your company

You already started implementing your marketing strategies. Great! But, you noticed that your company’s processes are affected. Then, you don’t know what’s happening in important areas like development. A stressful situation, I know. You aren’t alone on this. Many entrepreneurs face it at some point.

In this situation, a marketing consultant will embrace marketing activities. This allows the business to focus on operations and product development.

you need to optimize resources

Human resources and budgets are usually reduced in new and small operations. You need to invest in partnerships that add value to your team.

Good marketing consultants usually value teamwork and have a flexible business personality. They have the ability to work in different business environments and on projects with different goals and strategies.

You feel like marketing makes you lose money

I heard this sentence so many times from small businesses’ owners. They don’t have a well-rounded marketing strategy and feel overwhelmed. They feel they are neglecting their employees and their companies’ missions.

So, instead of investing in a marketing consultancy to help them, they choose punctual marketing actions. These efforts, in the long run, don’t bring the results expected. As mentioned above, marketing consultants elaborate marketing strategies and execute them. They exist to assist you and your team to thrive.