Image by: Pablo Ruiz Muzquiz
By Michael Sterling
Consider your platform an online store – built in with shopping carts, navigation tools, ordering options and personal accounts. This is how you present your business, therefore it is a necessity to have a well-run system. If you have a mediocre platform, even the best ideas won’t be appealing to an audience. The presentation is key in making a sell and when you’re dealing with potentially hundreds of thousands of customers, you need to have the best.
With so many options to choose from, the answer is simple. What is best for your company? Although a popular platform that ranks in millions of dollars and is used by many companies might be the obvious solution, sometimes it isn’t. They all have their own unique look and features. However, you must first figure out what your customers want.
Get back to basics. Go through your sells and try to figure out what it is exactly that make your customers decide to purchase your products or service. This is how you need to move forward with your platform.
Predict The Best Move
Depending on where you are at your business growth, you need to decide when the best move is to switch to new platforms. Sometimes bad timing can be like pulling the trigger to failure. Figure out what you need to build on. A website like CrazyEgg.com is great for determining how you should move forward. CrazyEgg will inform you on what your customers are actually doing on your page, this can be a great decision-making tool.
One example of this is Cascio Interstate Music. They are the 14th largest musical instrument retailer in the United States, but they haven’t always been successful. They had an older site that was not bringing them much success. They almost decided to call it quits when they switched over to OrderDynamics, they saw a 21% increase in overall online revenue, 52% increase in traffic, and an average order value increase of 10%. See the difference a platform can make?
Hosted vs. Open Source Platforms
What are these you ask? As a business owner, hosted platforms will take care of all the hosting and security details which makes the customers feel a lot more comfortable when they are paying for products. Not to mention, it will take the anxiety away from your company should something happen. For large businesses, hosted platforms can be a good thing. Platforms like Highwire and Shopify will help you create your online store with great features that benefit heavy flows.
Open source platforms are free to the public (to a certain point). Usually the site will design their templates themselves and unleash it the public to be used for distribution and business owners will then use these free templates for their business website. They can be hosted anywhere mostly. Be careful with these though, because you’ll be in charge of dealing with purchases.
A lot of companies with open source platforms will link purchases to certain online payment services like PayPal, or they’ll buy their own platform specifically designed to host shopping carts, purchases, and checkouts. FoxyCart.com and DPD are great sources for these.
With an open source, you need to be more hands on. Meaning, most of it is all up to you. You become your own designer, marketer, and site manager. This can be a good or a bad thing, depending on how much of your business pertains to your own skills. If your service requires much of your attention and/or input, this might be the best option since it’s free and personal. Larger businesses who can afford to hire many accountants to oversee their customers’ spending use open sources. Magneto hosts such companies like Fiji, Office Max and Nike.
Study The Features
Certain platforms will have features that will do wonders for your marketing outreach. Some features include giving the option of selling anywhere you want from your social media page to Ebay. They will also have special features pertaining to customers, like email addresses for you and your staff, mobile-friendly systems, and the ability to create shopping carts and inventory calculators.
Depending on how your business is normally run, the features can be the end all-be all. Think of features like stocking stuffers. They are little trinkets, not so important separately, but together they make an amazing platform for success.