E-commerce in the modern digital age is no longer a fad; instead it has made deep inroads into the psyche of the shopper, both in the low and mid-end and the luxury segment. Going to a brick-and-mortar store for making a purchase is on the decline, and the vacuum has more than adequately been made up by online shopping.
And why not? You get to see merchandise across industries on one site, compare prices, and arrive at a purchase decision. The goods are delivered right to your doorstep, regardless of the size or volume of your order. The whole cycle can be completed from your favorite armchair!
The Rise in Online Shopping
The trend of online shopping has grown exponentially in recent years primarily riding on the back of a rise in smartphone usage. All that is required to get selected items delivered to the home is to take out the mobile phone, browse e-commerce sites and place an order.
This is the reason why statistics on e-commerce are mind-boggling. Consider a few of them.
- About 65% of consumers check their mobile handsets for comparing prices with online stores while in a physical store.
The most critical reason people shop online is that they can do so round the clock. The Internet never sleeps.
As of 2018, there were 7.6 billion people in the world and 1.66 billion global digital buyers.
That is about 21.8% of the world’s population. The number is expected to rise to about 2.14 billion by 2021, and if businesses do not get on to the e-commerce bandwagon, they will be missing out on a host of business opportunities.
Given this scenario, if you are a business owner with goods and services to sell, there is no way that you can choose to ignore being on online selling platforms. It is not necessary that you should close your physical store – if you have one – and make the switch. Both can run simultaneously. Well-known stores such as Tiffany’s today have an online arm of their business and both are doing equally well.
Standard vs. Customized e-commerce solutions
Once you decide to go online with your business, there will be a large number of points to consider. First, you have to engage the services of a digital marketing and web development agency with long years of experience in structuring e-commerce websites. Once the basics have been worked out, the next step is to decide what you want for your business. Do you want an e-commerce site that is based on the common templates, design and looks or do you want a customized one to be in line with your business needs exclusively?
There are a lot of e-commerce sites that consumers can choose from, but if you want to make your mark online and stand out in the crowd, you should have a custom-made solution as it provides greater control, flexibility and scalability in the long run. The standard templates do not fit the needs of every company. True, customized sites require more substantial investments in time and money to develop, but it will ultimately be worth every dollar you put in it.
Benefits of customized e-commerce platform
Here are some of the benefits of being on a customized e-commerce platform. This analysis will be divided into two categories. The first will be the technical benefits while the other will be purely for the products you sell.
Functional benefits of a customized e-commerce site
There are certain technical aspects to be considered when you opt for a custom-designed e-commerce site. Discuss these points with your designer and developer and ensure that they are incorporated in the site.
Mobile friendly site – When you opt to be on an e-commerce platform you should be ready to cater to customers using various Internet-enabled devices. These can range from desktops to laptops, from tablets to mobile phones. Regardless of the screen size, your site should be user-friendly on all of them.
In customized sites, you get to choose this aspect and cater to a broader section of the population. The content has to be so managed that the site is easily navigable without the screen size of the browsing device being a factor.
Search Engine Marketing and Optimization – Search Engine Optimization is the process used by developers to ensure that a site appears on the first page of search results on major search engines. Hence, when a site has excellent online presence and visibility, searchers looking for products and services find it at the top of the rankings and usually buy from them.
What happens when an e-commerce site is standardized with set templates? There is a possibility that say, about 50 websites may be selling the same products from the same type of cart. In such circumstances, Google finds it difficult to distinguish between them and all of them get poor rankings. If your site is customized, it stands out from the others and presents a unique look to Google. This will take your site to the top of results pages leading to greater online visibility, higher traffic, sales and conversions.
Improved customer interaction and relationship – Every business has its own specific needs, and no two will be the same. Hence the customer relationship and modules integrated into your website should be unique to you.
It should offer an enhanced experience for your clients, ultimately leading to more customer satisfaction and repeat sales. You can get buying information, preferences and data on each customer. Based on it, you can make suitable changes to your selling pattern. This is only possible if you opt for a tailor-made e-commerce site.
Incorporating the latest technologies – A site that has been structured on specific models will not be flexible enough to absorb the latest updates and techniques. On the other hand, the software can be continually revised whenever updates are available for customized sites, leading to better performance and growth.
Further, better technologies ensure a higher degree of scalability, and hence it is easier for customized sites to absorb increases in business and functions with the same speed and efficiency. Higher the capacity of the site to take on more products on its platform, the more will be sales, revenues and profits.
Expert maintenance – An e-commerce site has to function at peak efficiencies round the clock as you can never say at what time of the day or night an order will be placed. It is therefore essential that you have a customized site to meet your specific needs and hire agencies for upkeep and maintenance.
If it is a common generic site, you can manage the site in-house by tracking orders and adding supplies. But once you have a customized site, it has to be outsourced for handling to the experts in the field. Naturally, you gain from their professionalism and your site always remains optimized. Another advantage is that you can focus on your other core activities while the experts continually maintain your site.
Enhanced security – The usual e-commerce sites have some form of protection embedded in them, especially in the payment gateways. But then, the question is whether it is adequate, given that unscrupulous elements hack even the most secured Government sites with impunity. It has to be remembered that e-commerce sites hold highly classified and confidential information of customers like credit card details and social security numbers.
If your site comes under a cyber-attack and is unable to cope with it, it can turn out to be very damaging for your business. Once you customize your site, designers and developers will ensure that you have layers of foolproof security which will be periodically reviewed by them and updated if required.
Access to open source e-commerce platform – When you have a highly customized or enterprise level e-commerce site, you will have to be on an open source e-commerce platform. This means that you have full access to the code that is used to run the website. Typically, you are the owner of the code, or you might even pay a license fee to use the code. In such a case, you or your developer is permitted to make any changes and modifications to the code if required.You, therefore, have the flexibility and the authority to update the site and make core changes when required continually. Standardized and hosted solutions do not permit access to the code and only allow template and design changes.
Practical benefits of a customized e-commerce site
To know whether you should have a customized e-commerce site you have to analyze your business in depth to realize the actual benefits. These are some of the factors that should be taken into account.
Deal in Customizable Products and Services – If you have customizable items that fall under one product category, a tailor-made e-commerce site will help substantially. For example, you might sell ceramic mugs with specific sizes, prints, colors, graphics and fonts on each of them.
With so many varieties in each product and different prices and shipping policies, a one-hat-fits-all template will not do for your site. A customized one is what you will need to take into account all these options.
Unique rules and regulations in your industry – If the industry that you are in has specific rules and statutory regulations that govern it, you will need a customized e-commerce site that is built around them. For example, refrigeration is an issue if you deal in perishable items like fruits, vegetables and dairy products.
Again, shipping companies too have specific policies that have to be taken into account. USPS does not domestically ship airbags and gasoline and dry ice and aerosols internationally. If you deal in these products, special shipping plans have to be formulated and incorporated in the e-commerce site that is customized and exclusive to you.
Integrating other software in the e-commerce site – Customized e-commerce site has a lot of benefits if you have to integrate other software in your existing system.
Standardized and template e-commerce sites have an order entry system where every order that is placed can be tracked and monitored for its entire lifecycle till it is fulfilled and shipped. However, if you need additional features that will help you link the order completion process automatically with your invoicing and accounting backend work, only a customized website can help you do so.
Multiple vendors on your site –You will need a customized e-commerce site if you have multiple vendors selling on it, each with their own shipping needs. You will also need to deal with multiple carriers as per vendors’ requirements.
One vendor might prefer USPS because they are near its location while another might opt for FedEx for some special discounts. When products have to be linked with the carriers, and several shipping requirements have to be available on your site, you can only leverage the maximum benefits by having a tailor-made site exclusively for you.
Meeting your reporting needs – Customers are often quite meticulous about the reports they need from e-commerce sites about their activities on it and other relevant records. Some might want a list of purchases that they have made over a specific period while still others might need suggestions on future product purchases based on their past buying activities.
These reports are often required for compliance purposes. The usual e-commerce sites do not have these features, and if you want your customers to have an enriched user experience, only a customized e-commerce site is the answer.
Automate the inventory stockpile – The more your business grows, the higher will be the need for automating the site and more significant will be the need for customization. Small e-commerce websites have vendors replenish stocks periodically, but that does not optimize inventory levels.
Top-of-the-line website designers and developers are today using Artificial Intelligence and advance technologies to automatically handle inventory. Customized sites have an in-built system that can automatically generate an order to vendors when stocks run low, thereby eliminating the possibility of your site running out of stocks of a favorite product.
In the initial stages of going online, most e-commerce sites start with the regular standardized models. But once the business grows and special needs such as incorporation of promo codes or unique shipping offers or automated inventory control arise, you will feel the need for a customized site with all these features. And not doing so will only impede your business growth and development.