If you ever find yourself wondering which software to use, or debating whether to build or buy a solution, I would suggest pausing and reflecting on the problem you're trying to solve, instead of jumping to a specific solution.
By asking yourself, "What problem am I trying to solve?" you can focus on identifying the key requirements and constraints, which will guide you towards the most suitable solution. Let's use an ecommerce store as an example. When considering which platform to use, whether it's Webflow, Shopify, WooCommerce, or building something new, the key factor to consider is how well the platform solves the specific problems unique to your business. There is no one-size-fits-all solution, and what works for one business may not be the best option for another. By focusing on your needs and requirements, you can make an informed decision that benefits your business.
To identify those problems, you should start by asking a few key questions.
What are you selling?
This is a loaded question because, as you will see, it opens up a series of other questions:
- How many different products do you have?
- How many categories will there be?
- Will you be adding more products in the future? If so, how many?
- Will they be similar or different offerings?
- Are all the orders handled in the same way?
The answers to these questions have far-reaching visual and technical design implications for the solution.
Who is your target customer?
Please don't say "everyone". By knowing who your target customer is, you can make better decisions about the marketing channels to use, as well as design and content considerations.
When considering your customers' needs, it is important to keep in mind the entire user journey and all the jobs to be done in getting the value they seek. For example, when it comes to post-purchase communication, a casual consumer may be satisfied with a simple automated thank-you email confirming the order, while a larger business client might expect a follow-up phone call, a formal invoice, and ongoing support. In order to meet the needs of both types of customers, it may be necessary to consider a solution that can automate email communication and schedule support calls, in addition to providing a reliable back-end platform for your site.
Do you know who your competition is?
Understanding your market is important, but it's equally important to know who else is trying to sell to that same market. Take time to study the services and features they offer, and identify areas where their e-commerce strategy is lacking. Remember that competition isn't just about price; it's also about quality, knowledge, passion, and customer care.
The dynamic nature of your market means it's important to consider a solution that enables your team to easily make price, design and content changes. This way, you can quickly adapt to market trends and customer needs, and stay ahead of your competitors.
Where are you selling?
Online stores have the potential to reach customers all over the world. Offering prices and content in different currencies and languages can be beneficial for customers. Additionally, consider the impact of your domain name on your global reach. If you have a country-specific domain but want to appeal to customers worldwide, it may be worth investing in a '.com' domain or using the specific country domains where you plan to operate (e.g. '.uk', '.ca', '.au', etc.).
Identifying these issues sets further constraints for your solution.
- Multi domain publishing
- Localized content
Logistics and compliance
Let's talk about shipping and taxes, it's important to ensure that the e-commerce solution you choose can support your country's tax rules and record-keeping standards, especially for jurisdictions that have multiple taxes applied to a sale. You don't want to get into trouble with the tax authorities.
Shipping should be straightforward, but it rarely is. Here are some key factors to consider, presented in another convenient bulleted list:
- Can the e-commerce solution integrate with major carriers such as Canada Post, UPS and FedEx?
- How should shipping be calculated: based on distance, weight, quantity, cost, per item, or some other method?
- Is free shipping an option, either for full orders or for specific items or promotions?
- Should taxes be applied to shipping costs?
What other software do you need?
If you need assistance with accounting, marketing, SEO, or CRM, or if you're already using technology to manage your business, you will want to know that those systems can integrate with the E-commerce platform you're considering.
What type of reports and analytics do you need for your website?
To ensure your website's success, it's crucial to collect and analyze data, and then act on it. Without data, you'll be operating in the dark and won't know which strategies are working. It's essential to consider what type of reports and analytics you'll need for your website.
Do you require support for tools like Google Analytics, UserTesting.com, A/B testing, event tracking, and others? If so, make sure your solution can integrate with these tools.
Do you have experts in house?
If you have skilled developers on your team, building rather than buying might be the right path given the needs you identified. However, if you lack a dedicated software team, you'll ned to hire them ot go with a no-code or plug-and-play solution. It's important to consider the resources and capabilities available to you when making this decision, as it will impact the feasibility and success of your chosen solution.
What is your budget?
We now have a long list of problems unique to our ecommerce business, features, software and teams to hire. Having a big budget can help you achieve more right from the start. However, it's important to note that having a small budget doesn't mean you can never achieve the store you want. Your initial budget should be seen as a starting point, not the end goal. As your business grows, so will your budget, allowing you to invest in more solutions to improve your store.
Regardless of your budget, it's essential to prioritize the features that are most important for your business. By doing so, you can address the critical issues first. As you gain more customers and revenue, you can gradually increase your budget and invest in solutions for the next most important problem. As you iterate your store and product offerings you'll discover new customer needs you didn't anticipate and are more important then some items on your original list. Stay agile and focused on prioritization.
When it comes to choosing software or deciding whether to build or buy a solution, it is important to focus on the problem you are trying to solve rather than jumping to a specific solution. By asking yourself key questions like what you are selling, who your target customer is, who your competition is, and where you are selling, you can identify the key requirements and constraints that you can iterate on towards your ideal solution.