Selecting an Ecommerce Platform

Beyond the Cart Lightburn Podcast - Ecommerce -
A person using their phone and credit card to purchase something within a mobile Ecommerce experience.

EPISODE 02: Selecting an Ecommerce Platform

"I'm a dinasour, yeah." 

Join us as our digital agency launches an ecommerce company and the challenges we — and you — are going to face along the way. This series will focus on solving the complicated minutia involved in starting a direct-to-consumer business. Ongoing topics will include; Getting Started, Selecting an Ecommerce Platform, Product Development, Branding, Market Research, Customer Challenges, Overhead, Operations, Marketing, Inventory, and Customer Service. 

Hosted by:

Andy Winthieser
Partner
Nora Lahl
Partner

Today’s Topics:

  • The history of ecommerce platforms
  • Common assumptions and real-world experiences
  • Variants and product personalization
  • Back-end management and fee considerations

Look & Listen

The following is a transcript of the cross-conversation streaming in the above media: 

HISTORY OF PLATFORMS

Today we're talking about picking the right e-commerce platform for a small or medium sized business. I think it's important to back up a little bit and talk about the history of e-commerce platforms in general. There's really three different categories here. There's custom, there's hosted platforms, and there's software as a service platforms where you're really subscribing to it. Going back 20 years, there was no such thing as Shopify or BigCommerce, or any of the other platforms that are out there today. Ecommerce was few and far between when we got started. When we were first approached to build our very first shopping cart site, we had to do that all custom. We couldn't pick something off the shelf. Software as a service really wasn't even a concept back then. So we built from scratch. Over and over and over again, we built custom shopping solutions for clients. Up until about four or five years ago, we were still doing that. I do think there's still some rare, some unique situations where you may have to do that, but generally speaking, that's starting to go away. It's just really not cost-effective to do that anymore. But, but yeah, for 15 plus years, we built what we needed. We always piggybacked off the last project or effort that we put forward and we had some pretty good stuff, but it was a lot of work.

It's worth noting that we're still supporting a couple of those custom solutions. They really stood the test of time. We've had a lot of success there, but there's a reason that it makes sense to not go in that direction. Which, we're really looking at two different categories. There's cloud-based, software as a service concept. Software as a service is more of the Wix, BigCommerce, Shopify. And the hosted platforms have been around at least 10 years, maybe a little bit longer. There's a number of them that have come and gone. While we were building custom, those packages essentially started coming to market. And we started looking at those where you could basically buy all the source code and then set up a site, configure it, run it on your own on-premise. So you still had all the hosting security issues, maintenance issues. But we were a lot further ahead when we did that, than starting from scratch like we did with customs. That was sort of phase two in the history, in my opinion of e-commerce. So it was 20 years ago, you build custom. 10 years ago, you had the choice of building custom or buying a software package. And now, what's even more common is software as a service. So that's really where the e-commerce industry is going. The Shopifys of the world, NetSuite, all of these big players are providing pretty robust e-commerce offerings as a service, rather than a product.

You still have the option of on-premise, so that self hosted platform and then the software as a service. So I think that's really where you have to start to think is, Hey, do we want to manage this ourselves? Do we need it on premise for one reason or another? And there's plenty of organizations out there. For security, for integration reasons they still want or need to actually control that platform. They don't want to pay a subscription fee to a third party and have all their data somewhere else off premise. So, that's really where you got to start. Generally speaking, I think that's a pretty simple decision now. In the past, I think people spent a lot more time on that decision. Now it's, you're either in the cloud or you're not. So I don't think that's as big of a challenge to overcome, but it's still the first question you have to ask yourself. 

And as a marketer, you're going to know from your IT department, whether or not they're going to even allow it to be considered. They have a pretty clear-cut policy, and it could be one way or the other. We've definitely encountered both where you've got IT departments that absolutely do not want to have stuff stored in the cloud, and then we've worked with other clients that their entire model is looking for those software as a service solutions that is intentional. So it can go either way. Is it a crowded market? Yes, it's a fiercely competitive market right now. You've got BigCommerce and Shopify going head-to-head, and BigCommerce is making some pretty big strides, which is pretty exciting. And there's just a lot. The competition is fierce amongst software as a services. I definitely don't envy those guys. And while they've had explosive wild growth and Shopify has a million plus accounts now, from last I heard. I don't envy them. In a lot of ways, I think it's kind of a race to the bottom because they are getting so competitive. And as standards continue to solidify, what is standing out as a feature is just not going to be that special anymore. The expectations now are very high.

INTEGRATION ASSUMPTIONS

We talk about this a lot... Amazon is often setting the standard that everyone is clamoring to meet. Definitely on a lot of user experience, maybe not aesthetics, but on user experience, I think Amazon is absolutely still miles ahead of a lot of its competitors. So small businesses are always trying to replicate and mimic Amazon. We do the same thing. We kind of use them as a standard, especially when we're having conversations around shipping and checkout flows and things like that. Amazon has become kind of the de facto benchmark. [What's tough is that users expact a quick solution.] They're not necessarily going to find a perfect fit solution, and it's not often worth it to go custom just because of some small adjustments that they may have to make. So I think, maybe you could consider that making a compromise. I think it's facing reality and being willing to bend towards standards often. Do you have any thoughts on what's often a sticking point, that really shouldn't be?

Whether you're buying a on-premise package that you're bolting onto your existing site or installing to run yourself, or you're looking at one of the software as a service offerings, you're not going to find the perfect fit unless you're very simple. Even then actually, you're not going to find a perfect fit. Every single platform has its flaws, and they definitely have strengths and weaknesses amongst them, but you can get close. Right? And so that's what we're always advocating for, is when we sit down with a client, we say, "Hey, okay, what are you guys trying to accomplish? Let's talk about your product." And all these things that we go through, our first step is always to figure out what platforms come the closest to meeting all of their needs. And that's really where we get started. This is going to sound really weird, but a lot of people are falling in love with the brand of Shopify, even though it's not necessarily the best fit. Right? They just love the company and they love the culture and they've got a cool vibe to them. They're cool people, so there's some of that favoritism that we see. Some people will come in and be like, "We're using WooCommerce." And it's like, why? "Well, because we love WordPress." But, WooCommerce is a really bad choice for you guys. I think what happens often is that, if you've got e-commerce, that maybe you've been neglecting for a while, and you're really trying to refocus on it, that there's a thought that you should stay with the platform you're on. And I think that that's the wrong way to look at things, because we should always step back and look at what is the right choice. Sticking with WooCommerce over Shopify or vice versa, just because you're on it today, is not a valid reason necessarily.

A lot people will approach us and say, "Hey, we've had a site. It's been a content only site. We've had it up. We're very happy with it. It's running on WordPress. We really like WordPress." And they'll say, "We want to add e-commerce to that." Tthere's a number of solutions. WooCommerce being far and away the top choice for people who are running WordPress and adding e-commerce. A lot of people are just assuming they have to stick with their current CMS and find an e-commerce solution that bolts onto that, where oftentimes, that's a huge trade off. I'm going to pick on WooCommerce a lot, but oftentimes you're sacrificing lots of user experience, lots of features, maintenance, ease of implementation because you want to stick with one other little part that ultimately is not as important as you might've thought.

Well, you may disagree with me here, but I'm a proponent of, depending on what your business model is, that having a sub-domain for e-commerce is not necessarily a bad idea. If you really want to stick with a CMS that you love for all of your other stuff, and then you also have a shop, there can be a really compelling case for having the shop be on a separate platform, and let that platform do its job and have it be shop.lightburn. I think there's many instances where that makes sense. The litmus test for me on making that decision is whether or not e-commerce is your primary objective on your website or not.

REAL-WORLD USER EXPERIENCES

Strava does this. Strava, the fitness app, awesome. They have a website whose primary objective is not to sell Strava merchandise. It is to allow users to sign up and understand what the Strava platform's about and log into your account and do all that good stuff. And then they have their shop. So they have a number of products. It's mostly branded tee shirts, things like that. Perfect example of doing a shop dot. I was actually just on a website buying a gift, and it was a completely seamless experience. And I got bounced to not something that we would necessarily recommend to our clients, but a big cartel site. And it was pretty seamless. I have 1000 other UX complaints. I was shopping on my phone, and it was definitely not optimized for mobile, but it was a seamless experience — rixie Mattel, for anyone who's looking for some fun merch. Do you trust that you're going where they meant you to go? I want to feel that it's the same company and brand. And I want to feel taken care of in that. I want to have my expectations as a user met, what my next steps are. There's absolutely an argument for letting the shop be the shop, and the navigation can be different, as long as it feels seamless when you're going between them. You don't have to replicate navigation and bounce people back and forth. 

That model, we're seeing that big time. And this is an area that we don't necessarily get involved in too much. This is not our clientelle, but I'm seeing it a lot is in the restaurant world. There's lots of POS systems that restaurant owners are using. Toast, for example. And there's a number of other ones where they're offering an e-commerce, essentially, extension to the POS, which will basically spin up a site based on the data that's in your POS. And it's a standard experience. So the restaurant site has their site, and they might have all their images and menus, and then you're like, "Hey, I want to do curbside pickup." That's going to bounce you off to a third party site. 

We're all experiencing so much more of that this past year with the increase in take out and curbside. It makes me realize how far e-commerce in general has come, direct to consumer I'm talking about. There is a pretty standardized shopping cart flow that you expect as a user, what order things come in. And all of these restaurant options, there's so many different ones. They're all different flows. It is jarring every time you're trying to go through one or another, and you don't know, do I pick my time here? When am I going to put in my order, my quantity, it's all over the place. And so it'll be interesting to see, as takeout continues, I think the expectation that you can pre-order like this continues, I'll be really interested to see that process, that experience and user flow consolidating into something that is more of an expected construct. Because right now, it's all over the place. And that's probably similar to how it was when shopping carts online were first starting, that people were just figuring it out as they went, and there was no standard. Essentially, restaurants were thrown into having to do... They were forced almost overnight. So everyone scrambled. A lot of them went to their POS systems, whatever you have, throw it up there. We got to do something, even if it's horrible and doesn't work all that well, and it's clunky. And so I think the POS providers were certainly taken off guard. I think these are things that they were working on, but they probably weren't as polished and ready as they had hoped. And people just simply demanded it, and they went for it, which I think is great. It's a starting point.

WHAT DO YOU SELL AND HOW MANY VARIANTS DO YOU HAVE? 

The most important part of picking an ecommerce system, is just understanding your product. What is it that you sell? And restaurants, quite frankly, probably one of the most complicated product offerings I can even think up. Selling a cheeseburger online seems like it should be so simple. It's not. There's 1000 ways to make a cheeseburger, all your ingredients, and it's literally a custom... Probably the most custom product that I can think of that we all consume every day. There are lots of platforms that don't really let you select customizations, which is a missed opportunity. What are you selling? We aren't necessarily talking these POS restaurant systems.For today's conversation, let's put restaurants aside for a second. They're fighting their own battle.

One of the first questions we always look at, one of the first things we look at is, okay, is this B2B? And when we say B2B, what we truly mean is it's not a business that sells a business product to the public. It is literally, you need an account, you're paying an invoice versus credit card. You have special pricing. You have to log in, in order to even place an order. So it's more of an online order form in a very simple, simplistic form. For today, we're talking more direct consumer, whether you manufacture the product or not, whether you're a retailer selling direct to consumers, or you're the manufacturer and selling direct to consumers, that's really what we're talking about today, in terms of helping people figure out what platforms they need. It's worth noting that even if you have a really great B2B to distributor ordering or what have you, that that may not translate at all to direct to consumer. You should really assess whether or not that's going to cut it. I think a lot of the time, you can get away with a different experience for those ongoing relationships with other businesses that you wouldn't necessarily be able to with direct to consumer, especially if you were meeting these customers for the first time.

I have these conversations a lot with direct to consumer businesses. The very first thing that I like to try to get them to focus in on is, let's talk through your product. What is it that you're actually selling? And how are you selling it? There's a lot of companies that make a product. It's the same every single time. And it has a set price. And they just want to sell it directly. So they may have been selling that through big-box in the past, or through distributors, but at the end of the day, it's what we refer to as a picture and a price. Because you have a photo of a product, you have the description, the price, very simple. That's all the user can do is decide, yep, I want it or not. That's the easiest product to sell online. And all the platforms out there can support that with flying colors. No problem. So whether you use Shopify or big commerce, NetSuite, Kentico, whatever your preferences, all of them can handle picture and a product. It's worth noting too, even there, if you're selecting size or color, we'd consider that picture and a product. It's really a [SKU 00:24:15] that is a fixed unit—a non-configurable, non-personalized product. So that's one thing. Those people that come to us, and they have those types of products exclusively, because so that's one thing that we look at is okay, if 95% of your products are that, but then you have 5% of products that are a little bit more complicated, we like to make sure we took a look at all of the products that they have in their family. 

And at that point, if 95% of somebody's products are picture and a price type items, with variants, then we can start making recommendations, and that's pretty simple. We can look at budgets and go from there. And if that 5% is really customized or personalized products or complicated, that's where we can make the decision, does it make sense to complicate this implementation for such a small number of SKUs or products? So then you got to look at, well, does that 5% of products make up 80% of your sales? How important is that? Maybe we sacrifice those for phase one. If you guys have never been selling online, you want to try it, let's start with the products that are going to be easiest. We can pick from a number of platforms, inexpensively get this rolled out and off to the races. So I think that's important to not only look at what your products are, but what that mix is, in terms of typical sales.

Let's say we've got a couple of outliers, or your product is very different, if it needs to be configured in a certain way. What do you mean, what do we mean when we say configured? A configured product is one that goes... In some ways, you could say, well, that's just a variant, but a configured product is something with a lot of options. So, a car, for example, very extreme version of a configured product. There's a base model, and then you can update, pick your trim level and whether or not you want leather, do you want the audio package, and what wheels do you want? And all these other options that, to me, is a configured product. So, if you're selling a boat, same thing. And there's just a lot of products. Manufacturers that are taking custom orders are typically dealing with configurable products. And that is significantly more challenging from an e-commerce. So we know you have a configured product, that rules out a whole bunch of platforms right out of the gate, just because they don't have... Shopify, Shopify Plus, awesome platform and we love it. Very difficult to build a configurator without using a bunch of plugins and duct taping things together. So knowing that you have a configured product, that starts to whittle down the number of platforms that really make sense. And it's really going to change the experience and where we put the effort in the experience as well. Because you want to almost shape the whole experience around that configuration. Yeah, and that's something that we're looking at with the furniture business that we're starting up [here] — how configurable do we want to make this product? So we have some base models, right? There's some options that we have thought up. Do we want to do that? Do you want to do that phase one? And, so we're in the process right now of figuring out what makes the most sense in [for our] budget. 

We have a timeline that we're trying to hit, and we've got those as constraints. And I think it's funny because we often counsel our clients to really focus on a phase one, get out the door, get something good started and get some sales, right? If it's not live, it's not making you any money, but we are doing the thing where we're seeing the potential. And we're imagining six months down the road, a year down the road, when we can do all kinds of cool stuff, that would be exciting and differentiate us. But is it worth it today? So I think that's important too, to look at it, even if you have an idea of where you want to go, that doesn't mean that you have to be there at day one. And it doesn't mean it should hold you back from getting out there. And that's hard to do. I'm an advocate with clients that we sit down with all the time. Start small. Stop overthinking this. Let's just roll. We're going to make it simple. I'm going to make some decisions for you. Boom, boom, boom. And then now, the shoe's on the other foot. And I'm like, well, not sure, kind of want to do this. Kind of want to do that. It's hard. It certainly helped me gain some empathy towards what our clients are going through. It's always, I think, valuable as an agency to stand back and be like, let's actually consume our own services. So that's what we're doing. It is harder on the client side than I remember it. But it's been a good lesson.

PRODUCT PERSONALIZATION 

I just wanted to touch quickly on personalization. I think that's another one that is, it's an important aspect to consider. If you've got an element of personalization or uploading some sort of image to be printed on the product. Those are considerations as well. Yeah, you got a standard product and you want somebody to be able to engrave their name on it—coffee cup, whatever, that's personalization. Changing colors isn't really personalization. So we have like Cawley. Cawley Company, which is based out of Fond du Lac, one of the largest manufacturers of name badges, right? So you drive through a restaurant, drive-through the person that helps you has a name badge on. Very likely that they manufactured that name badge. And they came to us and said, hey, we've attempted e-commerce in the past. Didn't go so well, we need your help. And that's when we started down the road of, okay, what platform are we going to use? And right away, we were able to strike out this is not a simple picture and a price type product. So everything that they do is configurable and personalized. They needed their customers to be able to go online, pick a shape, completely design it online, and then order those, but order them personalized. So they can figure the product, design it. And then once they design that product, the end user can then personalize it. So if you got 20 employees that all need name badges, that's really where the personalization comes in. So they kind of had a double whammy. We spent a considerable amount of time understanding all the options and quite frankly, their manufacturing process, like what do you guys offer so that we could build a platform that would work.

As you're going through the process of trying to figure out platform, making sure you understand, and this is something that people overlook a lot is just, how do you sell? Is it one-off? Can you order obviously multiple quantities, but are there quantity discounts, bulk pricing? Are you kidding? So are you taking two SKUs and putting them and offering them as one? Only certain platforms support that now. Are you doing wholesale, which has custom pricing? Or subscriptions? Lots of people are trying to get into the script subscription model and they want not only to sell a product, they want to be to send it to you every month until you tell them not to. So understanding how you sell, super important as a first step, as one of the first steps in figuring out what platform is best. And then two, we have a lot of clients that still have physical brick and mortar locations, that have POSs. That's going to be a consideration. Does that matter? We have some clients that treat that completely separately as a separate business than they're online and they keep the two systems disconnected. And then we have others that say, hey, we want inventory flowing between those two. So that's something you have to take a look at and consider as well.

Another thing that often doesn't get looked at early enough is if you have promotional requirements or special pricing needs. So that is, do you already have a model for sales that you want to follow? That can be really effected by the platform that you select. And there are pretty standardized promos, but then there are also some really complex scenarios that you may want. So you have to take that into consideration. And we've run into that a lot where people are like, well, if you buy product A, we're going to give you X percent off product B. That's a complicated little promo because it's more complex than you think. It's not just 10% off your order. Here you go. Coupon code. That's simple. So understanding how you guys, if at all, there's a lot of retailers that are just we're a non discounter, so we don't ever run promotions. Cool. That makes it really easy, but understanding what those are. And my advice is always write out those promos or gather up the offers that you've done in the past. Let's take a look at those. You can smoke test these platforms against, would we be able to run this or do we have to compromise? And if we have to compromise, is that okay? But I think understanding that is critical.

It's also important to consider, are you selling other places? Is omni-channel important to you? This is critical. And we look at this, whether to an e-commerce site or not, just a marketing site. We always like to look at, and I cannot stress this enough. This is something that people overlook every single day when they're planning new sites is, let's take a look at where your traffic is going to come from and, in the case of e-commerce, where your sales might come from, as you're developing out a site map. And that applies to e-commerce platforms in the form of where are you going to actually be selling all your products.

BUILDING & MANAGING YOUR ECOMMERCE STOREFRONT

So you're building your own e-commerce site... You're going to sell it direct on your site, but chances are, you might be interested in pushing product to Amazon, right? And the Walmart marketplace or the Wayfair marketplace. And there's dozens of marketplaces. They all have requirements. There are systems that seamlessly already work with that, and the inventory can flow back and forth. But making sure you understand whether you're going to do that day one or day 365, knowing what your roadmap is in terms of marketplace is important in picking a platform. We've really gotten through a lot of looking inward.And so now we're looking a little bit at the platform experience. We've assessed what your plan is and what your product is, how you're going to sell it. And we maybe have whittled down to a handful of options that are going to be right. So now we're looking at, is the functionality going to serve you well, and I think one of the big elements there is the use of plugins.

Plugin pain to me is a huge, huge issue. I think it's only going to get worse. So a lot of people say, hey, we love WordPress. And then you take a look at it and it's WordPress with, we've seen as many as a hundred plus plugins installed on a WordPress site. And it's like, you sort of have WordPress, but you mostly have third party plugins. It's a mess. So that's really what's happening with e-commerce too. And Shopify is unfortunately a little guilty, as much as I love them. They lean heavily on their app store to provide additional functionality that they just don't have out of the box. We know that going into Shopify. And so we put a lot of effort ourselves into selecting a handful of plugins that we have vetted, and trust. Plugins are okay. I mean, buying additional functionality. That's great. The problem with it isn't day one, that's never been an issue with us with plugins. It's really six months down the road. This is a third party developer. It might've been a small one or two person development shop that needed functionality. They decided to build an app. Happened to meet it. Great. We plug it in and then it's not supported. So then what happens right? Then you're left six months from now when these platforms update and the app needs to be updated. Those guys are nowhere to be found. All of a sudden you're scrambling. So be wary of how many, and know that upfront. Okay. We like this platform, it gives us 80%. We can get the other 20% from plugins. Cool. Really take a look at who are those plugins written by. And we use plugins by Google, for example, and Amazon, on Shopify all the time. We're not worried about them going away. We're just not. There's absolutely reliable plugins out there. Are you ready to vet them, and understand there's always going to be risk when you add another component in and what is that risk? How key to your business is it one? You can also build your own plugins. We've built our own plugins for our own clients because we wanted to control that. That works too. But knowing where the weaknesses of these platforms are, figuring out what plugins you have, and embedding those plugin developers and making sure that they're stable and appear to be heading in the same direction as you, you're good to go, but it's just something to be very careful of.

A huge factor is what is your experience as the person administering this site and being in the back office of it day in and day out. There's a lot of factors to consider in the back office. So the "shopping cart" is just, it's probably the simplest nowadays of the whole e-commerce experience, right? As developers, we've figured out how to build shopping carts that are great. That is a fine tuned machine. Now where the platform is really starting to put energy and differentiate each other is really in that back office. If you're doing 2000 orders a day and you have an operation that was selling to big box and, you're not going to fulfill your orders through a WooCommerce admin screen, right? That's just not how your process works in the real world. So understanding, okay, when that order comes in, cool. What happens then? Do we have to put that order into our ERP system? Do we have another fulfillment system in house? Are we using a third-party fulfillment provider that we have to send this data to? So really taking a look at, and I see this all the time, people forget about this until the last moment. They're like, oh yeah, by the way, we need our orders to go to the ERP system. Like, oh, this isn't going to work well... Or just reports that you need to pull.

What kind of reporting do you need to be able to do to fit into your existing business model, and financial reporting needs? And that can be a differentiator. Making sure you understand reporting, back office requirements. Okay, where's this order actually going to get fulfilled from, meaning where we printed out the packing slip, where we printed out the shipping label. If you're a small e-commerce company, you can do all of that through Shopify, you can do all of that through BigCommmerce and others. Right in their tool set, awesome, it works great. But as you grow, you'll quickly outgrow that. So just knowing that, and knowing how you're going to process orders and returns and deal with customer service, where that data has, critical in picking an e-commerce system. It's a long list, but usually you're going to know a lot of these answers, pretty straightforward. These are facts of the business, right? And it's just a matter of checking off the boxes of what do we know, what are we willing to shift around, what are we willing to change?

COMPARING REOCURRING VS ONE-TIME COSTS

One of the last, very important factors is cost. And platforms range from zero, literally free open source, to hundreds of thousands of dollars — price is definitely a factor. Obviously, the biggest there is software costs. So if it's a subscription service like a Shopify or a subscription service.There's a monthly subscription, you're going to pay it. The nice thing is that includes your hosting, right, so you've got to factor that in. I actually had that conversation—if we use Shopify, how much is it going to cost us to host? And I was like, well, they have the Shopify piece and that includes hosting. And then they're like, well, how much is it going to actually cost us, our IT wants to know how much it's going to cost to host. And it's like I have to educate those folks that nope, you're good. It's all in cost. And that's usually also based on, there's a certain percentage of each transaction that's taken off the top too, right? Some of the platforms are taking their cut. So they'll offer the subscription price relatively inexpensively. But then you're giving them a commission, essentially, on every sale. And Shopify does that, unless you use their credit card processing. So if you use their credit card processing service, you're not paying that extra commission.

There's a lot of things to look at. Kentico, for example, that's an annual license. You can do a million dollars in sales, you can use whatever credit card processor you want, but it's a higher one-time cost. So understanding, okay, is it a monthly subscription that we're signing up for, is it an annual subscription that we're signing up for? What are the costs for any plugins or additional functionality that we need? What are we doing for credit card processing? So that's a big one, and tax reporting. So a lot of these systems have basic tax collection rules that you can apply, but most of our clients want to use a third party system like Avalara or AvaTax to actually, for the reporting of that and the calculation. It gets complicated. Pricing, generally speaking, it's getting more and more expensive every single day. That's one thing that is known right now.

You have not only the software costs, but you're going to have consulting fees and agency fees if you're using a third party to design the site. There's a lot of factors in pricing when it comes to ecommerce. And we will usually, when we're looking at subscriptions or licensing, run some models around that, especially with the subscription services, to figure out what level you want and whether or not it makes sense to you as Shopify as a platform. We had a client that it made more sense for them, as surprising it is, to stick with their negotiated rates with their credit card processor. Because we did the math with them to determine that. It's highly unlikely, but that's definitely a factor. And we definitely like to participate in running some of those scenarios to figure out what the actual costs are going to be. 

It's beyond the software subscription, it's the credit card, it's the shipping, it's the... A lot of times people have to build custom, if they have ERP systems that they need to move files back and forth from to whatever e-commerce platform they're using, there's some costs there. So lots of different things to look at in terms of cost. We've gone through all this. These are all the questions that we would ask our clients, and usually, some and not others, day one. And so we're working, it's sort of, I'd call it almost an investigation. Where you're uncovering what the right solution is, finding where you'd be willing to compromise, where you aren't, and whittling [it] down.

PROJECT X

So we did this for ourselves and we're still calling it Project X, our outdoor furniture company. And big drum roll... we have not decided yet. 

And it's a big decision. Because A, depending on which direction we go it might be a big expense, or, we may not end up with the features we want. So we're going through the same process that we sort of talked about today. Which is looking at our product, looking at our back office systems, looking at tax collection and customer service. So we're going through this ourselves. I've helped dozens of companies make these decisions and then never realized how big of a project this actually is. I thought for sure I knew what we would pick, day one. I was sold, done, move on, ready to go... Now I'm not so sure. Well, yeah, that's also because we started with, this is going to be one product. We're just going to do one product. We're going to keep it simple. We're going to offer a couple of colors. So it was a picture and a price, right? So we were probably, hands down, going to use Shopify. Now it's like, whoa, it's a couple of product families with variations. We might allow some configuration. But that's okay. And we see our clients do that a lot too.

Nothing's forever, but at the same time you don't want to waste money, right? So we don't want to waste money. We don't want to buy a Kentico license and then Shopify was a better fit, or vice versa, right? We don't want to put a bunch of time into developing a Shopify site and then realize, you know what, we actually needed a functionality that Kentico offers. So we're taking our time, we're having lots of conversations around that. And I think we'll come to a decision here pretty quickly. In fact, our next episode is going to be all about the product development process and selecting what products we're going to sell.

Even though we know all these questions, we still don't know what platform we're choosing for ourselves. We're going to do the same thing that we advocate our clients do. Which is we have to take a serious look at these products and make some decisions. And the product and how complicated we ended up going to market, and how configurable it is, that's really going to make a huge, that'll be a huge factor in what platform we go with. I think we're going to have to fight it out with the members of the team to figure out what the right platform is...That's going to be fun.

- - - - - 

Be sure to tune in next time for episode three of Beyond the Cart, where we'll give you a behind-the-scenes look at our product design process for a seemly simple product that was first designed a century ago. 

Beyond the Cart is produced by Lightburn. Our episode today was edited by Ryan Dembroski. Our music is the song, Let's Go Go Go by Tigerblood Jewel.

Be sure to subscribe on Apple Podcasts or wherever you consume your audio. You can always learn more about e-commerce at lightburn.co.

We'll see you next time on Beyond the Cart

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