Unlike enterprise level businesses who have the resources and know-how, eCommerce SMBs move and behave differently in the online space. While some truths are universal, as a small business owner you'll need to pay more attention to some aspects:
While choosing the right platform is a universal issue, SMBs need to choose more carefully, as usually budgets are tighter.
Lately, there has been an increase in the number of platforms that support small businesses' needs, so you can pick and choose your favorite.
Mind the following:
- Open source vs. Proprietary: Proprietary software usually needs less "fuss". Less coding, less design, fewer integrations. The downsides are usually the "lock-in" (Switching to another platform is notoriously problematic) and the incremental costs are higher down the line (there is usually a monthly fee of sorts, an increased percentage of deals as a commission etc.).
- Local support: some platforms are developed with a specific geographic region in mind (usually the team's). That might cause issues with payments, fulfillment integrations, language etc. Be sure to verify those before signing off on the project
- Add-ons and plugins: Most platforms have a marketplace for extra features so that each store can pick and tailor it's needed features. Make your wishlist of features and make sure they are all included.
- Tweaking and customizing the site: Each site should have a unique look and feel to it. Make sure that you can tweak the site to make it your own, by using CSS, templates, and HTML coding.
Time to market
Developing your store can take some time to perfect, but every day that your store isn't up means that you're losing revenues. Fortunately, compromise isn't that hard these days. Most platforms allow pre-designed themes. These would cost no more than $100. Take some extra time to tweak that generic theme and modify it to your needs. Add the features you've mapped, and all that's left is content and products.
Your products, description, pricing, and images are literally what makes or breaks the sales. This is where SMBs have a slight edge: enterprise businesses have a need to integrate with current ERP, WMS and other existing systems. Small businesses usually have simpler mechanisms, so be sure not to let that slow you down.
You won't be able to compete with the big budgets. But you will be able to work smarter: skip traditional media (TV, newspapers etc.), and go for digital eCommerce marketing. The overall costs (as well as the cost per purchase) will be lower, and more importantly, easier to measure.
Retention in eCommerce is as important as marketing, if not more. Make your users happy. That is the best way to make sure that they come back for more again and again. That in turn will lower you costs purchase.
Overall eCommerce strategy
Smaller businesses tend to be more agile and run faster. Make sure that is indeed the case, and play that edge to your benefit.