Building an online business is not easy. Re-building your eCommerce platform because you've grown out of your Minimum Viable Product ('MVP') can be even harder. Given how many 'off the shelf' eCommerce platforms exist nowadays, it can be hard to determine which one is the right fit for your business. From quick-launch solutions like Shopify and BigCommerce to more customisable open-source solutions like Magento and Spree, the spectrum of options available can make it easy to fall down a rabbit hole and potentially delay launching your business.
In July/August this year, GlamCorner chose to re-build our designer fashion rental eCommerce platform to better prepare our business for future scale. This whole process took 5 weeks from start to finish and we went through a very thorough evaluation process beforehand to determine which platform was the best fit for us. I've attached my presentation from the recent Magento Live conference in Sydney where I had the opportunity to tell the audience about this journey. As a startup co-founder who has had a lot of help from people sharing their collective experience along the way, I'd love to share some key takeaways that are hopefully useful to anyone looking to launch their own online business. Here's what we learned:
- Stay focused on your Unique Value Proposition ('UVP') and core funnel. To deliver a seamless solution to a clear customer problem takes focus and discipline. It's easy to get carried away with trying to get your online store to be (and do!) everything you want it to from Day One. So understand what UVP you're providing to your customers and prioritise building the most frictionless funnel experience possible around this first.
- Don't re-invent the wheel - choose a platform that gets you 90% of the way there 'out of the box' and customise where needed. Whether it's for simply plugging in a third-party email marketing provider like Vero, MailChimp or Campaign Monitor, or for more advanced plug-in solutions like our User Reviews or Refer A Friend features - choose a platform that allows you to swiftly 'plug and play' (with a bit of customisation flexibility if you want it). These things have all been built before, so don't waste time and resources building your own from scratch.
- Go long on UI design, Product, and User Experience. And start on this early! It's easy to let available off-the-shelf solutions dictate what sort of a journey you take your users on. While these solutions are great, you need to have a vision and find designers and developers who can help you build it. This does not have to take a long time - sketch it out on paper or whiteboard it to show the designers what the end-game is. A good eCommerce platform should let you do it your way.
- Set up a feature checklist and compare the offerings of the various platforms - While your desired feature checklist is probably pretty long, list the Top 5 and prioritise whichever platform provides the feature set and functionality that your business or idea actually needs. Something that worked great for someone else may not be as applicable for your concept, so this is important.
- Choose a platform that allows you to hire high quality people to continue to build on it. Having a high-quality code base, a disciplined approach to best-practice and minimising technical debt are easily-overlooked considerations early on that can cost a lot in the long run. So get this right early and hire great software engineers who share this mentality.
And above all, don't be afraid to 'move fast and break things'. Keeping a disciplined approach to the core feature set of your online business forces you to stay focused on your UVP and ultimately, on how to deliver seamless and enjoyable eCommerce experiences for your customers. When you do this at a break-neck pace you'll have some bugs. But that can be expected with any technology/software business no matter how much time you spend on launching it. So leave the 'bells & whistles' that can cause this aside early on and don't get bogged down in the finer feature details - they can all come later as 'feature enhancements' that iterate and build on an already awesome and simple core product that solves a clear problem for your users.So did this work? I'm happy to say that our business has grown 3-4x over the last 7-8 months and our eCommerce Conversion Rate has increased by +80%. Re-launching our platform has not only played a significant part in achieving this level of growth but will provide the building blocks to support our future scale. Hopefully this post provides some helpful insights for anybody who has built, or is looking to build, an online business. Come and check out GlamCorner for yourself anytime and watch our platform evolve - there's a very fulsome product pipeline of features to come! You can also subscribe to our blog for more posts like this and comment any time - we welcome all thoughts, feedback and questions.Cheers,Dean