Ecommerce: Navigating Complexity vs. Simplicity in Online Business
Ecommerce is all about the buying and selling of goods and services over the internet and allowing customers to purchase from the comfort of their own home or office.
A crucial decision-making point arises in ecommerce: how to strike the right balance between complexity and simplicity in designing online shopping experiences and the implementation of existing business rules
Knowing how complex/simple your product line up is and how complex your business rules are will guide you to an appropriate platform for your needs.
Understanding Ecommerce Complexity:
Ecommerce platforms vary greatly in terms of complexity. At one end of the spectrum are simple, user-friendly interfaces that emphasize ease of use.
If you are selling items such as off-the-shelf clothing, footwear, sports equipment etc that customers can easily select themselves from a range of standard options then a simple ecommerce platform is very likely so suit your purpose.
The look and feel of your site can still be customised and you will find a great range of plugin integrations (often for an additional monthly charge) to integrate with your accounting, shipping and stock applications.
Examples of more simple platforms are the SaaS offerings from Wix & Shopify. These platforms streamline the purchasing process, allowing customers to quickly find products, add them to their cart, and complete the transaction with minimal steps.
The other advantages that they offer are hosting included and managed in a flat monthly charge, system upgrades are automatic and part of the hosting.
The drawback is that you may need to tailor your site to suit the platform you have chosen - if you have complex business rules that you need to implement around pricing, shipping, availability etc you are unlikely to be able to implement them on one of these more simple platforms.
You will win big in speed of set up, low ongoing costs and a range of available plugins and the savings in terms of speed to market and cost can make it worth sacrificing flexibility and power.
When opting for one of these platforms you should be aware that you are also trading some freedom. The data of your site lives on their platform and not all of it will be exportable should you wish to migrate to a new platform as your business needs change.
At the other end of the spectrum are more complex, often open source, platforms that offer a plethora of features like personalized recommendations, advanced search filters, complex inventory management systems and the freedom to implement any rules, logic and designs that you choose.
If your business can't fit into one of the simpler SaaS
The Allure of Simplicity:
Simplicity in ecommerce design has significant advantages. A straightforward and intuitive interface caters to a wider audience, including those who might not be tech-savvy. It reduces the learning curve, making it more likely for users to make purchases without frustration. Simple layouts, clear navigation, and concise product descriptions guide customers through their shopping journey, fostering a positive experience that encourages repeat business.
The Temptation of Complexity:
Introducing complexity should be a deliberate decision based on actual business & customer needs - adding complexity is very tempting, but it may not be as rewarding as simplicity.
Simplicity has its merits but complexity can offer unique advantages for certain businesses. If you can use one of the simpler systems you will save money, have a wider range of easy plugins to augment your site. If your business rules only exist for historical reasons and you can eradicate them then making the effort to do that can be the best route forward for your web presence.
However, that can lead to some very tough conversations with both staff and existing customers and may not even be desirable, or even possible for your product line up.
If your business rules and strategies are core to your business and they don't fit into a SaaS then you should look at a platform that will allow you to implement them.
Additionally, complex ecommerce platforms are better suited for businesses dealing with a wide range of products and intricate inventory management needs.
Businesses operating in specialized niches, industries where customers have specific requirements and businesses that are large and wants full control over their customer data, integrations and future direction should look to a more complex platform
Below is a quick outline of the main 3 platforms that we work with.
When it comes to choosing an ecommerce platform, Shopify, Wix, and Drupal Commerce cater to different needs and preferences - between them they will cover 99% of use cases.
Below is a quick comparison of their relative use cases in an ecommerce setting
- Ease of Use: Shopify is known for its user-friendly interface and ease of use. It's an excellent choice for individuals and small to medium-sized businesses who want to quickly set up an online store without much technical expertise.
- Features: Shopify offers a wide range of built-in features and apps that cover everything from product management and inventory tracking to payment gateways and marketing tools.
- Customization: While Shopify allows for customization through themes and apps, its flexibility is limited compared to more complex platforms like Drupal Commerce.
- Scalability: Shopify is designed to scale, making it suitable for businesses looking to grow rapidly. It offers different pricing plans with varying levels of features.
- Payment Options: It supports multiple payment gateways, making it easy to accept payments from customers worldwide.
- Support: Shopify provides customer support, which can be crucial for businesses that don't have a dedicated IT team.
- Leaving: Shopify allows the export of product data, but beyond that is very limited and you will lose customer data if you move away.
- Ease of Use: Wix is another user-friendly platform that's especially suitable for beginners and smaller businesses. Its drag-and-drop editor simplifies the process of creating and managing an online store.
- Features: Wix offers a wide array of features, including ecommerce functionality, blog integration, and SEO tools. However, its focus on simplicity might mean fewer advanced features compared to Drupal Commerce.
- Customization: Wix offers a good balance between ease of use and customization. While not as extensive as Drupal Commerce, it allows users to create unique designs and functionalities. With the addition of the Velo coding platform, complex business rules can be implemented in Wix.
- Scalability: Wix is generally more suitable for smaller businesses or those with moderate growth ambitions. Larger enterprises might find limitations as they scale.
- Payment Options: Wix supports multiple payment methods and integrates with popular payment gateways.
- Support: Wix provides customer support and a knowledge base to assist users. We are a 'Legendary' status Wix partner and have priority support.
- Leaving: Wix allows the export of product data, order data and contact data.
- Flexibility and Customization: Drupal Commerce is an open-source platform built on the Drupal content management system. It's highly flexible and customizable, making it an excellent choice for businesses with unique or complex requirements.
- Scalability: Drupal Commerce is designed to handle complex ecommerce needs and can scale effectively to accommodate larger businesses and enterprises.
- Features: While Drupal Commerce provides core ecommerce features, its true strength lies in its extensibility through modules and customization. This means you can build a tailored ecommerce solution with precisely the features you need.
- Technical Expertise: Due to its complexity, Drupal Commerce is better suited for businesses with technical resources or those willing to hire developers for implementation and ongoing maintenance.
- Payment Options: Drupal Commerce can integrate with various payment gateways, offering flexibility in terms of payment processing. Out of the box there are less options than the above two, but if you require a specific integration it can be built.
- Support: The support for Drupal Commerce largely relies on the Drupal community, which can provide assistance through forums, documentation, and third-party resources.
- Leaving: All data is fully exportable but the full site database is also available so you will not lose any data on migration.
Choose Shopify if you're looking for a user-friendly platform with a wide range of features and scalability for rapid growth.
Opt for Wix if you want an easy-to-use platform with decent customization options and a focus on simplicity.
Choose Drupal Commerce if you have complex ecommerce needs, require extensive customization and/or want full control over your commerce platform to integrate your business rules.
Ultimately, the right choice depends on your business's size, goals, technical capabilities, and unique requirements.
Get in touch to work out which platform will suit you and your business the best.