According to the latest data provided by Statista, in 2020, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to $4280 billion. By the end of 2024, this sum is projected to significantly grow and reach almost $6,5 trillion. So while you are wondering whether you need to launch your own online store or not, your company is already missing valuable opportunities. Therefore, in this article, we will help you to understand the methods of choosing the right CMS for your ecommerce store that will bring you more benefits than a headache.
After reading this article. You will be able to:
- Understand why e-commerce CMS is often better than the one developed from scratch
- Decide on the main requirements to e-commerce platforms
- Find out which features should your future store have in 2021
What Is CMS?
CMS (Content Management System) – is a framework, a set of scripts that allows you to conveniently manage the structure and content of online store pages. There are several different types of CMSs that are widely used all over the world.
- Cloud-Based CMSs (e.g. Shopify). These are paid products that provide merchants with a feature-rich platform. Buying a license for a cloud-based CMS, you mainly pay for its support. Developers, in their turn, guarantee 24/7 platform operation. It provides constant updates and bug fixes, implementation of the brand new features, etc.
- Open-Source CMSs (e.g. Magento). This type of CMS is usually free to use and supported by the community of developers. You can use such platforms to create your own store, but you should be ready to support the store on your own. Otherwise, you’ll need to hire experienced developers who are able to deliver high-quality e-commerce development solutions.
- Website Builders. These are services that provide merchants with a basic set of tools and features to build a simple storefront. The main pain point of such website builders is flexibility. Their possibilities are strictly limited, and once you need to scale your business, repurpose a website or add any custom option you might face difficulties with its implementation.
- Custom-Built (licensed) CMSs. These are non-serial custom-written CMSs made from scratch and according to the special requirements of a certain business. Such an option is considered the riskiest one because custom-written platforms require constant support. Once the developer abandons the project (no more updates, actualization, security patches, etc.) the store will face numerous security issues, errors, glitches, and a bunch of other problems. As a result, an inevitable move to another platform, which is often a painful and costly process.
CMS-Based Online Store vs. Custom-Built Platform
Let’s dive deeper into the platforms’ specifications and revise the main differences between the ready-made CMSs and the ones built from scratch. This table will clarify all the pros and cons and help you make the right decision.
|Criteria||Ready-made CMS||Built from scratch CMS|
|The time and cost of development||Depends on the chosen CMS, however, always faster and cheaper than the development from scratch||6+ months. Writing all platform logic from scratch; costs are pretty high – you need to hire experienced developers and designers, whose hourly rates sometimes reach $100-150|
|The support||Implemented by the platform developers (SAAS), community (open-source)||You need to organize the support yourself (hire developers), as well as write documentation, work on updates and upgrades|
|SEO / Promotion||Platforms already include a logic allowing to easily optimize and then promote stores in the search engines||Depends on how well an SEO component is spelled out in the system, whether there are errors in the code, how well the website is performing in terms of the page load speed|
|Content management||Well organized, easy-to-understand and use, includes clear guides and instructions||Can be organized individually. According to the client’s requirements|
|Scaling||Most platforms are easily scalable. Otherwise, you can always move to another CMS which is more scalable||Hardly scalable. Requires too much effort|
|Flexibility||Implemented through a modular structure. A huge number of plugins, apps, and extensions are available||Self-written CMSs are often written for specific tasks. The change of tasks pulls along numerous changes in the source code|
10 Criteria for Choosing a CMS for an E-commerce Store in 2021
The list of top tips providing below is not a universal solution for all times. We constantly see new e-commerce features appearing. And some of the upcoming ones can radically change the approach to online commerce we’ve all used to.
Until that happens, keep the top 10 criteria that will help you choose the best CMS for your e-commerce business.
When calculating the costs of building an online store, you need to consider not only the cost of the CMS itself but also the rates and costs of the basic features’ refinement and customization. Sometimes it turns out that subscribing to a SaaS platform could be less expensive than setting up a free open-source CMS and hiring a team of developers who will support and update it on a daily basis.
Simplicity and Clearness of the Admin Panel
Conventionally, all CMSs can be divided into two categories: easy-to-understand and complicated. While some have an understandable product editor and simple admin panel, which can learn without much difficulty, others are much harder to be mastered. In such a case, you’ll have to additionally train your store managers to use the CMS, manage products, etc.
Bulk Products/Pages Edit
Pay attention to whether with the select CMS you’ll have the ability to massively change prices and edit product pages. When you have about a hundred products in stock, this feature doesn’t seem to be so important.
But once the assortment of your store grows to several hundred or even thousands of products. You’ll see that such a feature can save you hours if not days of manual editing of the products’ parameters one by one.
It is not the number of features that are important, but the presence of the necessary ones: product comparison, adding fields on product pages, autocompleting creating categories, filters, changing currencies, and much more.
If the CMS doesn’t have the needed features out of the box or is not provided with any available app, you should first make sure that the needed app can be custom developed and implemented (and that the price for such development is affordable for you).
Transferring thousands of products manually one at a time is too time-consuming and expensive. Better choose a platform that provides an opportunity to export and import products, upload XML for marketplaces, and allows easy bulk management of a huge number of products.
Integration with External Services
For any e-commerce store, integration with third-party services is a must-have. For example, CRM integration, connection with the numerous payment gateways, and shipping providers.
You will also need a connection with other databases, chat-bots, and other features involved in the process of sale automation and conversion optimization. So, make sure that the chosen platform is “friendly” with third-party integrations.
Flexibility & Scalability
Today, every e-commerce store is a project that requires constant improvements based on the needs and wishes of a merchant and a customer. If the tiniest iteration or a change requires the help of developers, someday you’ll definitely go broke.
Therefore, at the stage of choosing a platform, it is worth considering the CMSs flexibility and availability of qualified developers at a moderate price.
Hopefully, today there is no need to stress that if you want to convert your visitors into loyal customers you’ll need to work on a loyalty program implementation. Unfortunately, far not every e-commerce platform provides sufficient functionality for:
- Automatic discounts
- Promo codes activation
- Building loyalty among regular customers, and so on
When choosing the platform, pay attention to the availability of such features either out-of-the-box or with third-party plugins.
SEO optimization and website promotion – these are two steps you can’t avoid when launching your store. Therefore, it is imperative to look at how well is the platform optimized for SEO requirements and what tools it provides for further optimization.
By the way, it is the complexity of SEO promotion that is the main reason for the low organic positions of the self-written platforms. Whereas stores that depends on popular e-commerce platforms are very well prompting with the right approach.
Starting an online business is an investment in your future. So, choosing the cheapest option available on the market is not a good idea.
More of that, you should definitely escape developers who say they’ll build a fully functional store like Amazon within a couple of weeks and at the lowest price ever. It doesn’t happen so quickly and cheaply, even if you choose the best cloud-based platform.
Summarising all the above, to choose the right CMS for your business you should pay attention to the platform’s flexibility, convenience, compliance to your needs, support options, availability and rates of the qualified developers in the market, and so on.
Always take into consideration the peculiarities of your business. Choose a platform and must-have features according to your personal requirements and your business niche.
Author Bio: Olha Fedchenko
Olha is a Content Manager and SEO Analyst at Whidegroup. Starting as a Content Writer for software and web development topics in 2011, Olha has always been guided by a desire to thoroughly inspect every field of study before writing a single word. She found her passion in e-commerce and delighted in expanding her expertise in web development, analytics, and SEO for small to medium e-commerce businesses.