Choosing A Platform For Your Online Store
in this lesson, we're gonna be talking about choosing a platform for your online store. Now. I want to emphasize here, when I talk about platform, that what we're talking about is having your own online store. It's so important that you don't just rely on other marketplaces to sell other marketplaces are things like amazon at sea facebook facebook marketplace, any of those things, those are platforms and you can certainly choose to sell on those if it's right for your business. But what we're talking about here is building your own website under your own domain name, a place on the website on the web that you have control over. But that doesn't mean that you have to build it from scratch. So what we're going to talk about in this lesson are using platforms, platforms like Shopify like squarespace to build and power your online store. So what I want to say here is that it's so easy to get bogged down in the research phase. And so it's really important that you don't worry about finding ...
the perfect platform. Every platform has its pros and cons. I'm going to talk about some of them here, I'm going to hopefully make your decision making easier. But at the end of the day I want you to just pick one and get going. Don't worry that it's perfect because you can always tweak, you can always also change later. So really the most important thing is that you find one that works for you and you just get going but of course I'm not gonna leave you hanging. So we're going to talk about some of the decision making and which platform might be best for you and what you're trying to do with your online store. So the first thing you want to look at is do you need your platform to work with existing systems like point of sale, like inventory or like fulfillment? So for example if you're running a bricks and mortar store and you already have a point of sale system set up and you're worried about managing inventory across both your store platform and you're online platform. You might want to look to see if there is a web platform that talks to your existing point of sale system. Same thing if you're using say inventory or if you're using a fulfillment company you want these things to talk to each other. If you are an artist or maker who does in person shows maybe you're already using something like square we'll get back to that in a second and it will be so much easier for you and keeping track of inventory if your website talks to your point of sale or other systems so that's your first consideration and I can't obviously cover every point of sale or inventory or fulfillment system that exists. And so if this is you just know that you're probably gonna have to do a little bit of research to see what works together. Um, so really looking for systems that or solutions that support those existing systems. So that's my first recommendation is if you have these systems and you're not planning on changing them, make sure that you are checking to see if these things can talk to each other. So a good example of this I mentioned Square. So a lot of artists and makers you square when they're selling it shows. But Square actually has a pretty robust point of sale system. So you may be using it in your bricks and mortar store. So if you're using a service like Square, it might be helpful to use an online sales platform that talks to Square. There are a couple examples. So Square actually now lets you build a website directly on their platform. So Super integrated. But they also work with websites like Weebly to build an online store. So if you're really committed to something like square as your point of sale system, look to see what those options are for you. All right. If you are starting from scratch or you don't have to worry about existing systems like point of sale or inventory, there are really two major e commerce platforms that I want to talk to you about today. Now let me be clear. There are lots and lots of e commerce platforms, believe me that we could spend hours just going through the basic options. But my goal with this class is to get you up and running online as quickly as possible. And so I'm not gonna bog you down with lots and lots of options. Instead, we're going to talk about what I would consider to be the two major players in the e commerce space. And those are Shopify and squarespace. So you can see here, Shopify lets you start with a free trial, so does squarespace. We're gonna talk about those in a second, but they really are the two key players. So I want to talk a little bit about the pros and cons of both Shopify and Squarespace. And before we get any further spoiler alert, I'm going to tell you I am full on team Shopify when it comes to e commerce and really it's because Shopify is back end is just bar none. They power tiny micro businesses, they power multimillion dollar a year, companies, they are built robust and built to grow and most of the artists and makers and creative business owners that I work with if they're really serious about selling products end up making the shift to Shopify at some point. But I know Shopify is not for everyone, which is why we're also gonna talk about squarespace, but I'm just warn you, Shopify is not paying me in any way. I just happened to really believe strongly in their platform for e commerce. All right. So if you have the pros and cons of Shopify, first of all, like I said, it has robust functionality that grows with you, Shopify is set up with lots of different plans that lots of different levels. So you can start with something really basic if you're just selling a little bit every month or you're just getting started. But if your online business takes off, Shopify can grow with you so you're not forced to make a shift and choose another platform later. They also really have amazing back end support for shipping for fulfillment for sales tax. There are so many things that you can change and adapt to meet your needs. If you need to make it happen, chances are you can do that in the back end of Shopify. They also give you lots of ways to categorize products. So we mentioned in the last lesson the importance of giving buyers lots of different ways to navigate your website. Shopify does that by giving you lots of ways to categorize and if there's something in the Shopify back and that doesn't do what you needed to do. Shopify also has an Api with an app store meaning that chances are if Shopify developers didn't do it, someone else developed it and you can go in and add that app to your store. Now. Not all apps are free. It's important to note that some of them do have monthly fees and those fees can start to add up. But honestly I have found that the majority of things that I want to do on my website, I can just do and Shopify. I do have a few apps that I use, but in general you can really do a lot just in the platform itself. Now, I would say the biggest con to Shopify is that it can be a little technical because it is so robust. It definitely doesn't feel intuitive to everyone when you're in the site. So just know if you're like more of a visual person, if all of that kind of tech back and scares you, it might be a little overwhelming. Now, that doesn't mean that you have to do it all yourself. You can certainly get people to help you. We'll talk about that in the next lesson. But just know that if you're a little a little scared, a tech Shopify might be a little bit overwhelming for you. The other thing I will say about Shopify is that they offer a point of sales system that can sync with your online store inventory. So if you are concerned about managing inventory, you can use Shopify as point of sale system as well. You can create multiple locations. They also let you offer local pickup. We'll talk about that a little later. But really they give you lots and lots of options for both selling online and selling in person. All right, so let's talk about the pros and cons of squarespace. I will admit like I said, I'm not a squarespace user, I have gone in, I have played around with it, I am not a huge fan of the platform, but I know a lot of artists and makers who use it as well as other small businesses. And I actually asked members of my online community artists and profit makers who have used Squarespace or currently use squarespace what they like about the site. And so this is really this list here is really built from a lot of their experience which I really appreciate them sharing. So one of the biggest things that I hear about Squarespace over and over again is that the visual editor can be more intuitive for non techie types and especially if you've been trying to build a website on something like Wordpress. This is what I heard consistently is people who have tried to build a website on Wordpress, which spoiler alert, I love Wordpress for content. I don't recommend it for e commerce. Just there's a lot of clunkiness, it's just it's a great content management system. Wordpress is excellent for blogging. No that's what I use it for. But not so much for e commerce, but in talking to people have used squarespace, A lot of them had come from Wordpress and they found the visual editor and the platform much much more intuitive and easy to work with. The other nice thing about squarespace is that it can start as a really simple website, you don't even have to have e commerce, but then you can add e commerce functionality over time. What I also have heard from people is that it works well for service providers or for people shipping really similar products. And the reason for this is that we'll get to the really big ton of Squarespace which is that squarespace is really limited in your shipping options. So in Shopify you can go in and you can add shipping for specific products for specific collections, for waits for countries for dollar amounts, you can add a million shipping scenarios in Shopify and buyers will only see the ones that are applicable to the things in their cart. Squarespace doesn't let you do that. And so you can create some categories, but typically buyers will see them all, which means that if you have local pickup as an option, there are people who live thousands of miles away who might select local pickup because it's free and then ask you why you didn't ship their product. So this is just something to keep in mind if shipping and fulfillment makes you nervous and we will we have a whole lesson on shipping and fulfillment because I know it's a big deal when you're selling online, so we will talk about this more. But if shipping and fulfillment makes you nervous, squarespace is going to make your life more difficult. Shopify is going to make your life easier when it comes to shipping and fulfillment. So just keep that in mind. And again, I will say there are people that absolutely love Squarespace. So I'm not knocking it, I'm just saying for me and for my experience in e commerce, I am team Shopify all the way with that. I will say that both platforms offer free trials so you can see which is the best fit for you. Jump in, sign up for free trials were both see what you like about them and make your decision from there. You do not have to take my word for it if you want to take my word for it, that's great. Go for it. I promise you like I'm not lying to you here. So if you want to trust me and get rid of all like the research and stuff, just go sign up for Shopify account. That's fine. But both platforms offer free trials so you can see which one is the best fit for you. All right, then the other question that comes up, if you do have an e commerce site is should you switch from your current platform, you know, is it worth the effort to switch? And that depends on a lot of factors. So here's what you want to look at. Does your current platform offer this goes back to our previous lesson where we looked at, you know what makes an effective website. So does your current platform offer multiple ways to sort and organize products? Does it offer multiple checkout and payment options? Does it let you have mobile responsive themes? Doesn't let you capture email at check out. This is something we don't have time to get into in this class, but it is 1000 times. I don't know if that's the exact statistic, but we're gonna pretend it is, it is times easier to sell to someone who has already bought from you once and the best way to do that as to enable email capture at checkout. But it needs to be something that people can opt in or out of. So does your platform let you do this then. Does your platform let you do abandoned cart recapture? You would be amazed. Maybe you wouldn't because maybe you're an online shopper yourself and how many people add things to cart but never make a purchase. So does your platform let you do this? Does and then does your current platform have integration for shipping, for fulfillment for tax, for inventory? Is it going to make your life easier? And then are there theme choices for Right? Are those themes modern and and mobile friendly and all of that good stuff. So if your website or your platform isn't doing all of these things, then it's probably a good sign that it's time to switch. If you're happy with it, that's also fine. You can certainly stick with it and everything that we're gonna talk about in the rest of these lessons will absolutely apply to any platform. But if you're serious about selling online and your current platform isn't holding up, then I would consider switching. All right, So here is your action step for this lesson. I want you to sign up for free trials of one or two platforms. Those could be Shopify in squarespace, but depending on what other systems you're using, you may need to sign up for a trial something that works with your existing point of sale or some other systems that you use. But sign up for one or two platforms, spent some time playing around with them and then choose the one that feels best for you. And in the next lesson, we are going to be talking about actually setting up your website and the main elements that you need to sell online. So I'll see you in the next lesson.