The retail sector has been teetering on the cusp of digital for quite some time now, but many shoppers have naturally been reluctant to fully shift their spending to the online space. Until now, that is. 2020 may well turn out to have been the year that changed it all.
The pandemic has accelerated the shift to online shopping. The Office for National Statistics reports a 111.3% increase in online department store sales, a 26.8% increase in online clothing sales, and a 103.2% increase in online sales for household goods between February and June 2020. To put this into perspective, in-store sales declined by 28.3%, 34.9%, and 15.2% respectively over the same period.
Whether we like it or not, we’re now fully in the e-commerce era. It’s time for retailers to explore their options and work to develop their digital offerings.
Ecommerce website builders
The good news for retailers who have, to date, been unsure about venturing into the world of ecommerce is that modern website builders have lowered the barrier to entry. They’ve made website creation more accessible to businesses who aren’t quite ready to go down the bespoke ecommerce website route, through the provision of simple, user-friendly templates for online selling.
Two of the most popular website builders for ecommerce sites today are:
One-third of the web is built using WordPress, so for retailers who already have a WordPress presence, WooCommerce can be used to implement ecommerce capabilities on your existing website. For WordPress users, this removes the need to start from scratch, and can help you to save time and money. However, it’s still worth remembering that building an ecommerce site takes time. Even a basic WordPress site running WooCommerce is estimated to require around 20 hours of dedicated input.
Shopify promotes itself as a sort of ‘no experience required’ ecommerce builder, which is what attracts many retailers. However, in order to design and develop sites that go beyond the basics, it’s a good idea to take some time to get to grips with Shopify’s ‘building block’ system. This allows users to create a more personalised experience for shoppers. Shopify can be great if you want a very simple interface, but for many users, it’s challenging to make full use of the additional functionality that the platform offers retailers.
It’s worth remembering that it can be dangerous to approach an ecommerce site only as an ecommerce site; a place to facilitate sales. Instead, creating an ecommerce website that really delivers should be about bringing in aspects such as content, brand visions and messages. These and other associated factors should pull every aspect of your core business together, to reduce cart abandonment, generate a seamless journey, and maximise sales.
So – can these web builders manage to do all this?
Building a bespoke ecommerce website
The truth is that yes, these web builders can achieve this… but not using the standard template method. What many retailers find – especially those who haven’t come from a web design or development background – is that it’s very difficult to make their WooCommerce or Shopify ecommerce websites stand out from the crowd. These sites tend to look and feel like WooCommerce and Shopify websites, when what you’re really hoping for is an ecommerce site that looks and feels like your business.
Why do you want this? Because it’s what your audience wants. Marketing technology insights agency MarTech Series says that ‘inconsistent messaging can result in a fractured and confusing product narrative’. This highlights how vital it is to maintain a high degree of consistency across all of your online (and offline) channels. That’s something that can’t be achieved using one-size-fits-all templates.
This is why we believe that the best way to create an ecommerce website is by combining the two approaches; the easy-to-use web builder, and the bespoke design that’s tailored to your needs, and to your audience. WooCommerce and Shopify have become respected names in the industry, so maintaining an association with these builders isn’t a problem. What is a problem is that, without personalisation and customisation, it’s easy to create a disconnect between ecommerce and your brand.
A bespoke Shopify website, or a bespoke ecommerce website using WooCommerce, allows you to add a layer of personalisation that isn’t available through the use of templates alone. It allows you to incorporate your own brand design, which generates complete consistency between your business website, social media channels, advertisements, and offline presence. This can include everything from colours, logos and layouts, to content, vision, beliefs, message, and more. It’s an extension of your network.
Ecommerce website checklist
Perhaps you’ve never ventured into the world of ecommerce before. Maybe you’ve tried it, but didn’t see the results you were hoping for. In either case, it can be difficult to know what solution is best for you. What we can say is that bespoke ecommerce websites combine the functionality of website builders with the personalisation of the DIY route. The result is an option that should allow you to tick all this off your list:
- Easy navigation and layout which ensures your products are visible and accessible
- Storytelling, allowing you to share your brand story and message through your site
- Easy ordering, with a seamless journey through from product discovery to purchase
- Strong B2C communications, clearly displaying all necessary information for customers
- Real-time inventory updates and stock control, to maintain customer satisfaction
- Built-in analytics tools which are scalable and grow with your business as necessary
Building an online brand
If you’re looking to establish a basic ecommerce presence, WooCommerce and Shopify can get you on the map. But it’s important to remember that they do have their limitations. One of the biggest is that these builders can make it difficult to connect the ecommerce side of your online presence with its business side. They make it tricky to build an all-round brand in the digital space.
For small businesses and new startups especially, it’s important to consider the likes of WooCommerce and Shopify templates. They’re super-quick and super-simple. But you shouldn’t overlook some of the other available options, such as bespoke ecommerce websites. While bespoke Shopify ecommerce websites and bespoke WordPress sites may not be quite as rapid a solution, they can help to build, develop, and strengthen your online brand. That’s vital when it comes to maintaining a competitive advantage.