Many times a week we receive requests along the lines of “I want to sell online, can Magento do it?”. Well yes it can, and that’s the easy part. Many people underestimate the time and energy needed prior to launching an e-commerce site (and the effort needed after the launch as well, but that’s another topic…). Based on our experience developing e-commerce websites, here’s a quick list of things any clients wishing to “sell online” should seriously consider before establishing any sort of budget and time line. Obviously there’s a lot more, but here are the most obvious from the top of our heads

  • Who are you targeting? this will impact everything, from the languages of your website, currencies, taxes, shipping, etc…Seems obvious but it changes so many things. If you want to sell let’s say to Europe, Canada and USA, well that’s at least 3-4 languages, 3-4 currencies, etc…And do you need to sell to special groups, like B2B, or agents, on top of the general public? Right away, that’s 6 different stores to manage, with different content and prices
  • How will your customers pay? You only take paypal, or you want seamless credit cards transactions? If you deal with a payment gateway, you need a merchant account (for a new company this could take months to obtain), you need to buy a SSL certificate, you need to be PCI Compliant (the standards required to handle transactions online, like having a dedicated server, safe place to store data, never have access directly to credit cards number, etc…)
  • What is your content? Yes ok you have products to sell, but do you have any text, marketing stuff, who is going to write your FAQ, your blog, the description for all your products? Most importantly, who is in charge of populating the website?
  • How do you manage your inventory? Do you want to link your inventory to your existing ERP system? Are you sure you can easily import/export data from it or you need to build a new API? Do you want to invoice your clients through your accounting system or use Magento to handle all this?
  • When you receive an order, what will happen? Who’s in charge of delivering your products? What are your shipping fees? Are they too high, too low? Can customers pick up their products in store?
  • Do you have any pictures? Do you need to do a professional shooting of all your products? You need consistent quality throughout, meaning angles, size, background otherwise the site looks unprofessional. Do you need to re size and crop all of them? If yes, who’s going to do it?
  • Does the platform answer all your needs? If not, how much extra development is required? Or do I really need all that? Case in point: a client wanted a blog with its new e-commerce site. Fair enough. But you need to create the blog (choose a module or a platform, create template) and most importantly you need to….write. The idea was discarded pretty fast because they did not anticipate the extra costs and especially the time needed to write meaningful and regular posts. There’s nothing worse than a blog with 2 posts dating from 6 months ago (yes we take the blame too!!!!). Of course there are many more examples but I like this one because it’s not a technology problem, it’s a human/business one.

No platform is perfect and there will always be a need for extra modules, extra development, tweakings, etc….It is crucial to carefully review the standard features before assuming anything and prepare the budget accordingly.

Anything we forgot?

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