13 Apr 2022 By By Alice Davies
Selling online has grown exponentially over the past decade - even more so the last few years, with Brexit, a global pandemic, and just a general surge in demand for products.
For online retailers, this is good news. Website traffic is up and more users than ever before are adding to basket and hitting ‘buy now’. But with this surge in sales, eCommerce websites are under a lot of pressure to perform well - both from a speed and security point of view.
Choosing the right content management system (CMS) for your online store is essential for handling large increases in traffic and a demand in products. It’s worthwhile spending time researching the most appropriate CMS for your eCommerce business type, ensuring it can perform as required and stand the test of time. Future-proofing is so important in the online world - especially when it comes to making money.
At Shipster, we’ve encountered many different types of customers’ eCommerce sites and functionality (as well as decades of experience building these types of websites too!). Below, we’ve imparted some of this knowledge for you, enabling you to make an informed decision about the right CMS for your online store.
Before you can even think about choosing a CMS, you might want to surround yourself with people who know the ins and outs of an eCommerce site. Tapping into other people’s knowledge can be extremely helpful to making the right decision - and not regretting it months down the line. Let’s take a look at the steps to choosing the right CMS.
If you’re a small business just starting out in the eCommerce world, you might not have this option. But there’s no time like the present to start developing your team, bringing on trusted individuals who know their stuff when it comes to websites. The more tech savvy you are, the easier it will be to find the right eCommerce platform and partner for your business.
Many CMS providers have customer support and service plans - but having a dedicated person in your circle, who can make changes as and when, as well as advise on your next steps, is invaluable. This could even be a freelancer to begin with, moving on to a full time individual when the time comes.
What do you want to achieve with your online store? How quickly do you want to expand and grow your product offering? These questions are essential to picking the right CMS for your eCommerce business. Tech can go out of date very quickly - a future-proofed platform will ensure you can grow your business easily, without having to switch content management systems (this can be pricey and extremely stressful!).
Not sure it’s something you want to handle internally? No problem. There are thousands of web development agencies out there who can easily manage and maintain your eCommerce site - but make sure you do your research first. Some agencies will claim to have eCommerce experience, however this might not be as in-depth as you would like. Try researching companies that specialise in your niche, as they’ll have case studies and testimonials to back their work up.
An external partner can be expensive, but worth it in the long run. You’ll have a guaranteed team of experts working on your site, making updates when necessary, and suggesting improvements from a UI/UX perspective.
Before you reach out to a web development company, you might want to make a list of the functionalities you think your website should have. This can be helpful for the agency, as it will help them put together a more in-depth quote, as well as inform them further about which CMS might be suitable.
Functionality could include pop-ups, discount codes, animation, mega menus - and so much more. Some content management systems don’t have the capability to provide this level of functionality - so work out what’s important to you, before you make the decision. We’ll go into more detail below about what to consider before choosing a CMS.
Whether you’re choosing a CMS for the first time, or you’re looking to switch, you need to create a website brief - regardless of whether you’re outsourcing the task or not. This will help you understand everything you need for your online store, as well as working out what you might want to add further down the line.
We’re going to get a little bit technical now, but it’s important to understand the different types of eCommerce content management systems available. Making the wrong decision now could lead to expensive problems in the future.
SaaS (or software as a service) is a cloud-based option for your online store. This means that you don’t need a separate server - the CMS is hosted by the SaaS company. This is the ideal option for smaller businesses who don’t require as much functionality or changes, as the software provider will manage and update your website. This usually works on a monthly subscription basis. Examples of SaaS content management systems include Shopify, Squarespace, and BigCommerce.
An open source eCommerce platform enables you to have complete control over your online store. You’re not reliant on a SaaS company to host and manage your site, which gives you the flexibility to make changes and add different features whenever you like - without being limited by plugins and lack of functionality. An open source CMS is usually kept up to date by a community of developers - they don’t update your website, but the code that sits behind the CMS.
This is usually a bespoke CMS, created completely from scratch and is then managed by the same company. You would then pay a monthly support or licence fee to continue using the CMS. It’s hard to take this CMS elsewhere for other developers to work on, as they won’t be used to the code. So you would usually keep your online business with this company - which can be limiting, and not very future-proof.
Now we’ve looked at the different types of eCommerce content management systems, let’s have a look at all the different features you should be aware of when making your decision.
Security is top of our list when it comes to choosing your eCommerce CMS. When storing sensitive customer information, such as addresses and payment information, you need a CMS you can trust and rely on. Basic SSL certificates and a secure HTTPS badge are just the bare minimum - you need receipts that your online store isn’t going to be hacked and be part of a data leak, potentially losing the trust of your customers.
Not everyone wants to sign up to an account with you, especially if they’re a new customer. Having guest checkout functionality enables customers to test the water and build their own trust. Options are incredibly important when it comes to selling online - limiting customers only alienates them and potentially pushes them to buy elsewhere. Think about using your checkout process as a chance to upsell further too.
An eCommerce CMS without the option to optimise your product listings is not the right CMS for you. At the bare minimum, it should have an SEO plugin to enable you to fill in meta data and ALT tags. Preferred extras should include unique URL structures.
Can you easily edit your product listings and optimise your website pages? Can your customers navigate through your store as easily as if they were actually physically walking around? Your CMS should allow you to make simple changes without worrying that the entire site might fall down.
Does the CMS you’re choosing have pricing options? You probably have a budget in mind when it comes to what you want to spend on a monthly or annual basis. Most CMS providers give you the option to choose a basic package, or access further functionality. Having a flexible pricing strategy will ensure you can easily upgrade your site when the time comes.
This should come as standard. A mobile-first eCommerce website is essential in 2022 - and beyond. The majority of website traffic, regardless of industry, comes in the form of mobile or tablet devices. We’re constantly on the go - and feel more confident than ever before to purchase items on our phones. Your CMS must have the ability to showcase your products on a mobile device, with good user experience.
And this brings us nicely on to our next point: user experience. Buying online is a process - it relies on trust from the consumer, a quick and painless checkout experience, and a website that won’t fall down when a surge in demand and traffic occurs. All of these things rely on having an easy to use CMS that you can optimise for user experience.
Does your chosen CMS provider have a range of recommendations and testimonials? If they don’t, it might be time to look elsewhere. Poor reviews and complaints about customer service should be huge red flags. You need a provider that will be able to keep up with your online store and help you make the changes you need - quickly.
Again, this brings us conveniently on to customer support. Live chat, 24/7 helplines, and support tickets should all be standard when it comes to your CMS provider - regardless of whether they’re a huge company, or small agency. Customers buy at any time of the day or night. You want to make sure if they encounter a problem, you can fix this easily and quickly.
Now you know what to look for, let’s review some of the top eCommerce CMS solutions out there. Of course, these are just a few and you should definitely do your own research, but this gives you a brief overview of some of the options available.
A huge player in the eCommerce industry (as the name would suggest…), BigCommerce is home to multiple online brands, all successfully selling online. The CMS has a range of features and functionality, with the ability to scale up whenever required. This makes it an easily accessible platform for many online businesses, small to large. When using BigCommerce, you also have the option to integrate with Shipster too.
Magento, now Adobe Commerce, has been around for years. Its recent update by Adobe has been a much needed refresh. Adding new site content is simple and straightforward, making it far more user friendly than it used to be. With a huge array of features and inventory management, it’s a no-brainer why many eCommerce brands choose Adobe Commerce.
WordPress is a very straightforward CMS to use. When it comes to eCommerce, you’ll need to have a WordPress Pro account with them, to enable you to sell products using the WooCommerce plugin. This option isn’t suitable for every business - larger online stores might find the plugin functionality limiting.
Drupal has been around for a while now, but might not be as recognisable to you as some of the bigger names we’ve mentioned. Drupal has all the standard features of a CMS, including content as a service, personalisation, and more. The CMS is not designed for commerce specifically, but if you already have a Drupal site, you can add the BigCommerce plugin to start selling online.
Joomla is an open source CMS, which again, requires a plugin to achieve eCommerce functionality. This is an option for those of you who are already familiar with the CMS.
Sitecore is a robust content management system. Its main features include easily creating content; generating amazing user experience; and delivering eCommerce functionality. Again, this can be achieved through plugins.
Here we have a SaaS CMS option. You’ve more than likely heard of Shopify before - it’s extremely popular with startups and smaller online businesses. This is due to its incredibly easy to use interface and ability to scale up wherever you need to. They have a clear pricing structure and plans available, which does make it straightforward to see how it might work alongside your business plan.
Similar to Shopify, Wix is also a SaaS CMS option. It’s been a popular choice for standard websites for a while - the ability to add and create content is extremely simple. From an eCommerce point of view, it’s not as seamless as Shopify, but there are module options to implement if Wix is your CMS of choice.
If you’re already invested in Hubspot, you might be wondering how you can piggyback your eCommerce functionality onto it. This can be achieved through integrations with BigCommerce or Shopify. You can then track customer journeys and buying processes easily, keeping everything in one place on Hubspot.
So now you’re equipped with the knowledge to find the right CMS platform, it’s time to make the right decision for your business. Don’t forget, if you need advice or confirmation your CMS will integrate with Shipster, contact us directly and we can guide you through.
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