5 Things to Know Before Building an E-Commerce Platform From Scratch
We don’t need to tell you that having an e-commerce platform is table stakes if you’re in the business of selling anything. Shopping has fully moved online, and with the advent of omnichannel retailing, consumer behavior is changing. People have grown to expect benefits like fast shipping and accurate stock updates offered by the world’s leading retailers. Consumers are accustomed to getting what they want when they want it, and if your company doesn’t offer that possibility, shoppers can — and will — look elsewhere. Having a robust e-commerce platform ready to meet consumer demand is the best way to stay competitive in the global, always-connected, shopping-just-one-click-away market.
Building a custom e-commerce platform may seem like a daunting task. Our developers have found that it’s increasingly becoming the preferred choice of online retailers that wish to take total control of their customer experience. If you choose the right tools and the right team, a custom e-commerce platform can also be just as cost effective as using an off-the-shelf solution.
We want to share with you some tips and tricks on how to put together a top-notch custom e-commerce platform. Having built many custom solutions for our clients, our developers have likely asked themselves the same questions you have while trying to determine the best way to create an e-commerce platform that’s functional, user friendly and cost efficient.
Here are five pieces of advice for building an e-commerce platform from scratch:
1. Be prepared to handle heavy traffic.
Consumers know when to hit the web for some of the best shopping days of the year: Black Friday and Cyber Monday. These events (and the days leading up to them) are some of the web’s most anticipated and highly trafficked times, as users bust out their credit cards and prepare to shop. However, failing to prepare for the heavy load of traffic can be devastating — just ask J.Crew, which saw its website crash on Cyber Monday in 2017. This wasn’t just disappointing to customers; it also cost the retailer hours worth of lost sales.
2. Show, don’t tell.
When making a purchase, how much of your e-commerce infrastructure do your customers need to see? For FlixBus, one of Europe’s largest intercity bus networks, that’s one of the questions Ciklum helped solve. While FlixBus’ e-commerce platform is a highly complicated system that connects travelers to the back end, customers only experience a small portion of the infrastructure. FlixBus’ interface shows users exactly what they need to book their travels — and nothing more.
3. Connect e-commerce to operations.
With FlixBus, the company isn’t just selling bus tickets to passengers; it’s also coordinating an entire network of buses. Through its custom e-commerce platform, FlixBus streamlines its operations by linking together the systems. It’s a custom solution that’s built to fit the company’s specific needs, as opposed to an off-the-shelf solution that wasn’t made for travel operations. There's a need for built software that helps manage everything that happens while a bus is on the road, including case management and traffic operations, reducing the load on personnel during peak hours. The custom e-commerce solution doesn’t just help customers get a great experience, it also helps FlixBus save time and money.
4. Work everywhere.
Desktop, laptop, tablet, smartphone — four different screen sizes with four vastly different user experiences. Users will experience your storefront from each of these different touchpoints. It’s not hard to imagine someone browsing for a product on their smartphone, getting a closer look on their tablet, and ultimately making the purchase from their laptop or desktop in the office. No matter the case, your e-commerce experience needs to be optimized for the different devices that consumers are using today.
5. Be fast.
For shoppers, every second counts. Whether a customer makes an impulse buy or purchases an item with a special promotion, your e-commerce platform must be able to let them check out as quickly as possible. Bottlenecks that can slow down this process, like an unintuitive user interface or slow site speeds, can result in lost sales and unhappy customers. When building custom e-commerce platforms, it’s important to take specific steps to optimize page load times. By ensuring the shopping experience itself isn’t the bottleneck, make sure that customers can get what they want and when they want it. Compare that with an off-the-shelf platform, which often uses standard solutions and components that aren’t built with a specific use case in mind.
Creating a custom e-commerce platform places the customer in the center. When you ensure digital storefronts load quickly, work across all devices, don’t buckle under heavy traffic, have a streamlined checkout process, and coordinate with operations, your customers will enjoy a seamless shopping experience. By building your own e-commerce platform, you won’t just be doing your customers a favor — you’ll be doing yourself a favor.
Ievgen Kustorovskyi is head of Magento and e-commerce development at Ciklum, a global digital solutions company for Fortune 500 and fast-growing organizations alike around the world.
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Ievgen Kustorovskyi is Head of Magento and eCommerce Development at Ciklum, a global Digital Solutions Company for Fortune 500 and fast-growing organisations alike around the world.
Ievgen is an expert developer with skills in leading developing teams. He leads formation & maintaining code quality and standards, CI/CD of software development by coaching and mentoring the team. As well, he supports the pre-sale process as a subject matter expert and solution architect for retail domain specific projects.