Creating an online store is critical for many types of businesses, in the UAE and globally. No matter if you are:
- Launching an online-only store,
- creating an online component to an existing brick-and-mortar store,
- testing out your side hustle business idea,
- or adapting to new conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Figuring out how to best go about creating your online store can be daunting. Whether you are touting tangible products, soft services, courses, information or entertainment, you're questioning the best way to go about it within your budget and skill set. Well, congratulations, you are in precisely the right place!
Let's crunch a few eCommerce numbers
You would have needed to have been isolated in a cave for decades not to know how rapidly and successfully online business has boomed in recent years. In 2018, an estimated 1.8 billion people worldwide purchased goods online. During the same year, global e-retail sales amounted to 2.8 trillion U.S. dollars, and projections show a growth of up to 4.8 trillion U.S. dollars by 2021.
The upshot? Your business, businesses, entrepreneurial concepts, services or creations stand a lot to gain by going online.
What is an E-commerce Solution or Platform?
It is a software application that enables online sales, no more and no less. The app itself often has other services attached such as sales technology, marketing techniques and tactics and website, SEO and social media management.
The E-commerce Website (Storefront) of Today
Setting up an e-commerce shop used to require an entire IT team, consisting of many skilled specialists and coming at a high cost. With the rapid success and growth of eCommerce websites, this has changed a lot, and many of today's systems and platforms are almost 'plug and play' solutions.
An eCommerce solution platform often parcels different online business requirements together neatly and seamlessly into one, enabling a successful digital storefront that covers all bases. What is does need is you, your brilliant business, and a bit of digging to find out which solution will work best for you.
Before going into part two of this information, in which we will compare different systems based on performance in various areas, let's take a look at what some of these areas are.
What are the criteria to look for when choosing an eCommerce solution?
By having an idea of your unique set of requirements and focus, you can make an eCommerce solution decision that won't leave you with headaches down the line. Smiles only, all the way to the bank! 🤑
- Is the solution supported in the UAE, and globally, depending on where you want to take your business? If your business offering will geographically remain in the UAE, what platform best answers and caters to this area? Or do you need both options?
- Pricing. The all-important question! How is the platform priced, are there hidden costs, does it fit in with your budget? Some platforms have free versions for a certain amount of time, some have a monthly charge, and some have a per-transaction fee on a sliding scale, and some, a combination of these. It is essential to factor the cost of the platform into your cost of sales. As the plan will be for your online business to grow, will the platform price change when business booms, and by how much? (Not a negative aspect to consider, but always keep the future in focus.)
- Supported systems and integration. You will want your eCommerce platform to plug seamlessly into your other internet real estate, such as your website, blog, social media, shipping provider, etc. Does your desired eCommerce solution accommodate social media marketing such as Instagram, Facebook and does it integrate with your CRM? How important is this to you?
- Payment methods and payment gateway. Does your eCommerce solution make it easy for your customers to pay online, using their preferred methods, such as Visa, Mastercard or PayPal? Does the payment gateway or method, for example, Stripe or ApplePay, suit your needs as a business, and make it easy for you to access your hard-earned income?
- Checkout methods and security. What is the customer's journey to checkout? Is it easy and safe and secure? How are customers redirected during checkout, and does it reflect your business values and create a sense of safety and trust in the transaction?
- Timing. How long will it take for your business to be operational by adopting the eCommerce platform of your choice? If it is a time-sensitive deadline you are facing, such as merchandise or tickets for a specific event, can your store be online and trading successfully in time?
- Mobile-friendly. An absolute must! Mobile shopping, browsing, purchasing, research and decision making is always within our reach, right in our pockets. Does your eCommerce platform support the mobile experience 100%? If not, it's not for you!
- Technical support. Despite the ease with which eCommerce solutions can be deployed, there is often a hitch, a glitch or a 2 am gremlin in any system, when you need an expert, like, now! What are your options in this situation? Is there 24-hour support, or support in specific time zones only? Is there telephonic support, and is it included in the package you are looking at purchasing?
- Search engine optimisation (SEO) friendly? Of course, you want your business, service or products to be easy to find in organic search. Can this be assisted by your eCommerce platform having blog integration, being able to use your domain name and having review and share capabilities for customers?
- Set-up, design and templates. Some eCommerce solutions have excellent design templates and beautiful set-up capabilities that require minimal skill to create a professional-looking shopfront. Are the available templates easy to use, and do they cost extra?
- Navigation. Consumers want quick, intuitive and frictionless online commerce experiences. Can your customers find what they want quickly and easily? Or may they face confusion or too many choices and hop away from you and into the arms of your competitor?
- Analytics. One of the ultimate benefits of online commerce and marketing is the ability to see exactly how your efforts are working, or not. This allows you to be agile, flexible and realistic in business. Your chosen eCommerce platform and solution could have a variety of different analytics capabilities. Questioning whether they are easy to access and understand is an excellent practice. Different analytics options are also usually scaled with different packages.
- The bigger picture and the future. Consider where you are now, and where you would like to be in the future, and whether your chosen platform can accommodate both of you! You might be looking at a small, experimental set up right now, on a shoestring budget, that could be a very different scenario in a year or two. Will it be possible to stay with the same solution provider with your projected growth?
Now that you have a better idea of what questions to ask when choosing an eCommerce platform in Dubai and the UAE, let's move on and look at the different shopping-cart solutions that are available.
Then, based on the criteria we have unpacked in this article, we compare the most popular payment gateways to help you make your all-important decision.