One of the growing trends in digital marketing and e-commerce is the emergence of DIY subscription based software solutions. These are great options for start ups and growing companies looking to get a website up quickly for a low monthly fee.
Turn back the clock 10 years and most startup businesses had only one real option to enter the e-commerce space, build a custom website. A basic custom e-commerce site back then may have cost $30,000 to $100,000. Many of these sites were built by web shops using proprietary software. Fast forward to 2013 and that same company has numerous inexpensive options for starting an e-commerce website that do not require costly programming updates and expensive support contracts.
Many of these DIY solutions also provide the option to create a completely custom website using their template or theme framework. Something a small web shop or experienced web designer with some technical knowledge should be able to set up. Be careful not to hire just anyone to set up your shop on the cheap. Commerce, SEO and marketing are all skills you will need to make your store a success.
Which DIY website is right for me?
You may be asking yourself, “There are so many solutions, which one is right for me?” When researching e-commerce website solutions, make sure you consider the following. Having a search engine friendly and flexible site is key to your long term success. Consider these factors before signing up for a plan.
1. Are the page URLs clean and short (SEO friendly)?
- Avoid long query URLs like this: /products/?id=22124&color=blue&size=M
- A *good* URL looks like this: /shirts/mens-shirts/turtleneck-with-chain
2. Are the page titles and descriptions easy to edit?
Page titles and descriptions are important for helping tell search engines what your products and site are about. You will need the ability to change these over time to improve your search engine performance. Make sure this isn’t automatically generated, and if it is, make sure you can change this somewhere on the back end.
3. Are custom marketing landing pages easy to create?
You should have the ability to create pages using the solution’s content management tool. These custom landing pages can be used for everything from simple FAQs to paid search campaigns. You will need the ability to create campaign related content so without this feature you are at a major disadvantage.
4. Is the software easy to use?
One of the most important factors to consider is the technical savvy of the person managing your website (if managing internally). Most web developers can navigate the average web based software with ease. Put that same software in the hands of your average intern and you could have a steep learning curve. It could take several weeks before your marketing specialist is up to speed on all the important features.
5. Can you edit things like page URL redirects (for SEO)?
When moving pages and deleting pages from your site, an SEO friendly redirect is important to prevent broken links and a poor user experience. Without a redirect strategy, you may lose valuable referring link visitors and see your search engine performance suffer as a result.
6. Does the commerce solution play well with other software?
It’s important for your commerce site to work well with other software solutions that save you time or enhance your marketing campaigns. Make sure you can add features down the road as you grow your business. Popular add-ons for different payment gateways, CRM, social contests, email marketing, social media management and SEO are all considerations when choosing a commerce platform.
7. Does the solution include email management tools?
Email management tools are important for keeping customers updated on deals, coupons and helpful customer service features. Email can be instrumental in creating a dialog with your current customers. Make sure the commerce solution you choose has the ability to manage email campaigns or works well with other popular software solutions like Constant Contact, Exact Target or Mail Chimp.
BONUS – Coupon codes, free shipping and discounts?
Unless you are selling exclusive products to a very small customer base of affluent buyers, you will need the ability to use coupon codes, free shipping or other discounts. Make sure the solution you use has these features built-in or can be easily added. Free shipping and discount codes are very powerful tools for converting visitors and growing your customers.
While researching different DIY solutions, check out the articles and websites below.
I hope these tips will save you aggravation and time. Best of luck in your search.