An overview of the best eCommerce platforms for manufacturers
We spend countless hours visiting all kinds of sites, be they search engines, social media, sales platforms, websites, or news sources. When researching products, we will typically go to marketplaces, social media apps or comparison sites but the most notable growth area in eCommerce is D2C, using dedicated apps or sales platforms hosted by the manufacturers themselves.
Direct-to-consumer (D2C) e-commerce is an opportunity for brands to cultivate direct relationships with customers by selling your products straight to the consumer via a web store, thus cutting out third-party retailers or wholesalers. Small and medium-sized manufacturers are looking for eCommerce platforms that give them guaranteed performance values from the start. Given the accelerating trend toward mCommerce, they want a mobile-friendly setup with an adaptable and user-friendly interface for research and fast purchase. Customers demand a seamless, omnichannel e-commerce experience, so manufacturers are entering an increasingly crowded and competitive market.
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Why manufacturers need to manage their product data
From what state do you wish to transform? The implication of this question is that the current situation is problematic and that the root causes arise from deficiencies which are leading to substandard processes. The resulting impact on the customer is unfavourable – a chronic lack of searchability leads to low conversions, high product returns, abandoned carts, and an exodus of potential customers to your rivals. Customer loyalty is quite a stretch, revenues drop, cost of correction rises, and KPIs are never achieved. The road to hell is paved with good intentions, but intentions are not strategies!
What are the typical problems facing companies yet to attempt digital transformation?
Inaccurate product information
Inferior quality, missing and inconsistent product information across your sales channels has a noxious impact on your customers’ experience
Costly and time-consuming processes
Manual processes cause data accuracy problems and unprofitable use of time (having highly paid staff correct and amend inaccurate data is an expensive and wasteful use of their time). These problems undermine introduction of new products and creativity in marketing to name two impacts – overall, the time and effort need to keep product data relevant and correct is not what is needed in a fast-moving eCommerce environment.
Legacy tech stacks
Old systems held together with spit and sawdust have neither the capacity nor the agility required to grow and expand an offer which is becoming more diverse (and more complex), due to the rapidly increasing volume of product data available and, relevant for a quality customer experience.
Product Information Management (PIM)
There are no shortcuts to digital transformation. It is not simply buying an impressive technology solution (as a PIM undoubtedly is) and assuming its power and capabilities will instantly transform your company into a digital behemoth, sweeping all before it.
At Start with Data, we are as much about facilitating transformation, as expertly guiding you to the best technology solution for your product information management. What you need are root and branch changes in your business – processes, people, and organisation.
As you travel towards genuine competitiveness in digitally driven commerce, these fundamental changes require organisational recalibration in terms of delivering on business aims. The mission and practices behind full-scale digital transformation can only be embedded and acted on by analysing and finding the pain points in the organisational culture – this means entrenched attitudes, assumptions, and activities. Our expert business consultants, with extensive experience with brands, manufacturers, distributors, and retailers are perfectly equipped to work with you to create a digital transformation roadmap to approach this seismic change with confidence.
What should an eCommerce platform provide for manufacturers?
Look holistically at your business. Progress on the digital transformation journey only happens if everyone is singing from the same song sheet. You can streamline product data management, simplify processes, and increase efficiency if an embedded culture of collaboration, ownership and communication is in place. You need input and commitment from all key stakeholders to get the buy-in to ensure that your journey towards digital is coherent and, ultimately, successful.
Essential factors to keep in mind when choosing an option
How does a PIM form a foundational part of your digital transformation strategy? To begin with, in eCommerce, you are operating in a fiercely competitive and saturated market. What makes you stand out is the quality of your data, because it informs how well you can use that product information (for example, in enriching data assets or making your products searchable), the degree of customer satisfaction with your product experience, and the usefulness of the insights you extract from multiple interactions with your market.
Some key benefits PIM product information management software brings to how you work are:
- product information stored and universally accessible from a secure and centralised hub the golden record (or single source of truth) for your product information
- a business-user-friendly interface, where one-screen visualisation gives a straightforward overview of the status of your product data
- significant gains in process and workflow efficiency
- measurable business improvements, with greater speed, more efficiency, and increased cost-effectiveness
- as a cloud-based and service-supported solution, it enables an agile approach to onboarding, enriching and syndicating product data, shortening time to market
- scalability to new markets or increasing the volume of SKUs is entirely feasible
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The highest ranked eCommerce platforms for manufacturers
Shopify is probably the best-known and widely used eCommerce platform in the UK because it ranks extremely high on being easy to set-up and customise.
- design is a plus, with thousands of templates to choose from
- drag-and-drop editing functions make setup and amendments relatively straightforward
- Cloud-based SaaS and a broad range of features
- It has integrated sales tools for payment processing
- It is mobile-friendly, making it feasible to track, manage, and modify platform elements anytime, anywhere and on any device
· attention to security is high on its agenda, with 256-bit SSL encryption and Level 1 PCI compliance
EKM is the first cloud-based eCommerce platform in the UK. It’s similar to Shopify, but as they are UK-based, they are naturally attuned to the business needs of UK sellers.
It markets itself as an all-in-one Ecommerce solution, with everything needed to run a successful eCommerce operation, from domain name to taking payments.
- over 150 themes and templates to build the site
- All features are included as standard on all plans – no extra costs for ad-ons or extensions
- 3 Month Account Manager to help you get your shop up and running
- Free Domain & SSL
- Unlimited products (some platforms charge incrementally as you grow)
- UK Based Support, with live chat and free 033 helpline
- Payment system included
- Hosting included
- Capacity to add a WordPress blog for content marketing
- transaction fees for payment processing add up (around 2%) but customers can use other payment gateways
- Set-up isn’t the cheapest on the market, but all features are included, so overall, it may work out more cost effective.
- as a UK company, they charge VAT
- pricing is based on how much you sell – the more sold, the higher the subscription
This is the world’s most widely used eCommerce solution. As it is open source, it’s easily customisable and can support external channels.
- It has the potential to create a top-notch online store with global reach, as it supports multi-languages and currencies.
- uses a simple and easy to use page builder
- boasts a mobile-optimised suite,
- is built very much with SEO at the forefront
- is capable of advanced reporting options, with ongoing updates to indicate the latest metrics
- For the uninitiated, Magento’s set-up has a steep learning curve, so technical knowledge and developer help would be required.
- It is a large global company, and several reviews note that technical support could be improved.
- Users need a dedicated hosting server to operate at speed, as shared hosting isn’t as efficient
- Magento is more complex to master in comparison with its rivals. Despite this, there’s no doubting its abundance of premium features (not all free!)
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin and is notably easy to use and manage, as well as cost-efficient. There is no initial cost, although there is a multitude of additional paid features, which may be worth the investment. Paid plugins and add-ons, such as one-page checkout, automated email marketing through Mail Chimp and translation services, are the minimum you will want.
- For payments, WooCommerce comes bundled with PayPal (credit card or PayPal accounts) and BACS.
- It has integrations aplenty, including Facebook, Sage, Zapier, Mail Chimp, ShipStation, Square, Stripe, and Amazon fulfilment services
- A potential benefit for troubleshooting purposes is the active community of experts and developers
- The need for knowledge and proficiency in WordPress
- The fact it is self-hosted, meaning updates and maintenance are down to you
- Despite the WooCommerce plugin being free, when you if you bear in mind hosting, development, maintenance, and more, it might end up being costly compared to other platforms
· WordPress itself is a very popular Content Management System on which it’s easy to create a website. By default, WooCommerce is limited, but you can add all the functions you like.
BigCommerce is popular with smaller companies as total costs of ownership is pretty low. Good for scaling businesses, as the platforms flexible APIs make it easy to improve store performance with add-ons as it grows bigger and increases reach
Subscription-based, including an extensive set of;
For many, the fact that BigCommerce isn’t open source is a good thing – patch updates (as required by platforms like Magento) aren’t needed frequently
BigCommerce offers a wide range of plugins and apps to integrate with in areas like.
- website customisation
- store setup
- order management
- payment processing
It provides an expandable platform for partners and developers to innovate on. The API documentation is excellent, and developers share a lot of know-how in open forums. The BC customer and partner support teams are world-class, simply unprecedented amongst eCommerce platform leaders. Many of our clients choose BC over other platforms due to its lightweight, quicker time to market, and less cost of implementation and integration effort than other platforms.
The platform roadmap offers all the fundamental enablers, like multi-storefront, omnichannel, and features to enable global commerce.
At the end of the day, manufacturers going into D2C eCommerce are stepping into an unfamiliar area, but by doing due diligence when doing research based on needs, there will be plenty of options which suit your budget and strategy. But don’t forget! Guaranteeing high-quality product data means good management, and a PIM system will ensure your eCommerce is built on solid data foundations.
At Start with Data, we partner with our clients to realise the benefit of efficient, governed processes and high-quality product data. At the end of the day, the PIM platform you choose needs those foundations to ensure you maximise its features and grow your business in the longer term. Our business and technology experts will help you choose the right PIM solution — from gathering requirements to recommending the best-fit vendor.
Contact us to have a more in-depth conversation about how we can help you to do just that.