When I first started working online way back in the 90’s, getting a fully-featured online store meant hiring a programmer (or a team of programmers) to build one. Additionally, you would need a designer because the programmer would only focus on the store functionality. The overall launch expense was enormous, but it only began with the site, graphics and store design. Maintaining a store and security was so involved, the retailer would have to hire a webmaster or IT team to maintain it. All of this expertise and expense made having their own online store unfeasible for the average seller.
Thankfully, technology came to the rescue with eCommerce solutions that are designed for those with limited tech skills. WYSIWYG (What You See is What You Get) editing, automated functionality, built-in security, and point & click results have made it fast and easy for almost anyone to build and maintain an online store. You needn’t hire anyone until you’ve grown to the point of requiring an eCommerce Manager, and even that can be done remotely.
Ease and speed are just the beginning of what today’s eCommerce platforms have to offer. Most of them come with a long list of features, including everything you could possibly need to operate a business online (and often offline too). You’ll enjoy user-friendly content management, customer relationship management, marketing tools, payment options, security, metrics and reports, and more.
That said, we still need to choose the right software for our drop shipping needs. If your website is set up by a drop shipping network like Wholesale2B, you won’t have to deal with third party eCommerce software at all. However, if you’ve chosen to set up a store independently and feed your drop-shipped products through it, you’ll need an eCommerce solution. While “the best” of anything depends on what you’re looking for, there are standard features that virtually every drop shipper requires to run their online store efficiently.
Questions to Ask eCommerce Platform Providers
Questions to ask when considering an eCommerce platform provider for drop shipping may include:
- How automated is the drop shipping order process?
- Can you sync with your drop shipping supplier’s inventory?
- How are merchandise returns handled?
- Can you have different suppliers and/or SKU’s (Stock Keeping Units) for the same product?
- Can you sell products on the website, eBay, Amazon, etc?
- How many domains can you use the store software on?
- Can you integrate with your own drop shippers, or do you have to go through the eCommerce platform’s network of suppliers?
- Is the store optimized for mobile?
- Is it user-friendly for both you and your customers?
- Is there room to grow without having to find a new eCommerce platform or host?
- Are there Canadian shipping options, including Canada Post?
- Can you and your customers track their order?
- Are all app’s, plugins and modules included or should they be added to the cost analysis?
- Are there limits on the number of products you can carry?
- How does the platform hosting compare to other website hosting? Do they offer unlimited traffic, etc.?
- Do they provide a good selection of quality templates?
- Is credit card processing included through a payment gateway? Or will you need your own merchant account?
- Will you be able to sell information product downloads?
- Is their guaranteed “up time” over 99%?
- What kind of product display, search and navigation options are available?
- Is there customer review functionality?
- Can you support multiple languages, such as French?
- Can your prices be in Canadian currency?
- Is the check-out process easy?
- What marketing features are included, such as upselling, social media, affiliate program, ad tracking, CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) compliant eMail, coupons, gift cards, shopping cart recovery, and so on?
- How extensive are the CRM (Customer Relationship Management) features? Will you be able to manage leads as well as sales?
- How extensive are the analytics and reports?
- Do they provide free software updates?
- Do they offer exceptional customer support? Can you reach them by phone and eMail?
- Is there a knowledge base with guides and tutorials?
Note of caution: Be very careful of simple “yes” answers. For example, they may answer “yes” when you ask if they accommodate drop shipping. However, many eCommerce solutions use app’s or plugins for drop shipping integration. Some will cost you extra, while others are included with the hosting platform.
The following list will get you started on your search for the perfect drop shipping platform. I’ve used all of them, either for my own online businesses or on behalf of a client. Make a list of what you need and send them an eMail, or at least sign up for a free trial to check it out yourself.
Shopify (based in Canada) – Daymond John of Shark Tank is a big fan of this user friendly, Canadian eCommerce platform. Choose from a hosted eCommerce solution or use the software on your own host. Excellent POS features, including a card reader and merchant account. Shopify has a fantastic selection of app’s for a vast array of extendable functions and features, and that’s how drop shipping is accommodated. Choose from inventory tools, multichannel inventory and order management, and many drop shipping integration app’s. SSL certificates are included for all hosted pages (which Google says reflects well on your ranking). Shopify is suitable for small, large and growing businesses. In their ranking of the largest retailers in North America, Internet Retailer found that Shopify is used by several big businesses.
Wholesale2B – This is an all-in-one solution built just for drop shippers and they guarantee the lowest drop ship prices. You can opt for a website through them and sell products from their vendors, or just access the vendors and sell some of the 1.5 million products (25,000+ categories) on your own site with their data feed. They have built-in functionality for online sellers’ markets and auctions, proactive inventory alerts, order processing, delivery tracking and best seller reports.
eCommerce software will save you so much time and spare you the aggravation of trying to learn and do everything yourself. When comparing the expense, make sure you factor in your time (both learning and doing), hiring experts, buying a store template, added security like SSL Certificates and scanning, etc. For example, one of my clients found out the hard way that Dotster website hosting charges extra for absolutely everything, including security scanning, backups, and so on. Before they knew it, they were paying more than they would have for an all-inclusive eCommerce solution with many more bells and whistles. We migrated them to Shopify and they couldn’t be happier.
If you’re relatively new to online business, you’ll find the customer support provided by eCommerce platform providers will be a lot more helpful than most website hosting customer service. Online retail software providers specialize in eCommerce and you’ll need that level of expertise as you navigate your way through doing business online. In fact, their success relies heavily on your success, so they have a vested interest in helping you succeed.
If you require more info about drop shipping in Canada, please read Drop Shipping / Wholesale for Canadian Sellers.
✔ You may also be interested in reading:
10 Low-Cost Side Businesses you can Start Online from Home
Test eCommerce Waters with Fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
Checklist: Choosing a Website Host for your Canadian Business
Top Online Business and Marketing Books of 2015
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