Best webshop software for your industrial automation business
What IT tools do you need to fully support a stationary store or even a wholesale business? At first glance, all you need is an average-performance computer, a POS device, a simple database that records the amount of inventory as well as an invoicing program and e-mail client for contacting customers. However, when you think about online sales, things get a little complicated. This is because you need to choose the right system to support your e-commerce platform. What to be aware of when making this decision? What are the differences between the various solutions available? Which one will be the most suitable for your business and perform best?
What do you sell?
The characteristics of the goods you offer are crucial when choosing the right system to support your online sales. In the case of the industrial parts trade, it is very common for the goods to not be available for purchase in individual units. What is more, it is not uncommon for the possibility to complete the transaction online using a standard mechanism, based on selecting an offer, paying for the order, and choosing the delivery method, not to exist at all. Instead, software that provides an option like “ask about the product” will be a better solution. In such a model, instead of completing an order with fixed prices, the customer will be able to get a personalized offer. It is worth remembering that very often such orders are placed long before the expected date of delivery so that the customer has access to all required parts on the day they start working.
For this reason, the system supporting your online store should not only give the option of displaying the item that is currently unavailable but also enable the purchase of it – of course, taking into account the expected date of resuming the item’s availability.
Ultimately, if you are trading in industrial parts, it’s important to allow for slight customization of the order. What I mean by this is a situation where a buyer selecting a specific part and its connected accessories don’t have to select several things separately, instead the script offers them a ready-made set.
B2B? B2C? Who do you sell to?
The type of customer, like the type of goods offered, has a crucial impact on how an online store engine should perform. When it comes to selling industrial parts, a good solution is to implement a kind of filter, so that only users of a specific type can see the full assortment. Primarily, the e-commerce platform of your choice should be able to limit the target group to registered users. The account creation procedure should be connected with the possibility of top-down defining what data is required. For example, a good solution is to request, apart from the e-mail address and user’s name, the name of the company, and the implementation of a mechanism verifying the above information. If you don’t want to limit yourself to business customers and intend to provide service to individual ones as well, a separate store view for both groups may be a wise choice. This will allow you to better customize the functionality of the software so that you can minimize the number of unnecessary options and protect yourself from unfair practices from the outside.
What market do you serve?
Where do your customers come from? Do you sell locally, within a small administrative unit such as a county, state, or land? Or are you targeting customers from all over the country, or maybe even trading internationally? This is a very important question, not only because of the delivery methods and the time it takes to fulfill the order. Different countries or unions (such as the European Union) have different tax and customs rules. A good e-commerce system should have the ability to apply various rules to facilitate the issuance of correct invoices adapted to the law applicable to a given buyer. It can also be useful to limit availability so that a customer from an area not supported by your store doesn’t generate product inquiries, causing unnecessary spam.
A custom-written system?
As we have mentioned more than once, the trade-in industrial parts is a very specific industry. The difference from the majority of other stores, especially from the retail market, is also visible in online sales. The need to customize the functionality for specific applications makes it seem that the best solution when entering the e-commerce market is to create the entire system from scratch. Such a solution, however, has many flaws. Primarily, the cost of maintenance, in the long run, can be very high. Writing monolithic software to meet temporary needs turns out to be a trap when it’s time to grow and add or remove some options. Ultimately, relying on closed solutions gives you less security and if some critical vulnerability is discovered, forces you to wait for the developer of the system you are using to react. This is why it’s better to use ready-to-use engines that are being constantly developed. Some of the most popular tools capable of handling large stores are Shopify, Magneto, and BigCommerce. One of the most important advantages of such a solution is the fact that there is no need to create your own infrastructure because the aforementioned services are maintained on their own servers. An additional advantage is a modularity, thanks to which it is possible to modify the system on the fly, depending on the needs.
The most expensive of the mentioned platforms is Shopify, whose annual subscription in its most expensive version oscillates around $15.000. The service features a simple interface and has very extensive documentation, so administration doesn’t require a specially trained programmer. It can extend its capabilities through additional plugins. Moreover, the support line is open around the clock. The downside is the inability to customize payment methods and the order finalization process itself.
BigCommerce in its most expensive version costs at least $11.000 per year. An important factor in using this tool is your company’s annual turnover – different subscription plans have a different maximum annual amount attached to them. Using this service gives users the ability to group customers and assign them to different categories, making it easy to set prices independently for each buyer without having to talk to them individually. The disadvantage of BigCommerce is that some solutions are not available to users outside the United States.
The third of the platforms discussed is Magento, an open-source service provided by Adobe. It is distinguished from its predecessors by its price, as there is no choice of subscription plans that cost more and more. The annual cost of maintaining the service is about $6.000 regardless of how many customers you serve or how much profit you make from sales using it. Magento also seems to be the most difficult option to use, requiring experienced programmers and regular security scans. In return, you receive almost unlimited expansion possibilities and a huge number of ready-made extensions, which gives you a considerate scope for modification and personalization of your store. What is more, just like with BigCommerce, Magento allows setting prices individually for each customer.
The choice of the platform on which you base your online store is a decision for years. It is a good idea to make your choice based on your company’s long-term growth plan. It is also not said that you have to have your own store – maybe it will be enough to make your assortment available on an external multi-vendor platform, such as Automa.Net? However, if you already decided to set up your own e-commerce platform, I hope that the above text has shown you what aspects you should pay attention to when choosing an engine for your store.