Commerce: hosting for the next Hot Sale
Having your hosting ready for the next Hot Sale on your commerce is no small feat. Learn here how it is done!
Pros and cons of self-hosted and hosted commerce platforms
Before discussing how you should be preparing your hosting for the next Hot Sale, let’s discuss the pros and cons of hosting in general. Should you self-host? Should you pay for a hosted commerce platform? Let’s find out!
As I said, before setting up a commerce store, the main challenge is choosing which type of software application to use: self-hosted or hosted. The decision-making process is critical because the future of the business depends entirely on it. It’s kind of what we discussed with the hybrid cloud, but now specifically for commerce.
Deciding on hosting a web platform involves time and information, and it is the first substantial choice to make when setting up a digital business. This becomes an even more relevant issue with online stores. You have to choose then: self-hosted or hosted platforms. Which one is best?
By now, you should know the drill: it depends on the goal that has been set for the business. Even if it is always possible to go back and forth, the cost of changing midway can harm your project. Measure twice, cut once.
Differences between self-hosted and hosted platforms
A self-hosted platform is one where the user hosts on a server or a web server and whose functioning is independent of the infrastructure in which it is located. This model allows adjusting site parameters based on the needs of site owners, who are therefore responsible for its maintenance and update. That is why this option enables further personalization of the platform according to the profile and the business strategy, but it also means that optimizing the site will be a recurring task.
If you go for a self-hosted platform, you have two outstanding open-source solutions: Magento and Drupal Commerce. Both of them have a good reputation. Drupal Commerce stands out because it has some remarkable features: it offers great scalability and the chance to personalize it according to customer requirements. Also, since these two platforms are open source, they can all be downloaded for free, which cuts back costs at the beginning of the project. At that point, the server will be the only expense to consider, even if it’s no small fee.
In contrast, a hosted platform provides an end-to-end Commerce solution, including a range of features from hosting to technical support. This model means that the budget will need to include a monthly fee for the platform service. In general, each platform offers discounts and special offers if a long-term service is hired. That is the case with many Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions, everything is done for you, but it will cost your independence.
Shopify is the most popular hosted platform, and it has an excellent reputation for its solutions applied to commerce. In this format, third-party vendors offer automated services, such as installing security updates and patches and implementing the latest features sought by consumers.
In the case of hosted platforms, site administrators make sure that everything runs seamlessly on each store. So, there is a direct benefit for owners, who can focus on other tasks related to running the business. Sit back, forget about the updates, and let them empty your pockets. Scratch that, I mean, let them take care of you.
Pros and cons of self-hosted commerce platforms
I gave you an overview of both options in terms of hosting for your commerce platform, but let’s first review the pros and cons of self-hosted commerce:
A personalized solution
Self-hosted commerce is your best bet if you are looking for the flexibility to tweak website features at any time. Personalized solutions can work amazingly in an open-source environment. Owners fully comprehend and define the content, images, strategy, updates, and so on. You are the absolute ruler of your store—as a French king would say: La store c’est moi!
Optimizing SEO is possible by tuning meta titles, links, keywords, tags, etcetera, whatever action to be potentially implemented for the site to be better indexed by Google. You will then become responsible for your success and failures.
The challenges, configuration, and maintenance
When choosing a self-hosted platform, owners themselves must look for the best server choices. They will also be responsible for solving any issues related to store security: this includes compliance with PCI (Payment Card Industry) and the SSL certification (a standard for online payments). If owners do not have the technical skills, they should consider hiring developers experts in open-source to get the commerce up and running and provide external support.
Pros and cons of hosted commerce platforms
I will try to be impartial today and give hosted commerce platforms a chance, even if I’m always more into the open-source, independent, self-reliant side. A canned solution can indeed be enough for your commerce, and you might be tired of everyone telling you to learn how to code, program, and such. Are you looking for a quick fix? Maybe this is the right option for you.
Here, commerce owners should not worry about defining what type of web hosting service is the best fit for their business. There will be different plans available depending on the store size and its overall activity. So you just need to read the catalog, find your price range, and voilá! Your store is up and running.
Guaranteed security and great scalability
These platforms guarantee a certain level of security, and a support team takes care of any concerns to make sure they are resolved. They are also prepared, for example, to handle high traffic peaks with efficiency. Again, you can rest easy and forget about messages at 2:00 AM from your IT team.
Lower initial investment
Indeed, the Software as a Service (SaaS) model does not require a massive initial investment to develop the project because the provider charges a monthly fee. Even if I sometimes come out as a hater of the SaaS model, the plug-and-play model makes everything easier. You only pay for usage.
The cons: fees, and less personalization
A hosted platform can ensure that clients have a ready-to-use and configurable solution running in just one day. However, they will not be able to offer a differentiated customer experience because of the platform's limitations. If the commerce business model goes beyond the standard, this will not be a good choice. Rates, on their part, will be higher when the store has a greater volume of traffic and new functions need to be incorporated.
After all, we still consider self-hosted custom commerce stores to be the best choice. Nothing beats having control over your business. It is flexible enough to adapt to the ever-changing market and customers' requirements: it is not an expense; it is an investment.
But let’s imagine you have already decided, what about special occasions like sales? Is your store ready for those?
Get your commerce in shape for the next Hot Sale
Every year the sales get more and more dates. You can even find “the best days to shop” articles all across the web, including days of discounts that are not only in the interest of consumers but business owners too. If you currently sell over the internet, you should ask yourself: Is my online store ready to take in more sales?
How to prepare your eCommerce site to make the best of the Hot Sale
Check your hosting service
During a Hot Sale your site will likely receive a sudden traffic surge. First of all, check with your hosting provider that the plan available can handle this increase so that the site will not crash. This is an important step that can differ according to the type of hosting.
Optimize your mobile store
Over 60% of users shop through their smartphones. That is why I go on and on about the importance of mobile-first development and why digital stores must be created with mobile design (for smartphones and tablets) and optimized to provide a site load of fewer than three seconds. A word of caution: responsive is okay, but mobile is much better.
Complete your product information and use product highlighting
The store will receive more traffic, and that is something to leverage. So, it is essential to adjust all product descriptions, using specifically thought-of information to answer the users' most frequent questions and providing the corresponding technical details. The correct specification of each product contributes to the SEO positioning within search engines.
We’ve been through the basic recommendations for your commerce, but let’s briefly repeat them. The quality and variety of product photography is another decisive factor: every photo must be professional-looking, in high resolution, and logically related to any other product image. In addition, you can highlight deals and promotions in a specific section to increase site navigation, clearly showcasing the original and discounted products.
Implement a sales strategy
First, it is key to identify the store's five-star products to enhance and focus on special offers. The 2 for 1 or 3 for 2 deals usually show excellent results. The Hot Sale presents itself as the ideal context for a business to stand out through sales, which include many variants: free shipping, quantity promotions, discounts on future purchases, product combos in combination with other brands, or limited hours with additional discounts on certain products.
Use a multichannel communication approach
The sales strategy should be replicated in every possible channel: social networks, marketplaces, email marketing, advertising, and so on. By setting up metrics in Google Analytics and other SEO audit tools, you can track incoming traffic from the site and social media.
Reinforce customer care
The online shopper often expects to find immediate answers, particularly on these days of enormously high demand and competition. It is a good idea to extend the online customer care hours and strengthen the team in charge, as pre-programmed responses are not the best solution. The more customized, the better. You have to know when automation should be your second priority.
That’s all good, you might say, but what about a specific commerce platform? I haven't even got to that part yet! Let’s talk about that then.
The best platforms to build a commerce store in 2021
Setting up an online store and making money fast: that’s the dream. But doing so requires good products, business knowledge, a strategic vision, and a key element: the right tool. The world of commerce has plenty of platforms to choose from, so much so that it can make this choice a complex one. If you read my articles before, you know I regularly suffer from choice paralysis.
This time I’ll make it simple for you. I have three options: Shopify, Magento, and Drupal Commerce. I went over them extensively before, but I’ll leave here an abridged version.
These commerce platforms offer a range of plans and templates, making it possible to build your own online store (some do not even require any coding knowledge). It can take large or small budgets, web design skills or not. Let’s see!
Top three commerce platforms
Magento, a solid choice for big companies
Magento is freemium and open-source software focused on companies that count on the support provided by a developer or technological partner. It offers two versions: Community is the free choice aimed at small businesses, while Enterprise is oriented to big brands that can invest in development and maintenance.
This open-source platform stands out for its user-friendly content management system, mobile-first approach, and search engine optimization (SEO) implementation. Magento is powerful enough to support up to 1,000,000,000 products and over 80,000 orders per hour. Much wow, big numbers.
Shopify, ideal for drop shipping
Shopify is one of the most popular tools because of one key functionality: it connects to Oberlo to integrate direct shipping tools. It offers three plans (Basic, Intermediate, and Advanced) and, by installing a free add-on, it enables selling up to 500 products per month at no cost. The basic version is US$ 29.90 monthly, and it allows selling up to 30,000 items per month.
A very easy-to-use tool, Shopify also offers live chat, online invoicing, more than 100 payment gateways, synchronization with Facebook, Instagram, and Amazon, and sales of physical and digital items, among other advantages.
If you know us, you are probably aware that we are big Drupal fans. To be honest, having a free and open-source alternative to other commerce platforms while also offering CMS options is, how do I put it? *chef’s kiss* Yeah, that good.
Drupal Commerce offers all the functionality you can find in Magento, Shopify, or any other competitor without charging any fees. What's the catch? You might ask, and of course, there is. Drupal requires some level of expertise, so even while being open-source and completely free, you will probably need to hire a developer or a whole team to help you out, which is my perfect segway.
At Awkbit, we know how important it is to make the best possible choice for your business, and not only once but every time technologies mutate and improve. That’s why we offer custom solutions with flexible implementations and the possibility of expanding in the future, all the traits you need for the next Hot Sale. Are you ready to be ready?