Creating and planning your first e-commerce project can be a daunting thought. E-commerce websites are a lot more complex compared to standard brochureware websites. An e-commerce website will have a lot more moving parts, constraints and considerations compared to a standard website. The primary focus of this post is for beginners completely new to e-commerce who are considering Episerver commerce to power their online store. This guide isn't going to cover any code, however, it will explain what e-commerce websites are and why you should consider Episerver commerce 🛒🛒🛒.

What Is E-Commerce?

Wikipedia defines e-commerce as:

"Electronic commerce, commonly known as E-commerce, is trading in products or services using computer networks, such as the Internet. Electronic commerce draws on technologies such as mobile commerce, electronic funds transfer, supply chain management, Internet marketing, online transaction processing, electronic data interchange (EDI), inventory management systems, and automated data collection systems."

"Modern electronic commerce typically uses the World Wide Web for at least one part of the transaction's life cycle, although it may also use other technologies such as e-mail, mobile devices, social media, and telephones."

Having an online store on your website will obviously provide a business with a great potential revenue stream. Having a store is great, however, building an online store from scratch is hard. Unless you are a high-street retail store building an online commerce store from scratch is not a great idea. Instead, you will want to use a framework to help you get to your goal. Choosing the right platform is a key factor in a companies success. Episerver CMS is known for its ease of use even for non-programmers, and this is also the case with Episerver Commerce.

Commerce Platform Vs Self-Build?

We have established that there are two approaches to building an e-commerce store. Build it yourself, or use an existing commerce platform. Building your store on top of an established e-commerce platform will speed up your development. Your developers will also have access to a range of APIs that will allow you to do lots of tasks. Writing code to add and remove products, adding items to a basket, creating a checkout flow and a payment gateway takes time and effort. Using a commerce platform means you can use battle-worn and tested code to power your store. Obviously, the above statement is very idealistic. building a store on any platform will have challenges. It's never just a case of buying some software that does everything you want it to out-of-the-box.

When you buy a commerce platform, you're buying something that has been developed by people who probably know more about e-commerce software than you do. Another consideration is software patching. E-commerce sites are always high targets for people wanting to do malicious things to your site. If you build bespoke software you need to keep track of all the latest vulnerabilities and you are solely responsible for maintaining your code and making sure the site is secure. When you use off-the-shelf products, you will also have the benefit of upgrades. There will be a team of core developers working day in, day out, to improve the product. Using a commerce platform means you can upgrade your platform with the latest release and within a few hours get great new features and bug fixes without having to do any development yourself!

Developing an in-house solution does come with benefits. With the right team, building something custom will allow you to create a store that will exactly meet your business needs, however, if you're reading this I assume you are probably new to e-commerce and you'll have to go through a lot of learning and pain in order to get to that stage. It is key to get people with e-commerce experience if you want to build something in-house. Also, expect a project to take at least a year., Whenever I've done these types of the project in-house, it's always taken a team of 3-4 people, 12-16 months to deliver a working site. Using an existing commerce framework, usually, means you can bolt in a lot of functionality into your website very rapidly. After installing the product (which takes an hour), your content editors will instantly have access to a PIM, customer management, and invoice management screens.

Considerations When Picking An Ecommerce Platform

For this article, I'm going to assume that you have decided that you want to use a third-party commerce product. You now need to pick one. In order to evaluate how well a commerce platform fits your business, I suggest you create a criteria list. Some points that I would include in this type of this list would be:

Customization: How flexible is the platform? Your business will have established workflows and business processes that will need to map into your online site. An easy to change commerce platform will be made for a quicker build and less painful integrations. To check how easy a platform is integrated within an existing website, I suggest talking to freelance developers who specialise in e-commerce, rather than simply trust a salesperson or account manager who works for the vendor!.

Security: Security is the biggest concern for every e‑commerce site. No companies want to deal with the brand damage that can come from the compromised sites. Hacked credit card data going missing, exposing customer data, allowing for fraudulent purchases. Having bad security not only puts your customers’ credentials at stake but puts you on the firing squad to get sued. How do you tackle such issues? Check what other large companies are using the platform. if banks or insurers use it, you know it will be safe! In terms of data privacy, if you use any SASS products, check where any customer data is a store and in which country the servers will be located

Performance: Performance should be a key consideration for any website. You will need a solution that has been proven to work under a high load. Check for sites that get sudden bursts in traffic and high-load, like Amazon, TicketMaster etc...

User Experience: One often overlooked aspect of building an in-house platform is how long it will take you to write the user interfaces. The PIM, customer management screens will all need to be written. Getting this right will take time. Making it look good will take even longer. This is another benefit of using a commercial tool. Which product will make your content editors happy. Happy content editors will make for a happy business!

Cost: Cost will be the main influencer on many projects. What's the license fees? Are there transaction fees? Figurine cost out can be complex, however, this is an essential step in product selection

Episerver Commerce

If you are still reading this, Episerver Commerce might be a good fit for you. Episerver Commerce is a paid product developed by Episerver. Episerver Commerce has been around in some flavour for nearly a decade so it's been built on a lot of learnings. Episerver Commerce now powers hundreds of eCommerce websites worldwide, including a number of high-traffic websites. Episerver Commerce lets you sell anything you want online with ease.

You can sell physical, virtual, downloadable, or even affiliate/external products with Episerver Commerce. Like Episerver CMS, you do not know anything technical to use the product itself, instead of trying to write a custom admin panel yourself, you can enjoy a lot of flexibility in selling your products with the screens that come with Episerver Commerce.

Episerver Commerce is a platform and you will still need developers to do the initial implementation. Episerver Commerce is not only about setting up your own web store, Episerver Commerce is a complete platform that allows you to manage everything around your online business. I do not work for Episerver, however, I have implemented numerous sites using it. If you want a CMS and a commerce platform then you could do worse than thinking Episerver. To learn more got the website to make an enquiry.

The aim of this guide is to give you some fuel for thought about how to build an online store. If you want to become an e-merchant and you don't want to write everything from scratch, then EpiCommerce is there to save the day. Episerver is being used successfully by a lot of companies worldwide. If you are considering Episerver commerce, I would strongly recommend you speak to another company or freelance developer who has at least implemented one site using it before you purchase a license. Episerver Commerce is still an improving product. A lot of improvements have been made to it in the last few years and Episerver is still putting in a lot of time and effort into constantly improve the product. If you need any help with Episerver Commerce and want some independent advice, please feel free to ask me anything. You can contact me from this page. Happy Coding 🤘