So, you’ve decided to give the world of eCommerce a try. That’s great! Only issue, how do you decide which eCommerce platform to use? There’s so many amazing ones to choose from, it’s hard to determine, for a beginner, what to expect or what you think will work best for your business. That’s where I come in.
I’m Amy. I’m an eCommerce beginner. Am I actually entering the world of eCommerce hoping to make my store the next best thing? No, but maybe you are.
Over the next couple of blog posts, I’ll be going into detail on how setting up an eCommerce store was to a genuine beginner. First up on the list is BigCommerce. (Keep in mind that all the platforms I will be diving into offer free trials, so if you’re curious you can always play around before committing as well!)
Actually creating my store took no time at all. There’s a bunch of different buttons you can click on the homepage that will lead you to where you need to be. Look for “start your free trial”, or “get started”. After selecting one of those, some basic information is required like your name, email, phone number, etc. You select a category that your store falls under, and the name of your store (which you can go back and edit later). I decided to create a bookstore, and I’ll keep that consistent across all platforms I decide to test drive.
After you create the store BigCommerce takes you through a mini tour showing you where everything is and giving tiny explanations as to what those features / areas can do. I’ll make the argument that since I hadn’t been running a bookstore, I was left incredibly confused. I set up my store and just didn’t know where to go from there, so I looked around some “competitors” websites to get a feel for what features are common, or how to go about sorting my products in the most effective way. I’m sure most of you are well versed in what you’re selling, unlike me, so our initial setup experience may differ.
The initial creation of the store was very user friendly. It was a simple, “click this, fill in the blanks” sort of situation. Actually going in and adding products, changing themes, etc, I’d argue are also user friendly. Everything is easy to find, and the mini tour they give you is also helpful. There were some functionalities that I figured would be a given, but didn’t really play out that way.
Maybe that’s a little vague, so I’ll give an example: I wanted to duplicate product categories that fell under a parent category
I wanted to have two parent categories of Books, and eBooks, because I wanted to offer physical hardcovers and paperbacks, as well as downloads for your Kindle or Nook. All categories underneath the parent category were going to be the same. I had a subcategory of subjects, and then from there a list of subjects underneath that. I had to go back in and retype all the same categories, which isn’t difficult because they have the “save and add another” feature, but considering it’s the same content duplicated that kind of frustrated me. Also, having to go through and click through where I want my sub products under neath the subcategories of the parent projects was time consuming.
You could always make everything a parent category and from there drag and drop them into the proper categories you want them to fall under, but again that’s rather time consuming. Since my store isn’t real, I gave up less than half way through, and ended up scrapping the eBook category. However, if this is your legitimate store, and you have a lot of categories, this can be incredibly tedious.
Adding products is relatively easy, but also incredibly time consuming if you’re unprepared. Since I was unprepared walking into opening an eCommerce store, I didn’t have all my products gathered in a CSV file. That’s the easiest way to bulk upload all your products into BigCommerce, and highly recommended to make everything super convenient for you so you’re not in the same boat as I was, adding things one by one.
Ultimately, BigCommerce is incredibly user friendly. I think my main struggles stemmed from just being confused in general about what it is I needed/should do. But once I finally got an idea of what I needed to get done, it wasn’t too difficult to actually do what I needed to. If I was confused, it was really easy to contact customer service and have them walk me through it. Also, a quick Google search was helpful as well.
Themes. There’s a few, and there’s a couple of ways you can filter through them. There are themes you have to pay for, and free themes. You can also decide if you want your theme to be responsive, which I think should just be included, especially because nowadays everyone’s all over the internet with their mobile devices or tablet. They have about 15 free themes, which I think is a decent amount to pick from.
After I started building my store, I realized the original template I had picked out wasn’t really working for how I wanted everything to look and be set up. So, after setting up my product categories I came to the conclusion that I should change it, and going through that motion was incredibly easy as well. They recommend you backup your information for your store, and then from there it’s a simple click to change your template.
There’s a couple of ways you can go about customizing your design. You can either go into the CSS, which is difficult if you’re unfamiliar with code like I am. There’s also a style editor, where you can customize font and colors without having to dive into code. Not all themes allow a style editor so if you think you want to do further customization with design than I would suggest filtering your theme to those who allow that, unless you’re looking to hire someone to go into the code for you.
Also, since most stores have their own logo and don’t want to keep their name in the format the template put it in, I decided to create my own logo. I did something incredibly simple, and within Adobe Illustrator, and uploaded it as a PNG. That went very smoothly, and actually blended in with the theme that I selected quite nicely. I also think that should be a factor when going about deciding what template to use — you want to make sure your design is cohesive so keep your logo in mind!
Like I mentioned earlier, the average person isn’t super familiar with how to code. One of the great things about BigCommerce is that it has the opportunity for you to customize some simple stuff on some of their templates by using a Style Editor. For instance, you can change coloring (which you can slightly see in my before / after).
The template I had selected was along the lines of something that I typically enjoy in design. I like simple, I like easy to read sans serif, I like black and white so I didn’t do too much customization with font changes. I just switched some colors around. However, after looking into it further the customization didn’t allow me to change every little color, for example like the icons. If you look above, you can see that the little shopping bag and arrows within the drop down menu still have the original red that the template had. Due to the inconsistency, I scrapped my changes and left the store colors as is.
Shipping & Payment
In the backend, editing shipping isn’t terribly confusing. There’s a couple of options for pricing shipping: you can have a flat rate, offer free shipping (or free shipping if you’re spending over a certain amount), or change shipping based off of the weight of the product.
For BigCommerce, I was automatically set up and okay to use PayPal, American Express, Visa and Mastercard. They do have a plethora of other options that you can select from to use, but the default of what they offered does seem pretty standard, and that majority of people should be able to process a payment on my site using one of the payment options already available. There is a small fee for being able to implement those payment options, but I think that’s expected.
I contacted customer support almost instantly. I’m one of those people who, if I can’t figure out how to do something, I just go to ask someone. I will not search endlessly for answers if I know there’s a better way to acquire them. They have a couple of ways you can go about support, an email, a phone call, or a live chat.
I’m a fan of the live chat. I work in an office and I don’t want to be on the phone causing distractions. I want an instant reply too, so I’m not going to do an email. Now, I could have been a better customer and browsed through their forums looking for how to do something. But, not every customer goes through FAQ or support forums because they’d rather someone else do the looking for them. I was playing that kind of customer, and am that kind of customer, frankly.
It could be the time in the day that I contacted them, but I got on with a live agent immediately. And they were incredibly helpful! I was looking to do something and I couldn’t figure out how to do it, and they offered a video to show me how to do it. I expected them to send me some run of the mill tutorial video, but they actually went within my account and filmed themselves going through the motions so I could see how it would be done on my personal backend.
Another feature with BigCommerce that I enjoyed was the fact there is a built in blog. You can announce certain features, or you can just give general updates on your store. It makes everything feel incredibly personable.
I think this will be an overarching opinion for every store I set up… But this was incredibly tedious. One of those things where, after starting to do it, I understood immediately why you would want to hire someone to migrate all your data.
That being said, working with BigCommerce wasn’t overwhelmingly difficult. There were some functionality areas where I thought there was room for improvement, but the way BigCommerce walks you through how to go about setting up a store is rather painless. I’d definitely recommend BigCommerce to eCommerce beginners.
If you are looking for eCommerce professionals to help you make it over the speed bumps, don’t hesitate to contact 1Digital Agency. Not only are they partnered with BigCommerce, but also they’re eCommerce geniuses. They’re here to help you! Reach out via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call them toll free at 888-982-8269.
- Dan Kogan
- September 9, 2016