eCommerce is the new normal — and so is having an eCommerce website.
Statics show e-retail revenue will hit 5.4 trillion US dollars by the end of 2022, shooting to 6.388 trillion US dollars by 2024.
And this projected increase in revenue is already on the cards, despite eCommerce still being at a nascent stage.
So, if you’re thinking about opening an online store, congratulations. The world is your oyster.
You have probably already figured out what products to sell, how your eCommerce website will look like, and how you’re going to drive traffic to it. That’s all well taken care of.
So, what next? Hiring an eCommerce developer — If not handled well, this can turn into your worst nightmare and end up jeopardizing your business.
This article will discuss why it is important to hire the best eCommerce web developer for your online store, how to go about it, and what things to look for and avoid while hiring an e-commerce web development company.
Who’s an Ecommerce Developer?
Let’s first understand the profile of an eCommerce developer. An eCommerce developer is a full-stack web application developer who has the skill and expertise to design, develop and maintain your online store.
They’re responsible for:
- Designing: The overall look and feel of your eCommerce website
- Programming: The coding, algorithms, and technical know-how to implement the design
- Maintenance: Ensuring your eCommerce website is up and running at all times
Now that you know what an eCommerce developer does, let’s get a general overview of the ecommerce industry.
General Overview of the Ecommerce Industry
Why do you need an ecommerce website in the first place?
Well, this should answer.
It’s projected that by 2040, more than 95% of retail sales will come from eCommerce. That aside, at the time of this writing, more than 93% of global internet users say they have bought something online, whether it’s a service or product.
Even in a world dominated by giant digital retail marketplaces like Amazon, eBay, Walmart, and Craigslist, there’s still plenty of room for small and medium-sized enterprises to build awareness about their brands.
If anything, SMEs have a few advantages over these big brands:
- Positive indirect network effects
- Global market access
- Advanced analytics (AI) (for market segmentation/targeting, impact analysis)
- Lower transaction costs (payments, logistics, and shipping)
- Increased client trust (increased review system, platform insurance, etc.)
- Increased revenue and sale
In other words, SMEs have all the reasons in the world to take their business online and set up an ecommerce store.
Small Businesses with a Website Vs. Those Without Based on Revenue
As you can see, more than 59% with a revenue stream of less than 1 million have yet to set up an online store. That’s spells a lot of opportunity for anyone planning to enter the industry.
Among those interviewed, 25% said they don’t have an online store because they lack the technical knowledge and skills to build the website themselves.
That’s where an ecommerce developer comes in handy – and the best part is that they aren’t as expensive as some people love to assume.
4 Top Reasons SMEs Don’t Have Websites
- Use social media profiles in place of a website
- They don’t have the technical expertise to set up one
- They don’t find it relevant with their type of business or industry
- Lack human and financial resources to build and manage one
There’s also a spurt in the number of smartphones in use. Better, the smartphone conversion rate is at 61%, with a checkout cart conversion rate of 51%.
Why Hire an eCommerce Web Developer?
There are three key reasons anyone would want to hire an experienced eCommerce web developer.
Many of the biggest names in eCommerce, such as Amazon, Flipkart, eBay, and Walmart, use custom-built platforms for their online stores.
But why would they do that when there are so many pre-built solutions out there? Well, it’s because these platforms offer more flexibility, better security, and more control.
- Security Reasons: If you’re not running an online store on a platform of your own, there are chances that your store is more prone to cybercrime. You need to know who has access to sensitive information like user details (email IDs/phone numbers) and financial data (credit card details).
Just to let you know, by 30th September 2021, the number of data breaches had already exceeded the events in 2020 by 1,291 (According to Identity Theft Resource Centre (ITRC)).
Custom-built platforms offer the highest level of security and better chances of withstanding cyberattacks. And the only guarantee you have is to hire someone experienced enough to build such a platform for your online store.
- Faster Updates: Using pre-built eCommerce platforms means you have to wait until the vendor rolls out updates. It doesn’t matter how small and insignificant those updates and features are. If the vendor has released them yet, there’s no way you can access them.
However, custom-built platforms will give you total control over what new features and updates go live. You can schedule your own updates and implement them anytime you want.
- Flexibility: Again, with custom-built platforms for your online store, you have complete control over how it looks and feels.
You can design the entire platform according to your vision — from the layout to colours, fonts, images, etc. You can change anything whenever you want without any hassles because you are in charge of the store and everything attached.
And as it happens, custom-built platforms are incredibly responsive and perform faster than pre-built eCommerce platforms.
- Branding: If you’re serious about your online business, then branding is something you can’t ignore.
Nothing is more important than your brand. So, you want your online marketing efforts to be consistent with how people perceive you and interact with your store, whether offline or online.
It’s the only way to set yourself apart from everyone out there selling the same thing as you and using more or less the same strategies and website layouts as every other person out there.
Custom-built platforms offer a great way to build your brand and connect with users more effectively and consistently.
- No Vendor Lock-in: Most pre-built eCommerce platforms are proprietary. Meaning, the data is stored on their servers and not on your hosting account.
So, if you want to migrate to a new eCommerce platform, you might end up either paying an arm and a leg or letting go of your business data.
With custom-built platforms for eCommerce stores, you have complete control over the data. You can transfer it to any other web hosting service whenever you want without paying anything extra or losing your investment.
- Scalability: Scalability is another big differentiator between pre-built and custom-built eCommerce platforms.
With the former, you are stuck with whatever features, limitations, security standards, etc. that come bundled with it. Plus, if you don’t use all the features regularly, they will go to waste, which translates to extra costs on your end.
On the other hand, custom-built platforms allow you to gradually add more features and functionalities to your eCommerce store as your traffic grows. They also let you scale up or down without encountering any downtime issues.
- Flawless Integration: If you are selling goods overseas, you might come to find that you have to integrate and sync your inventory and product catalogues with multiple payment gateways.
Doing this on a pre-built eCommerce platform means you have to check to see if they have an extension or plugin for it. If they don’t, you have to go through the fine print and see if you can somehow help you make the extension.
However, custom-built eCommerce platforms can perfectly integrate with any third-party software you want without any hassle. Just get a developer to go through the company’s API documentation and integrate it for you.
- Flexibility in Pricing: Another advantage of custom-built eCommerce platforms is that you get the total freedom to set your own pricing policies.
Unlike pre-built eCommerce platforms, where pricing policies are fixed and non-negotiable, with custom-built platforms, you can change or update these policies anytime you want as per your discretion.
If there is any change in payment gateways or their rates, you can adjust your pricing to accommodate those changes without letting them affect your bottom line.
- Expertise in Customized Workflows and Processes: Typically, e-commerce companies have their own workflow and process for managing projects. A developer who has experience working in such environments can help you manage your projects better and without any hassle.
When Should You Hire an Ecommerce Store Developer?
If you don’t have the technical expertise to build an ecommerce store on your own, then perhaps you should consider hiring a team of professional ecommerce developers.
So when should you hire an ecommerce developer? Here are the three most common scenarios!
When you have a clear vision in mind
If you have a clear vision of what your ecommerce website should look like and function, then the best option is to hire an expert developer to help you bring that vision to life.
You can show them a picture or video of what you want and see if they can help you build it up.
When you want an expert opinion on existing ecommerce projects
Sometimes you might not have a clear vision in mind, but your ecommerce website is already in place. In this case, hiring a developer can help you manage many issues affecting your website’s functionality and look.
For example, you might need to enhance security standards or update your site’s look according to the latest market trends.
When you want to connect your website with other applications or platforms
If you want to connect your website with other applications and platforms, then hiring a developer is probably the best way to go about it. With their help, you can manage and integrate third-party functionalities into your website without any hassle and downtime.
When you want to scale up your business and secure your future
Suppose your ecommerce website is already doing well, but its capacity has been stretched to its limits. In that case, hiring a developer can help you create an automated system that not only scales up as per demand but also secures the future of your eCommerce store by handling unexpected traffic surges or server issues.
Services an Ecommerce Developer Provides
An ecommerce developer is a full-stack developer whose skills and expertise stretch far and wide. They can do everything from backend programming to frontend designing and development.
When you hire an ecommerce developer, expect them to provide the following seven services:
This is the very first step where your ecommerce developer will work with you to discuss and finalize what kind of website you want. They will also help you decide on the best ecommerce platform that fits your requirements, budget, and future expansion plans.
User experience (UX) is responsible for the functionality, adaptability, and emotions your website evokes. It is not just about how your website looks but also how it feels. Similarly, the user interface (UI) is about how your website looks and feels. It is responsible for the overall design of your website, particularly its interface, which directly affects its conversion rate.
This element of ecommerce development deals with rendering content on the front end of your ecommerce website. This is half of your ecommerce site that your customers can see and experience. Developers mostly use Angular, Laravel, Vue, and React frameworks to develop your website’s structure and interface.
This element of ecommerce development deals with rendering content on the backend of your ecommerce website or application. It includes any part of your system that does not involve interaction from the user, such as creating order placement, managing the inventory, etc. It implements logic, and it’s not visible to the user.
Integrations and Connections
Integration is a process where different applications are connected to exchange data and give users better web experiences. For example, an ecommerce website will be integrated with a payment gateway that allows customers to pay for their purchases using credit/debit cards and PayPal.
It’s mostly done through APIs and extensions (in the case of a CMS).
Mobile App Designing/Development
eCommerce has evolved to include mobile platforms. Most businesses today have a mobile app for their ecommerce business. An ecommerce developer can help you design and develop an effective mobile app that works on all major operating systems, including Android, iOS, Windows, etc.
Testing and Quality Assurance
A lot goes into creating and developing an ecommerce website, including quality assurance (QA). An ecommerce developer has the expertise to test the functionalities, performance, security, user interface, etc., of your site before you go live.
Custom software development
Every business is unique and different. This uniqueness is reflected in their needs and requirements. Your developer will understand your business, analyse your requirements, and work closely with you to develop a custom software solution for your ecommerce business.
What Skills Does an eCommerce Developer Have?
Building an ecommerce store from scratch requires multiple sets of skills. That’s why it’s advisable to specifically work with an ecommerce developer and not a software developer.
That said, here are some of the skills an ecommerce developer should have:
– Backend development: NodeJS, the MEAN Stack, Ruby on Rails, PHP, ExpressJS, Laravel, .NET
– Database administration: MySQL and NoSQL. They must know how to use relational and non-relational database management systems to store data and retrieve it on demand.
– API and integration: REST and SOAP APIs, XML, JSON, webhooks, FTP APIs, SFTP/FTP APIs, Payment gateways such as PayPal and Stripe.
– Server administration: The ability to install, configure and manage web servers such as Apache, Nginx, IIS is a must.
– UI and UX Design: The developer must have a good sense of UI and UX design to create an excellent user interface for your ecommerce website. They must know their way around Photoshop, Axure, Illustrator, Figma, etc.
– A Good Understanding of ecommerce platforms: Magento, Prestashop, Shopify, WooCommerce are just some of the many ecommerce platforms that an ecommerce developer might be required to work with to create a functional ecommerce website.
– Mobile App Development: Flutter, Ionic, React Native, Xamarin are some of the most widely used mobile app development frameworks. An ecommerce developer must be familiar with all these frameworks.
– Cloud Computing: eCommerce developers who can work on cloud computing platforms like GCP, AWS are highly sought after.
It takes a gigantic sea of different tools and technologies to build a functional ecommerce website. That’s where the role of an ecommerce developer comes into play.
What Should You Expect from an Ecommerce developer: What’re their Responsibilities?
What responsibilities does your ecommerce developer have?
- Understand your requirement and develop a well-thought-out project plan splitting it into milestones and phases.
- Communicate with team members, developers, etc., to ensure smooth workflow of the different activities necessary for completing the project on time.
- Design, configure and develop scalable and user-friendly eCommerce solutions according to your site requirements. That includes integrating the website with third-party applications and payment gateways.
- Install and configure your ecommerce platform on a server and set up the hosting environment. They should also take care of software updates and patches that need to be done from time to time.
- Implement and support an SEO strategy for your website.
- Analyse and resolve any issues that might arise in the future, such as errors and bugs.
- Provide post-release support and testing, remediate issues, integrate new functions and features.
10 Common eCommerce Features Every Website Needs
You can think of ecommerce as a combination of different features that work together to help you sell your products.
Every ecommerce platform has its own set of features and functionalities, but there are a few common ones that are an absolute must for every ecommerce site.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO): Every ecommerce site needs a custom SEO strategy. Decide on a domain name, meta description, page titles, headings, keywords, and anything else that defines your ecommerce website.
- Social media integration: Social media integration is a key feature of an ecommerce website. You want to make sure your site’s visitors can easily share your products with their friends and family via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, etc.
- Mobile-friendliness: 54.4% of internet users use their mobile devices to access the internet. That’s why your ecommerce websites need to be mobile-friendly. The UI and UX design should be responsive to load just fine on all sorts of mobile devices.
- Customer Support: No matter how good your product descriptions are, there will always be customers with questions. You need to provide a way for them to contact you and get their questions answered.
- Web analytics and reporting: An ecommerce platform will have built-in analytics, which you can use to track things like visits, page views, cart abandonment, and social engagement.
- Payment gateway integration, etc.: Successful online transactions depend on effective third-party payment gateway integrations, such as PayPal and Stripe.
- Customer Relationship Management (CRM): Customer Relationship Management, or CRM for short, is a system that keeps track of your customers and prospects, tracks their behaviour over time, and manages your sales pipeline.
- Ecommerce email marketing: Email marketing is one of the cheapest and most widely used forms of digital marketing. You can segment your existing email list, send targeted emails and personalize emails to maximize the impact of your email campaigns.
- Shipping and delivery integration, etc.: Shipping rates and delivery times depend on all sorts of things like the shipping location, type of product, and weight. You need to figure out how to integrate the best shipping platform with your eCommerce site, particularly FedEx and UPS.
- Data security and encryption: Your site’s security should be your top priority. Choose a secure cloud hosting service, ensure SSL encryption for your site, use strong passwords, and most importantly, back up your data, both manually and automatically.
To learn more about data security and encryption for eCommerce, here’s an article you want to read:
- Account and order management: Most ecommerce platforms have an account management feature, which helps you track your products, inventory, and orders.
An experienced ecommerce developer will help you integrate all of the above features into your website.
Pros and Cons of Hiring an eCommerce Developer for Your Project
- Dedicated eCommerce Developer: You’ll get a dedicated ecommerce expert to help you with all your ecommerce needs.
- Expert Opinion on Your Project: They know what they’re doing and can offer you valuable insights and tips to help you grow your ecommerce business.
- Relieve Yourself of Any Unnecessary Stress: A chance to focus on your core business activities as your ecommerce developer handles the rest.
- It’s Time Consuming: Hiring an eCommerce developer isn’t as easy as hitting up search engines like Google and recruiting the first person or agency that comes up. To determine the best fit, you have to do a lot of due diligence, research and dig through their reviews, past work, and portfolios.
- It can be expensive: eCommerce developers aren’t cheap. If you’re on a tight budget, then it’s probably not the best option for you.
- Lack of Control: Working with an in-house team means you get to choose the developers you work with, their workflow, and the direction your project takes. However, working with an ecommerce agency means you have to put your trust in them and their work processes.
Tips for Hiring an Ecommerce Developer
Even if you have a clear vision in mind for your ecommerce website, you still have to consider several things before making the final hire.
Here are some tips that will help you ensure the developer you hire is the right fit:
Determine Your Project’s Requirements
Before you start looking for ecommerce developers to work on your project, you should determine your project requirements:
- Who is your target audience? What are their demographics, psychographics, and user personas?
- What are their online habits and buying behaviour? How will your website help solve their problems?
- What features should your ecommerce platform have?
- What payment gateways, shipping methods, and eCommerce platforms do you intend to use?
- How much customization is required? Do you need a shopping cart platform, drop shipping, or a custom eCommerce solution?
Here are the steps to follow when defining your project’s requirements:
- Write down your goals
- Choose the features you’d like to see on your website – which of these features are a must-have?
- What options do you consider unnecessary or that your ecommerce store can do without?
- Fix your budget
Ask About their Experience and Past Projects
It’s a good idea to ask the developers you’re considering hiring about their past projects and the ecommerce platforms they’ve worked with.
For example, an ecommerce developer might not be familiar with Magento but can quickly develop a website using WordPress.
Note that ecommerce websites are a little bit more complicated than regular websites – not so many developers have the whole enchilada of skills, knowledge, and expertise to pull it off.
Ask the agency about their previous experiences. Ask them if they have ever integrated a payment gateway into an ecommerce website. Can they integrate eCommerce product videos into your platform?
And most importantly, find out what their experience with SEO is?
Check their Portfolios and Follow Up with their References
An ecommerce developer’s portfolio is a great way to find out if they have what it takes to deliver what you need for your project.
You have to make sure the developers you’re hiring have completed similar projects in the past.
It’s also a good idea to follow up with their references.
Contacting the company’s existing clients will give you a first-hand idea of what to expect from the company and its team of ecommerce developers.
Decide on the Content Management System (CMS) to Use
The CMS you use for your ecommerce website can make or break its success.
Here are some things to consider when choosing a CMS platform for eCommerce:
- What are the features of your eCommerce platform? Do they require custom themes and functionalities?
- Does the CMS you choose have the modules and plugins required to meet your eCommerce requirements?
- Can the CMS integrate with your payment gateway? Is there a plugin or extension for it?
- How much control do you have over the frontend and backend of your ecommerce website?
- Do you need special plugins to run certain features on the front end of your eCommerce platform?
- How much SEO flexibility does the CMS offer out of the box?
Find Out What Approach They Use
Find out about the agency’s work strategy and development process. Ask them about their approach towards your ecommerce project and how they plan to meet your requirements.
Do they use Waterfall or Agile methodology? In Waterfall development, the complete project is planned and developed before testing. On the other hand, Agile allows for faster development by working in short sprints and testing the app at each phase.
Be sure to discuss the initial timeline, the number of developers required for your ecommerce project, and the milestones they have set.
Do they have a QA team? What are their testing procedures? How do they handle revisions and updates?
Discuss their Pricing Model
Find out how the ecommerce developer prices their services.
Some developers charge by the hour, while others bill you for project milestones.
Some agencies charge a hefty upfront fee, while others offer monthly payment plans.
The pricing model you choose depends on your project’s size and complexity. Most importantly, be sure to discuss the nuances and everything in between.
For example, will the developer charge you for extra features or the changes you request along the way? If so, what model will they use?
Discuss the Communication Channels You’ll Be Using
As a client, you have the right to know how and when you’ll be updated on your project progress.
Ask the developer teams if they’ll be using any collaboration tools to keep you updated on the ecommerce project.
What are their working hours? Do they have a dedicated support team or account manager?
What Security Measures do they Have in Place to Protect your Ecommerce Project?
Find out how safe and secure your ecommerce project will be with the developer.
Ask them about their security strategy and how they plan to protect your eCommerce website from hackers.
Ask them to share their disaster recovery plan with you.
If they aren’t using an SSL certificate for your ecommerce website, it’s time to look for an agency that can.
You don’t want your customers to end up on a phishing site while going through your ecommerce store.
Make sure your ecommerce agency is PCI-compliant. If they aren’t, then don’t even bother engaging them further.
Do they Have a Warranty?
What if things go wrong with your ecommerce project? How will the agency address your concerns and issues?
Ask them if they’ll charge you for the code issues you encounter after they have launched your website.
What if it turns out the site isn’t responsive on mobile devices?
If the developer or agency agrees to fix any issue for a specified period, take it to mean they’re professional and trustworthy.