The eCommerce Website Development Guide: 8 Steps to Rollout Your Platform in 2021 [Interview with Bart Pichola - marketing manager at Lin Engineering]

The eCommerce Website Development Guide: 8 Steps to Rollout Your Platform in 2021 [Interview with Bart Pichola - marketing manager at Lin Engineering]

In 2020 the global network hosted 20 million eCommerce websites. Till the end of 2021, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to buy goods and services online. Moreover, 95% of all retail sales will be conducted through eCommerce in 2024.

Setting up an eCommerce website is an essential step of your going-global strategy to keep up with your competitors’ pace. When you’re scratching the project from finalizing the product list for the website to deciding the design layout, from fixing the on-page and off-page SEO to marketing your brand, a lot of things go into eCommerce website development. 

Let’s try to narrow down your business strategy to the following steps:

  • Step №1. Defining your eCommerce path: Which website type is the best match for your business?
  • Step №2. Processing through the Concept Development Stage to elicit requirements and prepare all the necessary data before implementation
  • Step №3. Deciding on the most appropriate eCommerce platform or choosing custom development
  • Step №4. Choosing a reliable development partner
  • Step №5. Designing a visually-appealing eCommerce layout and building UI/UX 
  • Step №6. Developing a website and testing before you go live
  • Step №7. Picking up an eCommerce online payment solution
  • Step №8. Launching an online store and using digital marketing to announce your brand

Starting from step №1, when considering how to create an eCommerce website, your path may be twofold:

  1. Custom development from scratch
  2. Ready-to-use eCommerce website builders.

The most robust and well-known solutions include Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Magento, PrestaShop, and OpenCart.

That being said, it’s a good idea to keep in mind the following disadvantages of web development with the help of eCommerce platforms:

  • Bottlenecks while you build an eCommerce website and the inability to scale an online business
  • Need for coding experience and technical knowledge when using some eCommerce website builders
  • Expenses like hosting, domain, themes, plugins, development, etc, are still required
  • Poorly tailored set of provided functionality
  • Website design choices can be limited to ready-made templates and themes the tool has to offer
  • eCommerce websites are very similar and do not necessarily transfer the unique feel and touch of a brand

Unlike the eCommerce websites built on specialized platforms, made from scratch ones stand out thanks to highly customized and exceptional UX/UI design and sets of features that are tailored to meet all business requirements.

Custom eCommerce websites are created to satisfy the specific needs of a business and are developed from scratch with a modern tech stack to handle high traffic loads, as well as apply a unique and user-friendly interface.

Custom eCommerce website development has the following benefits:

  • Ability to cover and handle specific eCommerce business needs
  • Easy scaling and tailor-made feature customization
  • Professional website support and maintenance
  • Faster and easier bug fixing process
  • Beautiful design instead of templates or themes with no room for uniqueness and brand identity
  • Opportunity to be unique and apply interesting interface and design elements (illustrations, animations, branding)
  • Increased responsiveness and user-friendliness
  • Possibility to quickly adopt the latest technologies and stay one step ahead of competitors
  • Ability to build an eCommerce website from scratch and make it unique by adding an attractive and innovative interface along with design elements
  • Complete ownership of website code and design
  • Ability to choose the best hosting provider that will sustain your load

We at Apiko do know how to build an eCommerce website from scratch and what it takes to create not just an eCommerce website, but a successful project with thousands of users. Take a closer look at the Lin Engineering project illustrated below and run through the interview with Bart Pichola - marketing manager and tech lead at Lin Engineering.

  1. What criteria did you have to select your software development partner? Did you have any other options to go with, like hiring an in-house team or something else? 
  2. We’ve explored various options:

    • Hiring an in-house developer.
    • A freelance developer.
    • Or using a development company.

    The two main criteria were to be able to maintain a good amount of control over the project, such as the tech stack, servers/hosting, etc., and not be dependent on proprietary or closed source tech. And of course, have decent control over the development costs. We’ve decided against hiring an in-house developer because 1) Full stack developers are very expensive in the SF Bay Area, 2) There’s too much competition for talent in the area. 3) We weren’t convinced that we needed a full-time developer on the payroll. Either a freelance developer or a development company seemed like a better option.

    We’ve decided that going with a development company vs a freelancer is a better option because of the pool of talent available within development companies, and the ability to get extra hands-on board when needed. I’ve originally looked at US-based development companies but costs seemed to be too prohibitive for us, so we’ve decided to look into international development companies instead. That’s how we came across Apiko.

  3. You have been a marketing manager at Lin Engineering since 2015. Have you noticed any stages of the company's evolution? If yes, can you provide us with some examples and what drives that progress? 
  4. Web presence has been playing an increasingly important role in generating new business. I feel that we’ve used to operate in a traditional way: we’ve depended on our sales team, distributors, and representatives to seek out new clients and generate new project opportunities. Now, solid web presence and eCommerce are driving a lot of new business opportunities.

  5. What were the reasons for your company to switch to a custom-made solution? Did you use any eCommerce platforms previously?  
  6. Initially, we’ve used a simple WordPress based site with no e-commerce capability. Then, we’ve added a simple e-commerce integration using WooCommerce. This worked just fine in the beginning, but once we’ve started expanding functionality, and support highly configurable products, those off-the-shelf solutions seemed to show their limits. Maintaining products and various product configurations became a serious headache. We’ve looked into other more robust off-the-shelf solutions for our eCommerce, but most seemed to have too many tradeoffs. We figured that if we wanted to get what we wanted, then we’d need to invest the time and money and create a custom-made eCommerce solution that works for us, and one that’s flexible enough to support future development.

  7. In your opinion, what changes and new tendencies are expected for online retailers in your industry in 2021? How did the COVID-19 lockdown rules affect your niche market? 
  8. For the most part, we’ve done very well during Covid. But that’s because many of our existing customers are Medical Device Manufacturers, and their products are at an all-time high demand, especially for devices that are used to diagnose or treat COVID patience. i.e. Ventilators and covid diagnostic devices. We’ve also been able to attract new COVID related businesses because of their good online presence.   

    The trend I see most from our competitors is that they started taking the web a lot more seriously. Our industry is “old school” in many ways. Companies relied on trade shows and events to attract new customers, and salespeople relied on in-person contact and visit with potential customers. This has pretty much disappeared. Therefore, many companies are now pivoting to online activities to try to attract new business (poorly I should add. They have a lot of catching up to do).

  9. How do you see the company changing in 3-5  years, and how do you see yourself in these new circumstances?
  10. Our company is growing rapidly. Both in terms of how many new employees we add, and in terms of revenue. This is in part of continuous investments into new products and doing a better job with marketing. But a big factor is also the fact that our industry as a whole is growing fast. Motion control goes hand-in-hand with Automation.

    We’re adding new product lines at a rapid pace. Traditionally we’ve manufactured only “hybrid stepper motors”. That was our niche. However, we’ve now added additional product categories of motors such as various types of BLDC motors, linear actuators, etc. And we have a lot more in the pipeline. The goal is to transform our company from “hybrid stepper motors” specialists to much broader “motion control specialists”.

  11. How are you going to grow your platform digitally? Are you planning on developing a mobile application to extend your horizons or updating the web platform to refine the user experience even more?
  12. I see our website as something that is dynamic, not static. So far, we’ve developed a great platform to host great content and tools for engineering. I plan on continuously improving our website with new tools and new content, and also refining old tools and old content. As far as mobile apps, I have no hard plans yet, but eventually, I would like to take our “Rapid Prototyping Configurator” concept and develop it into a stand-alone app for engineers.

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