Do I need a custom built Online Shop

When starting an business that sells goods and services online often a good starting point is to use an off-the-shelf online shop service like Shopify or Wix.

These services will allow you to build your shop online quickly and cheaply.

These services are especially useful when your online shop follows a traditional online shop model where;

  • You are not too worried about having your online shop look or function in a specific way
  • Your products have regular features like "size" and "colour"
  • You allow customers to add products to a "cart" 
  • Shipping is calculated in a normal way ie. Volumetric, or country / region based costs
  • Your customers can pay for their cart at the checkout with a credit card or online banking.

If this is the case then you might not ever need a custom built online shop.

However from my experience quite a lot of online shops have some kind of special requirements, ie.

  • A salmon farm that only shipped on one day of the week and their shipping was time critical.
  • A winery that needed a special shipping rate calculator building for international wine shipping through a 3rd party shipping company.
  • A company that needed an automatic weekly "delivery report" of products sold so they can do their weekly deliveries more efficiently.

If your online business is in any way unique in the way that it operates and there are no simple off the shelf solutions that fit then a custom built solution is the correct option.

Other benefits of a custom built online shop include;

  • The ability to customise the look and feel of your shop specifically
  • The ability to customise the functionality and user flow of your shop. This is especially useful when the usual paradigms of "cart" and "checkout" don't really fit.
  • The ability to specify particular shipping models where the goods or services are delivered differently than a regular retail shop.
  • The ability to produce specific reports as per the shop requirements.
  • If the products themselves have a digitally delivered element to them such as automatic emails or ticket generation.

Quite often when starting out an online business it is hard to know exactly what you require from an online shop, so starting off with a hosted solution such as Wix or Shopify would be a good way to get a handle on what is actually involved and whether your business requires any additional functionality.

In summary

  • A hosted online shop is a good first port of call to get started with an online business and to cheaply determine what requirements are needed.
  • A custom built online shop is ideal if your business has specific functionality or UI/UX requirements or if your business operates in any way different or unique to a regular online shop.