E-commerce stores have evolved in so many ways over the years and have indeed changed the way we shop and do business. Businesses now adopt e-commerce stores to reach more audiences and also automate their business and this has improved sales and customers. Setting up an online store, tracking sales, orders, and managing products can be challenging to handle. But, a Content Management System helps us to do all this.
This article is to show you the factors to consider before choosing a particular CMS for your e-commerce store and why headless CMS is the best choice for your e-commerce store.
A Content Management System is a computer application that allows users to create, and change web content without the need for specialized technical knowledge.
CMS thus in a layman's understanding is software that allows you to build a website without having to code the website from scratch. Also, you don’t even need to know how to code at all before you can use a CMS. CMS allows users to customize the design and functionality of their website by downloading or purchasing templates and plugins. Many users can also contribute and work together in the same CMS back-end at the same time.
Over the last decade, CMS market growth has increased and according to Artem Minaev in his blog post-CMS market for First guide statistics, as of January 2021, more than 64.9 million live websites are built with CMS.
The challenging decision among users is picking or choosing the right CMS for their e-commerce store. To choose a particular CMS, it is thus pertinent to check off certain considerations before making that decision.
Before setting out to build your e-commerce online store, there are certain requirements that one should note. Remember, not all businesses will need a Content Management System (CMS) to manage their website. Deciding to use a CMS for your e-commerce online store or not depends on some requirements or factors which include;
- What is your budget like?
- What is the time frame to build the e-commerce website?
- What features and plugins do you want in your e-commerce website?
- How will you be updating your website?
- Will you need a real-time update?
- What technical skills or knowledge do you have?
- Will your e-commerce store have a blog section for regular product releases?
The types of CMS available for your e-commerce store includes;
- Open-source CMS - This content management system is not owned or developed by a single company but maintained by its community of developers.
- Proprietary CMS - Proprietary Content Management System is owned, built, and managed by a single company. Using this CMS means you buy a license fee to use the software and also pay a monthly or annual charge for support and updates.
- Software as a Service( SaaS ) CMS - This is a Content Management System that is hosted in the cloud. The software vendor handles all maintenance and upgrades tasks for both the software and hardware and also clients don’t have to worry about scalability.
However, CMS types can be classified into;
- Headless CMS - Headless CMS makes content accessible via an API for display on any device, without a built-in front-end or presentation layer. Examples include Strapi, Sanity, Cockpit, Netlify CMS, etc.
- Monolithic/Traditional CMS - This CMS connects the front-end and the back-end of a website in a neat and easy application codebase. Examples include WordPress, Drupal, Wix, etc.
- Decoupled CMS - This CMS separates the back-end functionality of a website from the front-end HTML content. The back-end and front-end management are decoupled into two different systems: one for storage and content creation, and another system for consuming data and presenting it to the user through some interface.
This means that the different CMS types can either be headless, monolithic or decoupled. For instance, Strapi is an open-source headless CMS, WordPress is an open-source monolithic CMS, and Contentful is a proprietary headless CMS.
Using a CMS system is vital for numerous reasons and there are things to consider before deciding to choose a particular CMS. Before choosing a CMS, it is wise to check off certain criteria like;
Security -Security should be a top priority when choosing a CMS because if your website is hacked, you will lose your customers' trust. This means go for CMS that follows global security standards, and make your site secure by showing your secure HTTPS badge/SSL cert. Nobody will visit any site that is flagged to be insecure, not to talk of purchasing from the site. SSL(Secure Socket Layers) helps to encrypt your website data and protect the data from hackers or intruders.
You can also check if the CMS supports other security measure like firewall, a two-factor authentication, etc. These integrations will make your customers and visitors feel comfortable when they are purchasing from your store.
Also, very important, make sure the CMS you are going for facilitates a secure and smooth checkout experience. This is because customers will only buy from your website when they are certain their debit card details are safe and secured and not exposed.
Pricing - This is an important factor to consider before choosing a CMS. It is advisable to base your decision on your budget, requirements, and scale of the business. Also, check for hidden prices like maintenance, security update, etc. that would incur more money as you scale.
Email Marketing tools - This is one of the most important and effective ways for a business to connect with customers. Sending individual promotion emails with an item related to their order history will maximize the chances of them buying that product.
Mobile-First ( Responsive Design ) - Most traffic comes from mobile devices as most people have a mobile device with which they access the internet. Your e-commerce store must be mobile friendly. So go for a CMS that offers this compatibility. This is a must rule because great user experience retains customers.
Guest Checkout - The checkout section is important for optimizing conversions and reducing cart abandonment. So you need to design a secure shopping page that will allow your customers to buy items. Customers value the option of having to buy items without having to register first. So your CMS should allow them to do this.
Also, cross-selling should be in mind too. This is simply featuring related products of products in your cart on the same page. It helps to convince customers to add more items to their carts.
Search Engine Optimization(SEO) - Anna Fitzgerald stated in her blog post “The Best Content Management Systems for SEO & Why”, that “64% of marketers actively invest in SEO, indicating that improving SEO and growing organic presence is important to their marketing strategy”. Even though you may not have enough technical knowledge or expertise, you still want your website to hit Google’s top 10 rankings. The wise move to achieve this is to research and choose a CMS with the best SEO. SEO is the science and art of getting websites or pieces of content to rank higher in search engines like Google and Bing. Search is almost the main way that people use to discover content online. So ranking higher in search engines can lead to an increase in traffic to your website. Thus, your CMS must be able to offer SEO to your website.
Ease of Use - Look for a CMS that is easy to use and has an intuitive interface. You should sign up, build, deploy, and manage your website without unnecessary stress. It should take little time to create and publish content on these platforms and should also take less time for your visitors to load pages and navigate through your website.
Popularity - Popularity should be a significant factor when choosing a CMS. The popularity of a particular CMS means that many people have tried it, loved it, and are sticking their trust in it. It also means the CMS will have a large available community. A large community will definitely come in handy especially when you’re facing problems or what you’re trying to implement isn’t working out as you thought it would. The community assures you of a cloud of witnesses who have come across that same situation and will help you with a solution. Popularity also means the brand will ensure that its CMS is easy to use and has good customer satisfaction.
Customer Service Support - These are the CMS representatives and staff that you can call in time of help. Some CMS offers 24/7 support and such services play a huge role when choosing a CMS. Always remember, you will run into problems along the way and so, having experts who you can call when it happens is very necessary. You will definitely lose customers, reputation, and money if you’re having an issue with your store and the customer service support is not answering you when you reach out to them.
Core Functionality - Always look for CMS that offer the core functionalities required for an e-commerce store. Remember, e-commerce websites are built to accommodate the needs and demands of your customers.
Core functionalities here imply content tagging for indexing, product category organization, adding images and videos, adding and managing inventories, integrating communication between you and your customers, and so on.
Note: Remember to always go for a CMS that meets your current needs.
While traditional CMS has always been the standard or go-to, companies, however, are now looking for increased flexibility, customization, and scalability that headless CMS provides. Traditional CMSs put all content such as images, videos, text, etc. into a single system and its contents cannot be reused across different platforms. Headless CMSs solve this limitation.
A Headless CMS or Headless Content Management System is a back-end-only CMS that means it separates the back-end from the front-end and only handles the back-end functionalities. It does not manage the front-end presentation layer and its contents are delivered through an API for seamless display across different platforms.
Headless CMS makes content available and accessible through an API( REST or GraphQL API ) for display on any device, without a built-in presentation layer. Headless CMS makes it able to update content in your e-commerce store in one centralized location and then push the update to all platforms and channels involved, unlike in Traditional CMS where a copy of that content is managed across many channels. Strapi is a very good example of a headless CMS.
Headless CMS works thus; it gives editors an interface for managing content and then provides that content via an API for developers to query and build applications with.
Below are some reasons why Headless CMS is the best CMS to choose for your e-commerce store;
Headless CMS allows for secure third-party integrations.
Scalability - Headless CMS makes it possible to upgrade and optimize your applications, customize your e-commerce store and even scale it across many channels quickly without any downtime during maintenance or compromising performance.
Headless allows you to manage your content from a single source of truth and you can change developer tools at any time too.
Cheaper - Maintenance, repair cost and management is cheaper with a headless CMS. Although Headless CMS is more expensive to develop initially, it is cost-effective in the long run. This means that as you scale up, you can add more services, products, features, etc. to your site without having to rebuild from scratch.
Performance - Headless CMS is much much more faster because it allows the back-end and front-end to function independently which means editors can edit the CMS contents without waiting for the developers to be done with the front-end.
Also, any update or change made on the CMS will reflect on all channels of front-ends that consume its data making it faster in performance speed unlike the traditional CMS where you have to copy an instance of the content to all channels.
In traditional CMS like WordPress, every plugin runs through its code every time the user views a page. So the more the plugins, the less the performance. Unlike in Headless, where your website only has the code to run the front-end site and can easily be optimized for speed.
Strapi is a good example. It is built with Node.js and installation is complete in less than two minutes.
Omnichannel Content Delivery - This is an approach that seeks to provide customers with a seamless shopping experience, whether they’re shopping in your store from a desktop or mobile device. Headless CMS allows for this seamless experience across channels or devices.
Future Proof - Headless is compatible with the changing demands of the digital experience of e-commerce. In Headless, you can make changes in the future without compromising the functionality of your e-commerce store. Also, if there is any need for rebranding in the future, Headless will adapt making it future-proof.
More Flexible - Since the front-end is separated from the back-end, you’re not limited to a tech stack for your front-end. You choose whichever programming language you want to use for the front-end.
Also, a single piece of content can be used across all channels making project build and completion faster. Headless CMS sets you free from limitations and legacy software thereby giving designers, developers space for creativity. Strapi is the most flexible open-source headless CMS and its relations feature makes it easy to create many relations using only the admin panel.
Choosing a CMS for your e-commerce store has its advantages and disadvantages, especially for non-developers seeking to build an online store for their business. A small budget, time frame, and technical knowledge might make you choose a CMS over building from scratch.
However, if you’re choosing a CMS, headless should be at the back of your mind because it provides more advantages like scalability, future proof, security and so much more over the traditional CMS. You can visit Strapi to begin your headless CMS journey. They have a good documentation too.
I hope this article helps to guide you when making your decision over what, when and how to choose a CMS.