At Aulter we primarily support mid-market retailers, B2B wholesalers, speciality brands with International reach and distributors that support some 1000 SKUs via their channels.
Brace yourself for a long read on why we've committed to self-serve, cloud hosted commerce vendors when supporting Independents and mid-market retailers when seeking an upgraded commerce infrastructure.
Today we're announcing our commitment to support Independent retailers and brands that are wanting to boost their presence domestically and Internationally - Fulfilling modern customer expectations both in-store and online and calibrating a seamless retail offering with all the demands of a mid-market retailer without compromising on the end result. Deloitte's recent study into online shopping behaviour noted that almost every $0.60 of $1.00 spent in-store is influenced by your online presence and marketability.
We're perfectly positioned as a solutions-as-a-service consultancy to offer insight on what is applicable for your first time entry or re-emergence in a modern, omni-channel market. We're not a development team that is wholly dependent on lead generation from Magento or other eCommerce infrastructure vendors and we don't need to push you down a funnel that is never going to correlate with your business demands in the near term.
We're happy with Shopify and Lightspeed
Firstly, Shopify has come a long way in the last 5 years and while it's still a self-serve, cloud solution that any retailer can essentially plug-in and play with; there are some enormous pitfalls that need to be sidestepped and a great deal of work required at the backend to support an Independent that has some 1000+ SKUs on their books. As Shopify has continued to grow and scale out their offering into the most comprehensive in the marketplace, so too has its complexity when navigating through integrations and correlating your eFulfilment with in-store sales and inventory management.
Design and product imagery are paramount in an eCommerce environment where the customer expects a standard product architecture layout and at Aulter we're equipped to support the imagery, design, layout, information architecture and application integrations needed without the associated technical headaches (and costs) that can ensue.
Design is made up of 3 pivotal elements for us; Utilitarianism, ergonomics and aesthetics. We know how to extract the demands of those elements inside Shopify and Lightspeed without you having to break the bank when fleshing out your first foray into more aggressive commerce channels.
Warp into Lighspeed
Secondly, Lightspeed is new to the scene and some will be surprised to even hear of them. Generally, when comparing Shopify there are alternatives such as Magento, BigCommerce and Volusion mentioned. There are lots of other alternatives to Shopify (many more than mentioned here) but Lightspeed have showcased their ability to scale and support not just in eFulfilment but also with in-store ePOS with a caveat of universal product codes pre-built into their colossal database catalogue.
Lightspeed is not as large as Shopify, it does not have as a large a support development community building different features and variations to help your business grow but given its simplistic nature and sheer ability to continue scaling, we've elected to support our solutions offering by pushing forward with a secondary option for our clients.
We've broken down why and how we're partnering with Shopify and Lightspeed to bring commerce to your doorstep in 3 insightful steps; Infrastructure, Integrations, Implementations.
Shopify has continued to build out their feature offering and now not only boast the largest self-serve enterprise application marketplace on the planet but have now moved to support your bricks-and-mortar endeavour with in-store ePOS. There are a number of cloud inventory management vendors that integrate seamlessly with Shopify and while this may be sufficient for some, we recognise at Aulter that there is a necessity to help larger format retailers or chains manage their inventory and merchandising on a larger scale with a mid-market platform that can be tailored for your Shopify store front. Our extensive partnerships position us aptly to support you here, providing the necessary recommendations, accounts reductions and training that's necessary to deliver a simple handover whilst boosting customer happiness.
While we're certainly not turning our back on partnerships with the Commerce Cloud and other marketplace solutions, we understand that some clients are either not needing or are not prepared to invest so heavily in solutions that can scale.
Magento has been pushed aggressively with strong incentives for development agencies to pitch Independents and mid-market retailers for a number of years and that opened a window for poorly executed, haphazard eCommerce storefronts to enter the market that are no longer usable or adequate by customer expectations. Magento is still quite expensive, it's not as expensive as our partner Commerce Cloud (Salesforce owned, formally Demandware) but the argument to use Magento because it's perfect for the mid-market no longer reigns true in our eyes.
Magento is self-hosted, meaning YOU are responsible for its uptime, security and any costs afforded when scaling your product offering, however because mid-market retailers or Independents don't typically have in-house technical teams, this cost increases with each alteration or upgrade via a 3rd party development agency. Security is an area often neglected and forgotten about, however depending on the structure and build of your Magento store by your elected development agency will depend on how secure your customers' information is; trust me when I say you never want to have to push out an email to your customers explaining that your site has been hacked and their details compromised, it will tear you to pieces and smash their confidence in your brand.
With Shopify and Shopify Plus it just works out the box and considering they have many backup servers, if a problem does ever arise it's unlikely to impact your sites uptime and minimise any loss of sales. Furthermore, many of the Magento application extensions require a lot of development time (billable time), whereas any applications with Shopify connect to its liquid interface and pass through a more rigorous process for acceptance by the Shopify technical team. If this is your first eCommerce iteration and you're simply seeking to explore what's available and the applicable advantages for your customers, then Magento can become a very large cost, very quickly and with many pain points that are simply no longer necessary for a mid-market solution. Knowing that you alone, are responsible for the performance and security of your eCommerce solution can be incredibly daunting for even the most experienced retailers, are you prepared to take on that risk?
As Shopify (and other self-serve vendors) have continued to grow and scale, so has their ability to support larger format stores, department stores and now even B2B wholesalers/suppliers. One previous obstacle to using Shopify at scale was its high percentage commission on sales, that's now down as low as 1.6% + £0.20p per sale. If your average order value is as little as £10, that's a low cost given the setup advantages at £00.36p for every £10.00 spent.
Magento is open source, it's maintained by a community that continue to build on what exists - while this in itself is a limitation (and concern further down the road for Magento) when using a self-serve vendor such as Shopify your commerce offering is never going to have to be taken down or placed out of service if you ever need to scale up. For example, if you decide your experiment into eCommerce is performing well and you wish to invest more aggressively, you can skip Magento altogether and begin building a more holistic offering via Commerce Cloud, IBM, Oracle etc... without having to take down your Shopify storefront. This is a further evolutionary problem for Magento but also is a very difficult feat to accomplish for even the most advanced development agencies when seeking to revamp a Magento store.
If there is the need to continue building and scaling within Shopify, this is now a much more simple and realistic process given the launch of 'sections' and 'scripts', built directly into the partner interface that we can manage for you. Sections allows for differing templates, design layouts and applications to be easily accessible to you (without any code knowledge) to begin swapping and changing. We don't actually recommend this, it's not smart to relentlessly change the information architecture and layout of your site but this is a possibility for seasonal overhauls without going back to a development agency and requesting changes (such as so with Magento). Scripts allows for more deeper integrations and this is where it becomes possible for mid-market partners of ours to consider tailored integrations at the backend for inventory, payments and such like. This of course is a much larger expense but is still below what's expected from inside Magento and its recurring $18,000 dollar basic license fee.
Entering into eCommerce is a major commitment, it's not a smart idea to trial an offering to your existing or prospective customer bases and then remove it from under their finger tips - Going down the route of a self-serve vendor as your initial launch or for an upgraded solution will require less cognitive and emotional energy. These are aspects that are rarely discussed openly in business but the morale and health of your team is just as important as the solutions you deploy and your infrastructural support with nestled integrations.
A quick read through Shopify's app store and you will begin to understand why selecting the correct integrations can be a difficult and costly process, with so many domains to consider in retail it can be difficult to find a number of affordable solutions that fit your budget and also deliver competencies that enterprise grade vendors deliver out the box, holistically.
We're perfectly positioned to not only source credible integrations from day one but can also steer you in the right direction toward mid-market vendors that can build a tailored integration, specifically with inventory management across a store estate or warehouse management services that the Shopify and Lightspeed app stores don't significantly consider.
Because integrations can be exhaustive with hundreds of alternatives, spanning over each domain of your business, alongside very specific types of features for your storefront, we're going to connect a future blog post here to go into more detail on where and how we can get this right for you from day one.
Each retailer and brand is uniquely positioned, dependent on size, product category, domestic region, type of operations, regressing or expanding its footprint, dealing with cyclic suppliers, wholesaling or seasonal sales and that is why we can help address your position, carry out diligence and take on the entire build and implementation for you.
Building your store
At Aulter we can eliminate a lot of the stress that is associated with 3rd party eCommerce builds, we can immediately offer you visual examples and screen demos, break down exceptional integrations and applicable costs, carry out the necessary product imagery and content management support and basically have you up and running with a beautiful and wholly functional, converting storefront that is seamlessly engaged with your in-store solutions. And we can do this in weeks at a rapid speed, not months of deliberation and back and forth briefs, one simple cost analysis with all the necessary integrations completed for you and your teams, tailored to tackle your immediate challenges.
There was once a time when enterprise, developer platforms were required to enter into the online commerce domain for larger format retailers; however, self-serve cloud supported solutions have now scaled to the necessary requirements to support your endeavour, they harbour enormous support teams and communities for growth. Given that Shopify is now home to brands such as Tesla, Los Angeles Lakers, Redbull and Budweiser, you're going to be in good company. With our expertise, coupled with your vision and motivation to succeed in pleasing your customers across all verticals, amazing storefronts can be achieved at rapid speed in the cloud with Aulter and our CloudCascade™ for service programmes.
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