When COVID-19 led to mass lockdowns, small businesses were forced to rely on eCommerce as their primary sales channel. For many retailers, this meant establishing an online store for the very first time. GoDaddy, the market leader in web hosting platforms, saw a 48% increase in new subscribers from February to April 2020. That being said, ECommerce has provided a lifeline for many small retailers whose only alternative was closing its doors permanently.

Now that businesses are beginning to open again amidst economic recovery, there is a sense of optimism about the future, which will certainly continue to include eCommerce. While spinning up an inexpensive, standard online storefront was a great way to stay afloat during turbulent times, businesses now need to consider consumer-facing functional enhancements to their eCommerce platform as they get better at selling online and continue to grow. It can be difficult to know when the right time is to migrate to an enterprise platform, such as Salesforce or Oracle, but there are “warning signs” that it’s time to level-up your eCommerce.

You Need More Personalization or Insights

When small businesses are just dipping their toes in, personalization isn’t as much of a priority as showcasing products and generating sales. But after some time, the business will want to integrate advanced features to boost sales, like geo-targeted deals and coupons, better customer segmentation, advanced product sorting, AI-based product recommendations, and cart abandonment analytics. Basic eCommerce platforms geared toward small businesses do not necessarily come with these features and require additional costs for plug-ins. The cost of building out a personalized site on these types of platforms rival enterprise eCommerce platforms when adding in all the bells and whistles. Personalization requires much processing and data management, and needs to be cobbled together if done through third-party integrations. This takes us to the next warning sign.

Using TOO Many Third-party Vendors to Perform “Special Features”

Adding competitive personalization functionality to an eCommerce site can mean investing in 30-40 plug-ins and integrations. At that point, a business is using far too many vendors to execute different tasks, which creates complexity, operational and financial risk, and site management burdens. Plug-ins are harmless and hands-off when things are going well, but fixing an issue requires troubleshooting with each individual company involved. Entry-level eCommerce platforms don’t field calls for multi-vendor third party app issues, which can lead to accountability issues and finger pointing over solutions. Any unresolved issue has the potential to affect site functionality, sales, and cause brand damage.

Additionally, a failing site plug-in can create a chain reaction that freezes up the platform and renders it inoperable. This happens more often than expected because not all third-party plug-ins are in sync with the main eCommerce platform’s version update schedule. Vendors may not be notified about the upgrade or lack the development resources to support it, creating delays in making the necessary changes. For online sellers, having a site down just for a few moments can significantly reduce sales and customer loyalty.

You Require Multi-site Support Domestically or Internationally

Whether it’s spinning off a brand or creating new international websites, a second site is always easier to manage on an enterprise platform. Most entry-level platforms do not have true multi-site capabilities. This means a new website will require a separate domain, underlying codebase, different administrative tools to manage the sites, which all amount to more work for a business. For international commerce, enterprise platforms also have better multi-lingual support, currency support, and cross-location inventory management tools that are critical for feeding the pandemic-induced omnichannel sales boom.

To stay competitive in a market where one-day shipping from Walmart and Amazon is becoming the norm, connectivity between inventory data and product information across locations is more critical than ever. This is especially true if stores are looking to implement some of the most successful trends during COVID-19, such as buy-online-pick-up-in-store (BOPIS), curbside pickup, or in-store shipping services.

Many small businesses entered eCommerce as a reaction to the lockdowns, but ultimately came out the other side in a better position to grow for the future. Being aware of these potential growing pain indicators will help businesses take the next leap in their eCommerce journey at the right time – saving a lot of time, money, and resources in the process.

Matthew Carroll is president and CEO of Ignition Commerce, responsible for corporate strategy, product positioning, marketing, business development, and the management of all strategic relationships including technology providers Salesforce Commerce Cloud (formerly Demandware) and Oracle Commerce (formerly ATG). Prior to the founding of Ignition Commerce in 2007, Carroll served as SVP of Business Development for Accretive Commerce where he determined strategy for general and client specific business acquisitions and managed new client sales cycles. Carroll has spent the entire 30 + years of his professional life working within the retail and apparel industries, and the past 20 focused on providing eCommerce solutions, services, and infrastructure for retailers and branded manufacturers.

eCommerce stock image by suphakit73/Shutterstock