Making a move on a hosted e-commerce platform is not unlike meeting that promising internet date for the first time. Prior to any 'real-world' interaction, all relevant search queries have been performed ( exhaustively ), and the seed of opinion has been planted. You're interest is piqued. The cloud is ruggedly handsome, slightly mysterious... so you ask yourself, could it be the one?
Real talk: Cinderella stories are in movies for a reason. No solution is right for anyone all of the time. Regardless of promise or pedigree, all software can and will break your heart given enough time. The interwebs is an extension of human nature and likewise its just as emotional in its design and unpredictable in its behavior. So you throw caution to the wind and remind yourself to keep an open mind.
You hail a cab and reflect on your last relationship. A self-hosted solution that your good friend set you up with. Things went relatively well, and at your best you were unstoppable. But more often than you'd like to admit things got a little out of control. Humble beginnings remind you to take the good with the bad and accept that nothing is perfect. But there's a line in the sand; some imperfections are tolerable but you have a few deal-breakers. Communication is key - and all the wiser now you know how important it is to be asking the right questions.
Is the cloud right for me?
Not a good first question. Its loaded with danger and innuendo. It can only be answered after you get your first puppy together and clean up its 'accidents' off the floor a few times. So let's move on.
How will I know if the cloud is right for me?
No way to know for sure. Its what you make of it, and subjective to perspective. Success comes from mutual respect and delegating responsibility. And the biggest leap of faith is trust. Faith that someone more qualified than yourself has put in the time to solve the very same problems you struggled with daily. This is why you got involved. So install some demos. Strike up some conversations. Start with the big-picture stuff.
How does cloud e-comm makes things better?
Positioning your business in the cloud isn't going to instantly make your brand or your products any better. But it will help you keep your attention on making them better. Think of hosted e-comm like valet parking. You're out with that special someone and knowing perfectly well how to park your car, you toss your keys to Jeeves - because making the most of that special moment is whats important. Parking downtown is a very difficult and often overlooked necessity, just like system administration, software maintenance and data security.
Running an e-comm store on the cloud eliminates a ton of nonsense so you can focus on what's more important to your business. Offload backend logistics to more capable people so you can focus on connecting your brand with your customers. The two most common gripes we hear from business owners on self-hosted/all-in-one systems are: 1) their store going down or being unusably slow at peak times and 2) dealing with malicious exploits and subsequent technical issues with updates and workarounds. Cloud-hosted platforms generally make these issues moot. With hosted solutions you will pay to play, but you're going to pay to play anyway, so where is that budget best spent? We'll take predictable subscription fees over 'who-the-hell-knows' any day.
So what's the catch?
The sweet spot of hosted e-comm doesn't have anything to do with revenue, sales volume or server/bandwidth limitations -- its all about operational scale. As businesses grow, they become inherently more complex. Adding warehouses, storefronts, vendors, distributors, and pricing tiers all critically impact how you make things work day to day.
There are a lot of incredible software tools out there that do very amazing things. And they are capable of powering large-scale successful businesses at reasonable prices. But as you grow, you may find that fully custom implementations make more sense.
The beauty of being on the cloud is that these tools pride themselves on open API's, which make native custom integrations possible. This model allows you to be more concerned with what you can do, not what can't. If one aspect or your pipeline isn't working well, be it inventory or fulfillment you can switch it out or add onto it with minimal overhead.
Now go get some!
Second date is the sit-down dinner. Work that flatware metaphor from the outside in. Most importantly, be yourself and never settle for less. The rest should come naturally.