In this interview series, we are talking to founders, CEOs, and ecommerce business leaders about how to choose the best platform for ecommerce. As a part of this series, we had the pleasure of interviewing Ankit Sharma.
Can you tell us a bit about your backstory and how you grew up?
I was born and raised in India and have been interested in building internet properties since my early career days. I started my journey in 2014 and have since built and sold over 200 websites and apps worldwide. I consider myself an internet entrepreneur.
What led you to this specific career path?
My interest in building websites began during my college days, as I was fascinated by the idea of earning money through selling products, skills, and services online. My first venture into this field was the launch of a university help portal in 2012. To my surprise, the website received over 40,000 daily visitors within a two-year time frame, which greatly boosted my popularity and success. This experience confirmed my passion for building quality and useful websites for the audience and motivated me to pursue a career in building internet assets, leading to where I am today.
Can you share the most exciting story that has happened to you since you began at your company?
One of the most exciting experiences in my career so far has been receiving thankful responses from people who have used my developed websites to solve problems in their respective fields. For instance, recently, I created a proposal and pitch templates for startups that were listed on my website. One of the startup founders used the templates and successfully secured angel investment for their company, later reaching out to me to express their gratitude.
Additionally, the satisfaction of selling my internet businesses for significant profits is a significant accomplishment for me. In 2022 alone, I sold three of my internet businesses for a six-figure profit, which I consider to be one of the most beautiful things that happened in my business that year. The combination of making a positive impact and financial success is what drives me to continue building useful websites.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now? How do you think that might help people?
At present, my team and I are working on TemplateDIY.com, a template-selling business that has been successful in building over 5000 templates in less than a year and currently receives 15-20 daily orders organically. This is a promising start-up that is still in its early phase, aimed at providing relevant templates to help people and businesses, as well as creating a scalable business model. Our goal is to create 100,000 templates in 2023 and offer them for free to small and medium enterprises as well as non-profit organizations. We are excited about this project and believe it has the potential to make a positive impact on people's lives and businesses.
What are three traits about yourself that you feel helped fuel your success?
As a successful business leader, I believe that success is not necessarily determined by having unique or magical traits but rather by perseverance, preparation, and the ability to build and optimize scalable processes. My journey of building and selling over 200 successful internet properties involved not only successful ventures but also failed ones, of which I have had to shut down 45 internet assets due to unprofitability.
This experience taught me the importance of focus, research, and planning in business. I believe that taking risks and experiencing failure is a natural part of any entrepreneurial journey, and these three traits helped fuel my success by guiding me through the ups and downs of building a successful business.
What was the original vision for your ecommerce business? What pain point(s) were you trying to solve for your customers?
The original vision for my latest ecommerce business, templatediy.com, was to provide a simple and affordable solution for individuals and organizations to obtain templates for their various documentation needs.
I noticed that many people were paying high fees to professionals for simple tasks that could be easily done with just a bit of guidance and a suitable template. I realized that templates could simplify many documentation processes, so I set out to build a comprehensive platform with a wide range of templates to cater to the needs of businesses, corporations, schools, and individuals alike. With the goal of creating more than 1 million templates, I aim to make document creation easier and more accessible for everyone.
What ecommerce platform does your business use, and what key features were you looking for when you selected it? Was it your first choice, or did you switch from a previous one?
Our ecommerce platform of choice for Template DIY is WooCommerce, built on the WordPress framework. I selected this platform for several reasons. Firstly, I am well-versed in WordPress, and I know how easy it is to scale a website on this platform. Secondly, the availability of plugins and the option to custom code in PHP makes it easier to add any desired features or functionalities. This eliminates the need for hiring costly developers to get things done.
We were running it on Shopify earlier, and I was impressed by the platform's ease of use, in-app plugins, and security, but we were not able to do a lot of customization. So we decided to shift it to WordPress WooCommerce. Thus, we were able to make a lot of tweaks to it and optimize our images, technical aspects, and website performance in our own capacity. We did not have to be dependent on any third-party service. Changes were made to the ways images get loaded, CDN servicing, caching policy, and cross-promotion of products. Since our website is image-intensive and is thus a heavy one. After being through a couple of such experiments and customizations, we finally scored a 98+ score using Google’s Pagespeed, which was not the case earlier. Having done this, our Google Search Rankings and visitor experience improved big time.
When should an ecommerce business consider switching platforms? Which factors should drive a decision to make a change or upgrade?
It's generally recommended to carefully consider and choose the most appropriate ecommerce platform for your business from the start. However, there may be circumstances where switching platforms is necessary to meet changing business needs and address certain issues.
If you encounter problems with the current platform, such as slow speed, inadequate security measures, or poor SEO performance, that cannot be resolved, it may be time to consider switching to a new platform. The ultimate goal should always be to ensure the best possible performance for your business and revenue.
In short, an ecommerce business should consider switching platforms if the current platform is unable to meet their business requirements and these requirements are significant enough to warrant the effort involved in making the change.
Given the number of ecommerce platform options available, what are your top 5 questions to ask to choose the best ecommerce platform?
Alright, so there are a handful of good options to choose from for ecommerce platforms. Namely, WooCommerce, Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Opencart, and more. But these five platforms that I have used before are what I have mentioned. Whenever I start an ecommerce business or give consulting to others, these are the top five questions I have in mind to choose the best platform for the business.
1 . What is your technical competence?
Before choosing a platform, it's important to consider your level of technical knowledge and understanding. If you are not tech-savvy, then it may be wise to go with a platform that is user-friendly and easy to manage, such as Shopify. On the other hand, if you are comfortable with technology and have the resources, you can choose a platform with more customization options like Magento.
2 . What is the size of your inventory?
The size of your inventory, in terms of the number of SKUs, is an important factor to consider when choosing a platform. If you have a large number of products, you may need a platform that can handle performance, marketing, order processing, and dispatch accurately and efficiently. For such a scenario, it's better to go with an open-source platform like WooCommerce or Magento that can be optimized, scaled and managed with your in-house resources.
3 . What is your budget?
Budget is another important factor to consider when choosing a platform. Running an ecommerce business requires funds for security, scalability, ongoing development efforts, and more. If you have a higher budget, you can choose a platform like Magento that allows you to manage the business with an in-house team.
4 . What is your marketing approach?
Having a pre-defined marketing approach is also important when choosing a platform. For example, if SEO is your primary marketing channel, then you may want to go with a platform like WooCommerce that has a range of SEO tools and plugins.
5 . What works best for you?
No matter what I or other ecommerce professionals say, your experience with any ecommerce project will always be unique. One project may have a different impact on you compared to another, and you have the right to have your own use case scenarios. What works for you may not work for others. I have established my use cases for various ecommerce projects that I work on.
- Use Shopify for a small, budget-friendly store with a limited number of products.
- Use WooCommerce for a store with a large number of products, focusing on SEO as a marketing channel and the ability to optimize page speed score and performance.
- Use Magento for a highly customizable ecommerce store with a good budget for development and maintenance by an in-house team of experts for full control over the platform.
- Use BigCommerce when you need a reliable technical back-end and flexible payment integrations.
This is my personal checklist and guide for starting an ecommerce store, but yours may differ based on your experiences and the pros and cons you consider for each platform.
Is there a specific feature or functionality you haven’t found in any platform that you would love to have? What is it, and why?
Ecommerce platforms are constantly improving and evolving based on the growing user base. Despite this, there is still a significant opportunity to solve many problems for ecommerce business owners programmatically.
For example, one challenge is to enable owners to cross-sell their products to other platforms with ease, manage inventory records, handle billing and taxes at a commonplace, and so on. A solution could be in-store integration, which would allow the promotion of products on various marketplaces such as Amazon, Etsy, and eBay in sync with the official store. Although there are already many products available that offer this solution as a service, I have yet to find one that can be used as an app within the ecommerce store.
If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most people, what would that be?
You are too kind. Thank you. I am someone who always promotes starting a side hustle and becoming an entrepreneur. I believe that with time and effort, a side hustle can grow into a full-time business and unlock one's full entrepreneurial potential. Therefore, if I were to start a movement, it would be to encourage people to take the time to start a side hustle and experience the joys of entrepreneurship, as many people tend to shy away from taking risks. Still, I believe that they are missing out on great opportunities.
How can our readers further follow your work online?
You can read and follow my personal blog: Ankit.Digital.
You can also follow my Linkedin profile, where I often share insights on websites, SEO, and interesting business topics.
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