The Best Way To Manage Multiple Online Stores
Sean McGowanMay 22nd, 20184 minute read
Sean is a technical researcher & writer at Codal, authoring blog posts on topics ranging from UX design to the Internet of Things. Working alongside developers, designers, and marketers, Sean helps support the writing team to ensure Codal produces engaging web content of the highest quality. When not writing about the latest innovations in app design, Sean can be found cooking, watching old movies, or complaining about the shortcomings of his favorite Philadelphia sports teams.
Running an eCommerce site is no easy task. Along with the standard upkeep and maintenance that accompanies every website, online store owners need to juggle the additional responsibilities of inventory, orders, returns, payments, customer accounts, refunds, and a host of third-party integrations.
In fact, there’s only one thing more strenuous than managing your own online retail site: running multiple of them simultaneously. But it doesn’t have to be. As an eCommerce web design and development company, Codal has compiled a few methods for making a Herculean task much more manageable.
Why Don’t I Just Combine Them Into One Site?
You can! But there are several instances where consolidation is going to burden your eCommerce experience, rather than boost it. Many retailers—especially those with a wide variety of products—find that siloing their products into separate stores provides a better shopping experience to their customers.
For example, if you’re selling internationally, or even in multiple languages, you might want to consider distinct stores to account for differences in design, layout, inventory, and copy. Effective user experience is going to differ across geographical boundaries and cultural lines, so why not offer separate sites that cater to different segments of your international audience?
Another good candidate for a multi-eCommerce store are companies interested in significantly differentiating their brand across different channels. A flower arrangement company may operate distinct sites—one promoting flowers for romantic occasions, another for special holidays—in order to strengthen their brand.
Keep Things Centralized
As you’ve probably guessed, one of the more persistent problems with running multiple eCommerce sites is that you’re also juggling each site’s unique data. Customer data, payment information, orders, web traffic analytics—it’s easy to confuse and mishandle an enormous amount of indispensable information.
To keep things organized, it’s important to centralize your inventory, order management, and other operational processes as much as possible. Instead of visiting the back-end of each site separately, use a consolidated platform that holds the inventory, user, or order data from all of your sites.
...But Test & Tweak Separately
Though you should treat the backends of your eCommerce sites as a single entity, it’s important to remember that the front ends need to remain segregated, especially when performing usability testing.
A/B testing is an indispensable tool for optimizing your site and leveraging it to its maximum potential. By tweaking and adjusting individual elements at a time, you can gain empirical insight into the best design choices to promote conversion and deliver a stellar customer experience.
The mistake that many store owners make is that they assume the results of an A/B test on one of their sites translates to another. In reality, the unique branding and design of each site, and the users attracted to it will factor into the test. By testing individually, you can ensure you’re tailoring the perfect experience to each site.
Some Helpful Tools
If you’re using the standard version of Shopify, managing multiple stores under one login can be tricky. But even Shopify Basic offers an arsenal of indispensable plugins and tools that can help alleviate the struggle of disparate sites.
One of these, Rewind, automatically creates and stores a backup of your Shopify store every day. It’s an excellent failsafe if a store owner or their team accidentally implements changes to the wrong store. Think of it as your own, personal undo button.
Stitch Labs is another excellent tool for multi-store owners. As a self-described multi-channel inventory manager, Stitch helps to expedite management and operations across different sites. It’s not perfect, but it is an excellent way to start the centralization of your backends.
If your online stores are especially similar, you should consider Replay, a tool that allows you to create a copy of your store and sync it between multiple Shopify accounts. Obviously useful for the multi-store owners, Replay even allows the user to select what gets copied and ported over—it can be the theme, the layout, the products, or all of the above.
Lastly, if you're not already on Shopify, and can't really afford the costs associated with Shopify Plus, Veeqo is another great option: a multichannel eCommerce software that helps you manage orders, inventory and shipping for multiple eCommerce stores and sales channels. It’s a powerful tool for retailers looking for an all-in-one solution for your back end management.
Shopify Plus Development
These tools are all well and good, but there’s an even easier solution: upgrading to Shopify Plus. While basic version requires some workarounds on the user’s end, Shopify Plus allows for the complete management of multiple stores on a single Plus account.
And on top of that, Shopify Plus recently debuted their multi-language stores, meaning it’s even easier for store owners to centralize, manage, and operate their sites across geographic and cultural boundaries.
Juggling several eCommerce sites isn’t easy. But by consulting with a certified Shopify Plus development partner, store owners can limit the hassle and the headaches, and divert more of their time and energy on more important matters.