Lemonstand eCommerce Overview
Originally developed as a licensed server based eCommerce solution in 2010, Lemonstand has quickly moved with the times, and in 2014 it made a move to a cloud-based solution. They now offer a cloud-based product similar to Shopify and Bigcommerce.
However, where the former caters principally to the mainstream market, Lemonstand provides a fully customisable solution with unlimited flexibility.
This means that you can shape the checkout process to be exactly how you want it and integrate the whole shopping experience flawlessly with your blog or content management system. Or simply begin designing your unique shopping experience from the ground up.
Being able to make adjustments at this level though requires coding knowledge, and while you could quite happily use all of the default features out of the box, this is not really what this product is intended for.
Lemonstand is for those who want to hit the ground running with a fully functional eCommerce solution and then develop it into something truly original. It scales as your company grows with no constraints – for example, unlimited products, images and open source website templates.
There are no eCommerce transaction charges, so you won't outgrow the platform (you'll still need to pay payment processing fees of course), and the API feature means that integrating third party “best of breed” solutions is very easy to do.
It all comes at a price though, and by that, I don't mean the cost of the product.
To get the most out of this software and do it justice you will need a web developer to come along for the ride to help bring your creation to life. This is no “drag and drop” website builder.
This is a serious tool for building serious eCommerce websites, not a “one size fits as many as it can” solution.
Summary of Features
Creating your eCommerce store is as simple as making a few mouse clicks, and if you've used a cloud-based dashboard before then, you'll be able to find your way around the control panel easily enough.
As for actual “features”, this is a difficult one to quantify where a custom eCommerce solution is being developed.
Comparing eCommerce platforms by features is only of any use once you have narrowed down exactly what it is you want to build.
If you are considering Lemonstand as an option over Shopify or Bigcommerce, then it is the customisation of features that is the big selling point here.
However, you want to know why I think Lemonstand is such a good option so here are the features:
There are no transaction fees. You pay the monthly fee for cloud hosting and using the product.
You will still have to pay payment processing fees, but that is the case whichever solution you use.
By contrast, Shopify charges zero transaction fees but only if you use the Shopify payment processing system. If you want to use anything else, then you'll pay transaction fees of 2% on their starter plan.
That means if you have a monthly sales revenue of £5,000 then you'll be paying £100 per month in transaction charges.
Enterprise Grade Cloud Hosting
If you develop an open source application like Magento, then you'll have to make sure that the server is configured correctly and that it can cope with traffic surges at peak shopping times. In addition to that, you'll have to come up with a backup strategy.
Lemonstand uses fully redundant and secure hosting with daily and hourly off-site backups using a global content delivery network in 36 world locations.
You won't outgrow your hosting capability and CDN's mean that the overall data load can be shared across the entire network. You won't have to worry about overage bandwidth charges, and you won't keep being bumped up to a higher plan.
SEO fields for pages, products and categories.
Very often shopping cart software fails on this one and you are left with an eCommerce store bereft of traffic.
Live Shipping Rate Tables
Automated Inventory Management
Digital Product Selling
Packing Slips And Order Invoice Printing
There are hundreds of more features listed on the website, but the main takeaway you should get from this list is that Lemonstand is extremely flexible and if a feature you want isn't present then it can be requested and incorporated in short order.
Which brings me on neatly to:
Trying to get any sense out of some customer support services can make you want to poke yourself in the eye.
When I opened my Wix account to do the review, I sent a series of increasingly exasperated emails to customer support who apparently could only respond “by the book”. I still haven't got the issue sorted out and it probably never will be.
Basic website builders that compete on price can never hope to cope with the avalanche of support emails they receive, and this is why they go into extensive documentation on site.
Forum support is great when you have hundreds of users all asking similar questions. The forum can be searched through, and you'll usually find someone else who had the same problem and fix it that way.
When you have a custom solution that is not designed “for the masses”, then customer support is paramount, and this is where Lemonstand excel.
Just a couple of minutes after setting up my demo store I had emails pointing me in the right direction and one from Ross asking if he could help with anything. This type of customer support makes all the difference particularly when you are developing to a deadline.
You won't get that level of personal support from any mainstream eCommerce shopping software.
There is extensive documentation on the Lemonstand website and a Roadmap which covers which features have been developed so far, those that are being worked on now and future enhancements like “Cloud Marketplace”, Sage-pay integration, Xero integration, Gift cards and advanced reporting features.
Check out the new "Blog" feature which will be launched in the next few weeks.
Apps And Tools
Lemonstand doesn't have a big library of add-ons or plugins. What it does have though is an API that will enable a developer to integrate with the functionality you need.
Some of the major integrations have already been completed for example Facebook, PayPal, Fedex and UPS as well as Twitter and Google analytics. There is extensive documentation on how the API works on the website.
New and Improved Zapier Integration
Zapier was first integrated with lemonstand last year, and many of our customers have used this integration with a lot of success. Zapier lets you connect LemonStand to more than 500 apps and automate workflow. Here’s how it works: Zapier watches your apps for new data, and kicks off actions based on the rules that you set. This makes it easy for you to integrate LemonStand to a wide variety of apps that you may rely on for your online store, including:
- Email marketing and automation tools
- CRM software
- Accounting and ERP systems
- Spreadsheets, databases and analytics tools
- Social media accounts
- And many, many more!
Our new and improved Zapier integration now:
- Triggers on more events, including New Customer, New Order, New Product and Order Status Change Events
- Lets you send more detailed data through Zapier, such as order line-items (i.e., SKU, quantity, price)
- Can now pass email opt-in confirmation on New Customer and New Order events
- Provides a growing library of Shared Zaps (details below)
- Has updated documentation that makes it easy to set up a Shared Zap or create or customise your own
- Is publicly available without requiring an invite link
To make things as easy as possible, there is a library of zaps that connect LemonStand to some of the most popular apps that our customers use in their eCommerce businesses. With just a few mouse clicks you can start using these integrations right away, you can even customise them to fit your needs.
Themes And Templates
There are 14 themes available which are all free and open source. There's no point in producing a huge selection of templates to choose from because the point is to make something original.
All of the existing templates can be used as a base to make your own code changes and make it exactly how you want it to look.
All themes make use of common Open Source tools that make developing code easier and more organised:
Sass is a powerful CSS extender that introduces programming concepts such as loops, variables and mixins. For anyone that has wrestled with a CSS file that seemingly has no order to it presenting the concept of nested CSS will create structure and hierarchy to your stylesheets.
Bourbon is a simple and lightweight mixin library for Sass
Neat is a Symantec, responsive grid format built on top of Bourbon.
Gulp automates your workflow by compiling and minifying Sass
You might think that I was impressed with Lemonstand. Well, you'd be right.
Have you ever watched “Wheeler Dealers” on TV?
Ed and Mike always manage to turn a profit on the banger they buy and then do up to resell. But they never factor in their labour cost! If they did, they would be out of pocket. Every Single Time.
One of the most important factors that your web developer will conveniently overlook when they tell you how good Magento or Oscommerce is because it is open source and “free” is how much developer time goes into making it look good with the functionality you want.
I love open source products, and I develop in Joomla – it's how this site was built, but I'd never consider trying to use Joomla and Virtuemart as an eCommerce solution because of the extensive time it takes to develop and customise.
Even minor changes can spiral out of control into time-consuming projects of their own.
Yes if you use Lemonstand (or Shopify or Bigcommerce for that matter) you will always be paying a monthly fee as opposed to nothing for Magento.
If you consider that a very basic Magento site is going to cost you £5k, to begin with, and then on top of that you are going to have to pay monthly hosting fees, Lemonstand looks like excellent value.
To run a Magento store processing 5000 transactions per month, you would be paying around £200 per month in hosting costs alone. So £350 per month for the premium option with onboarding and concierge support makes complete sense for a start up. (See my guide to eCommerce transaction charges)
Plus you get access to expertise that smaller website design agencies may not necessarily have.
Lemonstand leads the way in combining custom eCommerce website design, cloud-based hosting technology and the support you need to make it work.