If you are reading this, you probably have some kind of online business on your mind, and now you need the right eCommerce platform to help you get started. You’ve come to the right place!
With Covid-19 making disruption across the globe, online eCommerce businesses have witnessed an amazing acceleration of growth — more and more consumers are choosing to shop online as it is safer, faster, and does not require you to leave the comfort of your home.
With the growing interest in online shopping, eCommerce businesses are booming and so are the platforms that support them, so much so that finding the one that would perfectly suit your business needs can be a challenge.
We’ve compiled a list of things to consider when choosing an eCommerce platform that will help you identify the option that can support your immediate and long-term goals.
Let’s get started!
The first thing you need to have in mind when choosing your eCommerce platform is whether you can count on its scalability once your traffic volume and customer demands start changing and rising.
To allow you to remain nimble, the best thing is to opt for an extensible eCommerce platform that has well-documented and open APIs which you can leverage to enhance speed, scalability, and agility in no time.
But how to make sure you are on the right track?
Ask your prospective vendor to give you a free trial of the software — this should serve as a simple measure of flexibility and scalability that you are looking for in an eCommerce platform. Or consult a custom web design company in the process, asking them to assess the platforms you have shortlisted against your goals.
Whatever you do, it’s essential that you consider your long-term goals, as things change fast and you need to be nimble in responding to challenges and capitalizing on opportunities.
While choosing the right eCommerce solution is a critical step in developing your online eCommerce business, it is only one part of it.
This platform needs to exchange information with other systems as well, both third-party systems like the marketplace and payments, and internal systems including PIM, CMS, order management, financial system, etc.
If you manage to integrate your platform with these systems seamlessly, the information you gather will become more centralized which will allow you to run your business much more smoothly.
Since there is a wide range of eCommerce platforms on the market, you have options that will cost you anywhere between $10 and thousands of dollars to build and run your eCommerce website.
This can be quite a challenge as most vendors offer competitive packages. However, it is imperative that you clearly understand what each package offers you and how their offering answers your needs.
It goes without saying that paying higher subscription fees does not necessarily mean that you will get the best value.
So, consider your budget carefully before you even start looking for the best eCommerce platform. Then evaluate the total platform costs including:
- Monthly hosting
- Custom app creation
- Programming and functionality
- Web design
If you search for all-in-one hosts, you will usually come across premium packages that offer most of the features you are looking for and that will stay within your budget.
While most eCommerce platforms offer the essential features you need to build your eCommerce store, at some point you may need additional features such as multiple shipping methods or additional payment options.
One way to prepare for new requirements is to search for platforms that have ready-made integrations such as plugins and are compatable with third-party solutions that can help you expand your store’s capabilities.
If you are looking for an extension that does not exist, you can always go for the headless or microservices-based architecture as this offers greater flexibility.
Essentially, it features extensive application programming interfaces (APIs) which you can use connect to any frontend and integrate different third-party integrations. This way you can easily develop new features, improve the functionality of your online shop and bring your overall customer experience to a higher level.
- Social Media Integration
With the growing number of social media users, integrating key social platforms into your e-store has become an effective method for growing brand visibility and reach.
What’s more, retail brands can now even sell their products directly on social media platforms, specifically Instagram.
Choosing an eCommerce platform that integrates well with key social media channels can help your online store tap into bigger audiences and grow its customer base.
Besides sales, simple integrations such as social media share buttons and adding live social media feeds to your website can help you build a sense of community to increase user engagement and loyalty.
- Customer Support
Customer service is definitely one of the most important factors when it comes to choosing your eCommerce platform.
Why? – you may wonder.
If you don’t provide your customers with exceptional service and answers they need in real-time, they will eave your site and never return.
According to our agency friends, some of the leading Houston web developers, live customer support, and even automated solutions such as chatbots, can provide your middle-of-the-funnel prospects with the information they need to complete their purchase.
Look for an eCommerce platform that can easily accommodate real-time chat features whether with live agents or AI bots.
If you are planning to position yourself on the international market, you will need to choose a platform that can support international audiences and transactions.
This means that your platform needs to support multiple languages, varying taxation rules, and currencies.
Also, you should take into account that regions and countries you serve may also serve a variety of product catalogues that could depend on legal restrictions and local availability. You may, therefore, want to find a platform that can integrate with your ERP system.
- Inventory Volumes & Updates
Not all platforms can be equally effective when dealing with large catalogues. It is essential that your platform can transfer data very quickly (this data should include characteristics, images, product descriptions, and other things) from the catalogue to the online store.
You may need a platform that supports dynamic pricing, quick/realt-time stock updates, different discount options and so on.
- 4 Types of eCommerce Platforms
Finally, before you settle on a ready-made eCommerce platform, explore other options. So far, we’ve focused on
- Traditional eCommerce platform — with the traditional platform, you can buy a license fee in advance, and your development team will then build and make the customization on top of the platform
Other eCommerce solutions to consider are:
- Build-your-own eCommerce platform — building a platform on your own requires you to hire someone either externally or internally to help you develop it.
- Open-source eCommerce platform — this one is quite similar to a traditional platform, except that you need to pay for the upgrades, initial development, and migration.
- SaaS eCommerce platform — For a fixed monthly fee, you will have the same technology and this fee covers maintenance, server use, upgrades, and security.
- Wrap Up
Before you choose your eCommerce solution, set clear goals you have for your online store. Consider your
- Long-term vision
- Must-have functionalities
- Systems that need to integrate with your store for smooth operations
With so many ready-made options to choose from, you are sure to find an off-the-shelf solution that fits your needs. However, if your budget allows and vision demands, you can also explore alternative eCommerce solutions such as build-your-own store, open sourse and SaaS platforms.
Travis Dillard is a business consultant and an organizational psychologist based in Arlington, Texas. Passionate about marketing, social networks, and business in general. In his spare time, he writes a lot about new business strategies and digital marketing for DigitalStrategyOne.