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A Comprehensive Guide to Choose eCommerce Platform

How to Choose eCommerce Platform

 

Worldwide B2C ecommerce sales are expected to touch an unbelievable $4.5 trillion by 2021. If you are looking to get a piece of this massive market opportunity, then you are not alone.

Enterprises and entrepreneurs everywhere are taking their business online to discover new sources of revenue and target customers beyond their traditional markets. Building new ecommerce websites is easier than ever before. Pre-built ecommerce platforms allow businesses to set up online stores and launch their operations with minimal investments into technology and skilled IT talent.

In addition to supporting online sales, pre-built ecommerce platforms have evolved into powerful ecosystems that extend enhanced capabilities to businesses and allow them to find innovative ways to improve their revenues. For all these reasons and many more, the choice of your ecommerce platform can often make or break your business.

Here are some of the factors you must consider when choosing an ecommerce platform for your unique requirement.

Integrations

This is one of the most important factors that you must consider when selecting an ecommerce platform. Every major ecommerce platform – be it Shopify, Magento, Wix Stores, or others – comes with an ecosystem of apps, plugins, and integrations. It is these integrations that give you features and functionalities that are not available on the ecommerce platform. In many cases, these integrations are essential for a smooth and successful operation of your business, such as accounting, logistics, CRM, loyalty programmes, email marketing, and more.

The right way to go about this is to make a list of apps and tools that you are or will be using. Then check out whether these tools or suitable alternatives are available on an ecommerce platform. If no suitable option is available on a platform, then that platform cannot support your business effectively. Of course, you can always consider getting an ecommerce developer like Multi Programming Solutions to create a custom plugin for a specific ecommerce platform.

Customisation

Usability, user-interface, and convenience play a huge role in ensuring that an ecommerce platform achieves its business objectives. A smooth, hassle-free shopping experience for customers and a highly productive back-end for administrators are critical elements of an effective ecommerce platform. As every business has unique requirements, it is desirable that the ecommerce platform they use offers high customisation. That way, businesses can customise their online store to suit their specific needs. Almost all ecommerce platforms offer some level of customisation. Choose one that offers just the right level of customisation that you require.

Security

The growing incidences of cyberattacks, financial fraud, and identity thefts have increased the level of awareness among the consumers on the importance of cybersecurity. Online shoppers do not share their banking or payment card information with just any website. They look for signs that the website is trustworthy. Your choice of ecommerce platform should support HTTPS/SSL for a secure shopping experience for the customers. The platform should also comply with PCI (payment card industry). You can also check out other security features offered by the various platforms and compare them against each other. Moreover, the platforms should offer free regular updates to ensure that any vulnerabilities are fixed, and new features are released to existing business customers too.

The level of security you need increases with the size of your business. If you register a few thousand shoppers a month, then you don’t need the most secure online store. But you do need the standard security features that make your customers feel secure when shopping online and also protect their data from unauthorised access.

SEO Optimisation

An ecommerce website that is optimised for search engines helps you reach customers when they are looking for products just like yours. So, SEO is an indispensable element of the ecommerce puzzle. In addition to content level optimisation, you must take care of many other things if you need to penetrate the noise and reach your target audience. So, check out whether an ecommerce platform offers the following features or capabilities:

  • Customisability of the URLs to make them more SEO friendly
  • Support for custom domain names
  • Review section. Better yet, support for trusted review plugin like TrustPilot
  • Features and support for the blog section
  • Support for canonical URLs

User experience, user interface, and ease of use

In the ecommerce industry, the UI and UX are both tied together closely. As your website is the primary point of contact between you and your customers, the user interface and the user experience your website offers to them is paramount. Not all ecommerce platforms provide a smooth, fluid, and hassle-free experience. Test the various platforms thoroughly. Superficially, they all look good, but as you test them rigorously, you’ll discover many bugs, issues, and just bad designs in them. If you want your customers to stay with you for a long time, then it’s crucial that their shopping experience is as delightful as possible.

Mobile friendliness

Mobile internet usage has already overtaken desktop internet usage and continues to grow. More shoppers are using their mobile devices to shop online. Your online store must be mobile-friendly, or you run the risk of losing well over 60% of your potential customers. A responsive website that resizes itself to suit the screen size of the user’s device is just not enough anymore. Customer-centric businesses are designing websites with a mobile-first approach.

The images, font size of the content, the layout, and everything else on a webpage must be optimised for mobile usage. The pages must be lightweight and load smoothly on mobile devices with slower wireless data connections. Your ecommerce platform must allow you to achieve all these objectives at the technical level.

Pricing and payment

A big part of the ecommerce marketing strategy is pricing. Competitive pricing, dynamic pricing, support for category level of site-wide discounts, support for customer level discounts, and related features are essential for executing an effective pricing strategy. In addition, you must offer multiple payment methods for your shoppers to transact. They should be able to shop via all popular credit and debit cards, netbanking, e-wallets like PayPal, and so on. The more options they have, the more convenient it is for shoppers to purchase from your website.

Lastly, consider the pricing of the ecommerce platform itself. Some of them offer businesses like you a monthly fees, while some others charge an annual fee. Some platforms may even charge a one-time fee for lifetime usage, but may not offer continued support.

Look for customer support, especially technical level support, and the terms of support, which brings us to the next point.

Customer support

When you run a physical store, you have complete control over it. In case of an online shop, a bulk of the factors are beyond your control. The ecommerce platform, hosting, various plugins, logistics service, and many other aspects are obtained from third parties. They can throw up issues or stop working at the worst possible moment. When, not if, that happens, you need a reliable team to get things back up and running with minimum downtime. Otherwise, you can lose revenue, brand image, and long-term customers.

Routine, pre-determined maintenance sessions are normal. You can advertise them to your shoppers beforehand, so that they are not caught by any surprises.

Whether you are looking for an ecommerce platform, or any other foundational services for setting up your online store, always check out the customer support they offer. Ask the right questions. Are they available 24×7? Do they offer SLA? What kind of support they offer and what’s the pricing? How does the industry regard their customer support?

Scalability

Again, this should be one of your most important considerations when selecting an ecommerce platform. It should offer you the flexibility to scale up or scale down your business in any way you deem fit or to meet the market’s changing needs. Most importantly, as your business grows, your employee strength increases and so does your customer base. Eventually, they’ll get familiar with your ecommerce setup and use it as second nature. The ecommerce platform should allow you to scale up seamlessly, so that you don’t have to change your platform or its apps every time your business hits a new milestone in size or operations.

Cloud platforms or on-premise?

You need a hosting service to host your ecommerce website online. Some ecommerce platforms integrate their solutions with hosting services or offer third-party hosting services to ease the process. However, you must decide whether you want to host your ecommerce platform on the cloud, or the servers at your office. There are a variety of considerations involved in this decision, including the cost of hosting, hardware cost, skilled labour cost, IT expertise of your staff, and so on. Whichever option you choose, there are pros and cons for each choice. Your choice must be in consideration of your unique requirement and the resources at your disposal.

Also, you must decide whether to go with a self-hosted or hosted platform. The hosted platform offers the ecommerce platform in a SaaS (software as a service) model. Your store is already hosted, and you just make changes to the software. In the self-hosted option, you must download the software and host it with a suitable hosting service.

Which eCommerce platform to choose?

Now that you know precisely what to look for when choosing an ecommerce platform, it’s time to take a look at the various popular platforms available to you. You must understand the advantages and disadvantages offered by each platform, so that you can choose the most suitable option among the best ecommerce platforms out there. Here’s a quick overview of the most popular ecommerce platforms out there.

1. Magento

Magento is one of the most flexible and feature-rich ecommerce platforms in the market. In fact, it offers the highest flexibility in terms of design, customisability, and setup. It is owned by eBay, which is one of the biggest ecommerce stores in the world. So, creating Magento store has the benefit of utilising the experience and expertise of eBay at running a large ecommerce business. Naturally, it is one of the most feature-rich ecommerce platforms out there.

Pros

  • Magento offers near 100% customizability. You can change pretty much everything
  • It is open source. The community edition is free, while the enterprise versions come with a price
  • Offers superior SEO capabilities
  • Extensive templates, themes, and user-friendly designs

 

Cons

  • Due to extreme customisability, it is suitable only for tech-savvy customers. If your technical understanding is limited, it’s not suited for you
  • Technical support is available only for enterprise (paid versions) customers
  • It doesn’t roll out preconfigured. You must set up everything.

2. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a shopping cart plugin for the world’s most popular content management system – WordPress. Most of us are quite familiar with WordPress websites. If you have ever created a website or a blog, then the chances are that you have extensive experience with WordPress. That makes WooCommerce extremely easy to use and therefore, it is one of the most widely used options for setting up an ecommerce website.

Pros

  • The basic shopping cart extension is free
  • It’s simple and easy to use
  • You have complete access to its source code, and you can make any changes you like to it and customise it to your specific needs
  • You can use any WordPress theme to set up your online store or order your own WordPress theme development. That means countless themes and design options; more than any other ecommerce platform. All you need to do is integrate the WooCommerce plugin in the end, and you are ready to go.

Cons

  • While the shopping cart itself is free, the additional functionalities require you to install more plugins, which have a price tag
  • Although they do have customer support, it is not as responsive as you’d like it to be. Don’t count on speedy issue resolution

3. Shopify

Shopify is the workhorse of the ecommerce industry. It is the choice of over 325,000 online stores worldwide. It is the leader of the industry for a variety of reasons. Its intensive focus on innovation means that it is the pioneer of many features that have become an integral part of the ecommerce experience for both shoppers and businesses today. Sure, it has its drawbacks, but the advantages it offers far outweigh its limitations. Because of its simplicity, ease of use, and powerful integrations, it is the preferred choice among everyone from lone entrepreneurs to mid-size businesses.

Pros

  • Exceptionally easy to use. The drag and drop feature allows you to customise your store unlike with any other ecommerce platform.
  • Although the platform offers seamless customisation, you can make changes to your Shopify store on the code level ordering Shopify web development services from experts.
  • It comes loaded with all the SEO features. In fact, it is rated highly for its SEO friendliness. Whatever you need to edit or customise – be it meta content, ALT tags, or something else – Shopify supports everything. It’s designed for SEO
  • An extensive set of plugins and integrations available, including fantastic themes and designs
  • It also has an industry-leading customer support, something that resource-limited businesses love.

Cons

  • The only major limitation of Shopify is that it comes with a hefty price tag. Its monthly fee is small for small businesses, but as you grow, the fee can stack up fast and eat into your revenues big time.

4. OpenCart

OpenCart is another intuitive and easy-to-use ecommerce platform. It is an open-source software and can be downloaded, edited and customised on a code level to your unique requirement. It is slightly more difficult to use when compared to Shopify, as it requires basic technical knowledge. However, it is certainly easier to use than Magento.

Pros

  • The basic store is free
  • Thousands of plugins and integrations available for additional features, functionalities, and even themes or designs
  • Allows you to manage multiple stores from a single admin panel seamlessly
  • The basic package offers all the basic SEO support. You can always use integrations to get more SEO capabilities
  • Offers excellent customer support, which is impressive considering that it’s open-source

Cons

  • Running an OpenCart ecommerce store is not free, although the basic software is free. You will need more plugins and integrations, which will cost you a substantial amount
  • Although you can manage an OpenCart store with limited web development knowledge, you’ll require a technical-level understanding to take full advantage of this platform.

5. Etsy

Etsy is unlike most other ecommerce platforms. It was created to serve sellers of handmade vintage, and quirky gifts. Naturally, it is designed to be effortless to use. Upload some images, add some text, and you are good to go. That’s easy. Creating your store on Etsy allows you access to buyers. However, you’ll have to follow their stringent terms, which can become a pain as you grow.

Pros

  • You get access to their 30+ million buyers
  • It’s almost as easy as Amazon to use. No need to spend a lot of effort on setting it up
  • There is no monthly fee

 

Cons

  • It charges a flat fee on listing your products, and charges a significant percentage on each transaction. Therefore, it’s best suited when you are a small-sized business.
  • It’s not suited for all businesses. The products that sell on Etsy, as claimed by them, are handmade, vintage, custom and unique gifts.
  • You don’t get a custom domain name. All your listing URLs will begin with etsy.com/
  • Very low customisability

Conclusion

At the end of the day, the choice of ecommerce platform should be in tandem with your products, industry, objectives, business size, and unique business model. Depending on these, your requirements change, and you must choose an ecommerce platform that meets these requirements in an affordable way. Multi-Programming Solutions can help you to choose the most convenient platform. Our highly-experienced team deals with complex custom solutions development for e-Commerce businesses that help our customers solve their specific needs and bring their business to a new level. Using multiple technologies within a single project, fair estimation of development efforts, affordable price and customer support on every stage of the project make cooperation with MPS comfortable and reliable.

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