A Comprehensive Guide to Choose eCommerce Platform
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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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.