Choose the right ecommerce platform

How To Choose The Right eCommerce Platform

A.J. Kmetz Small Business Advice Leave a Comment

Are you proactive or reactive? It’s often easier to be the latter, but the former usually has a better payoff. Take driving, for instance. During a long highway drive, it’s easy to stay in your lane and go the speed limit (OK, maybe a little over) while you let your mind wander. But wait – was that a highway patrol car?! If you run through an unexpected speed trap, you’ll probably slam on the brakes in a reactive panic. If you drive proactively by keeping an eye on your speed and surroundings, you’ll have a safer and potentially less expensive trip. That proactive mindset will help you choose the right eCommerce platform, as well.

As the internet continues to evolve and become a more integral part of our lives, we’ll spend more of our money online. We do that through eCommerce platforms – the interface tools that enable online shopping. Have you bought something from Amazon? Then you’ve used an eCommerce platform. According to Statista, 1.8 billion people bought something over the internet in 2018. By 2021, the number of global digital buyers is expected to rise to over 2.14 billion.

But with dozens of options, one of the hardest parts of starting an online store is that you have to choose the right eCommerce platform. Not every platform is the right fit for your company – each has strengths and weaknesses you’ll have to take into consideration before you commit.

To choose the right eCommerce platform, here’s what to consider:

The Features

Every platform wants you to believe that it’s the skeleton key that will unlock untold riches for your company. Don’t believe the hype, though; be proactive by doing your research! Every eCommerce platform has different strengths and is suited to different kinds of companies or products. Narrowing down the best choices from the ones that are just good is how you’ll choose the right eCommerce platform.

Start by looking into the eCommerce platforms that have worked in the past for brands that are similar to yours. Do your competitors use Shopify? Etsy? BigCommerce? You might end up with a list of just two or three, but it could quickly become fairly long. Narrow it down by checking out the features available on each eCommerce platform’s website. Note the platforms with features that interest you and would benefit your business.

The Limitations

You don’t just need to look at what a platform can do, but also at what it can’t. Just like any other online tool, an eCommerce platform might seem great right up until the moment you need a service it doesn’t provide.

There are two basic types of eCommerce platforms: SaaS-based and open-source. Each has advantages and disadvantages:

SaaS-based eCommerce Platforms

  • Ready-made, cloud-hosted eCommerce platforms, no coding or technical team required.
  • Limited or no customization with no source code available to you, meaning you don’t have full control over your site.
  • Examples: Shopify, Big Cartel, and BigCommerce

Open-source eCommerce Platforms

  • Customizable eCommerce solutions that give you access to the source code, meaning you can pick and micromanage features.
  • Often come with limited or no technical support, have less intuitive admin UI, and will require a web host.
  • Examples: PrestaShop, OpenCart, Square Online Store

Don’t get stuck with unexpected limitations: know what your eCommerce platform can and can’t do so you can drive your online business at breakneck speed, like this guy:

high-speed internet

Now THAT’S high-speed internet.

The Costs

“You have to spend money to make money” is one of those nonsense phrases that somehow often seems to be true. And when it comes to eCommerce, it almost always is: most platforms will have some sort of cost associated with them. The cost varies by the scale of the platform and the number of features available.

A monthly fee probably doesn’t sound terrible, but $29.99 per month adds up over time. And as you add on features or grow your company, that price can increase. Pay attention to processing fees and other costs, too. It’s vital to know every cost associated with a platform if you decide to use it.

Try to choose the right eCommerce platform based on the features you need. Keep in mind that the more features included in a platform, the more it will cost. But don’t cut out features you’ll absolutely need in favor of a cheaper price. They’ll likely pay for themselves once your store is up and running.

The Scalability

If you’re looking into eCommerce platforms, you probably have growth in mind. You’re in the right place! eCommerce is an effective tool for growing your business, but you need to keep the future in mind to choose the right eCommerce platform.

If you’re a business with an existing store and are switching over to a new online platform, you may need more storage space and the ability to handle a lot of traffic. Make sure you get the capacity you need for your current level of business, but see that you can scale up when the time is right, too.

On the other hand, if you’re an artist with only a few kinds of products for sale, you won’t need extended storage space but will probably want greater display features so customers can see your artwork in detail. If you plan to add more kinds of artwork later on or implement other tools like commissions, ensure that the platform you choose has those capabilities. Plan for the business you want and the business you have!

The Security

Privacy and security are becoming ever more pressing issues for consumers, particularly when they need to enter financial information into a website. And that’s exactly what they’ll be doing on the eCommerce platform you choose. As you grow your business, you may find that more potential customers turn a critical eye on your security protocols. Research a platform’s security measures before you decide to commit to it. Does it feature a PCI-DSS compliant payment system like PayPal or Stripe? Use Google Captcha? Support HTTPs?

But privacy and security isn’t just the platform’s responsibility – it’s on you, too. Be ready to tackle privacy and data protection right out of the gate by creating a privacy policy.

The Experience

Finally, customer experience should be one of your central considerations when you choose the right eCommerce platform. Every platform has a different user interface that customers have to work through to make a purchase. Some are easy, while some are convoluted. Some put security at the forefront, while others focus on customer retention. No matter what platform you implement, familiarize yourself with every step of the checkout process.

Remember that not all of your customers will be shopping on their computers. In fact, a sizable portion will probably be using their phones to shop and make purchases. Your eCommerce platform needs to be mobile-ready to make the process as easy as possible or you’ll probably end up with a high rate of shopping cart abandonment. While you’re at it, make the rest of your marketing mobile-friendly with our handy guide!

Be sure to include your eCommerce platform in your SEO efforts. Some platforms are SEO-friendly, which will help you rank higher in search results and consequently help those platforms make you more money.

The Takeaway

As consumers, functional eCommerce is something that we often take for granted. But for brands that do any business online, it’s a major consideration. From the cost to the scalability, security to user interface, there’s a lot to think about when you want to choose the right eCommerce platform for your business. But if you’re proactive in your search for an eCommerce platform, you won’t have to react to as many problems once you’ve chosen and implemented one. Less stress and more profit sounds like a great payoff to us!

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