The eCommerce industry is steadily growing. The internet has revolutionized how we do business; you can now buy or sell and transact money or data from any part of the world through the online platform. The industry is now worth over 22 trillion dollars according to UNCTAD.
So getting in on the electronic commerce industry is probably a good idea, especially since the industry is expected to keep growing. If you are looking to start or operate a successful eCommerce business, it’s important to know how to go about choosing the right platform.
An eCommerce platform is a software application that helps you manage your online business in terms of sales, operations and your website. You have to be strategic in setting up your eCommerce business.
This article outlines some factors you need to consider before choosing an eCommerce platform and some guidelines to help you know which eCommerce platform you should choose.
1. The price of the platform
Different platforms offer different features at different prices. There might be specific features you need for your business offered for a price but not offered in other cheaper platforms. So you have to know which platforms offer you the features you need for the best price. You also have to make sure that your budget is adequate to continually support your platform.
Most platforms offer monthly payment options, but you could be charged extra for additional plug-ins, server storage and apps for your website optimization down the road. Some platforms can increase their charges as time goes on. There are some that require a low standard monthly fee while others might require you to pay a large up-front fee. You need to take all this into consideration while choosing your eCommerce platform. The following is a list of some top platforms and what you can expect to pay in a month.
• Bigcommerce – $29.95 – $249.95
• Squarespace – $26 – $40
• Volusion – $29 – $299
• Shopify – $29 – $299
It is also important to note that some of these platforms offer different payment plans depending on the features you want to access. Ensure you do thorough research before you settle on one.
2. Ease of use
Since you are going to be spending a lot of time on the platform, you should consider the user interface especially if you have a team that’s helping you manage the business. The platform has to be easy for your team to use. Otherwise, it will affect productivity. The user experience for customers should also not be complicated. Customers need to be able to find the product they are looking for with ease and make transactions without any hitches. Here are a few things to consider as far as ease of use is concerned.
• Utility- this entails the layout of the website, the product listings, menus, and overall flow. The layout should be set-up in a way that makes it easy for the customers to find what they are looking for. It should also feature a search bar with relevant keyword suggestions.
• Accessibility – Since your eCommerce business is available globally, the platform should conveniently adjust to people in different geographical locations in terms of language, currency and such.
• Usability – Online customers can easily run out of patience. How well and fast they grasp your website is, therefore, important. Simplicity is key. Don’t add too many processes that may overwhelm the buyer. Make it simple to navigate.
• Desirability – Ensure your site is visually appealing to your customers. There are psychological triggers that can determine whether customers come back to your site or not. Luckily, there are seasoned designers who develop attractive themes for the platforms ensuring that they appeal to these triggers.
3. Technical support
This can be underestimated since you more than often get a brief run through training of the platform. But sometimes your site can crash and at the worst possible timing at that. So it is comforting to know that help is there when you need it. When your site is down and you can’t contact the technical support team, you can potentially lose a lot of clients and a lot of revenue.
Platforms like Shopify and Woocommerce have a large support team available when you need them. Some platforms will only provide support during business hours in their time zones while others will offer it 24/7. So before you choose an online platform for your business, consider technical support first. It might be the difference.
You will also most likely need
Another crucial aspect you need to factor in is Search Engine Optimization. You can’t do effective business if customers can’t find your site online. Your business is liable to generate significant revenue if your site ranks high in search engine results. When people search for a product or service that your business offers, they should be able to see your site among the search results.
5. Integrations and features
Some integrations will automate some processes making it easy for you to manage the site. There are different types of plug-ins offered on different platforms. They are set to perform functions such as accounting, email marketing, shipping, newsletters and such. Social media integration is also crucial.
It can give you a significant advantage since social media has a lot of users. Integrating your site with social media means that people can share it with friends and family through platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. It will give your business a larger presence online and direct more traffic to your site.
6. Payment o
Some platforms have a limited number of payment options while others have a variety. If you plan to sell internationally, you must consider the payment options at your disposal. You will attract more sales if you have a variety of choices. Popular options include PayPal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay or Google Pay.
For your eCommerce business to be effective, security must be guaranteed. When people buy from your site, they might be prompted to leave some sensitive data such as their credit information. The platform that you choose must be Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant. Your site must also be protected from hacks and data theft.
Platforms to consider for your eCommerce business
Now that you know what to look for, let’s take a look at some of the top platforms for eCommerce and what you might expect from them including their advantages and disadvantages.
It is one of the most commonly known platforms for eCommerce and has hundreds of thousands of users. Shopify is easy to use and to set up. After registering with your address and email, you can start setting up your shop through easy to use features that help you create and describe your product. The platform is optimized for mobile phones, which is an added advantage.
There are elegant themes already available for use, and you can buy more if need be. Shopify is also integrated into online markets such as Amazon. The support team is available 24/7 as stated earlier. One disadvantage with Shopify is that there are other one-off or yearly payments apart from the monthly charges, especially when buying plug-ins for your site.
This is another well-known platform for eCommerce. It offers a large number of features and tools to help you manage your site including email marketing, features to help you in automation, shipping options, promotions coupons, and discounts. BigCommerce is also integrated with other platforms like e-Bay, Amazon and social media providing you with different channels to sell your products.
BigCommerce has over 40 payment options for your customers, and no transaction fee is included. You can also customize your website to your liking by choosing from a variety of templates. They also have a large support team to help you in case you need technical assistance. One disadvantage with BigCommerce is their premium themes for customization that might be fairly expensive and not very user-friendly. It also comes with a sales limit.
Volusion has processed over 28 billion in sales in the twenty years since it started. It has marketing options that include SEO features and is integrated with markets such as Amazon and e-Bay. Volusion has a variety of customizable themes for you to choose from 11 of which are free. You also get 24/7 support through phone or text. One disadvantage is that some of the features are only available in higher payment plans. They also have a bandwidth limit. So You will have to purchase more when it runs out.
Although Squarespace started out as a platform for making attractive websites, it is now slowly developing into an eCommerce platform. The site is user-friendly operating with a drag and drop system. It has appealing templates you can use and is mobile optimized. Their design makes it convenient to sell products that require high-quality images. It also has standard options for shipping, inventory management, coupons and such. A big disadvantage is that it has limited payment options only accepting Apple Pay and PayPal. It also has limited integrations with other platforms and markets.
Before you choose an eCommerce platform, It is important to do extensive research to ensure you get the best platform for your business. Just like in any other business, there might be a few challenges in trying to get your business up and running and making it profitable. You need to be consistent and patient. Ensure you build trust and create processes and strategies that will work for you.