Customers have high expectations while the market is getting more competitive — that’s how challenging the ecommerce landscape has become.
It is no longer enough to have high-quality products and services. You also need to provide top-notch customer services, fulfill orders as quickly as possible, and be accessible online. These are all impossible to achieve unless you’re using a reliable ecommerce platform.
In this guide, we’ll talk about the crucial factors you consider when choosing the best ecommerce solution.
What Are Your Ecommerce Needs?
With thousands of ecommerce solutions in the market, evaluating and choosing the best platform for your business can be confusing.
It is easy to get lost in the technical details, not to mention the best practices and current trends in running an online business that you need to consider.
Think about your specific needs when it comes to an online platform. The best way to go about it is to develop a roadmap or a plan.
Write an outline that describes your current business and where you want it to go in the future.
What are the current functionalities that you need right now? And, what are the features you need when you scale in the future?
Another angle to explore is your customers’ purchase journey. What channels do they use? What is their buying behavior? How do they shop online?
The answers to these questions are a great launching pad for determining the features that you need in an ecommerce platform.
Once you have an idea of your goals, begin writing down specifics. Break them down into the following categories:
- Web design and front-end needs – Determine the look and feel of your website. Ensure that it is consistent with your brand image. Additionally, consider functions that are relevant to your customers, such as product categories, navigation, search, promo section, and more.
(Image source: superteamdeluxe.com)
- Back-end and back-office features – Identify the features you need to manage your online shop and achieve ecommerce success. Do you need fully-featured solutions where order processing, shipping, and similar activities are in one place? Do you want a platform where you can sell digital goods such as software, ebooks, or online services?
- Integration with business apps – If you are already using business applications, make sure that the ecommerce platform integrates seamlessly. The easier it is to incorporate the solution into your business workflow, the faster it starts earning.
- Customer management – Customer relationship is a critical part of online ventures. For instance, if you want to offer chat support, the platform should come with a built-in messaging widget where your staff connects to customers.
- Security, performance, and reliability – Ask the service provider about the security protection that their ecommerce portal offers. Also, conduct research on the platform’s reliability in terms of uptime and downtime ratio. You do not want to lose revenue due to the website crashing, do you?
- Mobile – The ecommerce portal should be responsive to ensure a pleasant shopping experience, even on smaller screens. Also, consider mobile-only features such as “click-to-call” that will enhance your services.
These are just some of the factors to evaluate in order to launch a great ecommerce website. As your business grows and attracts more customers, you also need to explore features that make scaling more efficient.
What Type of Ecommerce Solution Fits Your Needs?
Once you have your needs written, it is time to explore available ecommerce solutions in the market.
Whenever you have doubts, consult your list of needs and desired features, such as built-in or easy-to-integrate, robust SMS marketing software functionalities.
Aside from features, there are different types of ecommerce platforms. They come with varying architecture, which affects functionalities, prices, and support.
Here are the most common platforms that you may consider:
Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) refers to applications that are made available for various users over the Internet.
That means you do not need to acquire infrastructure in order to run the platform. Additionally, the software is often accessed through a web browser.
SaaS is the easiest and cheapest option if you are looking to launch as soon as possible. They require no installation and set-up and offer quick and easy integrations with other solutions such as popular Enterprise Resouce Planning (ERP) systems for small businesses.
All you need to do is sign-up and upload your content.
Additionally, the maintenance and updates of the platform happen in the background. You do not need to worry about technical details, such as hosting and databases, as the service provider handles them.
All features work right out of the box. Most, if not all, SaaS ecommerce solutions are intuitive, which means learning how to use them is faster.
(Image source: shopify.com)
While some SaaS services provide some level of customization, they are not completely flexible. Functionalities come as is without the option to change them at the code level.
Some of the most popular SaaS ecommerce providers are BigCommerce, Shopify, and Volusion.
Open Source Software
Open-source software is a type of application with its source code available to the public. That means it is free to modify in order to create specific features.
Other developers create plugins, extensions, and integrations with other business software. Customized themes are also popular.
They usually come with core functionalities that are essential to ecommerce. But, you need to purchase hosting services where the online shop is to be deployed.
Fortunately, you do not need an extensive programming background to use open source ecommerce software.
Most come with easy-to-install capabilities to simplify creating and publishing your marketing content (among others), whether you produce them in house or purchase articles online.
Additionally, themes and plugins are also available through online marketplaces. They usually come with customizations that require minimal to no coding skills.
(Image source: woocommerce.com)
Developers usually use open source options as the base framework when coding ecommerce portals. Their flexibility allows businesses to craft custom websites, especially if they need specific functionalities such as social media integrations.
Some companies, such as social media marketing agency, prefer open source solutions for this reason.
However, your team will have to manage all the platforms’ technical details, from hosting to updates. Support is also minimal, with most solutions to issues coming from the community of other users.
That means you have to develop your own solutions without assistance from the software’s developers.
WooCommerce, nopCommerce, and Square Online Store are well-known examples of open source platforms.
Licensed platforms are similar in function to open-source software. However, their codebase is proprietary, which means you need to purchase a license in order to use it.
While you need to find hosting and performance set-ups and installations, other technical details such as updates are included.
Plugins and extensions are limited, but they are guaranteed to work since they come from the same developers.
(Image source: bigcommerce.com)
Additionally, you can expect developer support, especially when you encounter issues in your ecommerce platform. Some providers offer different levels of support packages.
Most licensed platforms are bundled with other business software. Excellent examples are SAP Hybris, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Oracle ATG Web Commerce.
While conducting in-depth research about ecommerce platforms, take note of the costs. Aside from subscription fees, add in maintenance, hosting, and other services.
Consider hiring an ecommerce website developer or consultant. It will make the entire process of choosing easier and faster.