Not so long ago, finding the right technology to power your online store was a major barrier, as it involved a lot of custom development. Today’s entrepreneur is in a better position than ever to start an online business, as there are plenty of ready-made tools that make it easy to hit the ground running.
However, here lies one of the major problems as well – there are so many eCommerce platforms to choose from that even experienced entrepreneurs can have a hard time deciding which one is the optimal choice.
Although it is possible to set up and even grow your business using a custom-built shopping cart solution, this may not be a viable solution in the long run. It’s better to use a ready eCommerce platform to save time and efforts.
In this article, we will cover some of the most important factors you have to take into account when making your choice.
One of the first things to consider is how much you will be charged and how you will have to pay. Most platforms have monthly fees, which may significantly vary depending on the type of platform you use (hosted or self-hosted).
Also, don’t forget that your platform will likely have certain processing fees in addition to the monthly payments, as many of the leading platforms consider credit card transactions from your customers to be among their revenue streams.
You should carefully study everything the platform has to offer to understand what exactly you are paying for and make your choice based on that. Don’t chase after lower prices at the expense of useful features. You should compare services and derive which one offers the most advantages.
You probably aren’t planning to start an eCommerce business with the goal of keeping it small. Sure, scaling up incrementally and carefully makes a good sense, and you don’t want to get overwhelmed by your trajectory. On the other hand, growth is the name of the game in every business, and different eCommerce platforms have different strengths in this regard.
The platform you opt for should be flexible enough to offer you suitable plans for building and operating a store while you’re in “rapid growth” mode. This is true when it comes to many aspects to running your shop – from your server bandwidth to cross-channel selling capabilities. In this sense, opting for a “headless commerce” solution – one with native integrations and APIs that make it easy to experiment with different sales channels and website tech configurations – offers the most flexibility to merchants.
3. Plugins and integrations
Although most platforms offer significant functionality in and of themselves, plugins and integrations can dramatically improve their usefulness. Most platforms have numerous additional tools that can help run your business smoother and easier. But every eCommerce platform come up with different sets of plugins. Before picking up a platform, make sure it has all the plugins that you’re looking for.
Also, if you already use certain tools and are happy with the way they work, make sure to check if they can be integrated with the platform or have viable alternatives.
Keep in mind that addons can often impact your expenses dramatically. Some platforms might be free like WooCommerce or relatively inexpensive like Shopify to get started with, but once you add in all of the premium components in the form of plugins, you end up paying more in the long run.
4. SEO Considerations
Search engine optimization is as important for eCommerce websites as it is for any other web property, if not more so. You cannot hope that customers start out their searches looking specifically for your store – you want them to stumble upon you when they are looking for products.
Some of the most critical factors here are the possibility to attach a blog to the store, review functionality, and the function to use your own domain name. More advanced SEO features for eCommerce generally involve the ability to manually edit certain aspects of your site, including page titles, redirects, and robots.txt files. Meta tags in category pages and product pages help in organic rankings. Make sure your eCommerce platform has these functionalities.
5. Payment methods
How your customers are going to pay is probably one of the most important aspects of your interaction with them, and you should pay special attention to it.
Because many platforms have their own payment gateways, they may not support as many options for payments handled via third-party processors and digital wallets as you might like. For example, Volusion supports over two dozen payment gateways, but none of them are digital wallets. BigCommerce, on the other hand, supports several more credit card processors – plus digital wallets including Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and Venmo.
Having access to too few, or the wrong options, can turn out to be a very unpleasant surprise both for you and your customers alike – if people go to check out and they see that their preferred payment method is not supported, they are more likely to abandon the cart than to look for other ways to pay.
We live in an age in which cybercrime runs rampant and poses constant danger no matter what you do online. And financial operations, naturally, are among those most often targeted by hackers. Plus, buyers will naturally feel apprehensive of submitting their credit and debit card information on shady-looking websites.
So, make sure to check if the platform you consider supports HTTPS/SSL protocols and is PCI compliant. Although these are more or less the industry standards by now, it always pays to be extra careful when it comes to matters of security.
For example, Magento, one of the most popular eCommerce platforms, is simply an open source piece of software that anyone can install on any number of hosting configurations, so if you’re seriously considering using it, keep in mind that you’ll need to set up hosting with an SSL certificate on your own.
The best platform for you
You can compare eCommerce platforms using dozens of factors, but these are probably the most important and should be taken into consideration above everything else. Hopefully, these tips will come in handy as you tackle the decision.