Does your business need a third-party ecommerce platform? Global ecommerce sales added up to more than $2 trillion in 2018. Projections show that the number could more than double by 2021.
Whether you’re new or are looking to update a longtime brick-and-mortar business, this is the right time for an ecommerce shift. It’ll benefit your business to ensure online functionality for your future customers.
There are so many fully realized and professional options available. Even established brands like Ben & Jerry’s and SkullCandy use BigCommerce, instead of developing and maintaining an in-house ecommerce solution.
You may not enjoy full control and customization with a professional ecommerce platform. However, it’ll save you time and effort. Outsourcing also means that you won’t need to hire new staff to maintain internal software.
The only reason to create your own ecommerce platform is if key aspects of your website and retail process require special knowledge and skills. Professional services may not support very unique needs.
What are some important considerations in choosing an ecommerce platform for your business?
Choosing an ecommerce platform to power your online store isn’t as easy as it seems. The wrong choice could result in a financial or temporal setback.
Read on to find out how to evaluate professional ecommerce solutions using a thorough and comprehensive eight-step assessment guide.
1. Pricing and hidden fees
First, determine your budget. How much are you willing to pay for an ecommerce platform that you trust to handle your money? Not all services bill you the same way.
Most send you a flat monthly fee, but some have added fees for features like installing apps and plugins or accessing more server storage.
2. Customer payment methods
Think about how your customers are going to pay you. Credit card support should be standard. Some platforms may not accept more uncommon payment methods.
For example, BigCommerce doesn’t support cryptocurrency payments at this time. Shopify and WooCommerce do, through BitPay integration and plugins.
3. Secure handling of sensitive information
Make sure the platform of your choice supports HTTPS/SSL for encrypted protection. Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance is important too. The latter’s requirements depend on management by credit card companies like VISA and MasterCard.
Having these keeps your customers safe. They reduce the likelihood of credit card information theft.
4. Allowance for seamless scalability
What if you eventually outgrow your ecommerce platform setup? Every business hopes to grow, but exact numbers are hard to predict. If you’re doing aggressive marketing and moving products quickly, you may need to scale up sooner rather than later.
Sometimes scalability is an easy point-and-click process. All you need to do is to switch to a higher-tiered monthly plan. Shopify offers this experience. The service even has an enterprise version called Shopify Plus, should you expand so much that the highest Shopify tier can no longer handle your online store volume.
5. SEO readiness for growth
Are you a small brand looking to compete with larger businesses? SEO could be the answer.
Here are some features to look for in an ecommerce platform to asses their SEO friendliness: a way to add blogging to your website, customer product reviewing functionality, and the ability to change and use a domain name of your choice.
It’s in your best interest to rank high in search results. If your website is SEO-friendly, it’s more likely to generate a larger amount of organic traffic. Over half of web traffic and about 40% of total retail revenue is from organic searching, so raising the latter number is crucial.
6. Mobile-friendly design
Did you know that more than 40% of internet traffic in the U.S. in early 2019 came from mobile device usage? Smartphones and tablets are becoming more and more common.
It’s important to have a website and online store that looks as good on your phone as it does on a desktop screen. Customers should be able to navigate your site easily and complete purchases without any issues on both.
7. Customer support for your business
It can be frustrating to have your online store go down because of a server crash that you have no control over. Even worse is if you can’t contact your ecommerce platform for an update to relay to your own customers when they start to ask you what’s wrong.
When you count on an ecommerce platform to power your online store, you’re dependent on their customer support services. Look for 24-hour availability and make sure you understand how many levels of support are part of the tiered plan you’re thinking of getting. This is one area that can change dramatically as monthly fees go up.
8. Ease of use
If there are more than a few people running your business, you should involve relevant staff members in the platform decision-making process. You don’t want to rest the future of your business on an ecommerce solution that’ll only invite confusion and inefficiency.
Check for apps, plugins, extensions and allowed integrations too. You should choose a platform that’ll work with what you’re comfortable using. For example: if you’re not using WordPress, you can’t use WooCommerce.
What are the most popular ecommerce platforms right now?
Here are three of the most popular ecommerce platforms available:
- BigCommerce: As you may glean from its name, BigCommerce is ideal for big retail brands. If you have a brick-and-mortar store and a large inventory, this ecommerce platform will be able to handle your online expansion. You can go in and tweak CSS or HTML to customize templates, but BigCommerce is understandable with little to no coding experience. This is a scalable and flexible platform with strong SEO capability.
- Shopify: App fees on top of your monthly Shopify fee can get unmanageable if you’re not careful. The platform charges additional fees for using payment providers other than its own Shopify Payments too. While it’s not the best at SEO integration or handling high volume stores, Shopify is generally the best if you want to focus on retail selling. Loading times are blazing fast. It supports drop shipping, Instagram marketing, and Facebook Ads. Setting up a store is beginner-friendly, due to Shopify’s drag-and-drop interface.
- WooCommerce: It’s not the best ecommerce platform around, and you may find it difficult to scale up when needed. However, it’s affordable and comfortable for WordPress enthusiasts. If you want to run a WordPress affiliate site with strong SEO and then add an online store, WooCommerce is your best bet. More functionalities—email marketing, one-click selling, and more—are possible through WordPress extensions as well.
There are so many challenges involved in setting up an online storefront, even if you’re internet-savvy. Choosing the right ecommerce platform depends on your business size, growth trajectory, marketing style, and many more.
Which email marketing platform should you choose?
In theory, you can use any email marketing service with your chosen ecommerce platform, as long as the former allows for integration with the latter. In practice, though, not using a comprehensive email marketing platform for ecommerce can feel like working with an incomplete set of tools.
That’s why we built CM Commerce: We want every store owner to have the tools they need at their fingertips. We know most store owners don’t have an extensive background in marketing; with our platform, you don’t need it to reap the same rewards as major brands that have an entire team dedicated to email marketing.
Customer engagement and loyalty are at the heart of CM Commerce’s design. Ready-made email automation recipes, personalized upsells and cross-sells, powerful segmentation tools, and product review submissions make every part of the customer journey a chance to connect and increase revenue.
The right ecommerce platform to trust with your business can be difficult to find. It’s essential to evaluate even the most popular ecommerce solutions—like BigCommerce, Shopify and WooCommerce—by looking at what they have to offer.
Here are the ecommerce features to asses in order to decide which platform is best for your business needs:
- Pricing and hidden fees
- Customer payment methods
- Secure handling of sensitive information
- Allowance for seamless scalability
- SEO readiness for growth
- Mobile-friendly design
- Customer support for your business
- Ease of use
Should your marketing strategy include email, check out email marketing platforms for ecommerce. CM Commerce, Remarkety, Omnisend, and Rare.io are some options to consider. Solutions like these will provide you with more tools to boost engagement and encourage more sales.
CM Commerce is Campaign Monitor’s email marketing product for ecommerce. Sign up for a free trial today.
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