March 29, 2018
Ecommerce has been growing rapidly in the past decade. With the popularity of the internet and better transportation and logistics, ecommerce has allowed businesses to reach all corners of the world. In fact, ecommerce retail sales are forecasted to grow up to $4.058 billion by 2020. That’s almost 3x more growth than in 2015 and accounting for 14.6% of all consumer retail spending.
Ecommerce also makes it possible for people to shop from the comfort of their homes (to avoid traffic, lines and wasting time). And it has allowed budding entrepreneurs to set up businesses quickly and with a low overhead cost.
But starting an ecommerce business is not as easy as it sounds. With so many ecommerce platforms available, how do you know you’re choosing the right one?
Before making this big decision, do your research with regards to the following important ecommerce features:
Ecommerce sites receive and deal with a lot of sensitive customer information, including names, addresses, contact details, and credit card information. Because of this, it’s important to choose an ecommerce platform that supports security measures such as HTTPS and SSL.
There are many different types of ecommerce solutions for every need and budget. Even when you’re just starting out, the cheapest solution isn’t necessarily the ideal choice.
Colton Chorpenning, marketing lead of Veppo, made a costly $30,000 mistake when he switched the company’s ecommerce platform from their original choice to a new one, then back again to the original (BigCommerce to Shopify Plus to BigCommerce again).
Initially, he had taken a more one-dimensional look at costs, which became easier to justify when comparing performance on a different ecommerce platform.
When doing research regarding ecommerce platform costs, find out if you will be paying a flat monthly fee or if you will have to increase payments every time you want to add bandwidth, server storage, apps, and plugins. Make sure to include extra or miscellaneous costs, such as web development fees or salaries into your ecommerce platform budget.
On a final note, your ecommerce platform is what you’ll use to run your business, so don’t skimp on it.
Plenty of Payment Options
Ideally, the ecommerce platform you choose supports a variety of payment options.
Many ecommerce websites accept Paypal and credit cards as a payment option, which works for most purposes and customers. If your ecommerce website serves countries where Paypal is not accepted, you’ll have to plan for alternative payment methods.
Today’s top ecommerce platforms are easily customizable. They offer plugins and integrations that can extend functionality depending on the online shop’s needs.
Some important integrations or plugins to consider for your ecommerce store include:
- Accounting software – to keep track of sales, inventory, taxes, revenue and profits
- Email marketing/automation platform – to get the word out about sales, new products, and to send abandoned cart emails
- Fraud management tools
If supported by the ecommerce platform you decide on, you can make use of Amazon Marketplace compatibility to sell your items on Amazon—a large existing marketplace.
As a general rule, choose an ecommerce platform that allows for many different types of integrations so that you can completely customize it to your needs.
But don’t forget to read reviews before an extensive integration overhaul—you’ll want to understand how these apps integrate with your ecommerce platform (and other installed integrations).
No entrepreneur starts a business without the hope that it will grow.
When you’re starting out, you probably won’t be using all of the ecommerce features available to you. But that doesn’t mean that you won’t eventually make use of them. It’s nice to know that they’re there when you need them.
When choosing an ecommerce platform, make sure that there is potential for growth and expansion. But at the same time, ensure that scalability is affordable. Picking a platform that can grow with you means that you won’t have to worry about the costs and frustrations that go alongside site migration and learning a new ecommerce platform.
Although ecommerce shops have very low overhead costs, one of the main weaknesses of an ecommerce business is its dependence on the internet and software.
If your ecommerce software stops working or the web server breaks down, your customers won’t be able to access your shop. The longer it takes to resolve the issue, the more lost revenue potential. If you aren’t particularly tech savvy, you’ll certainly need help with troubleshooting every time this happens.
With this in mind, here are a few things to question regarding an ecommerce platform’s customer service offerings:
- Quickness in response time
- Availability—Is the service available 24/7?
- Number of communication channels—can you reach them via phone, email, social media, and live chat?
- Is there an additional cost to have access to customer service or is it included in the fee you paid the platform?
Aside from the fact that more than half of web searches are done on mobile, mobile transactions account for 59% of all sessions on ecommerce sites. Thus, there is a need to ensure that your ecommerce site is mobile responsive across devices.
Mobile responsiveness is often a function of the website’s design but it’s important to understand how your ecommerce platform contributes to this important aspect of usability/SEO ranking factor.
Ecommerce sites are sprouting up left and right like mushrooms and it can be difficult to differentiate yourself from the competition.
Your ecommerce platform must be SEO-ready so that your customers will be able to find you easily in relevant search results. Some important baseline SEO features include: ability to add a blog, ability to add customer reviews, and the ability to use your own domain name.
Web hosting contributes much to the usability and user experience of your ecommerce site because it determines whether or not the site will load fast. Every time someone accesses your website, the data is retrieved from a server. If the server is slow, the user also experiences a slow-loading site.
According to Google research, 53% of visitors abandon a site that takes over 3 seconds to load.
Some ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify, offer to host your site as part of using their platform (you can also get a custom domain to personalize your site). Others, such as WooCommerce, are actually plugins that you can use on a self-hosted WordPress website to add ecommerce functionality.
If you opt to run your ecommerce platform on a self-hosted site, you’ll have more flexibility but you’ll also need to do all your own troubleshooting and maintenance—like backing up data and handling website downtime. A hosted site, on the other hand, is more ideal for beginners and usually comes with customer support.
Ease of Use
One of the most important considerations for an ecommerce platform is the ease of use with regards to both the frontend and backend operations. Your ecommerce platform might have all sorts of amazing features but if you and your team cannot understand how to use them, then what’s the use?
Remember, you and your team will be using the platform daily, so if you aren’t able to navigate it properly, it can pose a lot of inefficiencies. Similarly, the platform must also be easy to use on the front end to allow your shoppers a seamless experience.
In general, the easier your site is to use, the more sales you’ll have. Additionally, site usability is a ranking factor so if your site is easy to use, Google will take note.
Owning a business has never been easier (and cheaper) with the rapid growth and popularity of ecommerce sites (and resulting technologies). Take each of these features into consideration before you choose your ideal ecommerce platform.
Have you already chosen an ecommerce platform? Are there any things you wish you had considered before you made your decision? Please share your thoughts in the comments below.
Shane Barker is a digital marketing consultant that specializes in sales funnels, targeted traffic and website conversions. He has consulted with Fortune 500 companies, Influencers with digital products, and a number of A-List celebrities.