No one can deny that the growth of e-commerce has been astronomical! In the past 2 years alone, e-commerce has evolved significantly thanks to major developments in Artificial Intelligence, Mobile and Social Integrations, Customization, and Digital Wallets. With all these advancements and the increase in online stores, it’s becoming more and more critical for businesses to differentiate the shopping experience in order to stay ahead.
One of the factors that can influence the kind of shopping experience brands offer online is the e-commerce platform that they choose for their store.
What we do know is that the "e" in e-commerce doesn't stand for "easy". - John Hagel
Some of the most popular e-commerce platforms today include:
There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to e-commerce platforms. Each platform has clear pros and cons, and scenarios that they are best suited to. For example, some are great for beginner-level e-commerce entrepreneurs, while others are better suited to small businesses or enterprise-level businesses.
You must also take into account your particular business model (eg online marketplace like Amazon or online retailer like Old Navy) and, the volume and type of products (eg digital products like e-books or subscriptions vs physical products like clothing or cosmetics) that you have to sell online.
There are even more factors that must be considered before you settle on the right e-commerce platform. Let’s take a quick look at some of the types of questions that you must ask and answer for your particular scenario in order to choose the best e-commerce platform for your online store.
Which platform will allow you to give the best possible user experience to your customers?
Design is an element that should never be overlooked. Cluttered and unattractive websites don’t encourage sales and certainly don’t lend to a great user experience. You will want a platform that offers attractive templates that you can customize to fit the look and feel of your brand (or allow you to custom-build one). The better customers feel using your website, and the easier it is for them to find what they want and complete their purchases, the better it will be for your bottom line. Always design for the end-user.
What’s your budget and yearly volume of sales?
It doesn’t make sense choosing a platform for enterprise-level solutions if you’re a startup or small business. However, many e-commerce platforms do offer different features and pricing depending on your needs, which is important because you wouldn’t want to have to keep switching platforms as your business grows.
What are your tech skills?
Some platforms require very little tech skills and others require an expert web developer. That being said, don’t reject an e-commerce platform solely based on your tech skills, especially if it could be the best fit for your online store. You can always hire the right talent to create and maintain the website of your dreams!
Is there a cap on the storage and bandwidth available to you?
Again depending on the volume of products and sales you have this may or may not be a major factor for you. If you’re starting small but expect high growth, you won’t want to have to worry about this as your business and website traffic grow.
Can the e-commerce platform integrate well with social media, Salesforce, email marketing, and other sales and marketing apps/platforms that you use or may want to use?
Marketing your online store is a must and there are many integrations that help make the process a lot more streamlined. Look to see what, if any, integrations are available and whether they will adequately fit your needs.
Is the platform SEO-friendly?
Can you add a blog, will customers be able to submit product reviews, can you have your own domain name, independent navigation links, 301 redirects etc? Don’t overlook these things because SEO is very important for getting found on search engines by people looking to buy your products!
Does the platform offer SSL encryption and fraud protection? Is it PCI (Payment Card Industry) Compliant?
These things allow users to send online payments securely. Your customers will want to feel safe shopping on your site, so this is a must.
Are the available payment options what you need to facilitate payments and refunds in whatever part of the globe you are servicing?
Be sure to review the options available and any associated fees.
Do you also have a physical store (or stores)? Does the platform allow for omnichannel retailing?
Omnichannel retailing is when a retailer with both a physical and online presence, has the ability to deliver an integrated and seamless experience across online and offline channels. For example, customers have the option to purchase online and collect from a physical store, or purchase in-store and ship to a physical address, or even purchase online and return to a physical store, etc.
E-commerce is expected to hit 4.5 trillion in sales by 2021*. It is without a doubt a booming industry. The businesses that ultimately stand to gain the most are those that embrace emerging technologies and use them to create better and more meaningful user experiences both online and offline. A key component of this, of course, is choosing the right e-commerce platform for your store.
*Statista.com report on worldwide retail e-commerce sales.