9 Things to Consider When Choosing an E-Commerce Platform
You don’t have to jump through hoops to set up your own online business. In fact, it takes just a few minutes to create an online storefront and start selling products and services to customers. Adding shipping options and integrating online payment options are just as easy.
The real challenge is choosing a suitable e-commerce platform to use. This is a step that needs to be taken seriously since it greatly affects the future of your e-commerce site. If you are in the process of choosing an e-commerce platform to use, here are the nine factors you need to consider.
1. Hosting Option
Some platforms are designed to be self-hosted, meaning you have to prepare your own cloud hosting service to use it. The WordPress & WooCommerce combination is an example of a self-hosted e-commerce platform. This type of platform gives you the most flexibility and customisation options.
On the other hand, you have hosted solutions that you can use out of the box. All you need to do is create an account – sometimes for free – and you can start uploading products and selling to customers.
2. Platform Base
The base programming language used by the platform matters too, especially if you have plans to develop advanced features or customise parts of the e-commerce platform further down the line. You want a platform that is based on common programming languages such as PHP and Java for maximum flexibility.
While you are at it, check if the e-commerce platform has a large community of developers behind it. Popularity among developers is a good sign of flexibility as well.
Think about the cost of using the platform. For managed services, you have a fixed monthly cost to worry about, with additional charges such as fees for payment processing to be considered. Self-hosted solutions, on the other hand, have cost elements such as hosting fees and maintenance fees to consider.
Almost every e-commerce platform available today is designed to be modular. This means you can add plugins or customise parts of the platform to your liking. If you need to add options for your products, for instance, you don’t have to modify the entire platform when it is designed to be modular.
Instead, you only need to develop a custom plugin or hook to add the custom options. This keeps the platform fluid enough for future development. It also means the platform can be scaled up without hassle.
5. Payment Options
Ease of payment is a must if you want the e-commerce site to be successful, so you want to make sure that all popular payment options are supported. You can either use the payment gateway that comes with the platform – usually in the case of managed services – or integrate Stripe, PayPal, Authorize.net, and other payment processing services yourself.
6. Marketing Prowess
Since you have to have an optimised e-commerce site to make a dent with digital marketing, checking the marketing features of the platform is the next thing you want to do. Make sure you can optimise the e-commerce site for SEO purposes, and that the platform supports things such as social sharing.
Some e-commerce platforms have plugins designed to make digital marketing easier. Magento, for instance, allows you to automate email marketing with the help of a plugin. You can connect your Magento site with tools like Active Campaign for advanced marketing campaigns.
Flexibility is another must-consider factor when looking for an e-commerce platform to use. Can you create the product options you want to offer customers easily? Does the platform support multiple currencies (or your currency in particular)? Can customers complete their purchases in one or two steps?
These are small things to check, but they are the kind of small things that affect customer experience. You want to make sure that the platform is flexible enough for you to deliver a smooth, seamless, and disruption-free shopping experience to every customer.
8. UI Options
Of course, you also want an e-commerce store that appears unique and has a good user interface. This is where themes and UI options become important. Check to see if you can customise the look and feel of your e-commerce site when using the platform.
9. Additional Features
There are additional features that will come in handy when your e-commerce site starts accepting hundreds of orders. Detailed reporting, automatic shipping label generator, and other tools to help you manage your store – and your customers – are certainly valuable and worth looking into.
Take these factors into consideration and you will always end up with the best e-commerce platform to use. Don’t forget to start with a clear set of requirements and a budget in mind to make your search more targeted and effective.
If you’d like advice about re-platforming your e-commerce system, or setting up a new one from scratch, we invite you contact our team for discussion around the most effective way to move forwards.
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