Choosing the best ecommerce platform is a critical step for many companies today. It is an urgency that has triggered the change in the habits of buyers, the demand for new experiences and the high levels of competition in all markets. Which has undoubtedly led companies, from all industries, to embark on a challenging journey of evolution.
That evolutionary desire and digital transformation applies to companies of all sizes, at all stages, and in all areas, including B2B, B2C, and DTC. For all that was always said before about the prominence of e-commerce, it used to be a small fraction of total retail revenue.
All this changed with Covid-19. Data on purchasing behavior in the US shows that consumers switched to e-commerce channels by nearly 30 percent, boosting industry growth.
The e-commerce market is growing rapidly, with global e-commerce retail sales projected to grow by around 85%, from USD 3.53 trillion in 2019 to USD 7.3 trillion in 2023.
Regardless of whether your company is new or is carrying out digital transformation initiatives, the decision to choose the best ecommerce platform must be strategic. Especially when considering how to choose based on business needs, now and in the future.
After reading this article, you will know the main factors to consider when choosing the best eCommerce platform for your specific business context.
Why is it important to choose the right eCommerce platform?
First, the fundamentals. An ecommerce platform is an all-in-one software solution that makes it easy for online businesses to manage their website, marketing, sales, and operations.
A fast, flexible, cloud-based solution delivers memorable customer experiences, streamlining your operational efficiency and creating phenomenal growth opportunities. Best of all, the cost of entry doesn't have to be prohibitive. Today, the opportunities provided by the best eCommerce platforms mean that you can create the perfect storefront for your business on a relatively modest budget.
Make a wise and balanced selection taking into account these four essential factors:
- Growth: You need to be able to quickly expand your offerings and services.
- Running Costs – The cost of building your ecommerce platform is just a starting point; think about ongoing maintenance costs.
- Customer Engagement: What built-in tools does the platform provide to engage your customers?
- Service: Prioritize customer service to support shopper conversion, loyalty, and retention.
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The factors you should consider when choosing the best ecommerce platform for your business
Currently there are around 370 ecommerce solutions on the market and around the world. So it is really complex to make a choice. Although of course, you can decide on a personalized and tailored solution.
Mainly, the best ecommerce platform is the one that allows you to deliver the best possible experience for consumers, facilitates the management of products, inventory, orders, etc. And also, it is one that makes it easier for its employees to execute marketing and sales strategies.
According to sites tracked by Builtwith, WooCommerce (24%), Shopify (19%), and Magento (7%) are among the top three most used ecommerce technologies in the world.
Beyond this data, it is advisable to think about your goals. And, choosing the best ecommerce platform for your business really starts with understanding your digital commerce goals. Taking into account the current and future needs and desires of customers.
To help you in the objective-based selection process, we can suggest using the MoSCoW method to evaluate your business criteria based on the essential parameters: should have, could have and will not have.
Considering each aspect in detail will help you visualize the success factors of ecommerce for your business. Make sure you have a clear understanding of your business requirements and a solid understanding of customer needs and wants.
It is recommended that you do not limit yourself to only guessing. Conduct stakeholder meetings, surveys, and various brainstorming sessions with different departments in your organization. That way, you'll be able to evaluate each of the factors through a customer-centric lens.
You can start by listing and gaining clarity on which consumer segment you are serving. Each type of business and each consumer segment will need a different platform. This explains your choice of segment of B2B or B2C, and why not B2B2C.
The goals and objectives for the business will decide the platform you choose. For example, a company in its start-up stage does not need the platform in the same way as a company in its expansion stage. Looking at it this way, you will be able to make better decisions accordingly.
As you do this analysis, below we share the essential factors for choosing the best ecommerce platform, including some specific questions to ponder.
The 12 essential factors to choose the best ecommerce platform
1. Web Hosting and Platform Ownership
Ecommerce platforms can be self-hosted or in the cloud. In the first mode, you have to find the hosting, take care of the installation and take care of the updates yourself. This could become expensive. The advantage is more control over the platform and better security management. In addition, you can see the data in a more visible way.
In the case of cloud-hosted ecommerce platforms, you can get hosting through solutions like AWS (Amazon Web Services), which means that the cloud platform manages the uptime of the brand. Costs are typically lower and customer support is better, but you'll have less control over the servers. It is not possible to mold the server to your specific needs.
In terms of platform ownership, you can have open source, SaaS, or headless.
With open source platforms (WooCommerce and Magento, for example), you can have better control and ownership, since the source code is not only accessible, but also modifiable. You would be responsible for web hosting, security issues, integrations (for example, with a CRM, CMS, or ESP), and analytics.
For its part, the SaaS (Software As A Service) ecommerce solution means that you are renting a platform. Which is not always a “cheap” solution. Software updates, security, hosting, and other management tasks are left to the SaaS provider. Time to market is also faster. But the lack of flexibility and customization can be challenging.
Today's shoppers consume content and purchase through digital touchpoints, ranging from smart wearables to voice-assisted devices, progressive web apps, and more. This puts a significant burden on the eCommerce platform to keep up. The ability to stay up to date and offer a seamless shopping experience across all devices has become crucial.
Headless commerce decouples the front-end user experience (the "head") from the back-end. By passing information between the front-end and back-end layers via application programming interface (API) calls, developers can design a fast, dynamic, and personalized UX.
The best ecommerce platforms facilitate an omnichannel experience that engages customers wherever they are, whenever they want to shop. This helps build customer trust and gives your brand a competitive edge. Headless Commerce provides faster time to market with significant cost reduction.
If you want to know more about the headless trading approach, do not hesitate to contact us here today.
2. The cost of ownership
Price is one of the first factors to consider when evaluating each ecommerce platform. Whether you're a small business just getting started or an established brick-and-mortar store on its digital transformation journey, you need to understand the total cost of each platform.
Almost all platforms will have a monthly fee. There are also processing costs associated with each platform. Start-up and ongoing costs need to be factored in when making your decisions. Don't sacrifice the things you'll need for a lower price. There will also be development costs, especially if you require sophisticated customizations, according to the size and volume of your business. Weigh the pros and cons to get the best value for your budget.
Here are some questions that can help you at this point:
- What are the platform license fees?
- Are there transactional/commission-based costs?
- How long is the contract?
- What are the hosting costs?
- What are the one-time and subscription costs for plugins?
- What is the estimated cost of development and implementation?
- What are the maintenance costs?
- What is the estimated useful life?
- What is the estimated annual cost of the platform?
3. The integrations
Other critical factors to evaluate: integrations and plugins. Not all platforms offer all integrations, so make sure you understand your business requirements to properly evaluate available features and functionality. Here are some of the most popular plugins you should look for:
- Accounting – Provides financial information, including sales, taxes, income, and profit.
- Email Marketing: facilitate contact via email with your customers.
- Customer Loyalty Programs – This allows you to reward customers for using your products and repeat purchases.
- Checkout and shipping: This makes it simple and accurate for you to process payments and ship products.
- Third-Party Digital Tools: Facilitates easy integration with tools like marketing automation systems, CRM, and ERP; allows for additional customization.
4. User experience (UX), templates and themes
When you think of the most popular digital companies, who comes to mind? Airbnb? Lyft? Netflix?
Those brands, often perceived as elegant in their simplicity, welcoming interfaces, and myriad of options, work hard to deliver a great and intuitive user experience.
Today, the quality of a brand's user experience is more important than price and product as a critical differentiator. Today's consumers are not only looking to buy products, but they also want to shop in attractive and immersive environments.
A theme or template defines the design of your online store, what is commonly known as “look and feel”. Most eCommerce platforms offer a variety of options to choose from. Some themes are free with subscription, while others are premium and require an additional fee to use. It's worth the investment to stand out from the competition, as a well-designed experience is vital to converting browsers into buyers.
5. The speed and scalability of the ecommerce platform
In the era of "micro-moments," which Google defines as "an intent-rich moment in which a person turns to a device to act on a need to know, go, do, or buy," your platform must deliver an answer. lightning fast. And this must remain constant as you scale and grow the business. This is why you should select a platform that grows with your business.
While evaluating the performance and scalability of the platform is quite a technical activity. You can consider criteria such as slow load times, frozen pages, 404 errors among other indicators. Understanding how many clients the platform can handle simultaneously at peak traffic times, how it scales horizontally and vertically, and reviewing typical site speed is a critical part of your evaluation.
If you need to audit an existing ecommerce website or want to know in more detail how to test speed and performance, you can use a tool like Valido.
6. The ease of use and functionality of ecommerce (Product Management System)
The product management system is the lifeblood of your business. Today's admins need advanced, out-of-the-box eCommerce product management to create a compelling shopping experience.
The best ecommerce platform is usually one that has robust functionality. You may consider features and functions such as bulk product upload (CSV, Excel files), categorization, advanced features (i.e. wish list, product comparison, recently viewed), shipping options, and dynamic filters (i.e. sorting , price range, color, size, location, etc.).
The more power the administrator has to design a robust and dynamic store, the more opportunities you have to maximize revenue.
These are some questions that can help you in the evaluation:
- Can you create different categories and easily assign products to them?
- Does the platform allow you to map other shipping options with individual products?
- Can you bulk upload high resolution product images?
- Can you create product variations and combinations based on color, size, etc.?
7. Security on the ecommerce platform
Website security concerns are age-old and paramount in the digital age. Not only are there strict global laws protecting consumer privacy, but a security breach can damage one of your most essential assets: trust.
Security issues are not your fault, but they are relatively common. A recent study showed that the top types of online ecommerce fraud are identity theft (71%), phishing (66%), and account theft (63%). And in our research for this article, we found that security issues in the IT and entertainment industries are the most serious capacity concerns at 51% and 44%, respectively, in things like vision and digital strategy.
Because you're handling a lot of sensitive data, you should carefully consider the security credentials of the ecommerce platform you're considering for current needs and future growth. While all have some degree of protection built in, many also offer additional security options such as DDoS attack monitoring and fraud protection.
Ecommerce owners should take special care to ensure PCI compliance, SSL, and secure data backups.
8. Compatibility with various payment gateways
In addition to finding all possible options, it should be simple for consumers to pay for goods and services. This means your store must be connected to a reliable and secure e-commerce payment gateway, a dedicated processor that securely transfers funds from customers' bank accounts to yours.
This may sound like a no-brainer, but the reality is that not all ecommerce platforms are compatible with all payment gateways. The most important factor is geography: the location of the payment process is key. So it is one of the most important factors on this list.
Knowing your customer is a basic marketing activity. And personalization is right at the heart of modern marketing.
Thanks to machine learning and AI, you can offer your online shoppers a personalized experience that elevates your site above all others. The best eCommerce platforms come equipped with a recommendation engine that dynamically shows shoppers which items to buy based on criteria that can include:
- Demographic data: age, gender, location, etc.
- Psychographics: Interest, personality, lifestyle.
- Context: includes device type, time of day, weather, location, etc.
- Behavior: recently viewed items, current searches, products in abandoned carts
- History: previous purchases, old email interactions, loyalty program member
By considering a variety of data points, these types of platforms can deliver a personalized customer experience in real time. A crucial factor for the success of your business.
10. Adaptability on mobile devices
With increasing digital communication and transactions via mobile devices ($432.24 billion in the US by 2022), merchants are increasingly looking for platforms that offer a mobile-optimized experience for their online stores.
This is especially true in our post pandemic world. A significant portion of online shopping for various products, from groceries to household items, medicines, and other basics, is now done via smartphones.
The best ecommerce platforms will create a structure such that the design supports a seamless and intuitive customer journey. From layout to navigation, layout and the overall user experience, a well-designed end-to-end mobile experience is critical.
In addition, your business will surely want to offer products and services on multiple channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, etc.
11. SEO Optimization
Search engine optimization (SEO) is a critical factor in the success of your store. This is why the best ecommerce platform will build its infrastructure with due consideration towards SEO.
It is true that it takes time to develop organic SEO. But the task is much easier when the platform you choose has best practices built in and makes keeping up with changes in Google's algorithms a priority.
Not all ecommerce platforms are created equal when it comes to SEO. You should check what capabilities in this regard are included, from simple options like updating metadata (tags, descriptions) and captioning/describing images to more advanced features like adding canonical tags and pagination in product search results.
12. Order management system
A smooth and fast ordering experience is crucial to the entire eCommerce experience. A recent report showed that more than 80% of online shoppers expect regular communication about their orders. That means that to be competitive, you must have an order management system that makes the process interactive, accurate, and transparent.
Typically for this factor features include: order tracking, email notifications, and shipping service APIs, so you know orders are being processed accurately and on schedule.
Additionally, there must be seamless communication between your order management system and inventory management system, so buyers can be sure items are in stock and ready to ship. Other key integrations include ERP and CRM solutions via API integration or installation of additional plugins.
If you have questions, contact us.
Do you think something additional is needed? As we have said, choosing the best e-commerce platform for your business is a complex and challenging process. Remember to follow a methodology to facilitate decision making. Also, try to consciously evaluate each requirement you have versus what the platforms offer according to each business model.
We are sure that in the end, you will make the right choice. If you need the advice of a technological partner specialized in electronic commerce, at Orienteed we will be happy to help you. You just have to contact us here.