What does a wrong choice of ecommerce platform look like? It may align well to your requirements. Or be either outdated or overly customized. Maybe it’s not even professionally supported and put together by a relative’s best friend. You’ll find yourself choosing between two primary ecommerce software solutions: a hosted cloud-based platform like Shopify or Bigcommerce, or a self-hosted ecommerce software program such as WooCommerce, Magento or X-Cart.
In making your decision on how to choose the best ecommerce platform you’ll need to consider many other factors, as discussed below.
» Does it allow you to scale without any compromises?
Website scalability can become a problem if it is not planned early. To achieve scalability, the right decisions must be made with regard to hardware, software and procedures. Each platform will have some hardware and software limitations, such as the number of products, maximum concurrent users, hardware specifications and more. How well your website performs will depend greatly on these factors. When evaluating each ecommerce and shopping cart platform, check how many products it can handle without sacrificing performance or other aspects that have a direct bearing on performance. For instance, an unresponsive website will not only put off customers and drive them to competitors but also affect your search engine rankings. A good platform will grow with your business while ensuring smooth performance.
» What kind of platform integration does it offer?
Your ecommerce website will need to be integrated with a number of other systems, from order management systems and email marketing to shipping tools, financial software and other tools that enable day-to-day business operations. For instance, if you already have a physical store and you use Quickbooks accounting software, you will want to know which platforms have an integration with Quickbooks so that all that information from orders is automatically moved to your accounting software. It can save you several hours per month. Such integrations are critical for business efficiency and support revenue in a major way. You also want to check how much integration with the tools you currently use will cost you. Unless you plan in advance, the cost of implementing the integration can add up quickly and affect the benefits of those tools.
» How easy is it to use?
You will be conducting business through your website every day. Whether you’re a solo entrepreneur or have a team of business users, it’s important that everyone is able to perform the routine website tasks without any difficulties. Ensure that the back-end maintenance of the platform is easy. Factor in your technical ability when considering the scope of support available for the platform. It makes sense to pay a higher ongoing fee to get prompt support when you need it. The good news is that most shopping carts have a straightforward process for creating sitemaps, uploading product catalogues, and appending affiliate tracking codes. You should be able to make changes, update content and run promotions without any hassles. However, there are also some platforms that may require coding knowledge and complex procedures to handle these tasks. You may want to avoid such platforms even if they have other compelling features and merits.
» Are there enough features and add-ons?
Ecommerce platforms are built with a one-size-fits-all approach. That’s why it is important to see what kind of out of box features and extended functionality the platform offers against your business requirements. For instance, if you sell to customer worldwide, a multilingual and multi-currency functionality can improve user experience and support sales. If you are a growing business, you may soon outgrow your existing ecommerce solution. Or you may need customized features to meet certain business requirements. Here’s where add-ons can assist with expansion and allow your business to respond to market changes. An advanced version may also become necessary to meet evolving business requirements.
» Are the checkouts seamless?
The number of clicks to complete a purchase is directly linked to shopping cart abandonment. Reputable and popular ecommerce sites understand this link, and have integrated a seamless checkout process that allows customers to complete transactions quickly. Having said that, you want to trial the checkout process of ecommerce platforms to determine which one is the most straightforward and intuitive.
» Does the platform support your preferred payment gateways?
Confirm if the shopping cart supports the payment gateway used by your business. Another feature you may want to check out – depending on the product/service you offer – is subscription billing. It allows you to automatically charge your customers’ debit or credit cards each month. Some also manage credit card expiration, pro rate services for partial months and keep track of cancellation requests.
» What security features does the platform provide?
Online businesses need to have websites that are Level 1 PCI compliant and use 128 bit SSL encryption (at the very minimum). This is necessary to give visitors the confidence to browse and make purchases. The strategy you can use is to pick a platform that integrates with leading payment processors like PayPal, Stripe and Authorize.net. This way, you don’t have to worry about managing financial information and you can maintain a secure website.
» What kind of analytics support is provided?
Ecommerce platforms provide business analytics and deliver useful insights by automatically monitoring incoming orders, sales and payments. Besides transactions and purchase histories, you can also track customers’ browsing habits and generate reports on abandoned carts, high-dollar customers, most visited product categories/pages, and more.
» Does it include a mobile shopping cart?
The mobile ecommerce market has grown dramatically; customers are increasingly using smartphones and tablets for product research and purchase. It is important to consider this trend when designing your website, in order to reach out effectively to mobile customers. Choose an ecommerce software platform with built-in mobile shopping carts. Your customers should be able to view products on the mobile version of your website that has been optimized for smartphones and tablets. If the platform comes with an out of the box mobile template, you may have a tough time customizing it to your business requirements.
» Are their prices competitive?
Ecommerce platforms are available in different price ranges. Look for one that offers a good balance between cost and features. Estimate how much you can afford to pay for your basic software each month, taking into account related expenses like transaction fees, hosting fees and payment card fees.