Are you in the process of planning your online store? Well, it’s a long way to go to get your eCommerce website up and running in an increasingly competitive online marketplace, where modern users expect a more engaging, dynamic, and intuitive shopping experience.
But achieving this is no easy task. For your business to succeed, you need an eCommerce platform that helps you give consumers what they want, a fast, easy checkout process, immediate communication, and efficient order fulfillment.
To ease your way, today I guide you to choose the best eCommerce platform to build your eCommerce store; find out what factors you should consider to choose.
Let’s get going!
- What Is An eCommerce Platform?
- Why Is It Important To Know How To Choose An eCommerce Platform?
- Types Of eCommerce Platforms
- Let’s Decide What Your Online Business Needs
- Make A List Of Your Online Store Requirements. Rely On Your Teams Or A Consultant
- 21 Main Aspects To Keep In Mind When Choosing The Best eCommerce Platform
- 1. Web hosting & server management
- 2. Compatibility & third-party integrations
- 3. Navigation & Themes Options
- 4. Scalability
- 5. Online Store Management Functionalities
- 6. Security payments & data
- 7. Payment gateways processing
- 8. Marketing & personalization
- 9. Mobile-friendly design
- 10. SEO Tools
- 11. Tech Support
- 12. Documentation of software
- 13. Trends of software
- 14. The platform community
- 15. Licensing costs
- 16. The online store size
- 17. Customization
- 18. Localization
- 19. Good traffic handle capacity
- 20. B2B functionality
- 21. Out-Of-The-Box features
- That’s All For Today!
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is An eCommerce Platform?
An eCommerce Platform is software that assists in creating an online store to sell and purchase products or services over the internet. This solution facilitates the creation, management, development, and analysis of all parts of the buying cycle in one place to support and fulfill customer expectations efficiently.
Why Is It Important To Know How To Choose An eCommerce Platform?
Choosing the right platform to help you achieve the goals you have defined for your online business with as few complications as possible:
Let’s take a look at some aspects you should keep in mind when choosing:
- Development costs: when choosing an eCommerce platform, you should consider the amount of functionality, custom features, and custom development your website will require. It influences how skilled the programmers will be, how complex your website will be, whether it will need integration with other systems, and how much it will cost to complete the project.
- Implementation costs: in this case, you must remember how much the new website will cost for your business or company, i.e., staff training and change in internal processes. Plus, the additional workload for your sales, marketing, IT, and other teams.
- Running costs: you must know how much you’ll expense on technical costs of software updates, maintenance, security, plugins for extra functionalities, etc. And other expenses related to the domain, hosting, advertising, etc.
- Customer service functionalities: check all the features it offers to integrate more efficient sales channels that promote loyalty.
- Out-of-the-box (OOTB) functionality: you must define the business requirements and technical functionalities your eCommerce website needs to choose a platform that provides them from the start to reduce additional costs.
- Expansion: If the platform offers you adaptability, how easy it will be to implement new functionalities and how much they could cost you.
- Customer support: you must verify that the platform offers 24/7 support through different contact channels, such as calls, chats, web, central support, community forums, etc., so that in case of any failure, they can respond efficiently. Remember that in the eCommerce environment, the minutes your site is inactive are potentially lost sales.
Types Of eCommerce Platforms
There are different types of eCommerce technology platforms on the market, so to choose one or the other, you must consider your business’s maturity. Remember the kind of product you want to offer and the online shopping experience you want to provide your users.
Take a look at the main types of eCommerce platforms!
A Custom eCommerce platform is a tailored and intuitive software solution that aligns precisely to meet a specific company’s needs, business, and industry. It is a clean-coded, flexible, and scalable build-from-scratch solution.
It is ideal when the eCommerce solutions available on the market cannot meet those specific requirements for management, marketing, sales actions, and other commercial operations with its out-of-the-box features. Dedicated technical experts are responsible for the platform’s development, implementation, maintenance, and support.
For example, it can be used by companies that sell digital products, software, plugins, or B2B services.
These are software purchased under a license of use, and you obtain permission to install them on your server and make the appropriate adjustments. In general, the provider company offers the service of trained personnel for adapting the platform according to the eCommerce needs—for example, Adobe Commerce or Oracle Commerce.
An open-source eCommerce platform allows users direct access to the source code; anyone can make modifications and customization changes to adapt the platform to meet specific business needs. It is ideal if you want more control around your store. Some examples are Magneto Open Source and WordPress WooCommerce.
Cloud-based eCommerce platforms
These platforms offer shared access to an internet-based data center so that software and hardware coexist remotely. In this case, businesses do not have to spend money to set up an IT infrastructure for the website but instead request access to IT services, servers, storage, and intelligence tools available at no cost over the Internet. For example, Volusion or Adobe Commerce.
It is a Software as a Service, a software solution based on a subscription model to a license created and maintained by the external provider. It takes care of all the activities related to the back end. For their implementation and use, you must pay a fixed annual or monthly fee, which provides hosting, migration, updates, and security certificates—for example, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Squarespace, Dynamics 365 Commerce, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Shopify.
Headless eCommerce platforms
These eCommerce platforms separate your online store’s customer-focused and operational and commercial functions. Why? In this case, the front-end design is produced through a CMS, while the back end has different systems that take care of the management functions, shipping, pricing, and security mechanisms. However, both parts are related to each other through API access.
Let’s Decide What Your Online Business Needs
Before you start considering how to choose the right eCommerce platform, I suggest you list one by one the business requirements, technical requirements, advanced features, functionalities, and any other elements you want to include in your online store.
You must have a short and long-term approach, as your business will likely remain with this platform for some years. The bigger your store becomes, the more complicated and incredibly costly the migration process to another platform.
Create a roadmap, consider the current position of your business, its features, the shopping experience you offer, and the customer journey. Think about where you want to go, do you want to create more stores, or enter a new market, so that you find an option capable of satisfying your present and future needs.
It helps you understand the platform’s requirements better, know what to look for and evaluate options, and save time and money.
Here are seven of the aspects you should consider when finding a platform for your business:
- Front-end requirements: think about the look, design, navigation, search options, and what you want your customers to see; think if you prefer a custom design or a pre-designed theme. Consider if it is headless commerce and the front-end and back-end are decoupling.
- Technical functionalities: what features, both technical and administrative, should manage your online store, catalog, shopping carts, payment processing, shipping methods, etc. make sure it can integrate with third-party tools, mainly if you already use any.
- Target ecosystem solutions: a solution that helps your site function as a whole, that the customer experience is marked not only by the visit to your eCommerce website but by all the elements that generate a positive impression (marketing, back end, warehouse, inventory management, shipping, and customer service).
- Customer service: consider a solution that can offer you 24/7 online support to solve any failure or technical problem as soon as possible so that you don’t lose customers or money.
- Catalog management: think about how you will present and organize your products and services if the characteristics of your products require unique options such as customizing the merchandising, grouping products, etc.
- Security: define the security parameters that your online business needs, user data protection, bank data protection, etc.
Set budget range
Budget is vital in creating and setting up your eCommerce website; you should consider how much you are willing to invest in the installation and ongoing maintenance of your online store.
Most importantly, by setting a budget range, you can consult with experts to find the best option for your budget and your store’s needs.
Make A List Of Your Online Store Requirements. Rely On Your Teams Or A Consultant
Very well, if you have followed my advice and thought about the aspects I have left above, you already have a list that serves as a guide. If it has been a little difficult for you or you still don’t have it clear, you can rely on your marketing team and technical support, or if you don’t have it, you can always look for an external consultant or web developer.
If you go for the latter, check their previous web projects to verify their credentials and that their work aligns with what you want.
Be as specific as you can; no guessing along the way! Defining the scope of your project and its deliverables helps you know the effort, time, and cost of investing in your online business.
And last, more personal tip:
Make sure you have good chemistry with your consultant or developer, who understands what you want to achieve so that you can walk this path together.
21 Main Aspects To Keep In Mind When Choosing The Best eCommerce Platform
We look one by one at the most relevant factors of choosing an eCommerce platform so that you can analyze what you need and don’t need. Let’s get started.
1. Web hosting & server management
The first thing your store needs besides a domain name is a space on a server where to store all your information and ensure your eCommerce is always up and running.
A self-hosted solution is an option in which your site shares resources and storage space on a server with other websites. One of the most economical options on the market is recommended for beginners or when the size of your site does not require a lot of space since you do not expect a lot of traffic.
- It is an economical option.
- It is easy to set up.
- You don’t need to be a coding expert.
- You have limited resources: memory capacity, space, and RAM.
- Less control over the server; if another site generates more traffic, it can limit your site’s performance.
- Low uptime.
- It does not offer scalability.
VPS (Virtual Private Server) is a type of shared hosting; however, in this case, the central server is divided into customized and individual servers.
It is an excellent option when you need to include custom changes in your server configuration.
- Dedicated resources.
- Customization options.
- High uptime and load.
- You still share your site with others.
- Configuration is not as easy.
- You have limited server control.
Dedicated hosting is a web hosting option in which you have a server just for your website. It is a more expensive option, but it offers you more technical control and the maximum network for your site, which is perfect if you expect to receive more than a hundred thousand visits per month.
- Exclusive server control
- Maximum security
- Optimal load time and uptime.
- It requires advanced technical knowledge.
Cloud hosting is an option in which you have a space to store your website on several remote servers; in case of failure of one, the other comes into action so that your site remains active—ideal for medium to large sites with more than 50k visits per month.
- It offers fast uptime and fast loading.
- It offers scalability.
- High security.
- The amount of traffic raises the cost.
- The custom setup is limited.
2. Compatibility & third-party integrations
Integrating third-party tools, solutions, and additional plugins are decisive aspects of choosing an eCommerce platform. These days eCommerce platforms are not like singe standing platforms but more like part of the entire ecosystem where different solutions have specific functionality. It’s like an ecosystem where all these systems integrate to keep your eCommerce business running.
Some popular platforms and third parties have already rebuilt integration solutions, but there is often necessary customization, etc. So, all this is about integrating different solutions, ensuring data exchange, etc.
Some of the integrations you may need the eCommerce system to work with:
Order Management System (OMS)
An OMS helps businesses efficiently manage their inventory across their different sales channels. This way, you continuously monitor inventory levels by channel. You get essential information such as which product sells best through which channel or region it is most in demand.
It also allows you to manage your supply chain like clockwork and automate everything from order placement to fulfillment. Facilitate payment processing from different countries or currencies, facilitate shipping, print shipping labels, send information to distributors, and more.
A Content Management System is a solution that allows you to generate, store, edit, publish, and manage dynamic content per day, week, or month, that is, to maintain a blog, an eCommerce, a landing page, a product page, or any other type of web page requiring constant content updates. But without having to do it manually. While this is a feature offered by some out-the-box platforms, web owners often seek to integrate a third-party solution that provides excellent customization options through a central interface that allows them to load content from any device.
Digital Asset Management
It is software that facilitates the management of all the digital files of a website; that is to say, it manages the library of content received from the different channels. It offers a central organization and storage of files, with secure and self-service access. It also has as a plus that it allows you to transform and reuse the content, enabling you to track the impact or effectiveness of the content.
Product Information Management System
It is a business solution that centralizes, stores, manages, and optimizes all your product information for a single portfolio that distributes through your various sales channels.
- ERP: to manage and automate internal business processes.
- CRM: to unify customer support and interactions.
- Payment Gateway: to make payment more accessible and safer.
- Shipping carriers: You can manage your shipments with companies such as USPS, UPS, FedEx, etc. According to StartupBonsai, for 41% of shoppers, the most important attribute when shopping online is fast and reliable delivery.
- E-mail Marketing System: to implement email marketing campaigns.
- Data Analytics Solutions: These tools track websites to provide customized reports on traffic, visitor behavior, number and duration of visits, conversion rates, bounce rate, and more. Examples: Google Analytics, Microsoft Power BI, etc.
3. Navigation & Themes Options
Although this is not a deciding element for deciding on a platform per se, you should consider what level of skill and collaboration you will require from the programming team to implement the front end. You have to think how complicated it will be to design, what technology it’s built as that will impact how advanced developers you need etc.
Well, maybe you need an expert in the user interface to build the wireframes, a designer, and a developer to program everything.
However, maybe your web project is smaller, your budget is limited, and you prefer a template design. In this case, you should consider the design options available, how much you can customize those templates without programming, etc., to make a decision.
Check here for more about custom vs. theme design!
You will need a platform that will make it easy for your online store to support massive traffic volume, good load speed, and handle hundreds or thousands of orders simultaneously. Especially when audience demands are higher, such as during Black Friday, Christmas, Valentine’s Day, etc. All these without losing the quality and efficiency of the shopping experience you provide to your users.
- Scalability ensures the reliable performance of your website, which can function adequately as the workload and orders increase.
- It can also speed up the time the website load to less than 3 seconds to provide your customers with a fast and comfortable user experience.
- It ensures that it provides reliable uptime with servers that display your website at all times.
- And it can handle peak traffic with either hardware or other servers.
5. Online Store Management Functionalities
So, when determining which eCommerce platform to use, you should make sure that it provides you with the best possible experience for your customers:
- Data layer access.
- Product information and images.
- Prices and promotions.
- Orders details.
- Customer information.
- Order fulfillment.
- Data import and export in CSV or excel formats.
- Offline store integration.
- Product categorization.
- Sales channel integration.
- Inventory management functionality.
The more options your eCommerce platform offers you, the more opportunities and control you have to manage an intuitive and robust store.
6. Security payments & data
Security is a crucial factor to consider when selecting an eCommerce Platform. You should look for an option that allows you and your customers to feel comfortable and secure when entering personal data and managing payments.
At this point, the types of platforms can be an aspect to consider; for example, if you choose a self-hosted solution, your data will have greater visibility and security awareness of your data. On the other hand, if you choose a SaaS option, this includes in its subscription plan offers you security and is PCI compliant.
Check if the eCommerce platform offers:
- Fraud protection by switching to HTTPS.
- Anti-spam protection by securing the servers and administrator.
- Prevent phishing by shielding payment processing methods.
- Security against DDoS attacks by installing several firewalls.
- Anti-hacking measures and violent access with SSL certification.
- Card fraud prevention with PCI (Payment Card Industry) certification.
- Prevent SQL injections with multiple layers of data security.
All this indicates the eCommerce platform’s commitment to your safety.
7. Payment gateways processing
If you want to expand your marketing options, it is ideal that your store can offer several payment options, from debit and credit cards, PayPal, stripe, or other platforms, that transfer funds from your customer’s accounts to your store.
What should you do? Look for an eCommerce platform compatible with different payment methods that can process payments quickly and securely.
You should also consider which region/country your eCommerce business will operate. Because in Europa, North America, Asia, or UAA, customers will prefer different payment methods, and you should consider how difficult it will be to implement multiple solutions.
8. Marketing & personalization
When entering the market, the battle to attract more customers begins; offering your customers a unique shopping experience is vital. How do you achieve this? For this, eCommerce platforms use artificial intelligence and automatic learning to collect data from multiple channels and detect the most relevant information about each customer to personalize their attention.
What data does it take into account?
- Personal data: gender, country of origin, occupation, and age.
- Interests: personality traits and lifestyle.
- Search information: where they access your site, time of day, and how long they spend browsing.
- Behavioral patterns: items viewed, wish list, etc.
- Shopping record: previously purchased items, comments, reviews.
9. Mobile-friendly design
According to SERPwatch, mobile accounted for 54.8% of all website traffic in the first quarter of 2021. Mobile friendliness is a fundamental factor in this era, where most people can search for and buy products or services from their cell phones. To not be left behind, online businesses need an eCommerce solution to create a mobile site structure so customers can access and use your website from a smartphone.
A good option offers online stores a dynamic and intuitive design and easy and light navigation so users can browse your store using mobile devices without problems.
10. SEO Tools
One of the key aspects of any eCommerce site is SEO. Why? Well, you want your potential customers to find your website, which is why many eCommerce platforms promote good SEO practices with their out-of-the-box features.
Here are some of the SEO capabilities you should look for:
- Integrated blog functionality.
- Optimized product pages.
- Automatic XML sitemap generation.
- Keyword search assistance.
- Compatibility with Google Snippets.
- Customize titles, meta descriptions, meta tags, and URLs.
- Text quality control.
- Page indexing.
Let’s see now what to look for in terms of technical support.
11. Tech Support
Imagine that your website crashes, you can’t solve it, and nobody responds! You lose visits, conversion opportunities, and money when your site is not working during those minutes. So, you must verify that the platform you choose can solve any problem with the utmost diligence.
I suggest you go online and check their online reviews, read user comments, query the support, and consider the time they have taken to respond. Ask them to provide contact information for some of their customers so that you can talk with them about the support they are providing.
12. Documentation of software
Make sure to look for an option that provides all the necessary information to know all the features linked to its implementation, development, and use. Check the quality of the technical documentation for developers and administrators of content and products in your online store.
13. Trends of software
One factor to consider when choosing is to look at the trends of eCommerce platforms using specialized tools such as Google trends. Why? So you can know which eCommerce solutions are becoming more popular or less relevant, see the average public interest in the last year or the previous five years and see if it is an option to keep in mind.
14. The platform community
You must look for information about the platform’s community. Check how many members there are in that community, how active they are, how many other resources are available online, etc., as this gives you a good idea of the quality of response and support offered by the solution.
Look for options that offer a space for members to share their ideas, doubts, concerns, what they have learned, get advice, and more, to facilitate the use of the platform and even improve it.
15. Licensing costs
Another factor to consider when choosing is how much you can pay to download and use an eCommerce platform. Some options allow you to download them for free and upload them to your servers, such as Magneto Open Source or WooCommerce. But in these cases, you usually have to find a host, a domain, and security certifications, add plugins, and set up your site.
Other paid licensing options like Adobe Commerce give you a yearly license that starts at $22,000. But they offer you access to advanced store management, security features, and reliable performance to handle more traffic.
Of course, the choice depends on your budget and your store’s specific needs.
16. The online store size
Your store size is a decisive aspect of your choice, as some of the options available in the market only have a capacity for a certain number of products, traffic, or transactions for a website. Keep in mind how fast your business will grow to know how much and how fast your needs will increase.
If the business grows, you might need to add more products, expand to other markets, get multilanguage functionalities, etc. Still, this may increase the risk of the eCommerce platform becoming slower if it is not prepared for growing web demands.
Here it would be best if you considered how specific the requirements and functionalities for your online store are. It will help you to decide on more flexible and less restrictive eCommerce platforms, such as open source or headless solutions, which offer the option of code customization.
Some eCommerce platforms like Shopify, WIX eCommerce, and Squarespace don’t provide many possibilities when building custom and specific features. Still, other platforms like WooCommerce or Magento Open Source give you complete control over the code and features you want to build. So when choosing an eCommerce platform, consider how much customization will be necessary.
Keep in mind the market in which you are going to sell your products or services; you may need a solution that offers you the following:
- Different domains.
- Different payment methods.
- Different shipping methods.
- Design adjustments.
It must help you comply with the legal requirements of the countries where you want to offer your products.
19. Good traffic handle capacity
I’ve already reiterated the importance of thinking ahead when considering your options, so don’t automatically choose those eCommerce platforms that can support the traffic your site generates today, but look for those that can seamlessly adapt to the progressive growth of your site.
You need to consider what is your business target audience. Are you a B2B or B2C company? It is important because each customer group requires different functionality. However, not all eCommerce platforms provide all B2B functionality. You have to choose whether you use some plugins and custom coding to implement B2B functionality or use a platform that gives it to you as an out-of-box feature.
For example, Magento Open Source doesn’t provide out-of-the-box functionality for B2B business, but you can, by extensions, adjust them and achieve the desired outcome. Another option is to buy Adobe Commerce, where B2B is out-of-the-box.
21. Out-Of-The-Box features
eCommerce solutions offer you many out-of-the-box features and functionality; the more you have, the less you should invest in customization, plugins, or third-party integrations.
However, you need to remember that none of the eCommerce platforms can provide everything you need, and nearly every time, you will need some adjustments and customization. That’s why you always need to define your business requirements and evaluate all eCommerce platforms against those business requirements, and then you have to choose the solution which mostly out-of-the-box covers your needs.
That’s All For Today!
Depending on your business needs and budget, you may still have doubts about how to choose the best eCommerce platform.
To make the right choice, you will have to consider these 5 points before making the final decision: usability that does not require much technical knowledge allows you to create a fast website with a design that fits any device. Also, look for one that will enable you to present your products attractively, favors integrations, and has an affordable price and good support.
Did you find this article helpful? Do you already know how to choose an eCommerce platform?
Please leave me your opinion in the comments box!
Frequently Asked Questions
You need to consider: the security mechanisms, integrations, scalability, 24/7 customer support, customization, SEO toolkit, responsive and mobile-friendly design, and pricing.
Yes, Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms for small businesses and start-ups. It offers design templates, different functionalities, and an extensive app store to manage the creation, management, accounting, payments, inventory management, performance reporting, and more of your online store.
Both are excellent choices; Shopify includes a suite of in-built features and fantastic customization options. It is the right platform if your budget is limited or you want to pre-test your eCommerce business. WooCommerce is good if you want full control over the code and functionality because it’s an open-source solution and you can customize and build however you want. Usually, many business owners start with Shopify, and when the business grows, they need different customizations and migrate to WooCommerce.