UX Design 19 min read
Your 2021 Guide to Choosing the Right Ecommerce Platform
- 08 Feb 2021 10 min read
Ecommerce is at a point of maturity that calling it ‘the next big thing’ would be an understatement. Truth be told, it’s the present and beyond. In what may possibly be the most challenging year of this decade, ecommerce proved to be a vital survival tool for businesses, big and small.
Today, much of the evidence you’ll find online suggests that ecommerce is a non-negotiable for businesses that want to thrive, rather than get by. However clear this may be, many start-ups feel confused with selecting the most appropriate platform for their business needs.
Why this dilemma? Because when you end up choosing the wrong ecommerce site, you risk losing a lot, not just in terms of money.
So how exactly do you avoid making the wrong decision? That’s exactly what this guide is here for.
As a trusted web design and development agency, we'll help you distinguish one platform from another and provide guide questions you should ask yourself while shopping for an ecommerce platform. Choose the best ecommerce platform for 2021 and begin transforming your business from being an ecommerce laggard into a leading online business.
Here’s a quick overview of what we'll be discussing:
- Problems You Might Encounter When Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
- Pre-Built or From Scratch: Which Is Better?
- Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
- Criteria When Selecting the Right Ecommerce Platform
- The Top Pre-Built Ecommerce Platforms for 2019
Problems You Might Encounter When Choosing An Ecommerce Platform
If you find yourself repeatedly stuck for many hours having to deal with technical issues concerning your online business, take this as a sign that it may be time to move to a different online selling platform.
If you’re new to online selling, know now that there are problems worth working through and problems that you’re better off dumping your old platform for.
Ideally, an ecommerce platform should be hassle-free, to let you focus more of your time on marketing your products or services. Below are some tell-tale signs that you might be operating on the wrong platform:
- It takes more than a few seconds for your pages to load.
- It doesn’t accommodate third-party app integrations.
- Your site is not scalable or is inflexible.
- You regularly encounter security issues.
- The site is not optimizable for mobile devices.
- It doesn’t accommodate SEO requirements.
Don’t just believe the hype. Research before choosing the right platform for your business.
The platform you choose should be easy to customize, flexible, SEO-friendly, and scalable. Think about the long run, and assess the sustainability of your platform’s capabilities.
Pre-built or from scratch: Which is better?
Pre-built ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and WooCommerce speed up the process of setting up online shops. WooCommerce is cheaper, in terms of the prices, but Shopify offers better security.
When your organization thrives on branding, functionality, and scalability constraints, pre-built shopping fronts can be useful for you. However, early discounts delivered by sites such as Shopify and WooCommerce typically cost more than their market size.
Pre-built Ecommerce Sites
On the other hand, custom-built ecommerce websites are developed with the aid of various market options to configure goods or to handle complex shipping regulations, among others.
A personalized website designed with the aid of professional ecommerce developers will successfully meet your business's potential challenges. They are equipped with functionalities that your organization demands, in terms of consistency, brand recognition, and accessibility.
Custom-built ecommerce sites
When weighing your options, just remember that it all depends on your business needs, budget, time, and requirement. Neither is necessarily better than the other. As long as it’s accommodating your business and customer’s needs and it fits with your priorities, then whether it’s a pre-built or from scratch ecommerce platform, it doesn’t really matter.
Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing an E-commerce Platform
It’s easy to make mistakes when you don’t seek proper guidance before choosing an ecommerce platform. Worse yet, some mistakes can cost your business a fortune.
Set your business up for success by avoiding the following mistakes in selecting and implementing your ecommerce platform:
- Failure to clearly define and understand your target audience
- Choosing a mismatched Web design
- Complicating the checkout process
- Signing up with an unreliable Web hosting service
- Compromising on your site’s loading speed
1. Failure to clearly define and understand your target audience
Consumers need a compelling reason to decide to buy from a new (or an unknown) business like yours. Your business culture and your brand are factors that can help sway their decision in your favor.
Hence, it’s crucial to clearly understand what your market’s looking for. Effectively catering to the needs of your specific audience will help build long-term trust and valuable relationships. Win over their confidence and loyalty through your brand identity and business practices.
To achieve this, develop a specific customer profile, including clearly defined needs that drive them. Consider looking into and developing a deeper understanding of the following, in reference to marketing to this audience via your ecommerce store:
- Their unique interests.
- Your customer’s communication style.
- The values and principles that are important to them.
2. Choosing a mismatched Web design.
This is one of the biggest mistakes that small business owners can commit. In their desire to save money on website development, the unfortunate consequence is often a design mismatch.
To avoid making this mistake, hire a web design or UX agency for your online store to make it look professional.
When your brand looks big and your site is skillfully designed using clean-looking themes, these could help boost your credibility among your customers. Hence, think thrice before deciding to cut corners, in terms of your website’s design.
How your business appears online sends an impression to your customers; why would they give their personal information, let alone transact payments. if they don't trust your business.
3. Complicating the checkout process
Once customers have gone past the top levels of the sales funnel, it’s time to close the deal. Unfortunately, this is the part where the business lose many online transactions. It can happen for so many reasons but the most common would be: complicating the checkout process. If the buyers fumble at the checkout or if they are not given enough confidence signals, they will actually be disappointed and abandon the transaction before they can check out.
4. Using an unreliable web hosting service.
Choosing the perfect ecommerce platform isn’t the end of the story. Often, company owners don’t select a reputable Web hosting service, negatively impacting their Web search and UX scores. Yes, it can be frustrating and expensive to shift from one hosting firm to another; so take your time to pick. Check if your hosting company has 24/7 customer service, regular backups, and safety protocols if it is a popular server before signing up with an ecommerce site.
5. Compromising loading speed.
Sluggish website loading turns off customers and have you ending up losing them in a couple of seconds. Having a quick page loading speed will improve the user experience and drive more traffic to your website, Ergo, boosting your revenue. Ensure that your website is optimized both in the front- and back-end.
Criteria When Selecting the Right Ecommerce Platform
There is no hard and fast rule in choosing the right e-commerce platform. It will depend on several factors, mostly unique to the nature of your business, brand, target audience, and business goals.
You can, however, use the following as criteria to help you pick the right ecommerce platform for your business:
- Cost of Implmentation.
- Number of Features.
- Customer service features.
- Payment Options.
- SEO Considerations.
1. Cost of Implementation.
While this may appear to be intuitive, the fact is that different platforms can deliver diverse sets of functionality at different prices. Many sites have a low flat rate, without extra costs. Some platforms have standard pricing, fees per transaction, and then need subscription-based payment customization.
A platform may have all the features that you need and more, but does it fit your budget? Consider the total cost of implementation. Last 2019, the total set-up cost for a small catalog ecommerce website is up to USD11,000. This amount covers the cost of Web design, hosting, custom development, configuration, and maintenance.
A pre-built platform is more affordable, with Shopify charging only USD29 per month for a basic plan. With a minimal monthly fee, you can set up an online store with a website and a blog, sales channels, and an unlimited capacity for your products. A pre-built platform also features shipping channels and payment processing options.
2. Number of Features.
A website management framework for ecommerce may have a variety of characteristics from security to web hosting. The must include features in an ecommerce platform include robust catalog, website personalization, analytics, built-in third party customer review system, multiple payment gateway, and others
An ecommerce site should also be able to replace some built-in app integration functionality, such as Mailchimp or Shipstation. Although the built-in capabilities can be fantastic, the use of software that the staff is familiar with creates a continuity that can be necessary for a growing company to expand.
Additionally, analytics and data-pooling capabilities can also help you gather and develop insights on how to improve your ecommerce business. Ecommerce relies on digitally-driven strategies just as much as other online marketing channels do. Make sure to harness data for your ecommerce business so you can ensure long-term success.
3. Customer service features.
Customer support is an important criterion in choosing an ecommerce platform or any other service provider, for that matter. According to Microsoft, 97% of global customers say that customer service is a key influencer in their decision to use the offerings of a business.
Today, it is no longer enough to rely on a single communication channel; your ecommerce platform must incorporate a multi-channel strategy that delivers quality service to your customers. You should aspire to deliver quality customer service through the Web, email, social media, and mobile platforms, and on any other channel your customers and target audience frequent. For 2019, the following tools are essential in an ecommerce platform:
- Live chat
- Personalized email campaigns
- An automated order fulfillment system
- 24/7 phone support
- Customer feedback system
- Detailed documentation
- Online forum or community
Better still, don't just meet customer expectations, exceed them. Adopt a proactive customer service approach that allows you to put out small fires before they can erupt into a roaring disaster. Your ecommerce website must have a responsive FAQs section and a display of your contact information. It will also help to regularly forecast your inventory to make sure you have the right amount of stock on time.
4. Payment Options.
Whereas several big cart sites offer a wide range of choices for payment, some may have only a small amount. For eg, not every platform will deliver Paypal, Amazon Pay, Apple Pay, or Google Pay digital wallet solutions.
There may be choices you're not willing to sacrifice. Mobile wallets are one of the most simple and easy ways to pay online for products, and you will lose the customers selling. One of the advantages of online shopping is enabling spontaneous buying. You will also have to have payment plans for overseas transactions if you sell globally. Many sites also take commodities such as bitcoin.
You would want to make sure that protection is the highest standard when doing business in ecommerce. Ecommerce is responsible for securing the knowledge for its customers. This guarantees compliance with PCI, SSL, fraud protection and data backups on the ecommerce website. Ensure the website is safe from hacking and extortion of information from day one.
Different types of ecommerce platforms are present on the market, however if you look out for something that perfectly fits your business needs. An ecommerce platform will boost traffic and attract a wider audience on your website and your online store. It strengthens the whole marketing process and boosts trust in the company.
6. SEO considerations
Your ecommerce strategy should go hand-in-hand with SEO. Your online store must be easily discoverable through search engines; otherwise, you will have a tough time boosting your conversion. Incorporate ecommerce SEO techniques involving navigation links, page titles, page URLs, meta descriptions, to name a few.
The Top Pre-built Ecommerce Platforms for 2021
Ultimately, an ecommerce platform should make the selling and buying process easy for you and your customers. To help you narrow your search down further, here are the best pre-built ecommerce platform to choose for your business in 2021:
BigCommerce is a flexible and personalized ecommerce approach that provides cross-channel commerce — marketplaces, social commerce, brick and mortar, and multi-storefront. They provide open-platform accessibility and extensibility enabled by specialist services.
Shopify is among the most popular ecommerce websites. For many ecommerce enterprises, Shopify’s interface is convenient to use. What’s more, this commerce platform offers key features that allow your site’s full integration.
Wix is a growing website creator that enables customers to upgrade to full ecommerce features. This website builder comes packed with hundreds of designer models, discounts, gift vouchers, lovely product galleries, and quick order and delivery management.
This WordPress plugin provides you a number of ways to personalize your shop and make it easy to use. WooCommerce is a solution that is incredibly scalable. It has a large community of developers who are able to incorporate new features because the plugin is open source.
This award-winning ecommerce software provides an all-in-one website. Its Cloud-based infrastructure is abundant with features and contains several common tools such as Pinterest, Facebook Pixel, and Mailchimp, to name a few.
This website builder is simple for beginners to use, having a drag-and-drop option and plenty of cool models to take inspiration from when creating a professional ecommerce website.
7. Big Cartel
Targeting artists and creative business owners, Big Cartel claims to help them build a “unique ecommerce store.” If you’re a performer, singer, producer, designer, or crafter, this platform may just be what you’re looking for.
This platform allows you to build your very own complete and self-hosted online store and website for free. However, unlike other choices, this is not necessarily the most beginner-friendly. Using osCommerce requires some technical knowledge on your part; so you can manage, host, and upgrade your site.
This shopping cart solution operates on a fully scalable open-source platform and requires no monthly subscription costs. You pay only for hosting.
ShopBase is a brand new platform that launched in June 2019. If you’re into dropshipping, print-on-demand or white label products, this could be the option that’s right for your needs. ShopBase provides entirely customized, mobile storage fronts that a trustworthy design team has built. You can also change the HTML and the CSS codes of each tab, with its own special settings.
NopCommerce is a popular Microsoft-based and free open-source ecommerce platform. This platform lessens the amount of code needed to construct complex applications. Its caching, native optimization, and time-based compilation technologies improve the efficiency of large websites.
PinnacleCart is an ecommerce platform that integrates efficient transaction rates with the user interface. You can create interactive product lists using PinnacleCart’s upgraded product software. Dynamically, these listings generate tags, handle inventory, view multiple images, and create infinite product categories and attributes for goods and services, both physical and digital.
There are hundreds of free and premium ecommerce platforms available in the market. It’s up to you to make a wise decision and choose a platform that suits your requirement.
It is genuinely a fantastic time to set up an online shop as an entrepreneur or a small business owner. Based on our top 12 list, there are many incredible platforms, each one offering its own unique collection of features. Before making a big commitment to an ecommerce platform, remember the following, in summary:
- The quest for the best ecommerce platform for your online business depends on its needs for functionality, personalization, and development.
- Your choice should be scalable and provide your business with the highest overall value.
What are your favorite ecommerce sites these days? Or, are there specific features you’ve discovered that really helped you with your online selling ventures? Let’s have a chat about it! Send us a message on Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn. We’d be happy to help you out.