Planning an e-commerce development requires careful thought, or else you might end up spending serious money on something that doesn't suit your needs. Always consider the functions, features, integrations, and the design that wraps up with the brand harmoniously. The slightest error or flaw of your e-commerce site can become your business’ biggest mistake.
If you want to avoid costly damages to your business, Propelrr’s web development team has provided a complete guide for anyone who wants to start an e-commerce business.
Here’s your guide to choosing the right e-commerce platform this 2019:
- Pre-Built or From Scratch: Which Is Better?
- Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
- Problems Encountered in Choosing an E-Commerce Platform
- Common Mistakes When Choosing an E-Commerce Platform
- Criteria When Selecting the Right E-Commerce Platform
- The Top Pre-Built E-Commerce Platforms for 2019
Pre-built or from scratch: Which is better?
Should you go for a pre-built platform, or is it better to build from scratch? A pre-built platform is primarily more cost-efficient than hiring a Web developer to develop your website. You can browse hundreds of options that cater to nearly all types of businesses. These pre-built e-commerce platforms offer adequate functionalities and features to get your online store up and running.
Shopify, one of the biggest e-commerce websites, has point of sale (POS), finance reports, fraud analysis, and allows you to choose from a selection of customizable themes. All you need is your product offering; but then again, it may not be the right fit for you. Colton Chorpenning, the marketing lead at Veppo, incurred a USD30,000 mistake in migrating to Shopify Plus. “They rely heavily on third-party apps to provide many essential functions, forcing vendors to install dozens of monthly subscription apps and then figure out how to make them all work together. We eventually moved back to BigCommerce, where—at least—we had more control over our business,” he told Forbes.
Just like a glove, e-commerce solutions should fit the unique needs of your business. Making the wrong decision can cost time, money, and resources. Here is your guide to choosing the right e-commerce platform.
Must-Ask Questions Before Choosing an E-commerce Platform
Don't rush into signing up for an e-commerce platform. You should know your requirements and match these with the available options. Here are five questions you should be asking yourself when choosing a platform:
- Can this platform accommodate my stock size?
- Does this suit the type of products that I am selling?
- Does it carry reliable payment processors?
- Can I modify the look of my online store?
- Is this platform within my budget?
Failing to match your needs with the right platform can have costly consequences. You will not be able to recoup the subscription fee and you might suffer from revenue loss. There is also a potentially high cost of migrating to a new platform. Take your time in deciding where to host your online business.
Problems Encountered in Choosing an E-Commerce Platform
The wrong choice of e-commerce platform can hurt your bottom line. Aside from the set-up cost, your business will likely experience lower conversions that can lead to revenue loss. Your e-commerce platform should be working for you. If you are spending too much time managing your offering and collating reports, you may want to consider shifting to a new platform. Go for the one that prioritizes ease of use. Here are the criteria you should look for in an “easy” and pre-built e-commerce website:
- Minimal to no coding required
- Has in-page editing
- Features an intuitive drag-and-drop interface
- Offers multiple Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
Signing up for the wrong e-commerce website can prevent you from utilizing your platform for future growth. Your platform should be able to accommodate expansion plans, whether in product offerings or markets. “Generally speaking, a successful e-commerce store will grow year-over-year. You need to be ready to handle a large volume of sales with the same efficiency that helped make you successful when you were smaller. This means thinking about scalability before it happens,” said Derek Broman, CEO of Discount Enterprises. Choose an e-commerce platform that has solutions for order fulfillment, accounting, and warehouse management.
Common mistakes when choosing an e-commerce platform
It’s easy to make mistakes, but it’s not as fast to clean it up. These examples below are common business mistakes that you should avoid.
Failing to understand the target audience
With all the available resources on e-commerce platforms, many businesses owners still shoot in the dark. They choose the cheapest or most popular choice without considering whether it suits their unique needs.
Many go into business without understanding their target audience well. Your e-commerce strategy, including the choice of platform, should put your audience on focus. Who are they? What makes them happy and what ticks them off? How can you effectively communicate with them? Your target audience can make or break your business.
Choosing a platform with poor UX
A visually appealing e-commerce website serves no valuable purpose if it cannot boost your conversion rate. Avoid the common mistake of neglecting a good UX design strategy. A poor UX with complex navigation can easily discourage visitors, leading to abandoned pages and carts. Choose an e-commerce platform that entices visitors to browse around, make a purchase, and recommend your business to their network.
Using an unreliable web hosting service
Selecting the most suitable e-commerce platform isn't the end of the story. Many business owners fail to choose a reliable Web hosting provider, negatively affecting their Web search rankings and UX. Remember that switching from one hosting company to another can be tedious and costly; so take the time to choose well. Before signing up for an e-commerce platform, check whether its hosting provider has 24/7 customer support and daily backups as well as security precautions if it is a shared server.
Opting for a platform with a complicated sales process
Numerous studies suggest that current cart abandonment rates can be as high as 80%. This is measured by the number of times customers leave a page without buying after adding an item to their cart. An abandoned cart is a lost sale. Why do customers leave halfway in their shopping journey? Some possible reasons are:
- The shipping cost may be too high;
- The customer is required to create a new user account;
- The checkout process is too long and confusing; and
- There might also be payment security concerns
To help resolve the above, select an e-commerce platform with a simple checkout process and a list of payment gateways with certified security measures. It can also help to have a visual outline of every step in the checkout process. Give upfront information on the shipping costs or even an approximation, to avoid surprises.
Criteria when selecting the right e-commerce 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 one from hundreds of choices.
The cost of implementation
A platform may have all the features that you need and more, but does it fit your budget? Consider the total cost of implementation. For 2019, the total set-up cost for a small catalog e-commerce 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.
The built-in features
You must also take note of the built-in features. Determine whether the platform serves all the functions your business requires, and even ask about things that seem basic such as editing orders, or automating emails to customers. Here are a couple of must-have features of an e-commerce platform:
- Robust catalog
- Flexible product pricing
- Website personalization
- Flexible shipping
- E-commerce analytics
- Google Merchant and Facebook Business integration
- Built-in or third-party customer review system
- Automatic tax and account calculation
- Multiple payment gateways
- Single-customer view
The features must suit your needs. If you are selling clothes, the catalog should allow customers to see the product in various sizes and colors. Businesses that sell across markets should also be able to display products in foreign currencies and adjust costs for different locations. Another must-have feature of your e-commerce platform is Google Merchant integration, which allows you to showcase products on Google Shopping search results pages, driving traffic to your website. Facebook integration can help promote your offerings across top social networks, namely Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger.
Customer service features
Customer support is an important criterion in choosing an e-commerce platform or any other service provider, for that matter. Go for a platform that has 24/7 support for your customers. 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.
What are the components of effective e-commerce customer support? Today, it is no longer enough to rely on a single communication channel; your e-commerce 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 e-commerce platform:
- Live chat
- Personalized email campaigns
- 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 which allows you to put out small fires before they can erupt into a roaring disaster. Your e-commerce 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.
The SEO considerations
Your e-commerce 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. Your e-commerce website should incorporate SEO techniques involving navigation links, page titles, page URLs, meta descriptions, to name a few.
The top pre-built e-commerce platforms for 2019
After deliberating the criteria for your e-commerce strategy, it is time to decide on the pre-built e-commerce platform that will cater to your requirements and budget.
Here is a Top 10 list of the most preferred pre-built e-commerce platforms for 2019, along with their strongest points:
- BigCommerce. A full software-as-a-service (SaaS) platform that boasts of a flexible and scalable platform and powerful SEO. It also comes with complete store management capabilities.
- Shopify. The platform of choice for ease of use and 1-Click Selling apps. Its stunning themes are mobile-optimized.
- 3Dcard. Allows numerous integrations and provides a menu of business management tools.
- Volusion. Specially designed for small and medium businesses (SMBs). It features a topnotch on-boarding help center. It integrates a wide selection of payment processors with no transaction fees.
- Magento. Has a robust catalog and incredible SEO extensions. You can have your own server environment or sign up for the Cloud edition.
- Wix. Known for its tons of exceptional themes and ease of use. Its app market showcases tons of apps to enhance your website further.
- SquareSpace. Recommended for SMBs and simple stores. It offers gorgeous template designs and high-quality imagery.
- SiteBuilder.An intuitive drag-and-drop interface, perfect for beginners. It provides unlimited bandwidth and storage space for future expansion plans.
- OpenCart. Allows the set-up of unlimited products and product categories. It integrates hundreds of payment processors.
- PrestaShop Offers self-hosted and hosted options. You can spruce up your website with a long list of apps and integrations.
You can try and compare e-commerce platforms for free; and, if you prefer, continue their services through flexible plans.
TL;DR? Choosing an e-commerce platform for your business requires serious consideration. Here are a few takeaways:
- Opting for a pre-built e-commerce platform is more cost-efficient than one built from scratch.
- Take the time to understand your business goals, target audience, and resources, and match these with the most suitable e-commerce platform.
- Don't forget to update your online store with SEO trends. You'll benefit for years to come.