Ecommerce spending totaled more than $861 billion last year. It increased 44% from the year before, and analysts expect it to continue rising. With numbers like that, you need to be selling online. Here’s how to pick an ecommerce platform to get you started.
How to Pick an Ecommerce Platform: Features to Look For
It is easy to get overwhelmed when researching how to pick an ecommerce platform. After all, there are hundreds of platforms to choose from. The same features should be considered whether you are brand new to ecommerce or switching to a new platform. Here are some features and benefits to consider.
Ease of Use
When deciding what features are important to you, ease of use should be at the top of the list. Your site should be easy to set up, design, and navigate.
Site Set-Up & Design
Depending on your experience level, what constitutes easy set-up and design will differ.
Of course, if you already have some background in web development or site design, an open-source platform that gives you greater control is the best option for you.
But, if you have little to no experience in this area, choosing a simple platform is best. Many platforms offer themes that are super easy to set up and design. Sites on these platforms are usually customizable through a “drag and drop” feature, feature multiple payment integration options, and offer web hosting.
Imagine driving down a winding road at dusk as a heavy fog settles in. It’s hard to see, you can’t tell if there’s a turn coming, and your headlights are making visibility worse.
That’s what it’s like to try to navigate a disorganized and messy site.
The overall design of your site should be intuitive to visitors. It should be obvious to them where to go next. Navigation menus and toolbars should be responsive with clear categories and options. And a clear pathway to purchase should be a top priority
Easy navigation and clean design can have an impact on several ecommerce success metrics. An example is a decrease in bounce rate, which increases your conversion rate. A “bounce” is when a visitor views a single page of your site instead of browsing through additional pages. By decreasing the bounce rate, you simultaneously increase the length of a visit, meaning visitors discover more information about your business, products, and services.
You want your ecommerce platform to reflect your brand visually. Having a self-hosted ecommerce site means you can customize its look to fit your brand’s visual identity. You don’t have as many customization options if you choose a platform that operates from templates and isn’t self hosted. You get only the options the host provides.
Self-hosting your ecommerce site means you’re responsible for maintenance and updates on the site. You’ll need at least the technical know-how to make that happen, but you also have complete control of your site. Using a hosted site means you aren’t responsible for maintenance and only have to run major updates. Everything else is done for you.
About 60% of online searches happen on mobile devices. Having a mobile-friendly site is a must. Otherwise, you may lose potential customers before they even get a chance to browse your site. It’s essential to choose an ecommerce platform with mobile responsive themes or templates.
Secure Socket Layer should be included in any ecommerce platform you choose.
SSL certificates are essential for several reasons:
- Provide a safe and secure payment process
- Can lead to additional conversion
- Favored by Google for SEO purposes
About 15% of cart abandonment — leaving a purchase in the cart instead of buying the products — is due to customer concerns about secure payment processing. Alternatively, when customers feel safe during the purchase process, the conversion rate could see a boost between 10% and 30%.
SSL certificates make customers feel safer, like their information is more protected. This perception of security creates trust between the customer and ecommerce business owner. Displaying a lock and “SSL” where visitors check out helps them recognize security measures and feel safer doing business with you.
Cross-channel integration extensions allow you to create and sync seller accounts across multiple ecommerce channels. These extensions enable you to sell on Amazon, Google Shopping, Etsy, eBay, and on your site without putting in a lot of additional work.
Search Engine Optimization
All organizations, large or small, should employ an effective search engine optimization strategy. SEO helps your site rank higher in search engines, driving more traffic to your site. Additionally, plugins or apps like Yoast, which help you develop strong SEO on each post help.
A good ecommerce platform should include default SEO features including, but not limited to:
- Custom domain names
- Ability to update meta tags and descriptions
- Alt-text options
- Image captions and descriptions
- Canonical tagging
The ability to add a blog and collect customer reviews also are essential elements of an SEO strategy. There are many things to consider when deciding how to pick an ecommerce platform, but SEO is undoubtedly one of the most critical elements of success.
Choosing an ecommerce platform that has a robust and accessible customer support team is important. After all, running an ecommerce business can get complicated. You should be able to contact a service representative from your platform when you need them.
Recommended Ecommerce Platforms
There are hundreds of ecommerce platforms from which to choose, each offering something unique. Ecommerce platforms fall into several different categories. Two of the biggest types are:
- SaaS Ecommerce Platforms. Ready-made ecommerce solutions delivered through cloud as hosted service, generally the quickest, easiest, and most affordable option
- Open-source Ecommerce Platforms. Ready-made online store builders with open-source code access, which you can then build and customize on top of
Here are our recommendations for the best ecommerce platforms:
WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce platform built on WordPress. It works as a plugin that can turn any existing website into an ecommerce store.
There is a little more work involved with WooCommerce as you’ll still be responsible for hosting, security, and other technical aspects of your website. But WooCommerce also allows you to have greater control of your site and is one of the most customizable platforms, with plenty of extensions for additional functionalities.
Getting customer support at WooCommerce can be trickier than other platforms. According to Woo, customer support is only available for products and extensions purchased on woocommerce.com. Woo is an open-source tool with a dedicated public knowledge base that can help you troubleshoot any issues that do arise.
With over three-quarters of all WordPress ecommerce sites using WooCommerce, you can be sure it’s a safe option.
Shopify is the easiest SaaS platform to create an ecommerce store and always one of our top recommendations.
Being a dedicated all-in-one service, you won’t have to worry about technical aspects such as web hosting, software updates, or security. You can build your site, make sales, and manage your inventory all from one place.
Shopify also offers 24/7 customer support through multiple channels like chat, phone, email, and even Twitter.
BigCommerce is another of the best SaaS ecommerce platforms, especially for larger online stores.
Some of its advantages include the ability to sell an unlimited number of products, its SEO features, a robust product search engine, and a fully customizable checkout experience.
BigCommerce is also a great platform for cross-channel integration, with the ability to list products on Amazon, Instagram, and more.
If there isn’t an existing platform that fits your ecommerce platform needs, you always can have a custom platform built. Building a custom platform would mean going through a discovery-type conversation with a web developer for them to learn exactly what products and customer needs are. Then they would design a platform to best suit your needs.
What Else to Consider Choosing an Ecommerce Platform
There are other things to consider when moving to a new ecommerce platform. You also should think about the costs and ROI and how to drive traffic to your ecommerce site.
Costs and ROI of ecommerce
Moving to ecommerce comes with many new and fantastic opportunities, such as widening your customer base. But it also comes with new costs, including:
- Paying for the ecommerce platform
- Web design and upkeep
- Delivery costs
The increased running costs of ecommerce can be daunting, and you may worry about the risk of uncertain return on investment. That is why, when moving to ecommerce, you should have a solid financial plan in place. The plan should take into account setup, development, and maintenance costs.
Marketing and Driving Traffic
Moving to a new ecommerce platform also requires an entirely new marketing approach to reach your target audience online and bring visitors to your site.
Digital marketing methods to consider include:
- Email marketing
- Social media marketing
- Digital PR
Make sure you can utilize the methods above. When done successfully, they can help drive traffic to your site and boost sales.
The Ecommerce Platform that’s Right for Your Business
Deciding which ecommerce platform to use is one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make early on in your business. Knowing the main factors to consider before making a choice is helpful.
The most popular ecommerce platforms mentioned above offer usability, security, cross-channel integration, and customer support. To narrow down from here, consider your own business needs.
If you still have questions let our team help you decide. Whether you are building a brand new ecommerce store or you are switching, we will be your guide.