As the entire world is scrambling to come back to normalcy under the COVID-19 pandemic-induced social distancing guidelines, brick-and-mortar retailers are shifting gears to rapidly embrace digital technologies to bridge the physical distance and navigate the crisis. With increased competition from eCommerce, reduced foot traffic and low consumer confidence, the need to build digital capabilities is now or never for physical retail stores.
India’s digital transformation saga has just begun. While the pandemic accelerated this drive multiple folds within a short period of time, creation of a nation-wide digital infrastructure allied with new tools and technologies is what will help sustain the momentum while helping it to outlive the pandemic.
What is a eCommerce platform?
An eCommerce platform is a software application which allows the business owner to manage their online sale operations. eCommerce platforms are mostly used by SMEs going for online sales for the first time. They aim at providing a shared solution and hosted on the company’s server or self-hosted.
The way some people talk about e-commerce, you might think it’s a fully automated business model that doesn’t suffer the same pains as, say, a brick-and-mortar storefront.
Nothing could be further from the truth. In fact, eCommerce can be just as challenging as any other type of business. And in some cases, even more challenging than a more conventional company, simply because it is so reliant upon one single variable: a third-party platform like BigCommerce, Shopify, WooCommerce, or Magento.
To thrive in today’s market, you need an ecommerce platform that will allow you to deliver on the expectations of modern consumers. You need the tools to sell the right products, provide amazing shopping experiences, and fulfil orders efficiently.
That’s exactly what this post is for. This resource will walk you through the process of finding and selecting the right eCommerce platform. Go through the steps below and incorporate them in your search for a new solution.
How to Choose the Best eCommerce Platform for Your Business?
Determine your ecommerce needs
Figure out your needs before you even start looking into ecommerce platforms. Determining your requirements early on will make the process of finding and selecting a solution much easier.
Begin your search with a roadmap. Outline where your business is now and where you want it to go. What are the features and experiences that your site is currently offering? Put them on paper and make sure the solution you select has comparable (or better) capabilities.
Think about your future plans for the business. Are you planning to expand to more stores or markets? Do you intend to introduce more fulfilment options? You want a solution that will allow your business to scale and improve.
Another great exercise is to map your customers’ path to purchase. How do they find you? What channels do they use? How do they want their orders to be fulfilled? The answers to these questions will enable you to determine the features and capabilities that you need.
1. Determine your business type
Not all businesses are the same. Your business model can be for Business to Business (B2B), Business to Customer (B2C) or Business to Business to Customer (B2B2C). Depending upon your business type, you have to prepare the strategy.
To be able to pick the right e-commerce fulfillment platform to suit your needs, you have to first understand the different types of platforms:
- Build your own
If your business has a specialized niche, with specific needs and requirements that a templated online store cannot offer, then you can consider a Build Your Own platform.
- Traditional platforms
With traditional platforms, you can buy an upfront license that you can renew every year. Your team of developers and IT professionals will then customize the platform and install it on-premises or in the cloud.
- Open source
Open source platforms have the same development procedure as traditional platforms. The only difference is that there are no upfront costs when buying the license. But you are still paying for the implementation, initial development, ongoing development, migration, upgrades, and so on.
- Cloud platforms
Cloud eCommerce is the process of outsourcing a remote network of servers hosted on the internet to use application services and to store and process data.
- SaaS platforms
This kind of e-commerce platform is built in a single codebase. Everyone who uses a SaaS (Software-as-a-Service) platform is experiencing the same technology with a fixed monthly fee that covers maintenance, security, server use, and upgrades.
This goes without saying that you need to determine your budget for your ecommerce website. Apart from the development cost, most platforms have monthly fees, which vary depending on the type of platform you choose (hosted or self-hosted).
Carefully check everything the platform has to offer to understand exactly what you are paying for and make your selection based on that. You should compare services and find the most appropriate one.
eCommerce sales are estimated to reach 17.5% of all global retail sales by 2021. So, irrespective of your products or services, developing a scalable ecommerce solution is the need of the hour. It will pay off in both the short and long term.
Your platform should be flexible enough to offer you befitting plans for building and operating your growing store. This is applicable for many aspects, from your server bandwidth to cross-channel selling capabilities. Headless commerce solutions with native integrations and APIs offers more flexibility to the businesses.
eCommerce websites are the major target for hackers. Just think of the thousands of user IDs, personal information, and financial information, including credit card details and product details on your site. That’s what makes it attractive for hackers. So, you have to make sure that the platform you select supports HTTPS/SSL protocols and is PCI (Payment Card Industry Data Security) complaint.
5. Payment Options
Approximately 42% of online buyers use a credit card, 39% use electronic payment, 28% use a debit card and 23% utilize cash on delivery option for making the ecommerce payment.
Selecting the precise payment gateway solution for your ecommerce is an important aspect. A secure network should be your priority when considering any payment gateway. Your customer seeks trust while making the payment via any mode. PCI compliance is the necessary certificate you need to find on the payment gateway before integrating it on your ecommerce platform.
Mobile shopping has become the norm. According to Statista.com, by 2021 global mobile retail revenue is projected to reach $3.56 billion (up $2.2 billion from 2017). And, according to 2019’s first quarter results of devices used when shopping, smartphones accounted for a whopping 65% of retail site visits.
When searching for an ecommerce platform, be sure it allows customers easy access to your website. The easier a customer can interact with your brand, the easier it’ll be to make a sale.
When shoppers are looking for a particular product or service — like what your store is selling — it should be easy for them to find your business. You want to ensure that your online store ranks high in search results, especially if you’re a new ecommerce store or a small online shop. To do this, look for an ecommerce platform that is SEO-friendly — you can use your own domain name, add your own blog, collect customer reviews — all to help drive shoppers to your business organically.
It is very important to monitor your store’s performance. Look for an ecommerce platform that helps you keep tabs on all of the important things— number of sales, payment methods, order amounts, and more — and displays stats in an easy-to-understand format. As an ecommerce business owner, the last thing you want is to play the numbers guessing game.
9. Tech Support
10. Integrations and add-ons
The integration capabilities of an ecommerce platform are what allow you to customize the site around what you need and what will benefit the overall experience.
You need to take into account how far-reaching and in-depth your online store currently is, as well as what your short and long-term goals are.
For instance, if you are just starting out, an email marketing program might not seem like an essential. However, once you start gaining traction, email will be a prime communication avenue to promote things like personalized deals, product recommendations, or anything else to boost site engagement.
The world of ecommerce is a diverse, complex, and constantly-changing entity. The platform you choose to represent your online business is the most important factor that determines your long-term success.
There are lots of options out there that offer a lot of great things. However, even though your needs may gravitate to a certain selection, be sure you keep these ten major components in mind. Do not make your decision lightly.