Selling goods and services has never been easier than it is today. eCommerce technology platforms are built today so that even the least tech-savvy merchant can get in the game. As a result, more and more sellers opt for an online store solution to reach the growing pool of customers on the Internet. In 2019, the growth rate of the eCommerce industry was 18%, topping at $2.3 trillion, and it is estimated to reach $4.9 trillion by 2021.
Businesses now have the opportunity to reach a global market thanks to the rise of the Internet, which has also given rise to online-only businesses. However, while building an online store from the ground up can still be a lengthy and costly process, thanks to today’s tech solutions, there are quicker and affordable options.
There are many popular eCommerce platforms available on the market to choose from and, while they make the whole process easier, finding the right one is not as straightforward as one may think. And since your eCommerce platform is central for the online aspect of your business, choosing the right platform is the most critical decision you need to make early on.
To help you decide on the right eCommerce platform for your business, we present you with an extensive guide to help you understand all the considerations and factors to make an informed decision. Take a look at our guide to choosing the best eCommerce platform in 2020.
Anyone looking to sell digital or physical products or services online can benefit from using an eCommerce platform. Whether you run a bricks-and-mortar store, a big online business, a small online shop, or just want to make some additional income, launching an eCommerce site is for you. And thanks to so many eCommerce platforms available, you can build and launch a digital store in no time. Some of them come equipped with hundreds of themes and templates, while some open-source eCommerce platforms (like Magento) are suitable only for big businesses and will require outside help.
Businesses have a tremendous opportunity to reach different target audiences via the Internet, and it is essential to make the most of it. To sell their products online, companies must have properly-equipped websites that are fast, responsive, well-designed with an online store, encryption system, and ways to secure transactions (among many other factors). Most eCommerce platforms are equipped with standard functionalities, such as showcasing an online catalog, managing customers, taking payments online, and providing after-sales services. On the other hand, some advanced systems provide functionalities that include the ability to integrate with in-store systems, online marketing tools, and API provisions.
Without an eCommerce platform, no business could compete on the online market and gain enough competitive advantage to stand out from the competition. For conducting business online, your eCommerce solution is the backbone. These eCommerce software solutions enable companies to execute complex operations, such as web design, inventory management, warehouse fulfillment, product management, supply-chain management, launch promotions and offers, customer relationship management (CRM), mobile commerce, and much more…
In the past, companies had to create an in-house team or outsource services to develop, maintain and extend their eCommerce business, and the entire process required money and labor investments.
Furthermore, self-built platforms were usually not only challenging to manipulate but were also unscalable. With a ready-to-go platform, you can get a ready-made platform or customize one to fit your needs.
The platform you choose will dictate your business development in four ways:
With that in mind, building an eCommerce business isn’t the same as running a physical retail store, but it sure does require the same level of strategic planning and thinking. The best eCommerce vendors focus on critical issues, such as content, UX branding, and design. Still, the aspects that require your full attention are always the business process, lead generation, and customer engagement. By getting all these things right, you’ll be able to automate and streamline many activities and reap all the benefits of the digital environment.
When deciding which eCommerce platform to choose for your online business, there are three types to choose from:
Open source and SaaS platforms are fundamentally different and each of the platform’s architecture will impact how you run your eCommerce business and drive your experience. First and foremost, let’s break down the costs for open source and SaaS platforms.
The fees and costs of using an open source platform may add up to thousands of dollars over time. The fees and costs include:
As for SaaS platforms, the fees and costs include:
Both frameworks are fairly easy to download and install and/or setup. However, an open source framework may be free, but there is considerably more work to be done in order to launch and run it because you will have to build and/or configure your theme and attain security and hosting. SaaS platforms typically have pre-built themes and user-friendly UIs, they require minimal coding knowledge, and the vendor takes care of security, hosting, and ongoing maintenance. While open source platforms put more responsibility on your shoulders, with a SaaS platform you can have a fully built and optimized store in just a few days (and won’t have to think that much about back-end issues, such as fixing bugs and upgrades).
As for PCI compliance and security, SaaS software vendors are responsible for protecting your users’ sensitive data, while open source users have to take care of it themselves. Security has become a primary concern for everybody who does their business online because one data breach could destroy your business quickly. With a security platform that uses the latest solutions for keeping personal information safe and sound, your customers feel safe while shopping on your website.
Flexibility and integration are also important areas to consider when choosing a platform because many eCommerce store owners run other systems (such as PIM, inventory management, POS, ERP, etc.) to handle complex cross-channel experiences, supply chain management, and order processing tasks. Both open source and SaaS platforms should have APIs to connect with other systems. Open source platforms can be harder to integrate due to their customization, which makes integration unpredictable and lengthier.
When choosing an eCommerce platform, don’t underestimate the costs of running it. The costs related to the initial build and development are obvious, but the costs of upgrading and maintaining it are those you should beware of.
Consumer behavior never stays the same, and you will have to adjust accordingly, which is why you must implement new features (when required) to help your website maintain its relevance.
Looking after your site’s maintenance to ensure it performs according to its requirements is your job if you choose an open-source/traditional platform. These costs can vary depending on the complexity and size of your eCommerce website, so hiring some additional help will be necessary. On the other hand, if you go with a SaaS platform, you’ll have all maintenance tasks taken care of by the vendor.
If you’re using an open-source eCommerce platform, you will have to outsource for technical help in order to install updates whenever the vendor releases them (otherwise, you’re putting your website at risk to cyber-attacks). With a SaaS platform, in most cases, these updates are covered in the monthly fee, and you won’t have to worry about it because the vendor will update your site. Be careful though! These updates can sometimes overwrite some of the customizations you have implemented on your own in your SaaS eCommerce site.
Due to changes in consumer behavior and trends, you’ll have to change your site’s overall user experience. Implementing new themes in any type of platform can require tweaks to your styles and layouts, especially if you have applied some customizations on your own.
No two businesses are the same, and not all eCommerce platforms are created equal. The key to a winning eCommerce setup is to identify the needs of the market and your company. It would be counterproductive to spend money on an overpowered platform if you are not going to use all the functionalities it provides. With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at some of the best platforms available today.
The largest and most well-known platform available, Shopify, was set up in 2006 by people who felt that there was no eCommerce platform user-friendly and straightforward enough. They built their own eCommerce platform for which, they claim, you don’t need any design or technical experience to create and launch your online store. There is a wide range of templates to choose from or you can choose to design everything yourself. Shopify offers instant messaging and email features, 24/7 support via telephone, 256-bit SSL encryption and Level 1 PCI compliance. You can have your merchant account and payment gateway running in no time with Shopify Payments, which accepts a range of credit cards. You can also choose to use any number of other payment gateways, but Shopify will apply a surcharge if you do not use their payment system.
With Shopify, users get a complete content management system that enables them to manage the layout and functionality of their online store. The themes on the platform are responsive and will be optimized for all visitors, regardless of where they come from (mobile devices or desktop computers), and thanks to Shopify’s mobile apps, you can manage your store on-the-go. You also get SEO optimization tools, email marketing tools, a coupon and discount engine, gift cards tool, in-depth analytics of how your visitors are using the store, a built-in system to accept payments, POS integration and unlimited hosting.
Shopify takes a well-deserved first place on our list and is the best option for SMB (small-to-medium-business) eCommerce merchants.
Because of Shopify’s popularity and market share, it’s App store offers a profitable marketplace for Shopify developers to create extended functionalities that can be added to any store for affordable monthly fees.
The oldest eCommerce platform on our list (founded in 1997), the developers of 3dcart wanted to create a platform that included the most requested eCommerce features. It operates in accordance with six core values – stimulating prosperity amongst customers and employees, keeping customers and employees happy, fostering trust, excellent service, ongoing innovation, and simple solutions. It comes with the ability to offer recurring orders, an option of running a loyalty program, a purchase order system, and a module you can install to offer gift-wrapping. Also, users can request other professional services via 3dcart, such as help with social media marketing, shopping feed management, PPC, SEO, and conversion consulting.
Bigcommerce offers instant chat and email, support via phone, and access to qualified experts for guidance and advice on online selling. Thanks to a variety of themes and templates, store owners have many customization options in designing their stores or can have Bigcommerce designers do it for them. Thanks to a full-featured CMS provided by the platform, users can run a website instead of just a store. Bigcommerce is optimized search engine rankings, offers flexible product management, marketing tools, and analytics, automated order processing, and support for Link and Shopping in Instagram Stories and Amazon Import. Users get a 15-day free trial to see if it’s the right fit for their business. Many see Bigcommerce as copying Shopify’s model and trying to improve upon it.
Magento handles over $100 billion in transactions every year. It is a versatile open-source platform that allows third-party developers to augment its core functionality. Magento offers many different functionalities for a wide range of use cases, and it doesn’t specialize in a particular aspect. For users who are after more complex features, Magento is the perfect solution, but they will need to hire a Magento development team to build an eCommerce platform for them.
If you are new to the world of eCommerce, you can choose Wix because it’s equipped with tools that allow anyone to build an eCommerce website via drag and drop functions. The downside is that Wix often leaves much to be desired in terms of your website’s look and feel. But since it is the easiest platform for beginners to step into the eCommerce realm, it deserved a place on this list. In terms of key features, the Wix eCommerce platform is not very robust. However, it does offer features such as email marketing, SEO features, a library of stock photos, inventory and order management, sales features, checkout on your own domain, coupons and discounts, and mobile app for store management. Wix does not scale like other platforms, so we recommend that you avoid it unless you have no better choice.
An all-in-one eCommerce solution, Volusion has been around since 1999. Like other platforms on our list, Volusion also offers a variety of templates and themes as well as custom design services to help users incorporate their branding and social media presence. Next, users get product and website management tools, emails and order functionality for order processing, POS integration, accepting payments, tax calculations, as well as marketing functionality of social media, search engine optimization, and affiliate outlets.
WooCommerce is free software that runs on the WordPress web publishing platform. Merchants can install WooCommerce on their WordPress site and run it with a web hosting provider (you will need to buy your own hosting and domain name since WooCommerce doesn’t provide it). WooCommerce is an easy-to-use platform, and even a beginner can quickly create an online store. Users have full control (because they are hosting their website themselves), have loads of designs to choose from, and thousands of plugins for adding new features. It doesn’t charge any transaction fees and allows users to sell anything from physical products to affiliate products, membership plans, and digital downloads. On the other hand, as your eCommerce business grows, you’re in charge of maintaining the store, which may be tricky for beginners, and costly for bigger websites that require more robust web hosting solutions.
Starting an online business has never been easier, but still, it comes with a set of challenges. There are so many options to choose from, which is why choosing the right eCommerce platform is the fundamental step in building a successful online business.
Ultimately, when choosing your platform, you should be thinking long-term. Add more value and save yourself time and money by focusing your efforts on the business- and marketing-related goals. Technology is not there to limit your success but to help you build upon your potential. Your platform will drive all the technology around our eCommerce business, so choose carefully.
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