Choosing the right e-commerce platform is an important step in launching an online store. While you can theoretically build an online store using Notepad, it’s incredibly difficult and time consuming. Using an e-commerce platform, however, simplifies the process while allowing you to focus on other aspects of your business like marketing and promotion.
Hosted vs Self-Hosted
E-commerce platforms are either hosted or self-hosted. Self-hosted platforms require you to download, install and manage the software on your server. Hosted platforms, on the other hand, take this burden off your shoulder. The platform’s developer hosts the software and your website while you log in to your site via a secure web portal to make changes. So, which one should you choose?
Hosted e-commerce platforms are typically easier to set up. However, they lack the versatility and customization of their self-hosted counterparts. With a self-hosted e-commerce platform, you’ll have greater control over your store’s design and configuration.
You should also consider the cost when choosing an e-commerce platform. Most leading e-commerce platforms have a multi-tiered system, allowing business owners to pay for what they need. Shopify, for instance, costs $29 per month for the lowest plan and $299 for the highest. BigCommerce costs $29.95 for the lowest plan and $249.95 for the highest.
How many products do you plan on selling? Each unique product on your site must be given a unique stock-keeping unit (SKU). However, different e-commerce platforms have different SKU limits. Once you’ve reached this limit, you won’t be able to add new products to your online store.
Some e-commerce platforms also limit the number of pages you can create. With BigCommerce, for example, you can create up to 4,000 content pages. High-quality content is essential for a positive digital customer experience. If your platform has a low limit for content pages, you may fail to connect with your target audience.
Keep in mind that content pages are different than product pages. You can create far more than 4,000 product pages. For conventional content pages, though, you are limited to 4,000 with BigCommerce.
Is the e-commerce platform compatible on mobile devices? According to Search Engine Land, nearly 60 percent of all searches are performed from smartphones and tablets. An effective e-commerce platform should offer a mobile-friendly design to accommodate these users. If it doesn’t, visitors attempting to use your online store from mobile devices may encounter errors or usability issues.
Of course, you should check to see what analytics reporting the e-commerce platform offers. Some platforms offer basic reporting consisting of just traffic and sales whereas others offer deeper reporting for metrics like abandoned shopping carts, real-time user interaction, traffic sources and more.
If you plan to sell products on your website, you’ll need a payment processor to support customer payments. Most e-commerce platforms either have an integrated payment processor or allow you to set up and use your own processor. Shopify, for instance, has an integrated third-party payment processor that charges online business owners 2 percent per transaction. BigCommerce, on the other hand, allows business owners to choose their own payment processor.
Finally, you should consider customer service when choosing an e-commerce platform. If you have a question or concern, the platform’s support should address it in a timely manner. Unfortunately, not all e-commerce platforms have outstanding customer support. Some require customers to contact them by email, resulting in long delays and subsequent headaches for business owners.
With global online sales expected to reach $4.5 trillion by 2021, there’s no better time than now to start an online store. However, you should choose an e-commerce platform that’s best suited for your business. Refer to the tips listed here to choose the right platform for your business.
by: Sia Hasan