Choosing an eCommerce platform can be a slightly daunting task for business owners, especially for those not acquainted with the industry to start with. And, because it’s such an important investment of time, money, and resources, it’s essential to get it right first time to save you money down the road.
However, with so many options available and technical lingo surrounding the whole business, it’s sometimes difficult to understand what’s really important.
Here, we’ve created a quick guide to shed some light on the topic and help you to choose the right eCommerce platform for your business. It’s important to remember that there’s no such thing as the best eCommerce platform, only the best for your business.
Decide what features you want
This can be a bit tricky for those just starting out, but it’s important to work out what you want from the platform to start with.
For many small-businesses just dipping their toes into the water, a basic eCommerce package with the essential features is the best option as it provides a good starting point from which to build up. Keeping things simple and uncomplicated to start with makes it more convenient for you as a business owner, allowing you to focus your efforts on your products.
However, those with a more in-depth knowledge of eCommerce and looking to expand will require more extensive and complex features, such as design features, better security, marketing tools, or a personalised shopping cart, and therefore would need a more complex platform. Not all platforms offer the ability to customise your site with different features, so it’s important to take into account your business needs.
This post has some more tips for comparing different platforms.
Decide how much control you want
This will follow on from the features you would like to see on your platform and will ultimately decide whether you want a hosted or a self-hosted platform.
For those just looking for a simple and easy way to sell products with little input from themselves, or for those with little technical experience, then a hosted option is the perfect choice. The company you choose will provide you with everything you need to host your site and will manage all the technical details, allowing you to start selling from the get-go.
However, hosted options often come with a lot of restrictions, meaning you are unable to fully control your site. You will be restricted by the host’s rules and will be unable to fully customise your site to your brand.
For those looking for a fully customisable, extensive and controlled site of their own, a self-hosted platform is the best choice. It allows you to build the software yourself, add all your own features, and control your site entirely, giving you a unique site.
However, with the extra control, there comes more responsibility to maintain your site and often increased costs, as well as the need for more technical skill or hiring a developer.
For those looking for a happy medium, an advanced package on a hosted platform could do just the trick. Paying for a more advanced package gives you access to more features and more customisation, while also keeping the upkeep to a minimum.
The amount of time and effort you are willing to put into your site will be a major factor in determining which platform suits you best.
This post is an essential read for more information about control versus convenience.
While the platform you need will mostly be determined by your present situation, it’s essential you look ahead to the future as well. You need a platform that can keep up with your changing business and one that will evolve in line with changing customer behaviours and changing technologies.
Of course, you budget will be a big factor in choosing your platform. For those with a smaller budget, a basic hosted package will be the cheapest option with the essential features. However, for those with a larger budget, an advanced hosted package or a self-hosted platform will be costlier, but allow more flexibility.
However, it’s important not to be drawn into upfront costs only. You need to bear in mind how much the host will take from your revenue, how much add-on features cost, how much processing fees are, and any other hidden fees. It’s also key to balance your business against your platform – if you are a business with only a small stock, you want to be paying the smallest amount of money for the services you require.
eCommerce sites exist to drive revenue and making sure the platform you use is SEO friendly will help to do this. Look for features like the ability to add a blog, use your own domain name, and the ability for customers to leave reviews to help boost your rankings and ultimately your revenue.
With 60% of searches done from mobile devices, it’s essential that the platform you choose is optimised for mobiles. Speaking to Liquid Bubble, a London-based digital marketing specialist, they said: “It’s vital that business owners always think of the end-user in mind. “You need to make it as easy as possible for users to browse, shop, and buy, presenting a seamless shopping experience regardless of the device they use. This can help to boost your conversions and prevent the dreaded shopping cart-abandonment.”
These are just a few things to take into consideration when choosing a platform, and we could go on for days talking about it!