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eCommerce Platforms: Choosing the Best for Your Business

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Whether you are opening an online store for the first time or switching to a new ecommerce platform, it is important to understand the selection process.

The decisions you make will be based on what you are selling, how much you are selling, and many other factors that are unique to your business. There is not a one size fits all solution!

Here are some of the key evaluation criteria to consider when selecting or upgrading your selling platform:

Comparing Platforms:

Transaction volume: The platform should be cost effective for the number of transactions you anticipate (allowing for growth over a multi-year time horizon); see the related, previously discussed SaaS vs. on-premises considerations.

User experience: Platforms vary in the degree to which (and difficulty with which) they allow you to customize the user experience (e.g., page layout, navigation). You may prefer a less customizable site for its simplicity, or a more customizable site that you can make better represent your brand or serve your customer’s specific needs, e.g. the easy bundling of products into a “kit.”

Design and themes: Select or customize the look and feel of your online store to best represent your brand and feature your product portfolio. Most SaaS platforms provide easy design theme installs and add to them on a continuous basis. You can choose from free and premium options.

Hosting and security: Some platforms will include domains, hosting packages, SSL certificates, fraud protection, cloud backup, and/or PCI compliance features. You will need to decide whether you want to use the platform package or a 3rd party vendor.

Payments and shopping cart: Most platforms offer cart solutions and this is the main reason you need a selling platform since it enables customers to add items to a shopping cart and allows merchants to accept credit cards.

Order management: This is where you will process orders and handle returns directly from the application. Selling platforms don’t generally provide functionality as robust as that which is provided by shipping platforms in this area, so you may want to focus your order management requirements on your shipping platform selection process.

Inventory management: This capability allows you to automatically keep track of inventory levels as they fluctuate due to sales, shipments, returns, and the arrival of new inventory. As with order management, the most logical place to handle inventory management is within a robust shipping platform that has visibility into all the events that impact inventory levels.

Customer management: Organize and manage your customers and their unique needs. Selling platform support varies broadly here, but the most logical place to manage customers is from within your shipping platform, which has access to not only all the customer data managed by the selling platform, but also detailed data on customer orders and shipments.

Marketing and promotions: If growing sales is important, look for a platform that makes it easy to reach more shoppers via social media tools, automated SEO, email marketing applications and the ability to push your products to additional channels.

Analytics: Some platforms will provide reports and analytics on where your customers are shopping, what they are buying, conversion and cart abandonment metrics and more.

Apps and integrations: Most eCommerce platforms provide third-party integrations for features they don’t already provide out of the box; primary here is the ability to integrate with a robust shipping platform as discussed in the next bullet and in great detail in the next section, “Shipping Platforms.”

Shipping platform support:

  • Integration: Data fields needed, integration mechanisms, supported marketplaces, carts and platforms
  • User experience support: Present international shipping, support presentation of multiple shipping pricing models, etc.

 

Technology Offerings:

You will need to consider shopping cart, hosting, security, payments, order management and more. Most platforms offer cart solutions and is the main reason you need a selling platform. This enables customers to add items to a shopping cart and allows merchants to accept credit cards.

Some platforms will include domains, hosting packages, SSL certificates, fraud protection, cloud backup, and/or PCI compliance features. You will need to decide whether you want to use the platform package or a 3rd party vendor.

The eCommerce platform is where you will control your inventory, process orders, and handle returns directly from the application. Selling platforms don’t generally provide functionality as robust as that which is provided by shipping platforms in this area, so you may want to focus your order management requirements on your shipping platform selection process.

Check out the Shipping Platform Evaluation Form

Sales, Conversion, & Marketing Offerings:

Most eCommerce platforms offer additional marketing solutions. They can include customer management, marketing tools, analytics, and more. Organize and manage your customers and their unique needs. identify your most loyal shoppers with customer management tools. Create customer groups and customize their shopping experience.

If growing sales is important, look for a platform that makes it easy to reach more shoppers via social media tools, automated SEO, email marketing applications and the ability to push your products to additional channels.

Some platforms will provide reports and analytics on where your customers are shopping, what they are buying, conversion and cart abandonment metrics and more.

Related Articles & Resources

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This article is from The Definitive Guide to eCommerce Shipping

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