There are roughly more than 2.5 million online retailers in the United States. If you’re wondering how many there are worldwide, that figure is a whopping 9.1 million. With the increased digitalization we’re experiencing today, these numbers are growing daily.
So, how do you stand out from the competition? The appropriate eCommerce platform can help you do that since it serves as the foundation of your online retail business.
We’re here to guide you on how to choose an eCommerce platform for your business needs so you can take advantage of the low costs, flexibility, scalability, faster buying process, and targeted marketing that the best eCommerce platforms can offer.
Table of Contents
Why You Should Choose the Right eCommerce Platform
The number of eCommerce shoppers in the US is expected to reach 218.8 million in 2023 and 230.6 million in 2026. With this apparent increase in online shopping, it’s getting more critical than ever to learn how to pick an eCommerce platform that suits your business needs.
Building an eCommerce website is more than just posting product listings. It requires a lot of planning and strategic thinking. Choosing an eCommerce platform is a fundamental step since it affects the following aspects of your business:
- Growth: The scalability of the platform you choose will make it easier for you to grow your business and manage an increase in demand.
- Cost: The right platform should fit your budget. Building an eCommerce website requires development and maintenance costs.
- Customer Engagement: Another benefit of eCommerce is allowing you to customize how consumers interact with your business.
- Goals and Objectives: If you select an eCommerce platform that suits your business needs, you’re more likely to achieve your business goals and objectives.
Knowing how to choose an eCommerce platform involves more than just selecting ones that have great design and content; the right platform should also improve your business processes, boost customer engagement, and increase lead generation.
Types of eCommerce Platforms
There are three primary types of eCommerce platforms. Each one has its advantages and disadvantages. Let’s look at each type to help you choose an eCommerce platform.
Software-as-a-service or SaaS eCommerce platform provides all the fundamental requirements of an online store: content management, hosting, secure payment gateways, and catalog management, among others.
Your development team won’t have access to the servers, codebase, database, and infrastructure since the third-party software does all the heavy lifting for you. As a result, the scalability and customizability of SaaS platforms are far more limited. These types of platforms are subscription-based, which means they charge you a monthly fee.
SaaS platforms are a popular choice among small business owners who are new to eCommerce and want to select an eCommerce platform that provides professional setup and ample support.
Shopify is one of the biggest SaaS ecommerce platforms, garnering roughly 1.75 million sellers, according to Backlinko.
The latest eCommerce trends show that platform-as-a-service or PaaS eCommerce platforms are growing in popularity.
These types of platforms have numerous similarities with SaaS. The provider oversees the hosting infrastructure and hosts the software and hardware so you don’t need to set up and maintain server security, system upgrades, and hosting.
However, one key distinction of a PaaS eCommerce platform from a SaaS one is that it allows you to maintain your eCommerce application code. This feature allows you to control the application directly and adapt the code to fit your business needs, giving you more flexibility than what a SaaS eCommerce platform can offer.
If you want to choose an eCommerce platform where you have more control over your site, then on-premises platforms are right for you. With this type of platform, your development team will create the website through a central server that will serve as the main storage for all relevant data. This is the exact opposite of a SaaS platform.
With on-premises platforms, the possibilities for customization are virtually endless. You’ll also be solely responsible for security, which can either be a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it. The possible downsides to such platforms include higher costs and difficulty in scaling your business.
How To Choose an eCommerce Platform: Factors to Look Out For
With so many eCommerce solutions available worldwide, it might be hard to pinpoint which one suits your business well. The process of choosing an appropriate eCommerce platform starts with identifying your business needs and objectives and understanding customer needs and desires.
This will allow you to carefully scrutinize each factor.
- Website Hosting: There are two ways for an eCommerce website to be hosted: self-hosting and cloud hosting. Self-hosting allows you to deal with installation, hosting, and updates. On the other hand, hosting is done via a cloud platform that manages site uptime.
- Domain Name: You can choose an eCommerce platform that enables you to purchase a domain from them if you want to streamline things, particularly billing.
- Flexible Product Pricing: If you plan on running sales events and discounts, you should make sure that the platform allows you to easily do this. You should also check if it supports multiple currencies if you need it to.
- Product Catalog: It should match the needs of your sector and be intuitive and easy to update. For instance, if you’re in the clothing sector, the product catalog should allow you to add various sizes and colors that customers can choose from.
- Security: In the third quarter of 2022, 108.9 million accounts were breached worldwide. This statistic places huge importance on data security to protect consumer privacy. You should ensure a platform’s PCI compliance, secure data backups, and SSL.
- Integrations: If you want to select the best eCommerce platform, plugins and integrations are something to be considered. You should see if the platform offers the most popular plugins, such as email marketing, payment and shipping, third-party digital tools, and accounting.
- Scalability: The ideal eCommerce platform should enable you to scale your business when necessary. It should have ample bandwidth to accommodate your growing business needs.
- Multiple Payment Gateways: If you want to increase the sales in your eCommerce business, one surefire way to do this is to ensure that your eCommerce store offers easy integrations with common payment gateways in the local markets you want to sell in.
- Order Management System: According to 2018 research, 80% of online shoppers want regular updates from stores about their orders. That’s why your eCommerce store must have accurate, interactive, and transparent order management. Watch out for features like email notifications, order tracking, and shipping service API.
- SEO-Friendliness: SEO or search engine optimization is a crucial aspect of running an eCommerce business and is therefore a critical factor in how to choose an eCommerce platform. You should check SEO capabilities, such as updating metadata, adding canonical tags, and adding alternative text to images, among others.
- Mobile-Friendliness: Due to our highly digitized post-pandemic world, the number of shoppers using mobile devices has been increasing. As such, you need to ensure that the eCommerce platform you choose offers mobile-friendly templates and functionalities.
- Personalization: Offering customers a personalized experience can help you stand out from other online stores. With the help of AI and machine learning, the best eCommerce platforms come with a recommendation engine that dynamically suggests items to shoppers based on their lifestyle, interests, online behavior, and demographics.
How To Choose a Suitable eCommerce Platform for Your Business: Steps and Tips
Choosing the best eCommerce platform isn’t always an easy task. It’s a huge decision you have to make for the success of your eCommerce journey. That’s why we’ve put together this guide on how to select an eCommerce platform that’s appropriate for your business needs.
Define Your Needs and Objectives
Before you even begin looking into eCommerce platforms, you should first iron out the details of your business needs and objectives. Doing this beforehand will help make the process of selecting an eCommerce platform much easier.
You can create a roadmap that outlines the current status of your business and where you want to take it. Think about the current features of your site and then plan for the future. Do you want to expand to more markets? Do you have plans to scale your business? Do you want to add more fulfillment options?
You can also consider hiring an eCommerce consultant to help you with how to pick an eCommerce platform. They can provide fresh insight and perspective so you can make an informed decision.
Set a Budget
The next step is to think about the amount you want to allocate to your eCommerce platform. Speaking of the cost of an eCommerce website, in addition to development costs, you should also consider hidden costs like maintenance, UX changes, and updates.
Research eCommerce Solutions
Once you’re clear on your requirements and budget, you can then start searching for different eCommerce solutions that match your needs. You can refer to the list of factors we listed above to make this step a little easier.
However, we have a few recommendations we’d like to make based on your product or industry. For one, if you’re running a fashion retail store, solutions like Shopify, and BigCommerce are great choices. If you’re selling electronic gadgets, a simple platform like Wix will help.
Moreover, you can submit an eCommerce request for proposal (RFP) to potential vendors. A well-written RFP will provide vendors with a complete understanding of your business needs so they can come up with accurate proposals.
Start With a Free Trial
Once you’ve narrowed down your list of potential vendors (to five or fewer), you can schedule a demo or start a free trial to get a better look at how the platform works. If you have stakeholders or business partners, be sure to include them in the demo so they can assess the platform as well.
Compare, Evaluate, and Decide
During this stage of the process, you should already have enough information about the solutions you’ve shortlisted. You can compare the features and pricing using a table. If a platform doesn’t offer a feature you require, see if you can find a workaround.
Since this is a crucial business decision, you should take your time and involve key people in your company, including your IT, sales, marketing, and customer service so they can weigh in on it.
Considering how integral your eCommerce store is to your online retail business, you should take your time to choose the best eCommerce platform that best suits your needs.
The best eCommerce platform can provide hasten your buying process, improve product listing and inventory, reduce costs, provide affordable marketing and advertising, enable several payment modes, and increase flexibility for consumers.