Having a primary platform where your customers can shop your products online can considerably boost your revenue and growth.

Your social media profiles are a convenient space where you and your audience can easily connect. Your website enhances this space and hosts your brand and merchandise, giving you a one-stop shop where your customers can find everything about your business.

What is an eCommerce platform? What features does it have to offer? How can your business benefit from it? We answer these questions and give you a head start with tips on choosing and setting up your platform at the end of this article.

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What is an eCommerce Platform?

In 2021, eCommerce sales reached $4.9 trillion worldwide and is projected to grow by 50% over the next four years. It’s the prime time to set up your online shop and expand your audience reach.

eCommerce is the process of buying and selling products or services on the Internet, and it occurs on various platforms. We’ve deconstructed its components below to introduce eCommerce platforms for your business.

3 eCommerce Business Models

An eCommerce platform is the online version of your physical store. It’s where your customers can purchase your merchandise from anywhere they can access the internet and your online shop.

The three primary types of eCommerce business models are:

  • Business-to-business (B2B) - a business providing services to other businesses
  • Business-to-customer (B2C) - a business offering products directly to consumers
  • Customer-to-customer (C2C) - a customer trading goods with fellow consumers

It stands apart from a typical website where you simply showcase your brand and feature your products. With an eCommerce site, your audience can browse your catalog, purchase orders, and receive their items sent to their delivery address.

As for businesses that offer services rather than physical products, it’s a much simpler transaction.

Since there's no need to set up storage and logistics, you can set up a platform where you can establish communication lines with your clients, whether it’s on your website or through email.

Functions of an eCommerce Platform

How does eCommerce work? These are the core functions of running a store, whether you have a physical or a digital shop:

  • Receiving – Clients select the products and proceed to checkout. Then your team is informed and can assist your customers as needed. With an online shop, you can list your products, create descriptions, set prices, apply discount codes, and similar processes that your customers interact with. These are all tools to guide your customers through shopping.
  • Processing – This step involves checkout and payment, which can be managed by your customers or with the help of your team. You would typically require cash or card details, followed by a billing or shipping address if their item requires delivery.
  • Shipping – Once they’ve submitted their order details, your team processes the shipping and delivery logistics. With an eCommerce platform, you have a reference point and queue for the orders you need to fulfill. Both you and your customers can track and manage shipping from your website.

If you’re transitioning from a physical business to an online shop, you can follow the same basic principles. The difference is the tools you use and the level of interaction between your customers and your team.

Types of eCommerce Platforms

There are different types of eCommerce platforms, and your choice depends on how you plan to use it. We discuss each of them below to help you determine the best match for your needs.

Subscription-Based Platform

While it can be pricey for smaller businesses that are just starting out, the features of subscription-based platforms make the payment model worth the financial investment.

There’s value in having convenient mechanics, such as:

  • Customer relationship management tools
  • Automated billing and tax computation
  • Logistics management features
  • Performance analytics and report tools

Open-Source Platform

The primary benefit of open-source platforms, whether for eCommerce websites or other software, is the ability to customize them to your needs and preferences.

The goal is to integrate the best features of a full suite of services from a subscription-based platform, but one you can personalize without the added cost. That said, you’ll need to set up these features yourself or consult with a specialist who can.

The benefits of the DIY approach of an open-source platform:

  • Cost-effective to build and maintain
  • Custom-tailored to the features you need
  • A secure space you can manage

Headless Platform

A headless platform means the front-end and the back-end of the website are separate systems that can be updated individually as needed.

Traditional eCommerce platforms have established categories and settings to make them faster to set up, but this can be limiting or outdated. A headless platform has the basic structure to host your content and function as an online shop for your merchandise, but with more convenient advantages to meet your needs:

  • Customize frontend and backend independently
  • Integrations to improve ease of use
  • Faster to develop, set up and update
  • Easier and quicker to scale

How To Choose the Right eCommerce Platform for Your Business

Different teams have different capabilities. Fortunately, there’s a variety of eCommerce software solutions available. You just need to find the right fit for your business.

Here are the types of platforms ideal for different business sizes:

  • Small teams who don’t specialize in web development can opt for subscription-based platforms because they have the best features and tools ready to go.
  • Medium-sized businesses that have figured out their process and preferences may choose headless platforms, which they can customize and launch at a rapid pace.
  • Large enterprises with highly experienced tech teams and an established workflow may prefer to work with an open-source platform they can personalize to the business needs.
  • Once you’re familiar with your operations and what works well with your team, you can choose which platform is the right one.

Features of eCommerce Platforms

eCommerce platforms come in different shapes, sizes, and offers. Having an online shop can be even more challenging than managing a typical website because you’re also maintaining a catalog, along with managing and fulfilling orders on the backend.

Whatever platform you end up using, there are features to look out for which can help optimize your everyday workflow.

Feature #1: Available at Any Price Point

You can access great platform features from a variety of price points. Naturally, the lower the price, the more you’ll have to set up by yourself.

That said, there are available platforms from providers offering more ready-to-use tools. Determine your budget and if it’s an investment worth the value, especially if the features are exactly what you need for your website.

Feature #2: Ease of Use and Accessibility

With a well-designed website, you can increase your conversion rate by up to 200%. You can start with the basics and list your products, so your customers can shop online and you can process their orders.

As you choose the right eCommerce platform, it needs to be a good fit for your team’s workflow and be easy to use for your customers.

Feature #3: A Flexible and Scalable Tool

Most platforms will have ready-made templates to help you set up your website, which you can also personalize to your brand design. These are designed to be simple to use and fast to update, so making changes and growing your platform should be easy.

For open-source platforms, it can be just as quick despite the editable templates, especially if you're working with highly skilled web developers and designers.

Feature #4: Integration With Different Programs and Plugins

There are different integrations you can add to your eCommerce platform to help you get specific functions to boost your operations.

Look into the following plugins available for some of the leading platforms online:

  • WordPress plugins
  • Shopify plugins
  • Wix plugins
  • Stripe plugins
  • WooCommerce plugins

Similar to the platforms, there will be plugins available for free and some may require subscriptions or upfront fees. Gauge how beneficial the addition would be to your website, and consider if it’s worth the price.

Feature #5: Customizability To Match Your Brand Design

Infusing your brand’s personality into your website design helps your business stand out from its competitors. This makes web design a vital part of your eCommerce strategy, along with your sales and marketing methods.

Having consistent brand design can aesthetically connect with your customers. It also establishes your credibility throughout your online platforms and informs your audience whether it’s an official channel or not.

How To Set up an eCommerce Platform

Establishing your website and online presence requires a robust marketing strategy to help customers find their way to your website. This can be through ads, social media, and word of mouth from previously satisfied customers.

This is why up to 41% of brands are investing more into their paid and organic search rankings.

If you’d like to work with a web development specialist, you can send out an eCommerce RFP. This will introduce information about your project and how they can help bring it to life.

Below are the essential steps to getting it done:

  • Populate your website with pages informing about your business and your brand
  • List your products and include item descriptions with the appropriate keywords
  • Add the links to your social media profiles as needed
  • Regularly update your shop and make sure your orders are fulfilled
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