Businesses making their entry into the online market are faced with the dilemma of choosing the right e-commerce platform to use. The features offered on each platform differ. Some are suitable for your business model while others will not offer any benefit. In your search for the best platform for your business, what factors should you consider?
What Will You Be Selling?
Different platforms are designed to match clients and business models. Some support physical goods while others do not. Evaluate the products you are offering and the features that would make it easier to sell them. Some of the products considerations to make include
- Are they physical or digital?
- What quantities are you offering your buyers?
- Do you have a way of tracking inventory?
- What product options do you have in terms of sizes, color, etc?
- How will you handle shipping and delivery?
- Do you have an offline store or stores?
You should also note that the sale of some products like alcohol and adult materials is prohibited online. Your terms and conditions should be clear. The store must also be compliant with local laws.
The ability of an online store to have high rankings in searches is dependent partly on the quantity and quality of the helpful content in it. Although this does not mean you need to have a blog or start your own marketing campaign, search engines such as Google are on the lookout for stores that have content that is rich in search keywords that assist shoppers to easily get what they need. That said, your e-commerce platform should enable you to not only create but also add to your existing or new pages such kind of rich content.
Who Will Host Your Store?
Most Ecommerce platforms provide web hosting services. You have to make a decision on who will host your store. Hosting your own store comes with a greater deal of control. It also allows you to exercise creativity and flexibility in design and features offered. However, hosting by recognized platforms provides the comfort of security and maintenance. This may be very expensive especially for small businesses operating at shoe string budgets. Most of these platforms will allow you to use own domain which lends credibility to your business. They offer incredible features and upgrades from time to time that will benefit your brand. Weigh the options at your disposal and make the right decision.
Your e-commerce site is what links your customer to your products or online brands and hence it should be able to withstand high traffic spikes. For you to ensure that there are little to no shopping cart abandonments or poor customer buying experiences, consider the following:
- What maximum visitor numbers have you set that can be supported during traffic peaks?
- What is the expected number of orders that your platform will process in a given hour, day or even week?
- How long does your landing page or homepage take to load?
By being properly prepared for traffic peaks you will be better informed when making a decision on the e-commerce solution that will be capable of meeting escalating customer demands. The provider of choice should be in a position to give you insight on DNS traffic and load balancing in their services provision.
What Design Options Favor Your Store?
Ecommerce software platforms come with prebuilt online store themes. Despite having an own domain, you are restricted from making changes on certain features. This comes with a lot of limitations that might affect your sales or customer interactions. Understand these terms and conditions before engaging any platform. A custom design could be the best for your business. However, it comes at an expense.
You probably have a rough idea on your store design and maybe it i neutral, sleek, and simple. Perhaps you want something that is eye catching with bright colors and detailed images that are large enough to show all your product features. When you are evaluating platforms, you need to have a mental picture of your store.
There are several e-commerce platforms that have themes both free and paid. You can use these themes to create the store that you want. Some of the themes are only a click away while others require that you upload files to your server. Some providers offer a wide range of themes while others will only have a limited variety.
To get a theme that is ideal for your shop, you can check online for developed themes availed by independent designers or community members for the specific platforms you are considering. Your chances of getting a great theme is higher when you consider a platform whose community is thriving and large enough to offer low cost or free themes.
What Integration Options Do You Have?
Running an online store requires a lot of integration. The idea is to allow visitors to perform more tasks besides getting information about your products. As such, a platform should allow you to integrate other features seamlessly. This integration includes payment options, accounting, communication, advertising, mobile gadget features, etc. Before migrating your store to any platform, check whether the services you are already using recommend or are compatible to that platform. Lack of compatibility will herald trouble for you.
There is a cost associated with use of every platform. Read through the terms and conditions to understand what is on offer. Most platforms offer different packages. Examine the features offered under each package. Make a decision to pick the package that offers the greatest value. Compare different platforms and their feature as well as pricing offers.
It goes without saying, you cannot sell products online if you are not able to accept payments for them. For you to be able to receive cash from your customers, your store needs to be linked to a payment gateway. This payment gateway is a secure money processor that will move cash from your customer’s accounts and into your own.
You need to realize that it is not automatic that your e-commerce platform will be compatible with every secure payment gateway. This incompatibility is what makes store owners leave out some options as they are not viable in their countries. Incompatibility can be due to technical limitation that cause the e-commerce platform to not get connected to the payment gateway or it could simply be due to low demand for a specific payment option.
Store security is the single most important factor to the success of your business. You should familiarize yourself with terms such as SSL Certificates and PCI Compliance. You cannot afford to compromise your customer data or the store’s security and hence the choice of platform you make is a huge determinant factor of your business’s security.
The PCI Security Standards refers to 12 security standards which all websites that are involved in money transactions need to comply with. Your store will most likely have a lot of money transactions taking place and hence it will be necessary to ascertain that the platform you use abides by the set PCI standards. It is highly advisable that you familiarize yourself with these standards to ensure that your platform does not put you or your customers at risk of an audit or attack respectively.
SSL certificates are data files that enable one to process in a secure manner, sensitive transactions, in this case money transfer through online purchases. Your platform of choice will issue you with an SSL certificate if you opt for a host. If your platform offers no such option then look for one that does.
Most platforms will give you other added advantages such as security packages and perks such as DDoS attack monitoring and fraud protection. You may not feel that you need these perks at the onset of your business but it is wiser to take advantage because in the long run they will indeed come in handy as your store grows in popularity and in size. You can also add other features through external service providers or software; however, this will be a more costly option to selecting a platform that has ready features.
To recap, when selecting a suitable e-commerce platform you need to :
- Evaluate the products you are offering and the features that would make it easier to sell them
- Decide on how you will host your store. Hosting by recognized platforms provides you the comfort of security and maintenance. The platform should be able to handle peak traffic demands and load balancing
- Have a mental picture of the theme you want and select a platform that will help you create it.
- The platform should have compatible integration options for your store
- Payment options should be secure and available in your country
- The platform should abide by PCI security standards, offer you SSL certificates, and preferably other security packages and perks such as fraud detection and DDoS attacks prevention