Importance of an eCommerce Platform
Why is selecting an eCommerce platform a big decision? Consider this from Wunderman Thompson Commerce, “Fundamentally, ecommerce platforms are the backbone of any online retail enterprise, allowing the front-end and back-end to work in tandem and efficiently.” They go on to describe ecommerce platforms as the structure upon which ecommerce enterprise is supported and a growth enabler.
Clearly, the eCommerce platform is important. Let’s be clear exactly what an eCommerce platform is. Again, from Wunderman Thompson Commerce, “a platform is the software that allows a business to perform complex functions both in the front and back end of its operations … (including) inventory management, warehouse fulfillment, CRM, customizable web design, integrated M-commerce (mobile commerce) functionalities and many more functions that power an online business.”
It’s important to note that an eCommerce platform is an addition to your company website. Although it’s possible for your small retail business to sell via a custom-built website, it is necessary to have an e-Commerce platform to scale your operation.
Here are six factors to consider as you search for the best eCommerce platform for your small retail business:
The cost of eCommerce platforms can verily greatly, with some free and others costing thousands of dollars and everything in between. Some sites charge a flat monthly fee whereas others charge based on various factors that grow as your business does. Charges can be based on transactions, bandwidth, server storage, apps, and plug-ins.
According to an Inc. article, many sites allow customers to try their sites for free. With that free trial, he suggests, “Shop the features carefully to make sure you actually need what you will eventually pay for and make sure you consider all costs like hosting, extensions and other add-ons.”
2. Mobile Friendly
Usage of mobile phones to access the internet is widespread and growing. A CNBC report found that, “Almost three quarters (72.6 percent) of internet users will access the web solely via their smartphones by 2025, equivalent to nearly 3.7 billion people.” Search Engine Journal reported that, “mobile shopping accounts for 50 percent of online transactions.”
These numbers underscore the importance of selecting an eCommerce platform which is mobile friendly. Such a platform is responsive and its, “content intuitively adapts to whatever device is accessing it to provide the most user-friendly experience.”
3. User Friendly
Ever see the movie Top Gun – “I feel the need, the need for speed.” People have little patience to wait for a website to load. An eCommerce platform needs to be responsive, as well as easy and intuitive to navigate.
A platform which is user friendly and has a good user experience (UX) will keep users on the site. Mobile users are especially sensitive to UX. “4 out of the top 5 reasons shoppers don’t convert are UX-related issues,” according to Iflexion.
Shop the features carefully to make sure you actually need what you will eventually pay for and make sure you consider all costs like hosting, extensions and other add-ons
While your retail business may be small right now, you probably have a vision for growth. Therefore, you need to consider if the eCommerce platform can grow with you. When a platform is not scalable, it may slow down as your business gains more customers and/or products.
This may seem like a no-brainer, but it bears considering as it’s imperative that the platform be secure. No one will purchase from your site if the security is in doubt. They will simply go to a competitor.
Regarding the security of an eCommerce platform, Doofinder says, “In general, the more well known a platform is, the better its security is. You need to check how often they update their software as well as the vulnerability level.”
It’s a given that there will be glitches and headaches. The key is to minimize the time of these outages, as no site means no sales.
Working with an e-Commerce platform provider that offers 24-hour emergency support is essential. The more methods to contact your provider – email, phone, web chat – the better. Knowing your provider will offer support quickly, get your site back up and running, andcan make a stressful situation less so.
Selecting the Right Provider
If you spend enough time looking for reviews of eCommerce platforms, you’ll find a number of them listed as ‘the best.’ Many sites also rank providers by features. Inc. rated Shopify the best for small business. It “seems to provide the most for the small business that aspires to be something more.”
Regarding Magento, they said, “[it] is the best eCommerce platform for retailers that are established, successful, and ready to take their sales game online.”
As you consider what eCommerce platform will work best for your small retail business, make sure to consider the reviews, and check out live sites that are using the platform already. Most importantly, make sure each of the factors noted above perform to your expectations.
Small Business Retail eCommerce Platform Factors to Consider
- Mobile Friendly
- User Friendly
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