Entrepreneur’s Guide: How to Choose the Best eCommerce Platform

One of the most important channels for your business is the online marketplace. And to enter, you’ll need to create an eCommerce website. You might think it’s enough to have a brick-and-mortar store, but not venturing online means locking yourself out of a profitable market segment. 

Creating an online store requires effort. You need to go through several processes, such as picking the best eCommerce platform and choosing the right hosting plan. Regarding the latter, if you plan to expand and scale up your business, opting for VPS hosting is the best choice.

This article will explore three types of eCommerce platforms and provide a guideline on how to choose the right one for your business.

Let’s get started. 

Why Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform Is Important

You cannot compete online if you don’t have an eCommerce platform. It is the backbone of your online business, and choosing the right platform can help streamline how you interact with your customers. 

eCommerce platforms are software applications that allow businesses to conduct complex front-end and back-end processes such as web design, inventory management, customer relationship management (CRM), and warehouse fulfillment. 

Before eCommerce platforms, businesses had to set up their own online operations manually. These were often costly, unscalable, and difficult to integrate with other platforms. 

With various eCommerce platforms available today, users have more flexibility to choose. For example – whether you want full customizability at a higher price or a quick set-up with limited features but at a far more affordable price. 

This allows even small businesses to join the market and compete with well-established companies. 

Types of eCommerce Platforms

1. Open-Source

Open-source eCommerce platforms enable users to modify everything. This is especially popular for IT or development-focused businesses who want full control over their eCommerce environment. 

Using an open-source platform means you’re responsible for:

  • Making the website PCI compliant.
  • Choosing the right hosting plan.
  • Conducting updates and maintenance. 
  • Solving security issues. 
  • Doing quality assurance (QA) for all aspects of the platform. 
  • Creating additional tools and features.

Because users are responsible for everything, smaller businesses tend to skip this choice and move to the other two. Open-source also requires technical knowledge and a longer set-up time and can be expensive to maintain. 

2. SaaS (Software as a Service)

SaaS platforms erase most of the complexity of running an online store. Here, instead of creating and developing a custom platform, you rent it. All you need to do is pay a fixed monthly fee to cover maintenance, security, upgrades, and server use. 

When you factor in development costs, this is a far more affordable option than open-source platforms. SaaS manages most of the things you would otherwise manually need to do, such as PCI compliance, product updates, security, and hosting. 

Because it’s based on only a single codebase, developers are often concerned about customization and flexibility. However, the application programming interface (API) helps address this concern, enabling users to use non-proprietary coding and staging environments to develop unique designs. 

3. Headless Commerce

This is a Commerce-as-a-Service (CaaS) platform where the shopping cart is separated from the content management system (CMS). In most cases, businesses will use CMSs like Drupal or WordPress to add additional functionality, like the shopping cart feature, to the website. 

SaaS solutions are also often integrated here because of their lower cost and high API flexibility. This allows businesses to only use the features they require for their online store, thus lowering total costs and making it easier to control. 

Businesses can include additional features and plugins, such as:

  • Enterprise Resource Planning to allow data collection.
  • Product Information Management to sell through multiple sales channels.
  • Email Service Provider.
  • Order Management System for inventory management. 
  • Point of Sale to cover payment processors.
  • Other marketplaces like eBay or Amazon

7 Tips to Choose the Best eCommerce Platform

There are a lot of eCommerce platforms, and it can be difficult to choose the right one for your business. To help you choose, consider the following seven tips.

1. Determine Your eCommerce Needs

Before you start looking for the best eCommerce platform, you must first determine the requirements of your online store.

Try creating a roadmap and outline where you want your business to go, and include features or experiences you want to offer. When making this, try separating your requirements into different categories, such as:

  • Front-end – Consider the navigation, search capabilities, and content you want customers to see and how they should be displayed. 
  • Back-end – List all the hardware and software requirements to create a smooth purchasing experience. 
  • Customer management – Craft the necessary aspects to develop and maintain communication with your customers. Features like customer service, email marketing, and 24/7 customer support should be included here. 
  • Product management – Specify your product catalog size and how detailed it should be.
  • Design and security – List all the design flexibility and customization options you need and what security features you expect to have. 
  • Performance and scalability – You’ll want to choose a platform that allows easy scalability. 

2. Consider the Pricing

Next, think about how much you’re willing to spend on an eCommerce platform. There are many factors to consider, some of which are:

  • Platform costs – The eCommerce platform cost will depend on website size and the solution you decide to use. Some providers offer a yearly subscription, while others charge monthly. 
  • Development and design costs – Creating the website itself can be expensive, especially if you hire a designer and developer. Even when doing it yourself, some themes and templates have additional costs.
  • Transaction costs – This fee differs depending on the eCommerce platform. So, make sure to check their payment options and see whether they offer an integrated payment gateway.
  • Hosting costs – This depends on the size of your business and how flexible you want your website to be. For example, VPS and cloud hosting cost significantly more than shared hosting, and other expenses vary depending on your hosting provider. 

3. Look for SEO-Friendliness

eCommerce platforms that have comprehensive search engine optimization (SEO) features will help your online store rank higher in search engine result pages. This makes it easier for shoppers to find your website whenever they search for similar products or services. 

Look for eCommerce platforms that enable you to create your own domain name and blog. Also opt for platforms with features to collect customer feedback and conduct SEO analysis. 

4. Easy Set-Up and Navigation

The next factor to look out for is a platform that is easy to set up and design. So, make sure that the platform provides easy-to-use tools and has various designer-made templates to help you craft your ideal website.

The platform should also have an intuitive interface, allowing you to navigate relevant sections quickly. For example, there should be specific menus for add-ons, plugins, templates, and analytics.

5. Check the Integrations

Choose an eCommerce platform that integrates with social media, analytic tools, and marketing channels. Offering integrations with multiple platforms will make the process of creating and maintaining your website much easier. 

That way, you’ll be able to quickly share any of your content to other channels with just a single click and regularly monitor your website on the go. 

6. Consider the Analytics

It is crucial to monitor your online store’s performance regularly. This allows you to make necessary adjustments so you can maximize profits. 

Look for eCommerce platforms that help you keep an eye on important figures like sales, order amounts, and payment methods, and display them in an easy-to-understand format.

7. Check the Tech Support

There are bound to be questions and sometimes issues when creating and maintaining a website. Find an eCommerce platform with a 24/7 technical support team that can readily assist you within minutes. This is important since unresolved issues can result in website downtime.

Additionally, find a platform that offers chatbots and a FAQ page so you can solve simple or common problems yourself without needing to correspond with a customer service agent. 

Conclusion

Your business website is the backbone of all of your company’s online activities. Therefore, it’s crucial to choose the right eCommerce platform for your business. There are three main types, which are: 

  • Open-Source
  • SaaS
  • Headless Commerce

After learning the difference between them, the next step is choosing an eCommerce platform provider. Follow this seven-step guide to help you:

  1. Determine your eCommerce needs
  2. Consider the pricing
  3. Look for SEO-friendliness
  4. Assess the set-up and navigation
  5. Check the integrations
  6. Consider the analytics
  7. Check the tech support

All that’s left to do is sign up for an eCommerce platform and begin your online journey.

Good luck!