Things we consider when helping you choose your platform
Building an eCommerce business is more than just simply putting up your product listings on the web. It is far more complicated than you actually imagine. Just like running a physical retail, or a production facility, the same level of strategic thinking and planning also goes into building and running your eCommerce business.
And if you get this fundamental spot on, then you can take advantage of the digital environment where you can automate and streamline many of the tasks and activities that would have required human intervention.
But when it comes to selecting an eCommerce platform, you have to remember that your eCommerce site will dictate the following 4 things:
Growth: How quickly your business is able to grow?
Running costs: This includes the cost of building your eCommerce platform and ongoing development and maintenance costs.
Customer engagement: How you can control how your customers interact with your business.
Objectives: The right eCommerce platform will enable you to deliver the service you set out to achieve.
It is important for us to point out that many eCommerce vendors tend to focus on “skin” deep issues like design, UX branding and content. But the real eCommerce issues are found within the business process, customer engagement and lead generation. All these processes can help you determine whether you’re making a healthy ROI on your eCommerce platform.
What is the best eCommerce platform?
Selecting an eCommerce platform based on their popularity is not the best way. The truth is, the best eCommerce platform is the one that successfully delivers the outcomes and objectives that you have set for your business.
These goals can be simple things like an increase in revenue, improving customer engagement or entering or creating a new market. Or they could be complex where you have many stakeholders involved that have conflicting objectives. This is where strong leadership is required to get everyone on the same page; without it, your eCommerce project will struggle to take off.
Also, the right eCommerce platform should fit well with the current technical expertise of your team. For example, if you select an eCommerce platform that is extremely popular but has a high barrier to entry, this will not sit well with a team who have a low technical expertise. In this case, you will have to draft in a technical team to assist you towards your end-goal.
Another factor that can determine your choice is your business’s competitive landscape. If you compete in a fast-paced industry, where you’re bound to encounter a plethora of technological disruptions, then you’ll need a platform that can move and adjust at the same speed as your business.
Pro tip: Understand your business goals in detail before you begin your search for a platform. Find out what is possible and what impacts that change will have on the people, clients and vendors you deal with.
1. Build your own platforms
While this is more of a method than a type of eCommerce platform, it requires you to contract someone either internally or externally to develop it. As mentioned earlier, this is less common nowadays. But if your business is very niche and has a specific set of needs and requirements that none of the commercial eCommerce platform can offer, then this might be your only option.
2. Traditional platforms
With this type of platform, you purchase a licence fee upfront, which you renew annually. Your IT team and team of developers will then build and customise on top of the platform and then install it either on-premise or into the cloud.
3. Open source platforms
Similar to traditional platforms where you follow the same development procedure, the main difference is that you don’t incur an upfront cost in purchasing a license. However, you do have to pay for initial development, implementation, ongoing development, upgrades and migration.
4. Cloud platforms
Cloud platforms are a little murky. Some traditional and open source platforms have bolted onto a hosting system and now call themselves cloud platforms.
5. SaaS platforms
eCommerce platforms that are provided as SaaS are generally built on a single codebase. Everyone who utilises an eCommerce SaaS platform experience the same technology for a fixed monthly fee that covers server use, maintenance, security and upgrades.
Why cloud-hosted and SaaS eCommerce platforms aren't the same
Many often assume that a cloud-hosted platform is a SaaS product. That is not true. Many cloud-hosted platforms are just legacy platforms that are hosted on a cloud platform that still requires you to undertake maintenance and install upgrades, similar to traditional and open source platforms.
And also, when you use a cloud-hosted eCommerce platform, you still need to go through initial development and customisation as you would with traditional and open source platforms, so you need to resort to technical assistant to carry out this work. But once this has been complete, the platform is pretty much yours.
As for SaaS platforms, you’re not required to maintain either the cloud-based hosting provider or a physical server. You just pay a monthly subscription to access the already developed software application through your browser. And unlike cloud hosted solutions, you don’t have to worry about maintaining the software, because the SaaS provider maintains it for you.
What are the costs to build, maintain, and update your eCommerce platform?
In deciding on an eCommerce platform, a lot of people tend to underestimate the actual costs of running an eCommerce site. While the initial build and development costs are obvious, but there are other costs you need to keep in mind:
1. Maintenance costs
If you decide to go for a traditional/open source platform, then it is your responsibility in looking after maintenance so your eCommerce site performs to its requirements. And depending on the size and complexity of your eCommerce site, these maintenance costs can vary and will require you to hire technical help. With SaaS platforms, on the other hand, maintenance is taken care of in exchange for the fixed monthly fee.
2. Upgrading costs
Open source platforms, in particular, require you to download and install updates whenever they are released. If you don’t install these updates in time, then your platform is at risk to hackers and cyber attacks. Installing these updates does require some level of technical knowledge, so again, you will need to hire outside help. With SaaS platforms, just like maintenance, any updates are covered in the monthly fee.
3. Adding new features/improvement costs
Consumer behavior changes over time. That’s why you need to ensure your eCommerce site maintains its relevancy by implementing improvements and adding features whenever it is required.
4. UX changes costs
Besides adding features and improvements, you might have to change the overall user experience of your eCommerce platform. Again, this comes down to changes in consumer trends and behavior. If your current eCommerce becomes too rigid, then you might have to replatform onto another system that allows you make these UX changes - this can be a costly affair.
What factors do we consider when helping you select an eCommerce solution?
Besides looking at development and operating, there are other factors that you need to consider when selecting your eCommerce platform.
1. Vendor experience and expertise
We check to see if the vendor actually has the experience and the technical skill set in meeting the needs and complexities of your requirements. And also, check to see if they have both the knowledge and the experience of working with your industry.
We take the time to research case studies, customer reviews and forums to see if the vendor is well equipped to handle more than just development.
When things go wrong, and believe us, things can go wrong, will the vendor provide you with the necessary support to help you resolve the problem or issue? We always look out for vendors that provide 24-hour emergency support and can be contacted through different channels including email, web chat and by phone.
As your business grow, will your eCommerce platform grow with you? Your eCommerce platform is the central hub of your business. A platform that is difficult to scale can hinder the growth of your business.
eCommerce platforms that come with comprehensive SEO features will enable your eCommerce site to rank highly in search engine results. Important factors to consider when looking for an SEO friendly eCommerce platform include:
Adding a blog to your eCommerce platform
Using your own domain name
Allowing customers to leave reviews
A platform that is mobile-friendly is a must. A report by BigCommerce predicts mobile commerce in Germany, the US and the UK will make up a third of all retail eCommerce sales.
Perhaps the most important thing to consider is security. Since eCommerce is a digital platform that is actively taking financial payments, you want to make sure your eCommerce provider has the necessary security protocols in place.
Consider the client experience when selecting an eCommerce platform
How you deliver your client experience will influence the success of your eCommerce initiative. One critical factor that determines client experience is the user experience (UX) of the eCommerce platform.
A platform that is user-friendly and intuitive can improve user-satisfaction and help your team achieve their objectives. This is why it is crucial to know if a UX of your platform reflects your company needs.
But besides the user-friendliness, client experience nowadays also heavily relies on the flexibility and adaptability of a platform. Since we are deep into the IoT-era, we’ve witnessed so many technological disruptions with likes of voice assistant devices, smart refrigerators, and smart wearables. eCommerce platforms must readily adapt to these changes and innovations, but do so without causing a headache to your team.
Plus, personalisation is now a major component of client experience. eCommerce platforms must be able to integrate with artificial intelligence and machine learning tools to be able to understand consumer patterns of individual customers and use this data to deliver a personalised service.
12 must-have features when choosing an eCommerce platform
Every eCommerce platform has their own set of unique features and functions. But for your business, you need to make sure your eCommerce platform has these following features.
1. Robust catalog
Your product catalog represents the heart of your inventory. Check to see if the catalog is easy to update and intuitive. But more importantly, check to see if the product catalog meets the requirements of your sector. For example, if you work in the fashion or clothing sector, your product catalog must come with a feature that allows your customer to select a size or colour of a product. Additional examples include product bundles and cross-linking between product pages.
2. Flexible pricing
You’ll want to easily run promotions, sales or discounts -- but that’s not all. Support for multiple currencies is another consideration, while you may also want to charge different fees for different geographical locations.
3. Website personalisation
Online buyers now want a personalised experience. Look out for eCommerce platforms that come equipped with a recommendation engine that sends personalised suggested items-to-buy to the customers based on their previous purchases and product they’ve been searching for.
4. Flexible shipping
Shipment demands have changed drastically in recent years. Customer wants things to be delivered on the day of purchase or the next day. Ensure the platform is well-supported by a decent distribution and logistics company.
5. eCommerce analytics
There’s a range of vital eCommerce metrics and KPIs that you should be monitoring, and a built-in analytics system is the perfect way to do that. Thankfully, most eCommerce platforms have their own analytic platforms. For those that haven’t, or if you want to gain access to more in-depth analytics, then you need to be able to sync or integrate the data from the eCommerce platform with another analytics platform.
6. Google Merchant integration
Google Merchant allows businesses to upload and maintain product information so it can be displayed in the relevant Google Shopping results. It helps to drive more traffic to your product listing page. Having this feature is hugely beneficial to reach customers beyond the borders of your website.
7. Facebook integration
An integration with your Facebook business account allows you to sync your products to Facebook, Instagram, and Facebook Messenger. After you create a catalog, you can use it for different business use cases such as displaying products in a collection ad or tagging products on Instagram.
8. Customer review system
Built-in customer review systems — or third-party integrations that allow for customer ratings and reviews — can greatly impact your conversion rate. In fact, one study revealed that positive reviews increase trust for 72 percent of consumers, while Millennials in particular trust user-generated content 50 percent more than any other media.
9. Automatic tax and account calculation
If you’re a global eCommerce business, then you need to abide tax laws of different countries alongside their currency requirement. Failure to abide by tax laws can lead to a high-profile legal action.
10. Multiple payment gateways
Having multiple payment options which include PayPal, credit card, and debit card has proven to increase conversion. Plus, if you’re planning to grow your eCommerce store internationally, you’ll want to use local payment gateways to gain the trust and custom of local markets.
11. Single customer view
This feature enables you to track your customers and their communication across every channel. It also allows you to see what they are buying too.
12. Headless commerce
Commerce sales expected to rise from both voice-assistant devices and smart wearables. You need a platform that enables you to deliver eCommerce activities to various touch points. And you can only do this with headless commerce.
5 common mistakes to avoid when choosing an eCommerce platform
Here are the most common mistakes we see people make when choosing an eCommerce platform:
1. Investing in clunky monolithic platform
An eCommerce platform that is built on a rigid monolithic infrastructure leads to slow and sluggish performance. Plus, if you want to update a small component of your platform, you would have to deploy the entire system, which can result in lengthy downtimes.
Instead, you should choose an eCommerce platform that is built on a micro service architecture which is easier to update, upgrade and manage since all the individual components operate individually and communicate with each other via API calls. This leads to a more efficient experience for both your team and your customers.
2. Choosing a platform that’s hard to scale
A platform that is hard to scale harms the growth of your business. Main reasons why some platforms lack scalability is because they do not support multi-tenancy and multi-site and they rely on either local servers or poor infrastructure.
3. Too many features
This also relates to scalability where you invest in a platform that has way more features than you actually need. Not only are you getting a poor value for your buck, but you’re paying for features that you are not using.
Choose a platform that meets the minimum “must-have” requirements but allows you to add new features and capabilities as your business grows. This helps to keep your spending inline with the growth of your business.
4. Having no objectives
Very early on in this guide, we mentioned how crucial it is have set your objectives before you go and choose an eCommerce software. If you don’t have pre-defined objectives at the very beginning of eCommerce selection process, you will end up wasting a lot of time and you might end up choosing the wrong eCommerce platform.
5. Customising the wrong way
Many brands choose a rigid platform, and then try to customise their internal systems and requirements to fit the platform. But if you know what your requirements and goals are, you should be able to pick a platform that fits your brand for the most part — and is flexible enough to be customised for everything else.
Need help with selecting your platform ?
Contact us HERE