An eCommerce platform is more than just a way for you to present products and accept payments online. These platforms have grown in sophistication such that they now provide a complete, end-to-end experience through the full lifecycle of online shopping. eCommerce platforms now function as a complete business command center from where business owners can control everything from inventory to fulfillment to marketing. In addition to payment processing, the platform should include all of the necessary tools for selling online, including how to build and promote your online store.
eCommerce Platform Features
Let’s take a look at some standard eCommerce platform features, which can be helpful in evaluating which platform is best for your product offerings and business needs.
- Hosting environment, domain name, year-over-year uptime and bandwidth.
- Unlimited API call volumes.
- Website builder with user-friendly site themes.
- An app marketplace or store with pre-built integrations.
- Mobile optimized site, ready to go out of the box, but still fully customizable.
- PCI Compliance mitigation.
- Search Engine Optimization (SEO) features and fully customizable URLs throughout the site to help you rank higher on search engines.
- Basic eCommerce functionality features, including promotions/discounts/coupons, analytics, and product/catalog management.
Criteria for Selecting an ecommerce Platform
As with any commitment to a software platform, it’s important to do your homework before you jump in. Once built, it can be challenging later on for both you and your customers when you migrate your site to another platform.
Prices vary widely, from free into the thousands of dollars. Though eCommerce platforms offer competitive packages, you have to understand the functionalities and features of each to decide whether they’re actually cost-efficient.
However, as with other services available online, the free or lowest-cost options usually leave you in need of add-on capabilities, and these add-ons can quickly escalate and become quite costly.
Before you choose an eCommerce host, decide on your budget for:
- Web design — do it yourself or outsourced.
- Programming and functionality — do it yourself via drag and drop features or outsourced.
- Monthly hosting fees.
- Custom app creation if it does not exist as an add-on in the platform.
Typically, all-in-one hosts offer packages that include several of these features, so you will not need to look outside of the platform if special features or designs are needed.
2. Social media marketing and audience development
A platform’s marketing features are also important in order to promote your store and find customers. Most eCommerce platforms offer built-in integrations with Facebook and Instagram, so you can market to users directly in their news feeds or main accounts.
3. Number of products
A wide assortment of physical products, or perhaps a significant number of variants of your basic product line, usually means higher costs. This is because some eCommerce platforms have limits on SKUs, so companies with large catalogs generally pay more to host additional product pages.
4. Room for growth
You want an eCommerce platform that will grow with you, one that can accommodate your needs as your business scales up. You may not have an idea of how much traffic your site will attract three months from now, or even one year from now. If you’re focused on your growth, your eCommerce business could scale rapidly and you want to know that your platform will be able to accommodate increases in traffic and sales without having you break the bank to afford it.
5. Customer service options
As shoppers, we enjoy a speedy, personalized customer care experience. Likewise, as an eCommerce business, you would want the same for yourself. You’re inside an eCommerce solution every single day.
Choose a platform for which you can get a hold of a real-life person to assist you with a problem, whether that be through phone support, email or chat. Make sure that the ability to keep records of these customer care interactions is possible, too, for they can help in the future when you encounter the same or similar issues with the platform.
Jake Wengroff writes about technology and financial services. A former technology reporter for CBS Radio, Jake covers such topics as security, mobility, e-commerce, and IoT.