Any current or prospective business owner who wants to offer their products and services online will need to create their own online store. Luckily for them, the internet is flooded with e-commerce platforms that can help them do just that. The problem that merchants face here is not finding one at all, but finding the one that best suits their needs. Here is some advice on how to narrow your search and choose the right e-commerce platform for your business.
Find a Platform Dedicated to E-commerce
One key way to shrink your list of options is to discern whether they are even genuine e-commerce platforms. Some options out there are just general website builders with shopping cart integrations. These programs have their own uses, but they will not have everything you are looking for.
If you are serious about starting an online store, you should instead use a platform specifically created for that purpose. Those types of solutions will provide more features and tools that are designed to help merchants provide a strong and streamlined shopping experience.
Consider the Needs of Websites in Your Industry
Before seeing what each platform has to offer, you should seriously consider what exactly your online store will require in order to give customers a satisfactory experience. For example, a machine parts company may want to sell a variety of replacement tools, pieces, and equipment for machines from a variety of manufacturers. They must find an e-commerce platform that lets them easily sort products in unlimited categories and subcategories.
The needs of one merchant may vary wildly from those of another because of their industry. A supplier of e-cigarettes may feel content with limits on the number of categories they can use. However, this supplier would be involved in what banks would consider a “high-risk industry.” Unlike the machine parts company, they need a platform that gives them access to certain payment processors, who would be willing to handle transactions for “high-risk” products.
Look at Solutions That Fit Your Size
The size of your business may matter greatly when choosing the platform you will use to run it. Certain e-commerce platforms are designed for managing the complex machinations of larger, more established companies — and their payment plans may reflect that. Others are far simpler to use, making them ideal for smaller businesses and first-time entrepreneurs.
However, small-business owners with ambitions to expand should be wary of choosing a shopping cart solution that is too simple. If it limits what they can do, it may limit their opportunities for growth, which may then require a costly and time-consuming transition to another solution. If your business plan involves serious growth, you may want to find one that lets you scale up as much as you need.
Assess What It Will Let You Do — and What It Won’t
Every platform boasts about the many features they provide. You should definitely look at these lists and consider how they fit with the needs of your website — and how they create new possibilities you have not yet imagined. Some features you will want include:
SEO — Potential customers may have difficulty finding your site if your pages are not appearing high enough in search engine results. Find an e-commerce platform that gives you the tools you need to boost your site’s SEO. It should let you customize your URL slugs and metadata, among other elements.
Marketing — Speaking of helping people find your website, you will also need marketing tools to get your name out there. Automated email marketing in particular can help you reach many of your customers and inform them about discounts, promotions, abandoned carts, and more.
Apps and integrations — Even the platforms that consider themselves “all-in-one solutions” may not have every tool out there. That is why they partner with other software developers, who then make their programs available to the platform’s users. The more apps and integrations at your disposal, the more tools you can use to improve your site.
Technical Support — If you run into any trouble while building your website, you will want to be able to reach someone who can help. Some platforms only offer technical support during workdays. Try to find one that you can reach any time you need them.
Assess What It Won’t Let You Do
Knowing what features each platform provides is important, of course. However, comparing and contrasting their offerings may turn up information that is just as useful: the features they do not provide. If you want as few limitations as possible from your e-commerce platform, you must look evaluate each one carefully. Here are some examples of what to look out for:
Bandwidth — Business owners should always prepare for surges in traffic, no matter how unlikely they may seem for a business that is just starting out. Certain platforms will not give you enough bandwidth to handle more than a certain number of visitors. In fact, some will charge you overage fees for exceeding a given capacity — a severe punishment for growth.
Theme customization — Finding a platform with a wide range of e-commerce website themes is excellent. However, using them exactly as they are may not make your website look and function exactly as you envisioned. Find a shopping cart solution flexible enough that you, or a developer if needed, can mold it and shape it until it matches your vision.
Responsiveness — On that note, not every platform offers templates with responsive design. This feature augments your site’s theme so customers can easily navigate your pages on mobile phones, which are simply not the same as traditional computers. More people than ever are doing their shopping on their smartphones, so you cannot afford to be limited like this.
These guidelines should help you find the best e-commerce platform for your website. You will find potentially hundreds of platforms on the internet, and any method for making your selection easier is valuable. Choosing the right e-commerce platform can make the difference between stagnation and success.
Author: Gonzalo Gil
Founder and CEO of 3dcart, a leading online store builder ranked as the best shopping cart software for SEO. As an e-commerce expert, Gonzalo works with businesses of all sizes to help them build their online presence and succeed selling online.