Quick Guide: Selecting an E-Commerce Platform
:: By Allison Howen, Associate Editor ::
Selecting an e-commerce platform is one of the most important decisions an Internet retailer will make.
This platform will determine the direction of an online business and will play a vital role in its future success. Luckily, there is not a shortage of platforms to choose from, which means that with a little research, merchants can find a solution that will support their goals and help their businesses flourish for years to come.
To ease the decision-making process, check out this quick guide with five tips on what to look for when selecting an e-commerce platform.
Scalability and Pricing
First, merchants should seek out an e-commerce platform that will grow with their businesses. After all, growth should be the goal of every business, and choosing the wrong e-commerce platform could definitely hinder a business’s development. This is why merchants should keep scalability top of mind when searching for a platform.
Take Shopify as an example. Not only does this platform offer a variety of pricing options for businesses of all sizes, but it also offers options for merchants who want to sell online only, in-store only or both. Plus, Shopify allows merchants to upgrade or downgrade their plans at any time.
In 2014, mobile commerce is predicted to hit $50 billion in sales. This means that choosing a platform that supports mobile shoppers is a necessity. Fortunately, many of the top e-commerce platforms know this and are offering solutions. XCart and Ecwid, for instance, both offer shopping carts with responsive design so consumers can view a merchant’s full inventory selection and make purchases on any type of device and browser.
Features and Add-Ons
Of course it is important for merchants to find an e-commerce platform that offers a robust selection of features, like social sharing functionality, SEO assistance and reporting, to name a few. However, merchants should also look for a platform that offers a good selection of extensions, as these enable merchants to add extra functionality to their sites at any time.
Popular e-commerce platform Magento, for example, offers Magento Connect, which is an extension marketplace. Through this marketplace, merchants can customize their sites and add additional functionality like one page checkout, gift card extensions, product reviews and more.
Despite how easy a platform is to use, it is important to choose a company that offers assistance and good customer service. After all, there is nothing worse than needing help at 1 a.m. and not being able to contact a service representative - and remember, an online store is open 24.7. With platforms like Bigcommerce and 3dcart, however, this is not a problem. Both platforms offer round-the-clock technical support with their e-commerce packages. In addition, Bigcommerce offers video tutorials and support articles to help merchants self-serve.
Last, but certainly not least, merchants need to find a platform that will keep their business and their customers’ personal information secure. Doing so will make customers feel more confident in their purchasing decisions and can increase the likeliness of conversions. 1ShoppingCart, for instance, complies with the Visa Cardholder Information Security Program, which meets PCI data security standards. The platform also offers security symbols that merchants can display on their sites to ease consumer concerns.