Not all ecommerce platforms are the same, and depending on the type of business you’re running and the stage it’s at financially, you will want to make several key considerations to ensure you choose a platform that is suitable for your circumstances. In this article, you will find out what ecommerce platform is best aligned with your business needs and gain a stronger understanding of the different models available.
With the ecommerce industry rapidly on pace to become a four trillion-dollar industry by the end of 2020, there has never been a better time to enter the fray and compete for some of that growing market share. Shoppers are increasingly choosing to do more of their purchasing online instead of walking into a brick-and-mortar alternative, which is great news for up and coming ecommerce businesses.
What makes things slightly more overwhelming, however, is the fact that there are now a seemingly infinite amount of options when it comes to enabling an online storefront. New ecommerce solutions are being made available every year with the claim that they are better than the others.
So, what do you do? How do you find out what ecommerce platform is the right fit for your business?
The key to determining this answer is to first understand the stage your business is at, as well as what your most pressing needs and goals are. We will help you drill down on what some of the more important questions are that you need to be asking yourself as a business while also teaching you about the different ways you can sell your goods and services online.
Your business is unique, and your current strengths and challenges are likely to be different than your competitors. The same concept can be said for ecommerce platforms, so it’s prudent to know exactly where you are at, where you might need additional support, and then connecting that to a suitable platform that can serve you efficiently in those respective areas.
With that in mind, here are a few questions you’ll want to have the answers to in order to find out what ecommerce platform makes the most practical business sense to you.
Ecommerce platforms offer a different range of capability when it comes to how your products are listed on your website. Some businesses have a very large assortment of products, and several different categories that these products may fall under, whereas yours may not.
You’ll also want to be mindful of how these products are being described on your website. It is best practice to always have detailed and clear product descriptions, with helpful screenshots or images where applicable. You may also want to include alternative ways a customer can interact with your product, like a video, or a 360-rotating image.
Not all ecommerce platforms can offer you all of the above features. Some will only have a maximum number of products that can be included, and limitations on how much stock can be presented.
Make sure that the solution you’re considering can accurately portray your products in a way that meets your interests, and don’t compromise with something substandard.
There’s a good chance that your business is likely depending on various other forms of business intelligence software to help keep things operating effectively. This may include technologies such as a customer relationship management tool, marketing automation, accounting software, and an invoicing solution.
All these different forms of software take time and energy to manage effectively, and when collecting data on all your digital transactions and entering this data into each respective platform manually, it can be an incredibly arduous and often impractical process.
Instead, you’ll want to use an ecommerce platform that can provide a fully integrated experience with all of the applications you’re currently using, so that whenever a product is purchased on your website, that data is automatically being collected and documented without error, and without manually inputting.
It’s imperative to specifically check that the business applications you’re using can be integrated into the platform you’re considering, and avoid falling into the trip of partnering with a platform that says they can do it without a proven track record.
Not all ecommerce platforms are the same when it comes to costs and fees, and if you’re launching a new product or digital business, this is particularly important to make sure you analyze thoroughly before you proceed any further.
There are a lot of varying fees and pricing factors to consider, such as first-step setup costs, recurring monthly fees, cancellation fees, cost per transaction fees, transactional thresholds price tiers, chargeback fees, cost-per-integration, hosting and server fees, and regulatory fees to name a few.
It’s paramount that you know precisely what to expect when it comes to costs and fees and choose a solution that best fits with your budget and with the business model you have. Don’t be too frugal here either; in the realm of digital payment processing, you get what you pay for.
Wherever your business is at right now, chances are, you probably have growth planned for the future. When planning out what you need to do to effectively scale your business, it’s critical that you don’t overlook your ecommerce platform, otherwise you may end up paying significantly more than you should – or worse yet – you might have a platform that simply does not have the capacity to support where your business is going.
There are two key considerations to make in this regard. The first is to determine how your fees and costs may change depending on your business growth. If you’re paying a cost-per-transaction or about to enter a different transactional threshold, you’ll definitely want to weigh out the pros and cons of your current solution or the solution you’re considering.
The second thing to consider is bandwidth. Whether you’re expecting dozens of purchases a day, or thousands, you’ll want to ensure that your platform can accommodate the increased traffic volume, with fast load times and no broken pages – especially when it involves their checkout experience.
Anticipate where you see your business getting to in terms of monthly revenue and number of transactions and find out what ecommerce platform is built to whether those changes and scale cohesively with your business.
Now that you have a basic understanding of some of the requirements you need to consider internally, it’s time to shift your focus on the ways you can actually sell your goods and services online. Most of the solutions available fall under four primary categories:
A hosted ecommerce solution doesn’t always require a setup or hosting on your end – you simply partner with a company that runs on its own propriety system (typically a SaaS company), and the server is managed for you. In many cases, all you need to do is sign up for an account, and your business is as good as activated.
These types of ecommerce platforms are great for businesses who are just beginning their ecommerce business journey, and with no immediate customization needs or integrations. Just keep in mind that this can also be problematic later on down the road, when you want to start to cater your platform a little more specifically to your business.
Self-hosted platforms are similar to hosted ones in terms of account creation and enablement. The biggest difference with this type of solution is that the code is made fully available to you, which means you can make edits to it and apply layers of customization and integrations that you likely wouldn’t be able to with its hosted counterpart. You’ll typically be required to either purchase or rent a server, which means you will be responsible for setting it up, maintaining it, and dealing with any problems with it should they arise.
This approach is highly recommended for larger, more established ecommerce businesses with an inhouse team to build and maintain the functionality and digital storefront.
While a little more niche, online marketplaces (like Amazon, Etsy, etc.) are becoming increasingly popular for retailers and small businesses that are wanting to generate some revenue without being bothered with the implementation of an actual ecommerce platform. What makes an online marketplace particularly attractive is that businesses do not require a merchant account – something that can be a very lengthy and complicated process.
The downside with an online marketplace is that – as mentioned above – they are a little more niche and may not be suitable for your product. This type of ecommerce enablement option also charges you a higher cost-per-transaction, which can be quite significant in the grand scheme of things - especially if you’re selling a large quantity of products.
Finally, businesses that are a making a high enough threshold of monthly revenue and have a large amount of internal resources (typically enterprise companies) to allocate to managing the ecommerce portion of the business specifically may opt to create their own internal platform from scratch. This means that a business can literally build whatever is required, and customize it exactly to their choosing, giving them complete flexibility to cater the platform to their customers.
The obvious drawback with a bespoke solution is the vast amount of time and initial or ongoing costs that go into creating one. A business will be required to create their own merchant account, and complete a detailed and lengthy application process.
With that in mind, however, there comes a certain point when this is actually a more economic option than any of the others listed above, but again – this is generally for much larger businesses.
Knowing both the key needs you face and some of the different enablement options available for your business will help fast-track the time you spend narrowing down your search for the ideal platform, but you’ll still want to make sure you are doing your due diligence and asking the right questions to determine the right fit.
The platform you choose doesn’t have to be the platform you stay with forever. It’s important to set a recurring cadence to be reassessing your businesses ecommerce needs and goals, and aligning yourself with an ecommerce partner who best supports those plans.
If you have any questions about how to find out what ecommerce platform is most suitable for your business, or if you simply have any broader questions about the current payments landscape, don’t hesitate to contact us.