Ecommerce has been around since 1994, when Phil Brandenberger purchased the first product online – ‘Ten Summoner’s Tales” by Sting. Fast forward to 2021, an estimated 27.2 percent of the world’s population shops online.
Stats like these just show that in less than 21 years, ecommerce has become an integral part of everyday life for people across the world.
In this article, we will look deeper into what is ecommerce. We will run through and share some important statistics. Furthermore we will delve into e commerce development, platform.
Key Features of an Ecommerce Platform
Any viable ecommerce software will enable customers to buy your products and services from your online store. Where solutions differ is the degree to which they can unify and leverage both front and back-office applications with both their unique and shared data. Ecommerce platforms provide the unification of core business processes, where businesses can gain complete visibility across their company and ultimately meeting their most discerning customers’ expectations. An ecommerce platform should:
- Run on a single, unified platform. Eliminate integrations between separate systems with natively unified ecommerce, accounting, POS, inventory and order management, marketing, merchandising, customer service and financials on a cloud-based platform.
- Provide a 360° customer view. Deliver consistent and personalized cross-channel experiences, targeted marketing and superior customer service with a single view of all customer interactions and transactions across all touch points and channels.
- Intelligently managing orders.Exceed and set new customer expectations for buying, fulfilling and returning purchases, both online and in stores. Maximize profitability by centralizing order management and having a single view of inventory across all channels and supply chain business units.
- Deliver innovative customer experiences. Rapidly create unique, personalized and compelling mobile, web and in-store experiences to differentiate your brand and exceed customer expectations.
- Support unlimited expansion.Quickly deploy sites for multiple business models, channels, brands, countries, currencies and languages all on the same platform.
Choosing the right ecomerce platform
more so than ever before. Not only are you dealing with a more competitive market, but your customers have higher expectations. It’s no longer enough to stock up on the right products, you also need to delight customers and be able to fulfil orders in the fastest, most affordable way possible.
Then there’s the fact that shoppers are increasingly using multiple channels and devices throughout their buying journeys. They’re shopping in brick-and-mortar stores, online, and, more importantly, on mobile. Retailers who want to keep up must be able to provide great shopping experiences across various environments and devices.
It’s a tall order, but you need to be able to deliver if you want to stay competitive. And a big part of doing that lies in the technologies you use in your business. To thrive in today’s market, you need an ecommerce platform that will allow you to deliver on the expectations of modern consumers. You need the tools to sell the right products, provide amazing shopping experiences, and fulfil orders efficiently. And if your existing solution can’t meet those needs, you should find one that can.
That’s exactly what this guide is for. This resource will walk you through the process of finding and selecting the right ecommerce platform. Go through the steps below and incorporate them in your search for a new solution.
1. Reliable base to build eCommerce capability
Different eCommerce platforms offer an option to add new features through the plugin store, while some others offer the addition of features through custom ecommerce development. However, by not opting for custom development, entrepreneurs can put their eCommerce portal at risk of online threat. The reason behind this is, during custom development, new features are added by an experienced team of programmers and changes are made in the rest of the code as well, improving the overall security of the marketplace. Therefore, it is advised to prefer custom eCommerce website development.
Technology is changing fast. Keeping your business up-to-date in terms of technology is essential. Many businesses are using open source platforms, which are free and easily accessible. However, in the long run, they will cost a fortune to maintain and run since you’re dependent on developers to make even small tweaks on your eCommerce store.
With a SaaS (Software as a Service) eCommerce platform, the need for technical knowledge is removed. It becomes effortless to design and build the store, make any small changes, or add any feature extensions.
The global mobile internet traffic is approximated to 48.91% in 2019. This means half of your customers are using smartphones to learn more about products or buy online. This makes mobile-first a crucial factor for your online success.
Fortunately, eCommerce website builders tend to offer mobile-friendly solutions that are designed for faster checkouts and easier transactions. You also have the option to build your own eCommerce mobile app to create a seamless shopping experience for your customers.
Integrations and extensions
Sometimes your online store might require a specific set of features. Integrations help avoid long development hours and connect your online store with tools that are optimized with the right features to serve your customers better.
2. Ecommerce operations
Running a business requires so many technicalities. From managing the inventory to books, the work involved is seriously time-consuming.
- Creating conversion-friendly product pages
Online stores have a slight disadvantage because customers cannot touch and feel the product. They can only rely on product images and descriptions. The ability to add custom fields becomes necessary for listing various specifications and features to offer a comprehensive product page.
The product page should also display verified reviews to help customers long-tail search-friendly keywords that they use to describe the product better. These reviews are indexed by search engines trying to help you improve your organic visibility.
- Categorizing products based on various factors
Cataloging is the main feature of any online eCommerce business. Proper categorization is essential to offer users easy navigation and help them find products easier.
You can list the same product under multiple categories, but ensure they’re relevant and something the customer expects when they navigate to the particular category.
- Comparing different products
Customers prefer to compare the functions and features of different products before making a purchase. Finding a platform that allows comparison between products will be an advantage.
- Real-time order management
People shop online primarily because they can shop at any time. Showing the actual availability of products is important to send out orders on time. Otherwise, mismanagement can lead to delivery dates being affected or orders being canceled.
- Proper inventory management
Inventories are essential for running a business. Without a live inventory, it will be difficult to maintain multiple storefronts. It will cause mismanagement and out of stock products being sold to customers. This will cause issues with timely delivery and customer satisfaction will be hit worst.
- Product Reviews based on user experiences
People tend to research online before buying a product. A study shows 74% of customers consult reviews before making purchase decisions.
- Easy accounting tools
Built-in accounting tools will allow you to maintain your books easier. Invoice and bill generation will also work more efficiently. These systems can often be integrated into the same platform as your eCommerce website
3. International payment gateways
Payments are one of the most essential parts of an eCommerce website. A reliable payment method helps assure customers. With a reliable method in place, buyers and sellers don’t have to worry about returns and refunds.
The third-party involved will take care of all the payments only after a satisfactory deal has been completed. You can use escrow agencies to help you in the process.
- Multiple payment options
Giving customers the option to select from many payment options helps boost sales. Credit cards, debit cards, cash on delivery, wallets, and EMI options are some of the featured payment methods. They allow users to reconsider the purchase even when short on money.
- Including international banks
Banks have to be hosted to be integrated into a website. These banks will redirect customers to their website to complete payments. Once completed, they will be redirected back to the merchant site. Having banks with an international presence helps set up an international business.
- Integration with PayPal and other wallets
International business calls for international payment methods. PayPal allows for the transfer of funds in different currencies. A study has proved that there is a 70%higher checkout rate with PayPal transactions than with non-PayPal transactions. These wallets allow for funds to be transferred directly into your bank accounts.
4. The eCommerce platform should be well within your budget
The next step is to think about how much you’re willing to spend on your ecommerce platform. When setting your budget, be sure to consider the “non-obvious costs” that come with implementing a new solution. Go beyond the on the surface costs like licenses and development, and consider expenses for maintenance, consultation, set up and the like. Here are some of things you should factor into your budget
- Cost of the ecommerce platform– Ecommerce platform costs will vary depending on the business’ size, sales volume, and of course, the solution itself. Some solutions (such as Magento) charge yearly licensing fees while others (like Shopify) require monthly subscription fees. In some cases (such as Demandware) the provider takes a cut from the retailer’s sales.
These are just some of the things that would factor into your budget. Typically, though, SMBs can expect to spend amounts in the hundreds while enterprises should budget at least $20,000 a year for ecommerce platform costs.
- Design and development costs – Building your online store is another expense. SMB solutions often have themes that range from free to hundreds of dollars.
As for enterprises? Depending on your company, you can choose to design and develop your site in-house, outsource the job to an agency, or do a combination of both.
- Maintenance fees – Many merchants end up paying more than expected because they overlooked maintenance when budgeting for a solution. Don’t make the same mistake. You need to think about ongoing development, as well as other upkeep costs such as marketing, integrations, SEO, security management, analytics, and more.
- Transaction fees – Transaction fees may vary from one ecommerce solution to another. You may end up with lower fees by choosing the preferred payment provider of the vendor. Look into each platform’s integrated payments to see if they integrate with your payment gateway of choice or if you can use any of their payment partners.
- Hosting costs – How much can you expect to pay in hosting fees? Again, this depends on your solution.
You could go with a hosted solution and let your ecommerce provider handle server maintenance, updates, etc.
Alternatively, you could choose a self-hosted ecommerce platform in which you’ll need to handle the setup and management of your own servers or find a hosting partner. With this setup, the merchant pays server costs separately.
- Consultation fees (if applicable)– If you’re hiring a consultant, don’t forget to factor in their fees into your budget.
Some e-commerce platforms to consider.
First up, we’ve got Shopify. More than 800,000 ecommerce businesses use the Shopify platform, and since its launch in 2004, they’ve made billions in collective sales.
Setting up a store with Shopify is easy. You can buy your domain name right through Shopify and start building immediately. There are more than 60 themes you can use to customize your store, but be aware that some of them cost extra. If you don’t like any of the premade themes, you can also work with a designer from 99designs to create a custom Shopify theme.
Shopify also offers an enterprise-level platform known as Shopify Plus. The difference is the platform’s power: a store built with Shopify Plus can handle more than 10,000 transactions per minute. You pay a lot more for Shopify Plus, but you get a lot more, too. Shopify Plus offers a few features that large-scale store owners might want, including:
- A dedicated store launch manager who audits your store to ensure it’s fully compatible with Shopify
- A customizable checkout page
- Shopify Flow, a tool that creates personalized storefronts for customers based on their previous purchases
- A more robust analytics system
2. Big Cartel
Big Cartel advertises itself as being for artists and makers. If you’re a creative entrepreneur, keep that in mind—Big Cartel was built to accommodate the kind of business you run, with five images per product and multichannel selling options, so your site goes with you to every art show and vendor fair.
Unlike most of the other entries on our best ecommerce platforms list, Big Cartel offers a free option. It’s limited for sure, but if you’re brand-spanking-new to ecommerce and you have a shoestring budget, Big Cartel’s free option might be your best choice. With it, you get a basic setup with premade themes, shipment tracking, sales tax calculations and the ability to sell both online and in person. These are all things you’ll get with a paid plan too, but for a free option, we’d say it’s pretty robust.
Among the best ecommerce platforms on the web, Magento is one of the biggest. Magento actually offers more than an ecommerce site-building tool; the company brings to the table a variety of products for various aspects of launching and operating an ecommerce business, like order management and business insights.
In 2018, Adobe bought Magento and subsequently launched Adobe Commerce Cloud, a rebranded version of what was previously known as Magento Cloud. It’s a cloud-based version of Magento Commerce that gives users access to Adobe’s suite of ecommerce tools like Adobe Marketing Cloud, Adobe Analytics Cloud and Adobe Experience Manager. Adobe Commerce Cloud is Magento’s enterprise-level offering and, according to the BigCommerce blog, launches often have six-figure price tags.
Any kind of ecommerce business can use Magento’s platform, but it has configurations tailored to a few specific industries like fashion, automotive and food & beverage. With one of these setups, you can build a website that provides exactly what customers want from a business like yours, with features like easy mobile ordering for a restaurant.
WooCommerce isn’t a standalone ecommerce platform; you also need to use WordPress. Don’t worry, WordPress is free—but all your store’s individual components, like your domain name and hosting, are not. The upside is that you’re not locked into buying a domain or hosting from a specific provider, so you’re free to shop around to find the best prices.
WooCommerce is free too, but don’t assume that means running an ecommerce store with WooCommerce doesn’t cost anything. The plugin itself is free, but to run a functional store, you’re going to need additional plugins that can cost anywhere from $25 to $100 apiece. Some themes are free, but more stylish or customized themes cost extra as well. If you’re not tech-savvy enough to do all the backend work yourself, you’re also going to need to hire a developer.
As far as ease of use goes, WooCommerce isn’t as simple to use as a hosted platform like Shopify or Squarespace. But since you’re outside a gated platform like this, there are a lot more ways to customize your store. Unfortunately, those customization options aren’t created equally—you could end up with a buggy, broken or non-secure plugin if you don’t do your homework
Wix is perhaps best known as a free website builder, or even for being very easy to use. That extends to Wix’s ecommerce site builder, which comes fully loaded with premade templates, images and backgrounds. Also, Wix ecommerce is partnered with dropshipping platform Modalyst, so setting up dropshipping is super simple.
Wix’s online store builder also includes tools meant for specific types of businesses. For example, if you’re a restaurant owner, you can easily upload your menu and accept reservations through your Wix website. If you’re a musician, you can add a SoundCloud or Spotify music player to your store so visitors can listen to your work before they buy. Regardless of your business type, you can use any of the user-created plugins available in the Wix app store.
But Wix ecommerce isn’t perfect. It’s simple, but simple often means basic—and compared to other platforms, Wix lacks more advanced features like multilingual stores and the ability to accept Apple and Google Pay.
Squarespace is among the best-known website builders, and that popularity lands it among the best ecommerce platforms on the web. With Squarespace, you’ve got everything you need to build your website, like a domain registrar, hosting and a no-coding-skills-required editor, all in one spot.
Like other platforms, Squarespace comes with lots of free website templates (and plenty of paid ones too). You can also use apps and plugins to add functionality to your ecommerce site, but there’s no actual app store with Squarespace. Rather, you’ll be using third-party apps.
Squarespace isn’t a dedicated ecommerce platform, but instead a general website builder that has ecommerce capabilities, so it lacks some of the features the other best ecommerce platforms offer. This means fewer payment gateways, fewer marketing extensions and more features restricted to the higher-tier subscriptions than other platforms.
The last of our picks for the best ecommerce platforms, PrestaShophas the quite a lot in common with WordPress. Like WordPress, PrestaShop is an open-source program that’s completely free to use. Similarly, like WordPress, the PrestaShop community is full of custom-made templates to download and plugins to install to improve your shop’s functionality. The main difference between PrestaShop and WordPress is that PrestaShop was created specifically for ecommerce, whereas WordPress is a more generalized platform that can be outfitted for ecommerce.
It’s impossible to estimate what it costs to run your store with PrestaShop because you’ll need to buy the plugins your store needs and a template that works for your industry and brand. The costs for these vary widely, so we recommend taking a look at the PrestaShop Addons marketplace and sketching out a rough budget of what the setup will cost before you commit.
Although you have to buy your own hosting, PrestaShop is partnered with two hosting providers, so setting up hosting is a relatively straightforward process. Similarly, PrestaShop offers customer support plans, website audits, optimization services and training on how to use the platform—but you have to pay for them.
Next up, we’ve got Volusion, another hosted platform that offers customizable store templates, add-ons and integration with third-party services and products.
One of the specific features Volusion provides is Quick Wins: affordable services that help you get your store up, running and optimized for profit. Among the services Quicks Wins offers are Google Analytics training, Facebook Pixel installation, SEO-friendly URLs and PPC ad copywriting. Beyond these, Volusion offers larger scale professional services too, like custom logo and brand kits.
Although it’s on the pricier side, BigCommerce compensates with more advanced features at the basic level than some other platforms have at higher tiers (or at all!), such as automated image optimization, unlimited staff accounts, unlimited bandwidth and professional analytics reporting.
Like other ecommerce platforms, BigCommerce’s service is available in tiers, but unlike the others, each of BigCommerce’s tiers have sales limits. For example, BigCommerce Standard’s sales limit is $50,000 annually. If you sell more than that, you have to upgrade to BigCommerce Plus regardless of whether you actually want or need the upgraded tools available at that tier.
BigCommerce stands out as the only one of the best ecommerce platforms that makes it possible to sell tangible goods, digital goods and services without integrating an outside app. Other platforms on our list, like Big Cartel, can be set up to sell tangible and digital goods, but if you’re selling a service, BigCommerce is your best bet.
10. SalesForce Commerce Cloud
Of all the best ecommerce platforms, SalesForce shares the most in common with Magento. Both are companies that offer multiple licensed ecommerce products, rather than being one store-building platform. SalesForce, like Magento, also offers a customer relationship management (CRM) platform as well as marketing and sales products.
Specifically, SalesForce Commerce Cloud is SalesForce’s ecommerce platform. There are two distinct products: one for B2B businesses and one for B2C businesses. One thing that makes SalesForce Cloud Commerce unique is its approach to pricing: instead of charging users a flat monthly fee, SalesForce takes a commission from each user’s sales. This can make running a store with SalesForce inexpensive… if you aren’t moving much inventory. On the flipside, it can get expensive if business is booming.