7 questions to help choose the right eCommerce platformPosted by Jasmine Kurda on Apr 14, 2020. Reading time: 7 mins
So you’re starting an eCommerce business - congratulations! You have an idea, a product or a service - now you need a platform to help you reach your customers. With so many options on the market for selling online, how do you choose the best eCommerce platform for your business?
There are many different options to suit every business, from the side-hustler to large corporations. In our experience, when choosing a platform for your eCommerce business, the most important things to consider are not always top of mind. While you might immediately imagine how your new website might look or feel, there are some important aspects which will determine exactly what you can do that you might not have thought of yet. When looking for the right fit for your business, ask yourself some of these questions:
1: What kind of features do I need for my eCommerce website?
Beyond online sales, it’s important to consider other needs that your website will fulfil to help you run a successful online business. If you have wholesale pricing, you may wish to set up specific price lists or wholesale only sections for clients. If you are a service business, it might be important that you have a client login or help-desk features to assist customers.
Consider your current marketing activity, or think of new ways you might be able to reach your customer base. Are you looking to incorporate email marketing, or do you already have this set up? Perhaps you think it’s valuable to include a web chat on your site to assist customers?
These features can be specific to certain platforms, or an extra cost on others. So try and think of everything you need before starting to shop around.
2: What am I using now that can integrate OR replace any digital marketing programs or activities I’m currently running?
It’s important to look at what you are currently using on your existing website, and do some research on whether you can integrate or replace the technology you’re currently using. It may be more cost-effective to keep what you have in the short term and look to transition further down the line. It will all depend on what your business goals and objectives are.
If you are stuck on the best way forward for your business, you’re in luck! We are the tech experts! Book in a call with us to have a chat about what might work best for you.
3: What kind of support do they offer?
If you’re building an eCommerce store, you might need some help from time to time. If your store has lots of moving parts, you may need an account manager or a technical support person who will be able to provide information and advice as you go. Often this support has tiered pricing.
If you’re looking for free help, check any open-source training materials or developer resources available on their website.
Another thing to note is your time zone - if you need help from another human, will they be able to respond during your business hours? Some platforms will have representatives in different countries and time zones available to assist. If there is a timezone difference involved in accessing support, you may be limited to website tickets or live chat before engaging in a phone call. It pays to do some research on what your options are if an emergency arises in the future.
4: How customisable is the platform?
Depending on the kind of business you run, you may need a more bespoke approach for custom software development.
Features or elements you might think are ‘easy’ to change or include might require a developer to make modifications. If this happens, do you have the resources to do this yourself, or will you need to outsource to another developer? This may end up blowing out your costs. It’s essential to research any ‘extras’ or ‘special additions’ you might need before committing.
Often, extras and additions can be discussed with the platform representatives directly at the time of your first meeting before you sign any contracts. If you think you might need a more unique approach, don’t forget that you can contact us at any time to discuss your website and business needs.
5: How well supported is the software?
This is one aspect of research you’ll wish you looked into if something goes wrong with your online store, due to a hacking attempt or outdated software.
When selecting your online business platform, make sure the solution you choose is up-to-date and secure. Security flaws are always being discovered, researched and patched by developers. A good online store platform will regularly update their software to ensure the most up-to-date security.
This minimises any downtime for your website and keeps your site’s data safe from hackers. Staying updated also means bugs are fixed quickly and your site continues to be compatible with browsers and mobiles.
6: How easy is it for me to get set up?
We think that a website set up should be easy to get up and going, but experience tells us this isn’t always the case!
Often you can sign up for a free trial to see whether that platform will suit your needs. A good sign of whether a platform is user-friendly and quick to set up (in most cases) can be reflected in the kinds of templates available.
Have a look through template examples to get an idea of what a finished site might look like. Consider how many extra features you might need and how much content you already have or will need to produce.
Another great thing to look out for is media galleries - this will help you get your site up and running in no time. If your platform provides a media gallery as part of your subscription plan, that means you will have access to images and video that can be used on your site.
Do you still think that sounds like a lot of work? Let us handle the website set up for you!
7: What about hosting?
There are many ins and outs of online business, and even just getting started can feel overwhelming. If you’re new to the online world and haven’t yet set up a website, you’ll soon learn the importance of hosting!
We can hear you asking: what exactly is website hosting, and why is it important? Hosting is basically renting space on the internet to store data, under the name of your business or website - your domain name. There are many different options out there for web hosting, and many platforms offer this as an add on or feature to eCommerce subscription plans.
Website hosting typically can be billed in monthly or yearly instalments. Most hosting providers include server storage space as part of their plans.
So I’ve considered all of the above questions, now what?
Congratulations! You are on your way to making an informed decision when choosing your eCommerce platform. Our favourite eCommerce tools are Shopify, WooCommerce and BigCommerce. As three of the most popular eCommerce solutions available on the market, they are great platforms to run your store. But how do you choose between them?
Stay tuned for Part 2 of the eCommerce Showdown where we will compare Shopify, BigCommerce and WooCommerce!
Jasmine is Refuel's Project Manager.