When it comes to choosing an e-commerce solution, you could take the easy route and simply provide a long list of platforms to go and try, but that is not going to help anyone – every business will have its own individual requirements and needs.
Before diving into the world of e-commerce platforms, there is a lot to consider. Not only will it give you a better idea of what to look for, but it will focus the search on relevant packages, instead of trawling through the hundreds of available options,
1. Marketplace or site?
One of the first questions you should ask is whether you want to host your shop on an online marketplace, like ebay or Etsy, or have your own site. The answer should come from the type of product you’ are supplying, as well as how big your budget is, and what you are looking to get out of a site.
If you are not a computer whizz, it might be easier to go for platforms with a wide range of pre-designed templates, and easy customisation options, especially if you don’t want to go through the hassle (and expense) of hiring a designer to help you out. For those who know what they are doing behind the scenes, there is a wider range of options, especially when it comes to personalising it. But be careful not to set too big a challenge – an online shop should be making your business money, not taking up all of your time.
The country you are based in will also have an impact on what site you should go for. Many US platforms will make it harder to sort out tax and VAT for UK-based merchants, so check this out before committing to anything.
4. Your product
The type of product you are selling will have a huge impact on what kind of platform works best. If you are frequently updating a product list, a solution that enables easy data importing is vital, whereas if the product rarely changes, a simpler platform will do.
5. Its importance
The importance of an online shop to a business will be another major factor to consider. If you have a physical store and your online version is for customers further afield, it is not as important to get set up immediately. Decide how many conversions you expect to get on average, and then spend the appropriate amount of time and money on an online shop.
6. Your budget
The variety of available platforms ensures that even businesses with the smallest budgets will be able to find something suitable. If your budget is limitless, then hire a web design team and start your site from scratch.
7. The platforms popularity
Although you want your site to look unique to you and your business, using a popular platform will be a great advantage to customers. A platform used by a huge range of companies will lead to a better user experience – customers will know their way around a site’s layout and more likely to trust it.
8. Automatic emails
Most platforms will have this as a feature, but double check it. It might not be something you want – but will give the customer peace of mind knowing they will receive communication after an order.
9. Shipping preferences
Some platforms have delivery options set up, but others require the user to manually insert a preferred choice of courier. Decide which will suit your business and your customers best, and work to find a solution that fits best.
Many e-commerce solutions have a range of options to choose from when deciding on personalisation. Check how easy templates are to customise, and whether HTML can be rewritten. The easier and simpler it is to customise, the better: you want your store to look like yours, but without spending all of your valuable time on it. Make it as easy to navigate as possible and it will increase the user experience.
Some e-commerce solutions will include their own range of search engine optimisation tricks, and allow you to install Google Analytics. While a lot of your marketing will have been agreed, having a platform that tracks users and works well in the search engines will set you off on the right direction.
If you are planning on expanding across different countries, adapting your site for language, shipping and currencies is vital. Some e-commerce solutions will host your shop in a variety of languages, meaning customers abroad will be able to get involved without having to run to translation tools.
13. Mobile use
Having a site that is mobile-friendly is something else you need to consider: some platforms offer this service, so if you think your audience is likely to browse for your product on a phone or tablet, ensure that you are using a solution that will enable mobile-friendly shopping.
14. Data management
Whether stock lists or customer details, figure out the most efficient way for you to control your data. Do you want a quick upload button, or are you happy doing more of it manually? Have a browse through a couple of platforms to get a taste for the available options.