In 1994, 21-year-old college student Dan Kohn made history with the world’s first eCommerce sale. He sold a CD copy of Sting’s album using a secure online credit card transaction.
Since then, the global eCommerce market has grown exponentially. It is projected to cross $8.1 trillion in 2024. eCommerce has revolutionized retail, making shopping easier for modern-day consumers.
So, if you’re thinking of starting an online store or complementing your physical store with an online counterpart – congratulations! You’re about to join the ranks of millions of entrepreneurs who have made the successful leap into eCommerce. But before you do anything else, you need to choose the right eCommerce platform. The right platform determines the success of your online venture.
There are many great eCommerce platforms out there, but they’re not all created equal. Some suit small businesses, while others are a better fit for large businesses. Some require advanced technical expertise, while others are more user-friendly. Some are more customizable, while others come with a robust set of built-in eCommerce tools.
It might be easy to move from Twitter (X) to Threads, but it’s not quite so easy to migrate your data from one eCommerce platform to another! So pick your platform based on your business needs and long-term goals.
In this blog, we discuss the factors to keep in mind when choosing the perfect eCommerce solution for your business needs. We also discuss the needs of small, medium, and large enterprises and which eCommerce platforms are best suited to each.
How should you choose an eCommerce solution?
With many options, selecting the correct eCommerce platform for your business needs can feel overwhelming. It is essential to start by evaluating the requirements, goals, and budget of your business. Consider the following factors when deciding on an eCommerce platform.
There are two types of eCommerce platforms – fully-hosted or self-hosted. They differ in the amount of control and responsibility you have over the servers. For self-hosted eCommerce solutions, you must deal with the installation and updates yourself. This means you have complete control and more flexibility. However, it also requires more technical skills. Example – WooCommerce.
With fully-hosted platforms, the responsibility for management and maintenance of the servers lies with the eCommerce solution providers. This gives you a more scalable and reliable solution but with less control over your servers. Examples include Shopify, Adobe Commerce.
When selecting an eCommerce platform, pricing is one of the first things to take into account. Consider initial and ongoing costs. These include licensing fees, monthly fees, development, maintenance, and hosting costs. Most platforms offer free trials, or you can get a feel for the platform on one of its lower plans. Fast payment gateways, add-ons, PCI compliance, fraud protection, and analytics may involve additional costs.
Integrations and plugins
Consider all the functionalities you need for your business and whether they come built-in or through a plugin. Look for tools in accounting, email marketing, subscription, customer loyalty programs, payments and shipping.
Store design and themes
Today’s consumers want to shop in engaging, immersive environments. Many eCommerce platforms offer pre-packaged design themes, often free. You may also need to pay extra for a premium theme. Opt for a platform that offers design customization options to align with your brand’s identity.
Speed and scalability
Slow load times, frozen pages, and 404 errors are the enemy of your online business! Your platform must deliver a lightning-fast experience even during peak traffic, and as you scale and grow the business.
Functionality and ease of use
Your online store admins need advanced product management features to optimize operations. These include:
- shipping options
- bulk product upload
- product comparison
- recently viewed
- dynamic filters
Order Management System (OMS) features such as order tracking, email notifications, and shipping services are essential. Ensure seamless communication between your OMS and Inventory Management System (IMS). This means customers can be sure items are in stock and ready to ship.
A security breach can damage your most important asset – your reputation. Look at the security credentials of the eCommerce platform you choose. Consider built-in protection and extra security options like monitoring for DDoS attacks, fraud protection, PCI compliance, SSL, and data backups.
Multiple payment options
The platform you choose must provide you with a wide enough range of payment options to cater to your customers’ behavior and preferences.
You can offer your online buyers a personalized experience with the help of AI. Your platform should let you make smart product recommendations based on demographic and behavioral characteristics.
Mobile- and SEO-friendliness
TThe platform you select must support an intuitive, smooth customer journey across touchpoints, with a well-designed mobile experience. It should also have SEO capabilities and the ability to keep up with changes in Google’s algorithms.
Choose a platform that gives you robust analytics and multi-level reports. How well is your store doing? What about each category of product? How is each product within a category performing?
Which eCommerce solution is the right for your business size?
Depending on the size of your business, you will have different needs when it comes to choosing an eCommerce solution. And choosing the right solution will greatly impact your online success. Therefore, depending on the size of your company, you will need different features and functionalities.
If you have a small business, you will often have limited resources and IT manpower to set up and run your online store. You will need an eCommerce solution that is easy to use, affordable, reliable, and easy to setup. You will also need a solution to help you with marketing, customer service, and order fulfillment.
Which platforms will suit your needs?
A popular eCommerce platform, Shopify’s easy-to-use website builder and user-friendly interface make it an excellent option for small businesses. It offers a wide range of free and paid themes and templates to customize your store design. Shopify’s secure hosting, inventory, order management features, reliable customer support, and analytics make it a reliable eCommerce solution. However, transaction fees apply if you do not use the Shopify Payments gateway. In addition, advanced customization may require technical expertise.
WooCommerce is a plugin designed for WordPress websites. WordPress is a free, open-source Content Management System (CMS) that can be hosted yourself. You can purchase or develop design templates and customizable plugins. It is easy to set up and maintain and offers a vast library of free and paid themes and plugins for extended functionality. However, you need to manage hosting, advanced customization, and security yourself. This can be a challenge for non-technical users.
Wix is a good option for non-tech businesses and business owners. Its drag-and-drop website builder lets you create a stunning online store, easily and efficiently. You can choose from hundreds of templates, add features with apps, and sell on multiple channels.
If you have a medium-sized business, your needs will be more complex than those of small business owners. They have more extensive product catalogs, higher sales volumes, and a larger customer base. They need an eCommerce solution that is scalable, flexible, and customizable. You also need a solution to help with analytics, automation, and integration.
Which platforms will suit your needs?
One of the best eCommerce solutions for medium-sized businesses is BigCommerce. Its user-friendly interface with customizable themes makes it easy to set up and maintain your store. It’s an excellent choice for your business if you need something scalable and flexible. Features include inventory management, order management, payment gateways, customer support, analytics, reports, and more.
Shopify Plus is another good fit for this segment, thanks to its wide range of integrated features. It’s also great in terms of scalability and customization options, offering the flexibility to handle growing product catalogs and high traffic volumes, while tailoring your online storefront to meet your unique requirements. Another major advantage is that Shopify Plus provides access to a thriving ecosystem of developers and partners. On the other hand, the platform’s monthly subscription cost can be on the higher side, and certain advanced functionalities are only provided via third-party apps.
Another good option is Shopware, thanks to its robust feature set. It’s very scalable and flexible, offering a range of customization options. Since it’s an open source platform, Shopware allows for the easy integration of third-party systems and extensions, increasing its usability. Additionally, Shopware provides built-in marketing and SEO tools to help businesses attract and retain customers effectively. But the initial setup and customization process may require technical expertise.
If you have an enterprise-level business, your needs will likely be demanding. You have a huge product catalog, massive sales volumes, and a diverse customer base. You need an eCommerce solution that is enterprise-grade, secure, and reliable.
Which platforms will suit your needs?
One of the best eCommerce solutions for enterprise-level businesses is Adobe Commerce. It is a feature-rich, scalable eCommerce platform to help you create and manage your online store. The platform offers various features such as inventory and order management, payment gateways, social media sharing, analytics, reporting, and more. It seamlessly integrates with other Adobe products to deliver personalized experiences for you and your customers. Additionally, it offers extensive customization options and a wide range of extensions for additional functionality. However, it can be an expensive platform and development and customization require coding expertise.
Another good option you could consider is Commerce Tools, well-suited for enterprise-sized businesses as it employs headless architecture, flexibility, and scalability. Its API-first approach allows for seamless integration with existing systems and customization to meet complex business requirements. You can manage large product catalogs, handle high transaction volumes, and support multiple sales channels with this cloud-based platform, making it suitable for enterprise-scale operations. However, it’s fairly complex and expensive to implement, so you may need at least one trained Commerce Tools resource in-house or outsource it to an agency partner.
If you’re a B2B brand, you may be interested in a platform that has features exclusively designed for your sector. Consider BigCommerce B2B in that case. This scalable platform is suitable for handling large product catalogs, high transaction volumes, and complex sales operations, and can suit a wide range of branding, integration, and functionality requirements. Its biggest advantage of course is that it offers specialized functionalities for B2B transactions, such as customer-specific pricing, bulk ordering, account management, and quote generation.
At the end of the day, any of the three platforms could suit you – and would be well worth the investment, based on the functionalities you require and that you get out of them.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform in 2024 hinges on anticipating future needs, scalability, and technological integration. With the digital landscape prioritizing personalized customer experiences, platforms equipped with AI, advanced analytics, and comprehensive API support for seamless integrations stand out.
Businesses should look for platforms that enhance mobile commerce, support sustainable practices, and facilitate omnichannel retailing to ensure a consistent and engaging customer journey across all touchpoints. Global expansion capabilities, including multi-language and multi-currency support, are also crucial for reaching broader markets.
In essence, the ideal eCommerce platform for 2024 is one that not only fulfills current business needs but is agile enough to adapt to evolving digital trends. Consulting with experts like those at Ziffity can help pinpoint a platform that aligns with your strategic goals and positions your business for growth. Contact us today to navigate the future of eCommerce with confidence.