How to choose the best eCommerce platform for your online business
B2B, B2C, D2C – All types, shapes, and sizes of businesses are going digital. The entire eCommerce market is witnessing steep growth.
The global retail eCommerce sales of 2021 have amounted to 4.9 trillion U.S. dollars and are forecasted to rise by 50% over the next 4 years, reaching around 7.4 trillion U.S. dollars by 2025.
At the same time, US retail eCommerce sales are expected to reach $1.06 trillion in 2022 which is 16.1% of growth.
Thus, no matter whether you are a startup or multinational enterprise being online is pivotal for your growth, and for that, you need a strategic eCommerce platform to gear up.
In this article, you’ll learn everything about eCommerce platforms, what questions to ask before selecting one and which eCommerce platform works best for different needs.
With our expert insights, you’ll know everything that you need to know before making that right decision that shall skyrocket growth and opportunities for your business.
15 Questions To Ask When Selecting An eCommerce Platform
Deciding on the right eCommerce platform for your business isn’t easy. With so many different options to choose from, there are a lot of important factors that every business owner must consider. Whether this is your first eCommerce platform for your business or you are looking to switch platforms, selecting the right one for your business will play a huge role in its success. In order to make a good decision, here are some key questions to ask first:
1. What Products/Services Are You Selling?
You may be surprised at how big of a role your product inventory plays when it comes to choosing the right eCommerce platform. What you’re selling, how large your inventory is, and the complexity of your products all need to be considered.
Small or Large Inventory?
Those who have a lot of products in their inventory will need an eCommerce platform that can handle this amount and which doesn’t charge by how many products you list. If your business isn’t going to sell many products, you might be able to get away with a more basic eCommerce platform, although you may be out of luck if you later decide to expand.
Digital or Physical?
Those who are selling digital products and services may have their own set of requirements for an eCommerce platform. For instance, some businesses sell digital subscriptions and will need to charge their users on a monthly basis. Not all eCommerce platforms make it easy to charge users on a repeat basis, and it is important to choose carefully. Others may require a system that sends a customer a unique link in order to retrieve their purchased download.
2. How Much Growth Are You Anticipating?
If your business is growing fast or you anticipate growth, you will need to choose an eCommerce platform that scales. It may be difficult to project the growth of your business, but this is critical to your online success. Some online stores become successful and are stuck with an eCommerce platform that isn’t designed to handle this success. While it is possible to migrate from one eCommerce platform to another, it will be easier to select a platform that scales so that you can avoid this in the future.
3. How Much Control Do You Want?
Do you want the freedom to customize your eCommerce site exactly how you would like, or are you fine with some limitations in exchange for ease of use and automatic bug fixes? When choosing an eCommerce platform, you will need to decide between a hosted or self-hosted option:
A hosted solution is where the software is hosted on a server to which you do not have any direct access. The benefits of using a hosted solution for eCommerce are that you have technical support when you need it, and bug fixes are automatically upgraded. On the downside, you are constrained by the platform, and it may not support a specific requirement of your website. For instance, setting up your site to be multi-lingual may be difficult or impossible with a hosted platform.
Self-hosted solutions are those in which the owner hosts their site on their own server. This may cost more upfront, but self-hosted solutions also allow you the freedom to customize your website and support larger and more sophisticated eCommerce stores. If you want to be in complete control, self-hosted solutions may be a better fit.
4. What Is Your Budget?
Many small businesses are working with a small budget in the beginning, and this may restrict what eCommerce platform you choose. It’s best to keep in mind that with hosted eCommerce platforms, there is typically a monthly fee that might be based on how big your catalog is. A self-hosted solution may cost more upfront, but you will be able to control a lot of additional costs by doing some of the work yourself. Big retailers should not skimp when it comes to selecting their eCommerce platform, because cheaper options tend to be more basic and won’t meet their requirements.
When choosing an eCommerce platform, make sure that it supports your business’s preferred payment methods, such as credit card payments. If you want your business to accept credit card payments directly through your eCommerce site, you will need to apply for a merchant account. You also have the option of going through a third-party payment provider such as PayPal or Authorize.Net. Both options have their advantages and disadvantages.
6. Is It SEO-Friendly?
Many business owners make the mistake of underestimating the power of search engine optimization (SEO). If you want customers to easily find your products on the Internet, it’s critical that your eCommerce site is equipped with features that make it SEO-friendly. Some of these features include (but are not limited to):
Use of own domain name
Independent navigation links
Independent H1 headings
Independent image ALT tags
7. How Secure Is Your Site?
Customers need to know that they can trust your eCommerce site in order to do business with you. With a self-hosted solution, any faults with data security are in your hands, even if security is part of your self-hosted eCommerce package. With a hosted solution, the cloud-based provider is the one who is responsible for data security. As previously mentioned, hosted solutions provide this security in exchange for a lot of your control and potentially steep transaction fees.
On the other hand, those who go with the self-hosted solution will need to make their site PCI compliant, with PCI standing for Payment Card Industry. This set of requirements ensures that any business that processes, stores, or transmits credit card information has a safe and secure environment. Some eCommerce platforms are PCI compliant from the start, while others are not.
8. How Flexible Do You Want Web Design to Be?
If you want your eCommerce site to grow, it should have a flexible and responsive web design. Every eCommerce site owner wants to have a beautifully designed store that drives traffic and sales. A generic web design may be fine for those who simply want to have a web presence, but business owners that are looking to increase revenue and grow need to find an eCommerce platform that is flexible. Custom web designs will help boost your online presence and will accommodate the needs of your eCommerce site as it grows.
9. Does It Allow Customer Product Reviews?
Will your eCommerce platform allow customers to submit product reviews? If not, you are missing out on an important part of SEO. Product reviews let your customers generate unique content for your site, which allows it to be ranked higher in the search engines. Even bad product reviews can be helpful to your site because they allow customers to more accurately judge whether they will invest in that product or not. This is why you should make sure that your eCommerce platform allows users to create reviews.
10. What Key Plug-Ins and Integrations Does It Allow?
Before selecting an eCommerce platform, it is best to check out what that platform offers in terms of plug-ins and integrations. Having the right integration solutions for your eCommerce platform will make your business run a lot smoother by allowing information to become more centralized. The list of extensions and integrations
The list of extensions and integrations is vast, and your eCommerce site can stand to benefit from them. Those who are using open-source software can use extensions that were created by others, or they can create their own extensions if they have the skills to do so.
With so many different plug-ins to choose from, it can be a daunting task for any business owner to decide which ones will be the most beneficial to their eCommerce site. Because every eCommerce store is different, generic recommendations for plug-ins aren’t very helpful.
Think over what plug-ins your store will need and check which platforms offer plug-ins to meet your requirements.
Once your eCommerce site is up and running, you will no doubt want to acquire more customers to increase your sales. As most business owners know, marketing is an important part of boosting sales and growing a business. While you may have great products, it isn’t enough to simply hope that customers stumble across them as they browse the web. Before selecting an eCommerce platform, find out what it has to offer in terms of marketing features so that you can successfully market your online store. Here are some things to look for in terms of marketing features:
With all of these features, it is important that you find out exactly what your eCommerce platform can handle. An eCommerce platform may support the use of coupons, but can customers use the coupon more than once? Can a newsletter be sent out to consumers at different frequencies, or is it limited? These are key considerations to keep in mind.
12. How Does It Affect Your Site’s Speed?
Speed is incredibly important to your site’s visitors, and studies show that a slow site loading time will ultimately result in a loss of sales. Some eCommerce websites such as Magento are built with speed in mind because they understand the importance of a site that loads quickly. Other general-purpose websites may not be flexible enough to have both a quick loading time and all the features that you want your site to have. Look for an eCommerce platform that doesn’t sacrifice speed for functionality and vice versa.
13. Is There a Free Trial?
Taking advantage of test trials that eCommerce platforms run is a smart move for business owners. Free trials allow you to see whether or not the platform will be a good fit for your online store and at no monetary loss for your business. Ideally, you probably plan on using this eCommerce platform for the long term, so this isn’t a decision to take lightly. Just like you might test drive a car before purchasing, it would be in your best interest to test out an eCommerce platform before taking the plunge.
14. Does It Support Mobile Devices?
Thanks to the rise in mobile users, an eCommerce site that is mobile-friendly is now a must for any online store. The question that needs to be answered is how your eCommerce software will accommodate mobile users. If your eCommerce platform doesn’t offer features that allow your site to be optimized for mobile, then your sales will probably suffer. Whether it is viewed on a smartphone or a tablet, the platform should have the capabilities to make it mobile-friendly. Creating a fantastic shopping experience for visitors is key to increasing revenue, and this means that your web design must be responsive to mobile users.
15. What Happens if You Need Support?
Make no mistake, you will run into problems at the absolute worst times with your eCommerce site. The success of your business depends on how smoothly it functions, and problems must be resolved quickly so that users are not frustrated. Who will you call when things go wrong? A great technical support team should not be underestimated. Consider these questions:
Is their support team available 24/7?
Can you get in touch with them through online chat, email, or phone?
How many levels of support do they offer? Are all of these levels free?
Can you reach a live person?
Will you need to find answers to your problems from a community of existing users?
All eCommerce platforms have varying levels of support, and you will need to decide how much support you would like when things go wrong with your online store.
Selecting an eCommerce Platform Isn’t Easy
There are many things that business owners must consider before selecting an eCommerce platform. Every business is different and has its own specific requirements, which makes it difficult to recommend just one eCommerce platform. However, online store owners can make the right decision by asking these questions before they select their eCommerce platform.
SEO is way more important for your eCommerce website than you think. Ranking higher in the search engines puts your products in the spotlight. This drives more traffic to your website than your competitors, increasing the number of conversions on your website.
As an SEO-optimized eCommerce website can directly boost your revenue and profits, it’s always wise to select an eCommerce platform that supports you with search engine optimization (SEO) services.
With the SEO-friendly features varying for different platforms and having so many eCommerce platforms in the market, finding the right one with SEO functionality can be tedious.
However, among all the platforms, BigCommerce is quite famous for its potential SEO functionalities. This software as a service (SaaS) eCommerce platform is extremely easy to use even for the ones who don’t know to code. It’s customer-friendly and offers numerous features to provide an incredible user experience.
BigCommerce is flexible with customizing meta information as well as HTMLtags which include titles and descriptions. It also offers mobile-friendly designs, indexing control, built-in 301 redirects, txt file edit access, SEO-friendly URLs, and sitemap features.
All these together make BigCommerce a preferred option when it comes to selecting the best eCommerce platform for SEO.
If you’re a beginner you can also check out Shopify. Shopify offers a range of plugins to include more features – SEO plugins help in improving website SEO. Its built-in social sharing buttons and blogging features make it very easy to create and publish content. By integrating your Shopify store with Google Analytics you can also easily track the number of website visits & sales.
In short, Shopify is a user-friendly platform best suiting for all novice users.
Best eCommerce platform for customization
Customization allows your eCommerce storefront (front- or back-end) to have a makeover for a new look and feel. It may involve designing, development, content changes, or any type of alteration in the website.
Having options to customize — such as cart optimization, blog/product content, and product description videos — improves user experience.
Though most of the platforms support customization, the level of customization varies from platform to platform. In most cases, to customize your eCommerce store by yourself you will need some technical knowledge and the source code.
If you’re technically sound or planning to hire a developer, then Magento can be the best pick for you as it is the most advanced platform for an eCommerce store with tons of customization options.
On other hand, SaaS-based platforms like Shopify are also easy to customize as they offer a lot of options on plugins and themes for you to pick from.
Ultimately, your choice of an eCommerce platform decides the ease of customization of your website.
Best eCommerce platform for design freedom
If you are thinking about design freedom then again the votes go to Shopify and BigCommerce.
Shopify with its powerful features and range of themes brings out the best designs ever. This dedicated eCommerce builder strikes a balance between design and functionality.
Shopify offers free themes with multiple styles and a decent color palate. For eg., the Venture theme in Shopify is available in 3 styles: Snowboards (in blue), Outdoors (in orange), and Boxing (in black). All themes are clean, logical, well designed, and optimized to sell products.
Above all Shopify’s dashboard is full of tips and tutorials to help you build your eCommerce store from scratch.,
Ergo, Shopify is a perfectly reliable platform for established businesses as it is relatively easy for building large eCommerce stores with excellent inventory management support.
With tons of built-in apps, BigCommerce excels in design freedom and sales features. Though it’s not as simple as Shopify, with a little effort you can unravel infinite design possibilities in BigCommerce.
It offers 12 free themes and 100s of paid ones at a range of $145 to $235. Based on your industry and eCommerce store you can narrow down your options to find suitable themes for you. BigCommerce’s seamless template editor and editing tools help in the customization of the layout and its style. The general color scheme comes in multiple shades for each theme.
When it comes to functionality the BigCommerce marketplace has over 600+ apps for you to choose from. Remember, eCommerce website design is the ultimate core of a good user experience. By perfecting your design you drive user experience – leading to sales.
Best eCommerce platform for easy development
When it comes to development, you need to check on the key features of the eCommerce platforms and your business requirements before you pick one to power your eCommerce store.
To help you get going, below are 8 features that you can’t miss while considering easy development.
Responsive design – Platform should offer consistent experience on all devices – desktop, mobile, and other mobile devices.
Product listing – It should be easy to add, remove, update and keep track of all the products on the site.
Promotion management – You should be able to put up multiple versions of the product, run promotions, and change prices as per sales offers.
Content management – The platform should have a dynamic content management system to create and publish blogs, news, and updates.
Cart management – The shopping cart should be easily customizable for a seamless shopping experience.
Checkout process – It must be easy to modify and customize checkout as per requirements. The eCommerce platform must support single page checkout process.
Payment management – Platform must allow multiple payment options such as credit cards, electronic payments (PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay), and other common payment gateways.
Other than these listed features, selecting a platform for your eCommerce website development process also depends on a few other factors such as,
Your technical expertise in the development
Website design and number of products
Complexity of the website
Whether you’re using templates or designing it from scratch
Whether you’re planning to hire a website developer or building it by yourself and more.
Considering all these factors listed above, we have quite a few options that top the criteria when it comes to development.
Each platform facilitates eCommerce websites in all aspects – Design, run and manage – with its own set of functionalities. Again the right fit completely depends on your requirements and features.
Best eCommerce platform for small businesses
Most small businesses are sole proprietorships or partnerships selling products or services online with fewer resources. Building an eCommerce store that is effective and efficient with the limited resources available needs extra caution and consideration. So, before diving in headfirst take your time to identify the best eCommerce platform for your requirements.
Though there are plenty of players out there with their own pros and cons, Shopify and Woocommerce have marked their place among small business owners.
Shopify, a SaaS platform, is ideal for starter stores and small brands. It lets business owners kickstart their online store just like that with its,
a wide range of tools
fully packed plugins
unlimited product listing
integrated payment option.
Its expansive marketplace of 6,000+ integrated apps and 70 responsive themes allow you to add custom features and functionalities to your online store.
“Shopify Lite” is a super cool option if you want to keep things simple by just adding a “buy” button to your existing blog or website.
Moreover, Shopify and Shopify Plus allow you to sell on other social platforms such as Facebook, Amazon, Instagram, and Messenger.
Secondly, the WooCommerce – built on WordPress Content Management System is incredibly easy to use and accessible. You can simply connect your existing WordPress website to WooCommerce like any other plugin.
Being an open-source solution, WooCommerce is highly flexible – so not much technical knowledge is needed and is also free to use. (have to pay for hosting and payment gateways.)
Other major highlights of WooCommerce are,
It allows the addition of extra features if needed
There are a huge range of themes and customization options
No selling limits
It is built on WordPress
Allows unlimited orders & product listing
Has built-in blogging & SEO feature
Best eCommerce platform for fashion and beauty online stores
Taking your clothing or beauty company online is never easy.
Finding the eCommerce platform that satisfies all your needs is what differentiates you from your competitors. With tons of features to consider and an ‘n’ number of eCommerce platform options, the decision process can be overwhelming.
With so many industry players out there, the truth is there is nothing as “the best eCommerce platform”. Everything completely depends on your business needs, resources, and USP.
But, if the question is which eCommerce platform is preferred by successful fashion and beauty brands then the answer is Magento.
Magento is one of the most preferred eCommerce platforms for many of the successful fashion eCommerce business brands across the globe. This platform handles a gross merchandise volume of more than $100 Billion and has 190000 active users.
Why Magento is the best eCommerce platform for the fashion & beauty industry?
Easy to Customize: All businesses have their own fits. Thus, Magento page builder allows you to build your store based on your needs.
Simple Integration: Magento allows you to easily integrate your online store with all social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, and other eCommerce platforms such as Amazon for boosted sales.
Highly Secure: Magento Security includes top-quality eCommerce security features – from encryption to Web Application Firewall.
Search Engine Optimization Feature: SEO is crucial for fashion and beauty brands to survive the cutthroat competition. Magento’s feature-rich SEO options like custom formatting, speed optimization, and SEO tool add-ons help in the better ranking of the site.
Magento CE: Open Source Code version is made available for free for small businesses.
AI-powered Product Recommendations: Magento uses Adobe Sensi’s AI tech for product recommendations.
Detailed Analytics: Magento’s Business Intelligence (BI) helps you get some best insights and find new growth opportunities.
Best eCommerce platform for food & beverages
Online food delivery business has different sub-models of services in them.
Order only service – It acts as an intermediary connecting customer with local food spaces. Similar to JustEat, Grubhub, and more.
Order and delivery service – These websites manage both orders with food establishments and their delivery. Eg: UberEats, DoorDash, etc
Fully integrated service – These are websites of cooks & restaurants. It handles cooking, ordering, and delivery.
The foundation of building the best eCommerce food website is to pick the right eCommerce solution. You’ll require a platform that is flexible, custom-built, with advanced SEO and security options. Based on this, the best eCommerce platforms for you are Magento and Shopify.
Magento and Shopify have come up with some interesting innovations to address the unique needs of eCommerce food websites.
Why Magento for eCommerce food websites?
From large global leaders to small-scale food hubs, everyone has worked out success with Magento.
Mobile Experience: 80% of customers order food through mobile. Magento is mobile friendly and Magento Commerce has also introduced Progressive Web Applications (PWA) Studio.
Business System Integration: Magento supports business systems including ERP, POS, PIM, OMS, CRM, and CMS with effective web APIs.
User experience: Magento 2 offers advanced exclusive features such as site and catalog management, customer accounts, product, and catalog browsing, order management, international support, analytics and reporting, customer service, and integrated checkout, payment, and shipping.
Multiple payment options: Magento easily integrates with all payment gateways.
Visual experience: Magento offers a great variety of beautiful and appealing free and paid themes.
Why Shopify is right for your eCommerce food website?
Shopify is a versatile platform that makes your eCommerce food business simple and easy.
It lets you explore and choose from all available paid and free themes.
You can customize your theme and menu navigation as per your brand’s personality.
You can add limitless products to your store both manually and using a CSV file/ product spreadsheet.
Shopify offers a great online shopping experience with its exclusive features such as detailed product descriptions, live chat, product videos, and more.
The cart can be customized based on the checkout process
Shopify has integrations with major delivery companies to help you with delivery..
It also has a feature to add no-contact delivery for your store and keep customers posted on the delivery status.
Best eCommerce platform for health, sports, and fitness stores
The online fitness, health, and sports market has spiked by 40% since the 2020 pandemic and is expected to rise 66% in the upcoming year. Now is the perfect time to build your eCommerce fitness store and get going.
Creating an eCommerce store can be overwhelming but when you choose the best eCommerce platform, the work is half done. Online fitness & health stores come in all different sizes and shapes. However, the basic must-haves remain constant.
Neat User interface and navigation
Analytics & inventory management
Simple & secure checkout process
Customer support & follow-up
Ease of use & scalability
Price, cost & additional fees
Other than these, the one important feature that is mandatory for an online health and fitness store is content scope.
80% of the time consumers need to be made aware and educated about health and fitness products and services for long-term benefits.
Ergo space for content – blogs, updates, tutorials, and media – is crucial for the success of health & fitness online stores.
Considering this, although all top eCommerce platforms like Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce would suit best for building online health and fitness stores, WooCommerce is our personal choice.
WooCommerce is already pretty famous among all businesses that use WordPress. It gives you an abundance of space to add media content to your website.
Most health, sports, and fitness stores and influencers are sure to have a blog for their business, and the majority of it is in WordPress. By simply using the WooCommerce plugin you can convert the blogging website into an eCommerce store and start selling products.
WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce plugin that adds eCommerce functionality to any website. It is so flexible that it allows you to create a small storefront for pieces of equipment or training sessions to be sold on your health & fitness blog. Or you can also craft your own fully functional and customized website for a range of products and services from scratch.
Above all WooCommerce is totally free to use and its plugin comes with a secure payment gateway – WooCommerce Payments. (Charges apply on transactions). It also allows you to include third-party plugins like Stripe, Amazon Pay and Pay Pal, and other custom features.
Best eCommerce platform for speed and performance
If eCommerce platforms were to be ranked according to their speed and performance, then Magento is the obvious winner.
Magento works on a mission to create the fastest eCommerce stores around the world and is well known for its fast-loading pages.
It can shock you with its power of performance – Using the PWA storefront can accelerate the speed of your website even more to delight your customers.
Developers of Magento have also launched their latest update – Magento 2. It is one of the biggest updates so far with some incredible features.
Flexible website architecture
Intruiging customer experiences
Better business experience
More secure payments
Easy maintenance and upgrades
Above all, 50% faster loading speed.
Users can pick from the thousands of extensions in Magento Marketplace to improve their loading speed, customer experience, and all other needs.
Unlike Magento, Magento 2 includes many technologies to upgrade website optimization and customization. Few notable technologies include:
Composer – It lets you reuse third-party libraries without handling source code, reducing extension conflicts.
NGINX – It works as a reverse proxy, load balancer, and HTTP cache.
Redis – It uses broker and database cache for messages.
Symfony – Improves functionality, makes a website appealing, and content control easier.
Varnish – Boosts website speed.
In short Magento 2 is a holistically better, safer, scalable, and faster version of Magento.
Over and above, Magento is a complete package of eCommerce solutions.
The platform is flexible, scalable, easy to customize, and offers free services.
Gives complete freedom to select the hosting platform.
It is easy to integrate third-party add-ons and modules.
Magento allows modifications without any restriction.
It provides regular patches and updates to enhance security.
Magento 2 comes with customer support based on the version you are using.
The Community is supportive. It helps lost users navigate through issues they have.
Magento SEO is an SEO-friendly content management system.
Best eCommerce platform for D2C and manufacturers
eCommerce businesses have a lot to handle – personalizing the store layout, managing all the listed product information, updating website content, processing payments and online transactions, and more. eCommerce platforms are the centralized hub for all these product, process, and customer data.
Though most of the eCommerce platforms are B2C sales, there are a few good ones for D2C as well.
It’s almost impossible to talk about eCommerce and online sales without mentioning Shopify. In D2C, Shopify is perfect for entrepreneurs and small business owners who don’t have much technical awareness. It is easy to use and offers customer support to help businesses kick start their online sales.
WooCommerce is ideal for D2C business owners who are want to keep things simple and effective without any technical complications. It is also best to choose WooCommerce if you are extremely comfortable with WordPress.
To develop your D2C website by adding your code or customizing the templates as per your requirements pick Magento. The platform is flexible, customizable, highly secure, and meets all extended business requirements.
BigCommerce is a great choice for D2C companies who want a customer-centric platform where you can segment your customers into groups based on various factors like price, product, promotion, or store customer information in separate groups.
Expert support to get started with your eCommerce store
The most pivotal factors while selecting your eCommerce platform is your business goals and customer needs. Instead of being carried away by the overwhelming number of options, choose the right platform that has all the features and functionalities that you need the most. – Never compromise!
The choices might be overwhelming. It’s always good to seek expert help. With 15+ years of eCommerce experience, we can help you get started with your eCommerce business the right way. Contact us today.