If you are planning to open an online store, one of the biggest choices you will have to make is which eCommerce platform to use. There are a variety of factors that can weigh into this decision including ease of use, integrations, and pricing. In this post, we’re going to look at the factors you need to consider when choosing an eCommerce platform, along with a few popular options you can choose from.
Factors to Consider When Choosing an eCommerce Platform
First of all, let’s look at the factors that can weigh into the decision when choosing the best eCommerce platform for your business.
What You Are Selling
What you are selling at your business can determine what eCommerce platforms you can or cannot use. Some eCommerce platforms are built to handle both digital and physical products, while others are only set up to handle one or the other. Some eCommerce platforms will allow you to have unlimited products, while others will charge based on number. Some eCommerce platforms will handle inventory tracking and multiple product options, while others will not. So first, you’ll need to define your product options.
- Are your products digital or physical?
- How many products do you have for sale?
- Do you need to track inventory?
- How many options do you have per product (sizing, colors, etc.)?
- How do you handle shipping?
- Do you also sell your products offline?
Also note that certain products (adult, alcohol, etc.) are not allowed by some ecommerce platforms. You will need to read the Terms and Conditions to find out if a platform you are considering allows you to sell those products.
Your Hosting or Theirs
The next thing you have to decide is if you want your store hosted on your own website or on the eCommerce platform’s. While hosting your store on your own website will allow you the most control, it also requires the most maintenance and security as you will be responsible for protecting your customer’s data and keeping the software up to date and functional.
This is why many small businesses choose to have their stores hosted by reliable ecommerce platforms. Most will still allow you to use your own domain (yourstore.com vs. yourstore.platform.com). Be sure to look at the features your ecommerce platform has to offer when it comes to hosting options and custom domain usage.
How would you like your online store to look? Most eCommerce platforms come with prebuilt themes to choose from – some designs can be used for free, while others must be purchased. Some platforms also have recommended developers that can help you create a custom theme for your business. Decide whether you are comfortable using someone else’s theme, if the platform has a theme you will like, or if you will want a custom designer.
Integrations with Tools You Already Use
Are you already using QuickBooks for accounting, MailChimp for your email marketing, Ambassador for referral marketing, or other specific tools? Many eCommerce platforms come with integration options with these and other services for the management of your accounting, marketing, customer service, inventory, social media, and reporting. See if the services you already use recommend a specific eCommerce platform, or if the eCommerce platform offers integration options with your favorite services.
Do you prefer that your customers pay via PayPal, Strip, Authorize, or other specific payment gateways, like the ones Kabbage uses to qualify you for financing? If so, make sure that the eCommerce platforms you are considering use them as well.
Features and Pricing
Pricing for various eCommerce platforms may seem competitive, but you have to really have to examine the features different price ranges include. For example, you may be comparing one platform that starts at $29 per month, and another that starts at $19. The $19 one on the surface may seem like a good deal, but it may only include the ability to sell 10 products whereas the $29 per month platform may include the ability to sell 100. One platform may allow you to offer discount codes at a certain price point, while another won’t. One may offer support, while another sells that separately. Thoroughly comparing features vs. pricing can help you choose a platform that fits your needs at the best price possible.
Also remember that the features and pricing page may not contain all of the actual fees for the eCommerce platform you are evaluating. Some platforms also have setup fees, processing fees in addition to what your payment gateway charges, fees for integrating with the services you already use, fees for the themes you might want to use, and other charges. Carefully look for those additional fees, especially in the themes, apps, and terms and conditions to find them.
Ecommerce Platform Comparison
Now that you know what you’re looking for, here is a brief eCommerce platform comparison for your review.
- Shopify: Popular eCommerce platform that allows you to create beautiful storefronts hosted on Shopify. Offers a wide range of themes and apps / integrations with popular services. Also has POS for physical stores. Pricing starts at $29 per month for unlimited products.
- Magento: Offers scalable solutions for small businesses that want hosted storefronts to enterprise customers. Magento Go (hosted solution) pricing starts at $15 per month for 100 SKUs. Community edition (downloadable to your own web server) is free. Enterprise edition pricing is unlisted.
- BigCommerce: Hosted eCommerce platform for both small businesses to enterprises. Pricing starts at $34.95 per month for unlimited products.
- InfusionSoft: Mostly known for CRM management, sales automation, and marketing automation, this platform also has an eCommerce option. Pricing starts at $299 per month.
- Selz: New eCommerce platform that lets you sell through a hosted storefront and embeddable widgets. Unlike the above options, they have no monthly pricing. They simply take a commission of 5% + $0.25 of the transaction amount.
What eCommerce platform do you use, or are you considering, for your business and why?