Choosing an E-Commerce platform is a lot like buying a car. Are you looking for the expensive high maintenance sports car or the low cost budget sedan?
Review other websites and notate what you really like. Prioritizing your requirements and planning will save you a lot of time down the road. Below are a few deciding criteria to consider, as well as a short list of providers to save you a lot of time and ensure your new online store will be a success.
Decision Criteria for Selecting an E-Commerce Platform:
- Design and Time
- Inventory Management and SKUs
- Setup, Support & Maintenance Costs
Design and Time:
Design considerations can weigh heavily on your customer’s shopping experience and interpretation of your brand. Many solutions will include a limited selection of free website templates, premium templates range $100-200 or custom templates for more.
Your technical skills can save you a lot when launching your store. However many of the leading providers offer great looking templates and do not require technical skills.
Inventory Management and SKUs:
Your expected number of items you sell will be a deciding factor on the type of e-commerce solution you choose. If your online store will carry hundreds of types of items your ability to effectively manage inventory, upload new items and page load speed factor in greatly.
Many of the hosted solutions scale well and have well thought out technology infrastructure to handle peak web traffic during sales and holidays. Many of the open source solutions like WordPress and who you choose to host your site’s content to will require a bit more planning to ensure your store loads fast.
Many popular hosted E-commerce platforms have app stores filled with integration partners that provide additional functions through plugins. These plugins can be anything from Google Analytics, Facebook store, to e-mail marketing. These app store functionalities should be considered, as they will determine your true total cost of ownership for your platform.
Setup, Support & Maintenance Costs:
I highly recommend trying out the free trial for two or three platforms before you make a commitment. Building a beautiful store can take weeks to months depending on the software platform’s capabilities, number or SKUs, and level of online support.
Don’t forget to calculate any ongoing costs including support, or ongoing customizations.
Your E-Commerce Platform Shortlist:
Shopify was my first choice due to being really simple to use, manage inventory, and build your storefront. Mobile and responsive design templates are easy to use and includes additional add-on features including Facebook store and other marketing features through their app store.
Begins at $15/month however you will find that in order to modify certain aspects of the site, and offer coupon codes or enable other app store partner’s capabilities could find yourself spending $30-60+/month.
Squarespace is great for beginners. I found they had really modern responsive template designs, easy to manage storefront and payment integration starting at $8/month. Almost wished I would have explored a bit more as they had many more great looking free templates and functionality for less than Shopify.
Additional e-commerce platforms to consider: Volusion, Big Commerce, Web, Wix
Open Source alternatives including WordPress.org blogging platform or Magento e-commerce platform provide maximum flexibility. They offer maximum SEO control a plethora of capabilities provided by both free and paid plugins (including contact us forms, checkout). However advanced capabilities do require some knowledge or expertise with web design, basic html, image editing and SEO.
Alternatives to building Your Own Online Storefront:
- Pay someone else to build it
- Set up an online store through popular online marketplaces including: eBay, Amazon, Etsy or social marketplaces Wanelo, Shoply, Threadflip, Fancy
Choosing an E-Commerce platform doesn’t have to be daunting. Stick to your requirements, leverage your online resources and remember to try before you buy. Now, set a date to launch your successful online store!
For more details on various marketplaces and web sites to sell on, check out Online Selling Options.