Are you starting an e-commerce business? Or maybe you are planning to migrate your store? Sooner or later you will face the dilemma of which e-commerce platform is best for your online store. In this article, I will introduce the main types of e-commerce platforms and talk about their advantages and disadvantages.
Prospects for the e-commerce market
As statistics show, year after year the global value of e-commerce is growing steadily. For online shopping customers still prefer to use desktop computers, although more and more transactions are carried out using mobile devices. It should be remembered that smartphone models with increasingly larger screens are regularly appearing on the market, which makes it easier to shop using mobile.
Some questions to answer before choosing an e-commerce platform
Before you start an e-commerce business, you need to prepare a business plan. It is also important to know the competition you will face. We have prepared a few questions that you should answer before deciding on an e-commerce platform for your online store:
- Who are your target customers? - Are they women, men, young or old?
- How do you want your customers to find your online store? - What should convince them to use your services?
- What is important to your customers? - Don't look at your business through the prism of your own person and your needs, you need to take on the role of your customers and start thinking like them.
- What do you want your market to be? - Do you plan to sell on the local market, all over the country, or maybe all over the world.
- What do you plan to sell in your store? - Some products may require special features and solutions.
- How fast do you want your business to grow? - What growth rate do you assume for your online store?
- How much do you plan to spend on running costs? - This question covers both the cost of purchasing or building an e-commerce platform as well as its ongoing maintenance and development.
- What are your short- and long-term goals? - What direction do you want your business to go in, do you plan to grow it?
You need to know about the fact that most e-commerce platforms are very similar to each other. However, the differences lie in details that may be invisible at first glance, but may bring your business a number of benefits in the future. Therefore, you need to think ahead and assume what functions may be useful to you in the future. It is important that the platform provides wide possibilities of development and integration with other tools.
What functions should an e-commerce platform have?
Not all e-commerce platforms are suitable for the characteristics of your market. It's important to know what features you need in order to successfully develop your store. Below we have prepared a few features that we think a well-equipped e-commerce platform should have:
- The ability to personalize prices - setting different prices for different customers should be possible. This may be due to the size of the orders, their frequency or the type of products purchased. Therefore, the e-commerce platform should be able to support different pricing models, regardless of their complexity.
- Setting a minimum order size - if you want to manage margins properly and take care of the profitability of your business, then you need to be able to set a minimum order value for all or selected products.
- The ability to register for customers - this is a very important feature for an e-commerce business. This feature also allows you to track the orders of individual customers and target them with personalized promotions. It also allows you to introduce different price levels, based on previous cooperation with customers.
- Advanced search engine - online stores usually have a very wide assortment, so it is important for customers to be able to easily and conveniently search for specific products. It should have many useful filters.
- Extensive billing function - the billing process should be created in such a way as to facilitate shopping on the one hand and reduce the percentage of abandoned shopping carts on the other.
Types of e-commerce platforms
Before you choose the right e-commerce platform, you should learn about their types and what advantages and disadvantages they have.
These platforms are maintained in the cloud of a particular company and are provided as a monthly subscription. So, as a store owner, you don't have to invest in a server. In this case, you get a fully ready-made platform at your disposal, which you can customize to some extent according to your needs. As a rule, there are ready-made templates and modules that allow you to change the appearance and functionality of the store. This platform is mainly dedicated to small stores, having a modest assortment.
A characteristic feature of Open-Source platforms is their great flexibility and the possibility of any modification. As a store owner you have full access to the code, so you personally decide what modules and tools will be installed. However, this requires appropriate technical knowledge and usually involves cooperation with an interactive agency or hiring a programmer. It is also necessary to choose an appropriate hosting, which will determine the speed of the store.
Platforms on a paid license
This type of platform is designed for the largest online stores, because it involves incurring considerable expenses. However, it gives you access to the most advanced software that allows you to process many orders simultaneously and gives you access to numerous tools. The platform on a paid license also ensures the speed and stability of store operation. Thanks to many additional functions it can be freely developed.
This type of platform may be based on ready-made CMS or written especially for a given store on the basis of modern frameworks. As a store owner, you place an order with an interactive agency, which will prepare a store for you. This will involve high costs and continuous cooperation with the agency's employees. In this option, you do not have the opportunity to use ready-made modules, because each functionality must be created from scratch. However, it gives you the opportunity to create a unique platform that will stand out from the competition.
Additional questions to help you choose a platform
If you're still not sure which platform is best for your store, the following additional questions might help you make a choice:
- What kind of store do you need?
- How many products do you want to offer?
- How much traffic will your store generate?
- What features do you need most?
- What is your budget?
When you think about the above issues, then you will be able to match the right solution to your needs. You can choose from, among others:
Shoper - Polish e-commerce platform that has numerous integrations with the most popular auction services, courier companies and accounting software. You can use it on a subscription basis "SaaS". Everything is hosted by Shopper and if you would like to buy and connect your own domain, you have to pay extra.
Magento - this platform is designed for complex stores with many products on offer. You can choose a free version and a more advanced paid option. It has unlimited expansion possibilities and offers many free extensions. It is also possible to manage many stores from one administration panel, which may seem complicated at first. Magneto also supports a mobile version of the store.
PrestaShop - a free platform running on an Open-Source license. It allows you to quickly and easily set up an online store because you only need your own domain and hosting to start selling. It has an accessible and easy to use administration panel. The standard version offers many useful functionalities, which can be expanded at any time through paid plug-ins.