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How to Choose an E-Commerce Platform

Online sales have become essential to reach clients and stay competitive. Which web platform should your business choose?

Every business has unique needs, and your e-commerce platform has to reflect that. In order to make the best decision, it is important to analyze your different needs in the short, medium and long term, and determine what your marketing and business objectives are. For example:

  • Do you want to break into a new market?
  • Do you want to engage your customers and build loyalty?
  • Is your strategy based on increasing revenue or expanding your market share?

Your site, much more than a display window

There is more to creating an e-commerce component or online store than just displaying your products on a website. The site has to be carefully managed, just like a brick-and-mortar store or a production site: it requires strategic thinking and planning.

Software as a Service (SaaS) platforms

There are several platform options. Marketplace sites, such as Amazon, Etsy or eBay, are primarily intended for business individuals who are just starting out or have a low sales volume.

Integrated online sales platforms, such as WooCommerce and Magento, require more technical skills or using a web designer.

With a customized transactional site, designed by an agency, you will have the benefit of optimizing your platform according to your specific needs, while getting external support.

Unless you have a highly specialized business with specific needs and requirements that no e-commerce platform can provide, a cloud-based software solution (Software as a Service – SaaS) is likely more to your organization’s advantage.

SMEs can use SaaS platforms such as Shopify, Wix, Squarespace, BigCommerce in exchange for a monthly or annual fee. They will thus have greater control over technical functionality and can deploy more quickly.

SaaS e-commerce platforms eliminate much of the complexity of running an online business, such as upgrades, security, hosting or PCI compliance.

What features should you be looking at for your e-commerce site?

Understanding your needs and the functionality required on your chosen e-commerce platform will allow you to make the most of the digital environment. This will help you automate and streamline a number of tasks and activities that would have involved costly human intervention. As a result, your staff can spend their time on value-added functions for your business.

1. An easy-to-configure platform

Look for a platform that is easy to set up and design, and doesn’t require you to be a design whiz to create a professional look and update your catalogue.

Check to see if the product catalogue meets your industry’s needs. For example, if you are in the home decor or fashion industry, your product catalogue should have a feature that allows customers to access a size guide or select a product colour from colour chips.

Additionally, make sure the platform offers the possibility of creating a bilingual site.

2. A user-friendly platform to browse

One important factor is the e-commerce platform’s user experience (UX) which is key to the success of your e-commerce initiative. A user-friendly and intuitive website can improve user satisfaction and help your business achieve its goals. Specialized experts who are well versed in the concepts of web interaction and navigation structure will be an asset in building your site according to these criteria.

3. A secure platform

Security is perhaps the most important consideration. Since e-commerce is a digital platform that accepts financial payments, you need to make sure your provider has the necessary security protocols in place. Is access to the site secured using HTTPS? Is security enforced with multiple firewalls?

4. A platform with several payment options

PayPal, Square, Apple Pay and Stripe are some examples of popular payment gateways for e-commerce stores. Consider the payment methods you’re willing to accept when looking for an e-commerce platform. The platform should also offer tax and shipping calculations based on local, national or international sales.

5. A high-performance hosting platform

Does the web hosting guarantee a high availability rate of 99.9%? Does it allow for fast page loading and automatic server adaptation in case of high traffic, such as Cyber Monday or other sales periods?

6. A mobile-friendly platform

When looking at how customers interact with the online retail industry, one trend stands out: mobile shopping has become the norm. Your platform must be deployed on cell phones and optimized for this type of interface.

7. A platform that changes with your needs

As your business grows, will your e-commerce platform grow with you? Look for a platform that integrates with your other existing marketing systems and channels.

Many brands use APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to customize and automate their stores to fit their needs.

  • Does your platform integrate seamlessly with your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system?
  • Does it integrate with Facebook?
  • Does it work with Instagram?
  • Are plug-ins and extensions available?

8. A platform within your budget

Some platforms come with standard monthly fees, while others offer flat rates, some charge per transaction, and some charge extra for app subscriptions. Before committing to a platform, do the math and stick to your budget so you have room to grow.

9. A platform designed for search engine optimization (SEO)

When buyers are looking for a particular product or service, it should be easy for them to find your business. You need to make sure that your online store ranks well in search results, especially if you are a new e-commerce or a small online store. To do this, look for an online business platform that will meet SEO requirements.

10. A platform with good technical support

If there is a glitch (it happens!), will the provider have the support you need to help you solve the problem or answer your questions? Always look for providers that offer 24-hour emergency support and can be contacted through a variety of means, including email, chat and phone. Also ask your provider if they offer training for your employees.

A worthwhile addition

Finding the ideal platform and web partner that best suits your needs is something that deserves your full attention. The team you choose has to understand your business and offer services that go far beyond just a technical service. The benefits of offering your customers this new shopping experience are well worth it!

This article was written with Guy-Jacques Langevin, co-founder of Buzztroop.

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