1. Can You Manage Your Business from the Platform
There’s no dancing around the subject: selling online can be a tricky business, and you need powerful tools to help you succeed. Make sure the platform you choose has the functionality to power you to success. Not only do you need features to help you drive conversion – stuff like suggested products, behavioral discounts and more – you need ease of use from a back-end management perspective.
Although many platforms have similar features as mentioned in previous blog posts, some platforms are built for specific purposes. Some are better suited for selling digital products quickly, subscriptions products , selling to other businesses or taking pre-orders.
Ask yourself, what core features are absolutely required for your business. Here’s some of the biggest ones that might significantly affect your platform choice:
- Reccurring Subscription Products
- Digital Products and Digital Product Delivery
- Pre-Order Capabilities
- Online and Offline Capabilities (Physical Storefront/Popup Shop)
- Business to Business Sales (Wholesale Orders)
- Embeddable on Other Sites
- App/Partner Integration
2. How Flexible Is the Product Catalog?
Somewhat related to site aesthetics and functionality is catalog flexibility. Essentially, you’re asking if the ecommerce platform in question can adequately manage the breadth of products your store will sell.
While a site specializing in socks and undergarments certainly has a lot of fun products in those categories, there is not a lot of difference between how a pair of socks is presented on an eCommerce platform and how a pair of men’s boxers is presented. Both socks and boxers have a similar set of presentation requirements. So in the context of choosing an eCommerce platform, this store does not necessarily need a very flexible product catalog.
Conversely, a fitness site, which sells strength and conditioning equipment online, has a relatively more diverse line of products. The product information shown when selling a barbell — for example the knurling pattern — may be quite different than the product information needed to sell a branded women’s shirt, which is also for sale on the website. Even the aspect ratio of the product photography might be significantly different.
Be sure that the eCommerce platform you pick has the flexibility to present all of your products in the best possible way.
3. Will It Look Good and Function Well?
A successful online store functions well and looks great. Remember that shoppers, especially first-time shoppers, need to trust your business, and site aesthetics are a key indicator of trust.
Imagine walking into a physical store to find that the floor is old looking, the shelves are flimsy or broken, and the walls are only half covered in paint. What would you think about that shop and its keeper?
In the eCommerce platform context, having a site that looks good and functions well often means that you have a site you can control and customize. This, by the way, is also where mobile optimization comes in. There is a direct relationship between the ability to customize a site and the ability to mobile optimize that site.
To help answer this question, look for live sites running on the platform. Many eCommerce platforms will have a list of customers or a gallery. These examples can be helpful tools for selecting your platform.
4. Can it grow with you?
Of course, you want to choose the platform that works best for you today – and that’s an essential part of your decision.
But how does that balance against your desire to grow? If you’re serious about taking the business forward over a period of time, it’s vital to choose a platform that can grow with your business and meet the growing challenges you’ll face.
We all want more traffic and customers as they lead to more sales; but they also place extra demands on your store – if it’s ill-equipped, this can lead to slow speeds and unresponsiveness, which is a sure-fire way to discourage your customers and send them elsewhere.
That’s why it’s crucial to future-proof your business by ensuring that scalability is a key component of whichever platform you choose.
We recommend taking the following factors into consideration when making your choice:
- Payment options — Above all else, make sure the platform integrates with your chosen or intended payment gateway, and can support your country’s currency (or currencies).
- Design options — Review how many free or paid designs are available, as well as the potential cost for having an external designer create one for you.
- Security — Is your platform PCI compliant? Does it offer an SSL certificate? What about additional security perks?
- Easily created content — If your store doesn’t have strong supporting content, it may suffer in Google searches. Look for a platform that allows you to easily create and manage new pages, contact forms, and on-page copy-writing.
- Online support and documentation — Look for detailed documentation and support options that meet your personal preferences, like tickets, chat, or email support.
- Room to grow — Can you upgrade your plan or add new extensions as your needs change? Avoid thinking like a small store — you’ll only limit yourself.