Choosing a new eCommerce platform can be tough. It’s a big commitment – once you’ve selected a platform, you’ll want to stick with it for a while. And while you can migrate your eCommerce store to a new platform, it’ll cost you a lot of time and money – so it’s best to “measure twice and cut once,” as the old saying goes.
But how can you evaluate eCommerce platforms and make sure that they have the features that you need for long-term success?
That’s a great question. And 121eCommerce has the answers! In this guide, we’ll discuss the basics of how to evaluate eCommerce platforms, and what you should be looking for when choosing the platform that’s right for your online store. Let’s get into it.
Analytics & Reporting Features For Consumer Insights
Data is one of the most valuable assets your company has – and this is particularly true in the world of eCommerce. Collecting data on things like conversion rates, average order value (AOV), and other key metrics is essential for adjusting your website and improving the user experience over time.
A great eCommerce platform contains analytics and reporting features, dashboards, and other features that can help you monitor your overall performance, view key business metrics, and gain insights on how you can appeal to your audience more effectively. In turn, this drives better overall performance, and helps you grow your eCommerce business.
Integration Capabilities For Third-Party Apps & Programs
No eCommerce platform is an island. Chances are that you’ll need to use a wide variety of third-party apps and programs as part of your eCommerce store. For example, you may want to use a Content Management System (CMS) for blog posts, or integrate a CRM (Customer Relationship Management) tool into your eCommerce store to market your products to customers more effectively.
A great eCommerce platform is able to accommodate these third-party apps and programs using native integrations, APIs (Application Programming Interfaces), extensions, and other tools that allow you to seamlessly integrate your existing programs and tools into your eCommerce store.
Scalability For Future Business Growth
A scalable and flexible eCommerce platform is absolutely essential for your future business growth. When your business starts to grow, you want to be able to continue to grow your reach and expand your audience – without running into performance issues or other problems like a limited product catalog. You should look for an eCommerce platform that supports:
- An extensive product catalog – You need a catalog that can handle a large number of SKUs for diverse products, ensuring you don’t run into any issues when managing and adding new SKUs to your catalog.
- Multi-site support – Depending on what you sell, you may also want an eCommerce platform that can support multiple websites using the same backend.
For example, let’s say you sell women’s underwear and intimates, but want to expand to sell men’s underwear, too – with an eCommerce platform like Magento, you can build a separate “sub-site” using the same backend. This isn’t possible with every eCommerce website.
- Multi-country & multi-currency support – If you plan on expanding internationally, you need an eCommerce platform that can handle multi-country shipping and taxes and multi-currency transactions.
And while migrating to a new platform is always possible if you run into serious limitations or performance issues, it’s always best to stick with the one you have, when possible – doing so will save you a lot of time, money, and headaches.
This is one reason why you may want to consider an open-source eCommerce platform like Magento rather than a proprietary eCommerce platform – it’s usually easier to scale up when you need to, and if you ever decide to switch eCommerce platforms, moving your data and your store will be much easier if you’re not using a closed-source, proprietary platform.
A Robust Product Catalog That Can Handle A Variety Of Products, Bundles & More
The product catalog is at the heart of any eCommerce platform. It’s what stores your products, displays them to customers, and allows them to actually buy what you’re selling. And while a product catalog may seem like a simple thing, that’s far from the case. You need to find an eCommerce platform that offers:
- An infinitely-expandable catalog that can handle any number of items
- catalog that can handle multiple types of items – both digital and physical items, for example
- Tools to help present related items, bundles, and accessories to clients to up-sell and cross-sell your products
- A robust and easy-to-use backend that makes it easy to upload individual products, or to upload a large number of products using .CSVs or other types of data
An easy-to-use, flexible, and powerful product catalog doesn’t just make back-end administration easier, but can also drive more conversions and sales, improving the overall performance of your eCommerce store.
Strong Search Functionality For A Better User Experience
When they visit your store, about 30% of visitors will head directly to the search bar to find what they want – and as many as 68% of customers will not return to a website that offers a sub-par search experience. When customers search for an item, they expect accurate and fast results.
Because of this, choosing an eCommerce store with a powerful search engine like ElasticSearch is a great idea. With the right search engine, you can make sure you always put the right results in front of customers who are searching for your products.
Customizable Themes With Support For Mobile Devices
Branding is, of course, a very important part of any online store. You want your eCommerce store to reflect your brand’s values, and to provide a smooth, streamlined, and modern shopping experience. You also must have mobile support – mobile shopping makes up more than 31% of all eCommerce purchases, so support for devices of all sizes is a must-have.
Most eCommerce platforms offer a variety of different pre-built themes, but not all of them offer the same level of customization. Shopify, for example, provides a wide variety of modifiable themes, but it’s not possible to create a completely bespoke theme.
In contrast, Magento offers you a selection of premade themes, as well as the ability to create a completely custom theme from the ground up – which provides you with more control and the ability to create a more unique website, which may be desirable in some cases.
Security Features To Protect Customer Data
Security should be one of your top concerns when it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform. A data breach costs the average company more than $8 million – and while your losses won’t be nearly as high if you’re a small business owner, data loss can still permanently damage your reputation and even lead to fines, penalties, or legal action in some cases.
When you evaluate an eCommerce platform, pay careful attention to the security features it offers. Make sure it supports the following features, among others:
- A variety of payment gateways to ensure customer card data is not stored on your eCommerce website
- HTTPS and SSL for the encryption of user data when shopping on your website
- Complex passwords and 2-factor authentication (2FA) for administrators, which helps protect the store from hackers and data loss
- Robust backup solutions to keep your data intact and allow it to be restored in case of a system failure, error, or other data loss incident
- Encrypted, single-tenant hosting, which provides superior protection compared to multi-tenant hosting
- Frequent security updates and patches to fix known vulnerabilities in the eCommerce platform
- Web application firewalls (WAFs) to detect, log, and block malicious web traffic before it can reach your website
Vendor Support & Resources For Resolving Errors & Issues
Eventually, you’re going to run into a problem with your eCommerce website. That’s just an unavoidable fact. As Murphy’s Law famously states, “Anything that can go wrong, will go wrong.”
And when your website experiences a serious error or issue, you need to make sure that your eCommerce platform has the support and resources that you and your development team need to resolve the issue.
At a minimum, your eCommerce platform should provide FAQs, extensive developer documentation, forums, and other resources that can help you resolve administrative issues. If needed, you should also be able to get real-time support assistance from an employee who can help you resolve the issue quickly.
B2B eCommerce Features To Expand Your Reach
B2B eCommerce is a growing industry. By 2023, B2B eCommerce is slated to represent up to 17% of all B2B sales – making it a $1.8 trillion industry. And if you’d like to take advantage of the growth of B2B eCommerce, you need a platform that has specialized B2B features.
Well, how hard can that be to find? Harder than you may think. While a lot of eCommerce platforms have some B2B features, the majority of them are primarily focused on B2C (Business to Consumer) sales.
B2B shoppers are much different than B2C shoppers and require a unique set of features.
For example, you may need to provide different pricing to different companies as a B2B seller, offer additional payment options like Net 30 credit terms, support order quotes and negotiations, provide one-click reordering, and allow B2B customers to track inventory updates in real-time – and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Complicating things even further, you don’t want to have to use different eCommerce platforms for B2B and B2C sales – you need a platform that can integrate them both into the same backend, such as Magento.
Pricing That Meets Your Business Needs
We’ve listed pricing as the last point to think about when evaluating eCommerce platforms for a reason – while it’s important to choose an eCommerce platform that meets your needs, you definitely don’t want to focus on price too much when evaluating the right eCommerce platform for your needs.
That’s because price isn’t everything. Hypothetically, let’s say you choose an eCommerce platform that costs you $200/month. It doesn’t have all of the features you’d like, but it’s cheap enough and gets the job done.
But then your website goes down. You can’t get any customer support, because you chose a cut-rate eCommerce platform. Your development team has to spend two days troubleshooting and fixing the issue – and in that time, you lose $5,000 in sales due to website downtime.
How much did you really pay for your eCommerce platform that month? It wasn’t $200 – it was $5,200. Choosing a better platform with more features, 24/7 support, and other such improvements may have helped you avoid your downtime altogether.
So don’t skimp. Yes, you shouldn’t blow your budget and overpay for an eCommerce platform. But if you choose a cheap platform and then discover that it doesn’t have features you need, lacks support, and is holding your eCommerce business back from growth, you may end up paying a hefty price.
Evaluating eCommerce Platforms For Your Business? Consider Magento!
At 121eCommerce, we believe that Magento is one of the best eCommerce platforms out there thanks to its blend of versatility, flexibility, and scalability.
It’s a good fit for many different types of industries, and works for companies of all sizes – Magento is in use by thousands of small businesses and entrepreneurs, as well as enormous companies like Coca-Cola, Nike, and Samsung.
Magento isn’t always the best fit for every website. But if you’re looking for an open-source eCommerce platform that can truly grow with your business, it’s hard to beat Magento’s suite of features.
Curious about learning more? 121eCommerce is here to help. Just contact us online to schedule a consultation with our team. We can discuss the pros and cons of Magento in further detail, discuss how it compares to other eCommerce platforms, and help you decide if it’s right for your needs.