Creating a profitable online business and scaling it to the point where you can consider yourself financially independent is a common dream these days. However, starting an eCommerce venture from scratch requires knowledge and patience.
Before you can consider fulfilling your dream, you will need to choose the right eCommerce platform. Given that the eCommerce industry is projected to grow to 5.4 trillion dollars in 2022 (Statista), it is natural that more developers are trying to get on the board and come up with an eCommerce solution for interested entrepreneurs.
It doesn’t mean that you should disregard the idea of hiring developers and having them develop an eCommerce store from scratch. The problem with this approach is finances and time. Sticking to a turnkey eCommerce platform is more efficient.
How Expensive Is It to Start an Ecommerce Store?
The market offers multiple eCommerce solutions, each with its unique features. Choosing one for yourself should come down to personal expectations, goals, the business model, available funds, your niche, competitors in the market, and available features.
As far as major eCommerce platform types go, two solutions stand out—SaaS-based platforms and open-source platforms. Let’s take a quick look at each of the two.
SaaS platforms are hassle-free, thanks to their simplistic nature. These ready-made solutions are delivered through cloud hosting, and users can set up their store after signing up for the service. Choosing SaaS means that you do not have to bother with:
- Needing coding knowledge
- Looking for a reliable hosting provider
- Hiring a technical team
With that said, SaaS has some downsides. You will need to pay a monthly or yearly fee depending on the set of features you select.
The recurring fees also include the service of using the platform as well as charges, such as hosting, SSL certificates, commissions per sale, and transaction fees. Other noteworthy disadvantages include:
- Lack of complete control over the website
- Unavailable source code
- Reliance on existing features due to limited customization
Overall, SaaS solutions are the best for businesses that want to focus on developing the business and leaving technical aspects to their SaaS vendors.
Top SaaS Platforms
- Shopify (29 dollars per month)
- Squarespace (12 dollars per month)
- BigCommerce (30 dollars per month)
Keep in mind that these pricing plans are preliminary and offer the basic feature set. To create a full-fledged eCommerce site, you will likely need a more expensive pricing plan that unlocks the necessary features.
Open-source eCommerce platforms come with a source code that users can install on a web host and get to work on their website. An open-source platform should be considered because it:
- Gives users complete control over the website
- Does not come with recurring charges that you can find on SaaS platforms
- Provides customization and better scalability options
Think of open-source platforms as an opportunity to build a big business by being in control. If there is a feature you want to add to the store, you can find a module or hire a developer to develop it. Micro-personalization also helps with making your online store stand out from other eCommerce shops.
Just like SaaS platforms, open-source solutions also come with some disadvantages, such as:
- Technical knowledge requirements to make the most out of the source code
- Responsibility to find a reliable hosting provider
- Time to figure out how to use an admin UI
Top Open-Source Platforms
8 Features a Good eCommerce Platform Should Have
Knowing about the available platform options is just the first step. Once you start researching the available options, you will feel underwhelmed, especially if you have little or no experience. As a rule of thumb, certain features are crucial for building a successful eCommerce store. Focus on these 8, and you should not go wrong.
1. Multi-channel integration
Multi-channel integration became a must in eCommerce because businesses want to sell their products across multiple marketplaces and platforms. Besides, it is not just a revenue increase but also brand exposure.
Stitch Labs reports that sellers who put their products on third-party marketplaces increase their profits by 38% percent.
Your eCommerce solution should have integration tools that enable management on both your site and third-party marketplaces.
2. Return and refund system
Returns and refunds are not fun, but they are part of commerce. Do not compromise this feature because it will lead to unhappy customers who struggle to return the goods and get their money back. Otherwise, your store will be bombarded with negative feedback that will discourage potentially interested people from shopping there.
3. Order and product management system
Since eCommerce is competitive, you want to ensure that your store’s order management is up to par with the best. Custom order tracking, as well as email and SMS notifications, are a few examples of what a good OMS should offer.
The system also needs to work hand in hand with the inventory management system so that customers can order only items available in stock.
You should operate your business with the hopes of scaling it later. Therefore, your choice of eCommerce solution should come with integrations.
For example, if you own a custom merchandise store where you sell customized backpacks on demand, you will likely want to add new products in the future. A hassle-free method to create new listings with product descriptions and high-quality pictures is valuable.
Customization freedom for customers who want to pick their fonts and colors would come in handy also, as would a system to generate customer feedback.
When choosing an eCommerce platform, confirm that it has HTTPS or SSL support. Compliant payment solutions should also be part of the package as you will want to provide multiple payment options for customers.
These days, credit cards are not enough. Customers want to pay for goods with services like Stripe, Payoneer, Skrill, and PayPal. Cryptocurrency is also something worth considering, though you do not have to implement it if you do not believe in the currency.
The bottom line is that you want to secure the store from potential DDoS attacks and other threats, as well as ensure that customers are comfortable checking out and paying thanks to the implemented security features.
Search engine optimization is one of the cornerstones of a successful eCommerce store. A business that ranks higher on Google and other search engines will have an advantage over its competitors.
People use search engines for shopping a lot, and it is no secret that most of them click on the first few available results. In other words, the higher a site ranks, the higher the odds of a potential customer clicking on the link.
In addition, good standing on search engines also builds authority since people are more likely to trust online stores that rank higher.
An eCommerce platform and their app should offer basic SEO features, such as access to the XML sitemap and the robot.txt file, a custom domain name, updates to metadata, as well as captions and descriptions for images.
7. Mobile-friendly platform
These days, a proper website should be mobile-friendly. Otherwise, you will miss out on a lot of potential customers. Search Engine Land carried out research that revealed how roughly 60% of searches happen on smartphones and tablets.
Before you pick an eCommerce platform, make sure that it comes with mobile-responsive themes and templates.
As an alternative, you could also consider native applications for Android and iOS. Some platforms come with those, but hiring an independent developer could work as well.
8. Tech Support
The odds of encountering a problem while running your eCommerce store are not necessarily high, but they are not zero either. Finding answers to common issues online is a good approach. However, some unforeseen glitches might not have available answers.
Thus, your eCommerce platform should also offer tech support that can help solve various issues. Ideally, the tech support should be available 24/7 and accessible on multiple channels, including live chat on the website, emails, social media, and phone calls. When having problems that are difficult to solve, you should also go to that platform specialist, for example Magento; there will be parties to help you with Magento support and maintenance service.
As you can see, choosing the right eCommerce solution comes with its intricacies. Since you are betting your financial well-being on the online business idea, you want to choose a platform that fits the criteria and accommodates your needs.
Remember that there might be multiple options that could work. Even so, you should still take all the time you need to narrow down the available platform list to one single option and go with that one.