6 Considerations for Choosing Your New eCommerce Platform

Written by neatly.io on 26th April 2019

“Having an eCommerce store is not enough to build a successful eCommerce business, you need an intelligent solution for overall business development”

Each day, a new eCommerce site comes to life and quits the arena after failing to survive extreme competition’s heat. However, this is also true that eCommerce is the highest rewarding genre. We have seen businesses going from startups to multi-billionaire level in this same sphere.

Statista says that over 1.66 billion people across the globe purchased products and services from online stores in 2017. Furthermore, this number will cross the 2 billion mark by 2021.

Image source: Statista

No doubt, you too have an epic chance to go multi-billionaire with your eCommerce business too. Just remember that having an eCommerce website and having an established eCommerce business are two distinct phenomena. Besides a good business model, you also need an eCommerce platform proficient to beat the competitions.

Choosing an eCommerce platform is a highly risky task. You don’t change your eCommerce software every day. It’s a long term commitment and involves a huge investment of time, money, and efforts in development, customization, deployment, and maintenance. You cannot afford to make a wrong selection choosing a platform that does not only aligns with your business goals but also built on the contemporary market requirements.

If you too seek successful entrepreneurship and intend to make your business a success example like Amazon, eBay, Etsy, and Alibaba, this article will help cover the most crucial stage for this.  

I am going to consider three main factors of an eCommerce business development process to enlist a few of the most crucial aspects for choosing the right eCommerce marketplace software in 2019.

The primary stage of any eCommerce business development process includes the following three stages:

  • The Business setup- Choosing the best business model,
  • The Website setup- Choosing the best eCommerce platform, and
  • The Opening sale- Undertaking the best eCommerce marketing.

Based on the above three stages, here are the most crucial considerations for choosing the correct website solution for your eCommerce business.  

1. Choose the best website development model

The market provides unlimited ways to get an eCommerce site. Out of them, there are two most popular and efficient ways – SaaS model and Open-source code model. Where SaaS is further sophisticated into PaaS, the open source model is divided into eCommerce CMSs and custom eCommerce platforms.

Custom eCommerce platforms are your best bet for developing an eCommerce site with highly scalable architecture, unlimited customizability and complete control over the technical aspects. They are also termed as turnkey custom solutions as they are most ready-made with fundamental eCommerce features.

Custom platforms boast of the fact that you do not need to re-invent the wheel to build a cart. They recall the benefits such as you do not need to be a coder to create an eCommerce website. With a few steps you can own your site with complete control on it.

  • Step 1: Choose a platform from the market
  • Step 2: Try out the demo to check the features
  • Step 3: Customize the store to tailor the UI
  • Step 4: Customize to add extra new features
  • Step 5: Deploy and start selling on the go

In contrast to that, the SaaS model provides the easiest and quickest way to get an eCommerce site in minutes. You just have to select and purchase a package and use the could-hosted dashboard to set up your site using a GUI. Unlike custom eCommerce platforms, you don’t get the source code though. That means you cannot customize your store and depend on the pre-built feature. The only limitation of SaaS eCommerce platforms is their limited customizability and over-dependence on the vendor for everything technical.

Nonetheless, you can choose any of the two models based on your requirements and investment budget. SaaS model involves low recurring monthly subscription charges lifelong, while the custom open-source platforms demand large one-time payments.

For any model ensure that your selected solution meets the following fundamental requirements to start an effective eCommerce site-

  • Product management controls: Product listing, category management, and sell physical and digital products.  
  • Shopping Streamline: Product landing pages, Product category listing, Product search, and online shopping cart.
  • Check out management: shopping cart review, checkout process, and payment gateways.
  • Order Management: Order status update, generate invoice.
  • Delivery management: Assign shipping partner, Streamline product-pickup, and track shipment.
  • Return Management: Return rules, Return request, Status update, Pick product for Return, Refund processing, invoice generation for return, and address slip for return.  
  • Review Management: Write a review, Review approve/disapprove, show reviews on product page, and delete/add reviews.

2. The contemporary monetization systems

E-commerce businesses make money by selling products and services. In return, they receive payments through different channels. You must consider the platform’s capabilities to support popular eCommerce payment systems for managing the in-flow and outgoing revenue from your business.

  • Cash on Delivery method (Cash and Card payments on delivery)
  • Credit card payment online
  • Debit card payment online
  • Net banking payment online

In addition to the above, you should consider the following methods too for gaining some upper hands against your customers and offering an extra value proposition to both your customers.

  • Buy now Pay later: Purchase the product now and choose to pay after a month.
  • EMI payments: API support for major Banks offering EMI options on their credit and debit card payments.

How to consider the Payment Gateway support in your eCommerce platform?

The entire online payment processing is a four-step process for eCommerce sites:

  • Payment: The customers pay using an online method through a payment gateway.
  • Merchant side: The merchant gets the payment
  • Bank 1: Merchant sets an acquiring bank account to get the payment done by customers.
  • Bank 2: The payment gateway communicates with the issuing bank to transfer the customer’s payment to the acquiring bank.

The payment goes from the customer’s bank account to the Merchant’s bank account. This entire process actively involves Payment gateways that conduct the transfer in a secure environment. Here are few of the popular payment gateways eCommerce sites use. Make sure your eCommerce platforms support at least these payment gateways –

  • PayPal
  • First Data
  • BluePay Processing
  • Fast charge
  • Authorize.Net
  • First Data Corporation etc.

In addition to these, make sure your eCommerce software supports every other PCI DSS compliant payment gateway either by default or through customization.

3. A flexible shipping strategy builder

E-commerce sites incorporate shipping options two Steps:

  • Set rules: Setting the rules and mapping corresponding shipping options with the products.
  • Shipping APIs: Adding new shipping options to the site by integrating their APIs from the back end or through code customization.

There are several types of shipping options in the market. Depending on the products you offer, their sizes, desired speed of product delivery, and areas to be covered, make sure your eCommerce platform supports one or all of the following types of shipping partners.   

  • Local General Registered courier
  • Local Same day delivery
  • Local Scheduled delivery
  • Global custom-tax included delivery
  • Nation-wide normal delivery
  • Drop shipping support (depends on your business model)

The general registered courier service is slow but very economic for start-ups. Their support is a must. In addition to that, you must ensure the API support for private shipping companies to offer advanced delivery options such as same-day delivery, two days delivery, global delivery, etc.

4. A scalable way to add new products

There are various ways to add products to an eCommerce site. However, two options are very popular among startups.

  • Direct upload- through step-by-step upload portal at the back end of the site.
  • CSV upload- For bulk uploads of multiple products via CSV files.

The direct upload method is a must to have but not very useful when you are uploading multiple products. In this case, you need CSV file upload feature in your eCommerce platform to add thousands of products in one go. It is wise to upload them in bulk through CSV files.

How to check the CSV feature on your eCommerce platform?

You can check it by following the below steps:

  • Step1: Go to your site direct upload interface at the back end.
  • Step2: If it supports the CVS feature, you would find the ready-made template file on the same interface.  
  • Step 4: Download the template and customize it with your product details.
  • Step3: find the CSV upload option in the same interface and upload it.  
  • Step4: Now go to your product catalog from the back-end and see if the products are now listed there.

How to prepare your product CSV file?

If your eCommerce platform supports the feature, you would get the template. The template is a default format of the platform to add all the products with the required details you need to fill manually. The file will have separate columns to add each detail. Follow the same format of the details as in the template, otherwise, it would return error on CSV upload. Here are a few of the descriptions you might find in a typical CSV template file:

Product Name, Product ID, Product Category, Actual Price, Discount %, Offer duration, Shipping Partner, CDN URL for Images, etc.  

Enhancement features– The platform must allow the addition of HTML and CSS in the product description to write and design the product descriptions more flexibly. You can ensure that by checking if WYSIWYG editor or any similar HTML editor is given in the product upload portal.

5. Enhanced Marketing and conversion funnel with Salesforce integration

It’s a crucial mistake that most of the site owners make. They consider all the fundamental and crucial features to set up the site but ignore the SEO features. They fail to notice the fact that without marketing they won’t be able to reach their customers and get the sales.

This is where eCommerce platforms like Salesforce Commerce Cloud top the competition with other eCommerce solutions. There are various other platforms that are highly SEO friendly and provide good SEO features, but the supremacy of Salesforce Commerce Cloud is way futuristic considering the AI and Predictive intelligence implementations to it.

The AI-based data intelligence support makes it fully compatible with big data technologies. It stores the wealth of information that enhances SEO and marketing efforts. The more you scale your business the more information your store to make predictive decisions.

This is where AI-based Predictive intelligence (Einstein) comes to the action by eliminating the need for manual data analysis.  It is backed by the Albert AI that helps Salesforce to automate digital marketing and also streamlines the analysis phase.

The support to Salesforce integration is a must on your eCommerce platform to get the following benefits:

  • AI-based product recommendation to the customers.
  • AI-based one-to-one predictions personalized for each visitor in real-time.
  • Data-driven commerce insights to boost conversion optimization.
  • Full automation of merchandising tasks to save a lot of time and effort.
  • In-built AI-based  A/B Testing Tool
  • Support for popular SEO tool APIs- Moz, Yoast, and Google Analytics.
  • Open customization of the checkout process into a single step.
  • Mobile-focused quick payment with Apple pays integration.
  • Support for popular email marketing tool: MailChimp, ConvertKit, etc.

6. Decisive checklist of the fundamental aspects

In addition to the aspects discussed it is crucial to ensure the availability of some fundamental features. You would not find them in a business guide but are treated as understood requirements.

  • Support for multiple languages- Should support popular global languages and can be set to automatically switch the language as per geo-location.  
  • Support for multiple currencies– Should support the APIs for multiple currency converters. It will enable your site to accept the local as well as global currencies as per geo-location.
  • Support local time zone– Should support time zone variation. It helps to operate the business in multiple time zones. It removes the ambiguity by tracking the track orders.
  • Reviews and Ratings-No one today makes a purchase without looking for online reviews and ratings. Customers research about reviews and ratings on at least 3-4 websites before finally purchasing it. Make sure the eCommerce platform is equipped with native reviews and rating management system   
  • Integrated CMS: A CMS manages the content and pages on the site. It does not only improve the SEO but also helps to create different landing pages for your marketing campaigns. For example, you would need the pages, URLs, tabs, headlines to update the details like Contact US, About Us, Store policies, Return policies, and other important content. Having a CMS like feature is a must for your eCommerce platform.  

To conclude

Be it any eCommerce software, these features are must to have. It purely depends on your preference that which models suits you the best. For example, Commerce Cloud by Salesforce is a purely SaaS-based platform and offers everything by default. Of course, you would be paying monthly subscription charges, but this is fine considering the time and effort it saves by automating your entire site. However, you would also find many custom eCommerce platforms in the market if you want to have full control on your site with the source code access. The nature of the requirements does not change with the delivery model. You will still need all these mentioned features. So choose wisely.