Planning and launching an online business is extremely exciting, especially if you have a genuine interest in the products and solutions you’re selling. That said, having industry knowledge is just one of the ingredients for a recipe to success. Besides knowing your trade, you also have to evaluate the different ecommerce platforms available and choose the best provider based on the features you’ll need.
The best ecommerce platforms allow you to build robust online stores without much technical knowledge and tend to offer fair pricing. However, there are dozens of options available, each one of which features unique capacities. Keep in mind that every single provider claims to be the best ecommerce platform, but partnering with the wrong company will have a negative effect on the performance of your online store. There is no silver-bullet solution either, so you have to analyze your requirements and weigh them against the different alternatives in order to find the most suitable ecommerce platform.
At Fannit, we’ve been helping our clients build, manage, and optimize their ecommerce SEO sites for almost a decade. Our team has helped multiple companies build superb online stores using ecommerce platforms as well as custom coding, so we’re familiar with the steps you need to take to find the best alternative.
In this article, we’ll go over the definition of an ecommerce platform and tell you why these are important when building your online store. We’ll also discuss the different features you need to look out for and examine the top ecommerce platforms for 2021 and beyond.
What Is an Ecommerce Platform?
Before delving into the specifics of how to start selling products online, it’s important to understand the definition of an ecommerce platform. Simply put, an ecommerce platform is a software tool used to create an online business that has the ability to sell products and services.
Depending on the ecommerce platform, each user can have the ability to manage their site content, marketing plans, sales process, secure payments, fulfillment processes, and other necessary operations through one interface. However, not all providers are the same. So, you should pay close attention to the features available in each option and consider these while choosing the right ecommerce platform for your business.
Established businesses that want to develop a multi-channel selling mechanism need to ensure that the ecommerce platforms they work with are compatible with their current tools. Or, these companies can also change the way they process orders altogether, but it’s worth noting that this usually takes a significant amount of time.
Entrepreneurs that are starting an online business and new companies can work with the ecommerce software of their choice and manage a large portion of their business through these tools. But, choosing the adequate platform is crucial because it has a more substantial impact on businesses that implement all of its features.
Why Are Ecommerce Platforms Important?
The internet has changed the way consumers search for products and services, but it’s also altered the way these customers make purchases. Every day, countless individuals and companies make online payments to acquire physical products, gain access to intangible goods, and hire different types of services.
Ecommerce platforms make all of this possible by providing a secure, fast, and reliable solution that’s suitable for businesses of all sizes.
A few years ago, only large enterprises had the ability to develop digital stores that were secure and powerful enough to really take off. Today, Shopify, Wix, WooCommerce, Volusion and similar platforms help businesses develop intricate online stores that support a large volume of sales at a reasonable price.
Although some owners look for the best free ecommerce platform, the truth is that all unpaid options offer limited long-term solutions. Ecommerce website builders like Volusion, Wix, and WooCommerce may represent an additional investment, but these specialized platforms can help deliver pro results without having to work with a specialized developer.
Features to Look at When Choosing an Ecommerce Platforms
Just like the companies that employ them, ecommerce platforms come with a variety of different features and basic capacities. However, remember that the most important thing is finding a solution that has all the features you need now and may potentially need in the future. So, even if you find a platform with innovative abilities, these may not mean much if they are not relevant to your ecommerce business.
Additionally, even simple ecommerce platforms have a learning curve, but choosing a company that has a library of customer resources can help reduce the learning period. These resources may include a knowledge base, YouTube instructional video series, and similar pieces of informational content.
Business owners should also consider the setup process when trying to find the best ecommerce solution. These platforms come as open-source ecommerce software, software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, or as a headless commerce service (also known as commerce-as-a-service, CaaS). Each one of these has a unique set of pros and cons, but we’ll dive into the different structures available later in this article.
Let’s take a look at some of the main features you need to look at when evaluating online store platforms for your business.
Ecommerce platforms vary tremendously in price, so there is definitely an option out there for every company. Some companies pay a few dollars per month while other businesses spend tens of thousands on their ecommerce software, so you need to determine your budget and find the best solution available within your price range.
Remember that the most expensive packages don’t always guarantee that you’ll get the features you need. Plus, you may end up paying for stuff that you don’t really use, so you should analyze every alternative until you find the perfect fit. This is the key to finding the best ecommerce platform for a small business.
If you choose to partner with a low-budget ecommerce platform, there are many supporting services you may need to cover. Some of these include:
- Site maintenance and monitoring
- Security, tracking, and analytics
- Site design and functionality upgrades
- App creation and compatibility
As an alternative, you can also acquire services from an ecommerce platform that provides a wholesome package, which tends to have a lower price tag.
Target Audience Demographics
While your audience may not be aware of the ecommerce platforms you decide to work with, these have a direct impact on the way you target relevant demographics.
For example, take companies that target younger demographics. Theoretically, each user in this demographic is extremely active and responsive on social media. So, having an ecommerce platform that enhances the way businesses promote their products through Facebook and similar channels can improve the results obtained.
Platforms like WooCommerce, Shopify, and Volusion offer direct integrations with Facebook and other social networks to help businesses make the most of these channels. This may eliminate the need for a direct sales campaign on social channels and allow you to allocate those funds to other parts of your marketing plans.
Inventory Size and Type
In order to choose the best ecommerce platform, you have to know approximately how many products you ideally want to sell per month. The size of your inventory will dictate the package you purchase and how complex your ecommerce site has to be. As a general rule of thumb, the more products you want to start selling, the more powerful your ecommerce website builder and hosting solution have to be.
The type of product or service sold on your ecommerce site will also dictate the type of platform you choose. If your sales consist primarily of physical goods, you may need to find an ecommerce platform that also allows you to manage the fulfillment process. In case you want to start selling services or intangible products, you can use a lighter third-party solution that lets you accept different types of payments on your ecommerce website.
As with all other businesses, the main goal of an online store is to achieve a high number of sales and sustainable growth over a long period of time. For this reason, you should try to find an ecommerce software provider that has the ability to grow with your business. This will help reduce the challenges you face later on and help create a better experience for your customers.
To determine the ideal capacity of your ecommerce platform, think about the amount of traffic you want to attract. At first, you may not want to pay for the ability to receive thousands of visitors per day, but if you focus on improving your ecommerce site you can quickly increase the number of users you attract daily.
Customer Service Requirements
One of the areas that ecommerce business owners tend to overlook is the need for outstanding customer support. When purchasing from online store platforms, consumers can’t physically assess the quality and value of the goods they’re acquiring. Therefore, these users may have questions about your products, so having an active customer service team that delivers excellent support can greatly improve the performance of your store.
There are many platforms that make it almost impossible to get assistance from a customer service representative, and it’s no coincidence. You should avoid these at all costs and work with an ecommerce platform that allows users to track down help when they need it the most. Just make sure that the customer service features are easy to use for consumers as well as beginner web managers alike.
Furthermore, the top commerce platforms provide integration between customer support capacities and social media channels. This means that owners can leverage different social media channels depending on user preferences in order to deliver superb customer support. Plus, this also creates a more seamless experience for customers.
Ease of Use
One thing that the most popular ecommerce platforms share is their ease of use. Ecommerce business owners aren’t always tech-savvy, so the platforms they use need to be sophisticated in their capacities while also providing a drag and drop or similar interface that’s easy to use.
Depending on the products you sell and the target areas, you may end up with thousands of goods. To make things simpler, your ecommerce platform should allow you to organize products by categories, edit subpages individually, and help you monitor the results you get through a simple interface that even beginner entrepreneurs and small businesses can manage without help.
Shopify Plus and Wix are known for their drag and drop website builders, but keep in mind that you may have to download an additional app if you want to use this type of interface on the former. Other platforms like WooCommerce and Volusion require more technical knowledge, but they are still much easier to use than other ecommerce web design tools.
If you’ve ever read on a marketing blog that customers treat your site like a digital version of your store, the author was not exaggerating. Users will directly correlate the functions and appearance of your site with the quality of your products. If your small business site doesn’t deliver a good experience, it will repel customers instead of enticing them to complete a purchase.
Developing an ecommerce platform design from scratch requires time and resources, so this isn’t always a feasible option for all small businesses. The good news is that the leading ecommerce website builders usually include a specific set of design templates for this specific industry.
Before choosing the best online store platform for your specific case, browse through its collection of templates and see if any of these are suitable for your ecommerce plan. And, you should also reach out to the customer support team and find out how often these are updated in order to avoid looking too similar to another ecommerce platform.
All reliable online shopping platforms include features to simplify the order fulfillment process. While this only applies to physical goods, the order fulfillment process is crucial to create a great experience and improve the performance of your ecommerce platform.
In a business transaction, the order fulfillment process covers all of the steps from the moment the order is placed to the delivery of the product. By working with Shopify, WooCommerce, and another leading ecommerce platform, you’ll have features available that help you automate parts of the order fulfillment and reduce the amount of work you have to do for each order.
Some of the features you may want to look out for include order registration, tax calculator, and shipping management options including the selection of predefined carriers. Keep in mind that complex fulfillment features are usually available on high tier plans on WooCommerce, Wix, and Shopify, so evaluate each platform and figure out which one is best before committing.
Additional Sales Channel Integration
Your ecommerce platform should be your company’s biggest focus in terms of online sales, but it doesn’t have to be the only channel. As a matter of fact, developing a multi-channel selling system will help expand your reach and has the potential to exponentially increase the number of sales you generate from social media networks and other alternative sources.
Platforms like Shopify can integrate with social media networks, third-party ecommerce providers including Amazon, and other platforms that can boost your sales. Keep in mind that WooCommerce and other ecommerce platforms for small business also offer this feature, but it’s not as comprehensive as Shopify.
We’ll go over the features of the ecommerce website platforms later in this article, but keep in mind that the integration process for these tools tends to be simple, so you don’t have to worry about having the technical knowledge to link your online store like a pro.
Apps and Extensions
Although the ecommerce platform you want may lack one or more features you really want, you can always look at the apps and extensions that may potentially improve its functionality. Apps and extensions are often designed to address shortcomings in every platform, giving users the ability to make upgrades and build the perfect ecommerce store.
One of the most popular examples of a great extension-based functionality upgrade is the ability to create stores using drag and drop interfaces. While this is available in Shopify and other platforms, WooCommerce users can only add this feature by employing an extension. That said, once installed, the extension behaves as if it was a feature native to the ecommerce platform.
Keep in mind that the extensions you use don’t have to be directly related to ecommerce either. For instance, you can opt for search engine optimization (SEO) extensions and plugins that improve the way your ecommerce store interacts with Google and similar platforms.
SEO and Other Marketing Options
Besides the extensions available, you should also evaluate the different SEO tools as well as any other capacity that relates to marketing your platform. SEO and digital marketing as a whole have become the golden standard to promote your online store, regardless if it’s built on Shopify, WooCommerce, Volusion, Wix, or any other platform. So, you need to evaluate these options and choose one that has all of the SEO and marketing features that you don’t have covered already.
Search engines are the biggest source of traffic for your ecommerce store, so make sure that your platform of choice allows you to set metadata, internal links, customize page URLs, and make sure that your site is SEO-friendly. As a bonus, you can also take a look at the platform’s social media promotion features and see what integrations you’ll have available.
Even if you’re working with an ecommerce platform for small businesses, you should still verify that your potential partner of choice has a solid set of SEO tools that you’ll take advantage of later on.
More than half of all internet traffic on a global scale is now mobile. Although this trend may never completely materialize in the US, there’s no denying the importance of having an online store that’s compatible with mobile devices. But, instead of developing an app that hinges on installs or managing a completely independent mobile site, you can opt for implementing a responsive design that automatically adapts to the user’s screen size.
Modern consumers now use their mobile devices to purchase products, boost event tickets, and pay their favorite small businesses. Therefore, your mobile site should be equipped with a responsive design as well as Shopify payments or a similar solution.
In most cases, website builders let you know in advance if the theme or design you’re working with is responsive. In mobile devices, this can be the difference between having abandoned cart issues and producing a large number of sales.
Types of Ecommerce Platform
Although this technology was once reserved for large companies with infinite budgets, having an online store is now common practice for large and small businesses alike. With the right site, you can increase the number of sales you generate per month. However, you may need to invest in maintaining your store and ensuring that it’s running smoothly depending on the type you select.
In order to choose the best platform for your ecommerce website, you need to understand the different types of options you have available. Not all platforms feature the same structure and this means that two seemingly similar options can be fundamentally different from one another. The only way to make the best choice is to learn about the different ecommerce website builders and how they work internally.
The three main types of platforms that allow you to build online stores are open-source ecommerce site builders, software-as-a-service (SaaS) tools, and headless commerce alternatives.
Open-Source Ecommerce Platforms
The first type of ecommerce platform we’ll analyze is open-source software. As the name suggests, these platforms allow you to change and customize all parts of the code, so they are ideal for companies that have large IT infrastructures and a full team of technicians on call.
Open-source software brings a huge number of advantages, but it’s regarded as outdated due to the complex set of resources required to manage these platforms. For instance, some of the responsibilities that the online store owners have to take care of include ensuring all compliance, hosting the page, manually patching and updating the platform, and conducting quality assurance analysis for all features.
Open-source software also falls under the category of hosted ecommerce platforms, so you’ll need to take care of all the security infrastructure. This type of solution may also require the custom creation of additional resources, like discount engines, promotional client portals, additional email marketing or SEO tools, and other features.
SaaS solutions have become more and more popular over the years because they are practical, powerful, and in most cases, budget-friendly. Instead of having to host them yourself, SaaS platforms are hosted on the cloud and can be accessed from anywhere in the world.
Because maintenance, PCI compliance, security checkups, and other complex activities are handled by the SaaS provider, working with cloud-hosted solutions is always more affordable than an open-source platform. Rather than spending a huge amount of time setting up and managing your online store’s backend, SaaS allows you to focus on selling through an easy to use interface.
With all of the above in mind, SaaS technology does have some limitations. For example, SaaS platforms offer reduced capacities in terms of customization and flexibility, so you need to carefully choose your solution based on the features it already has. Some SaaS providers offer APIs that improve ease of use, but these don’t always make up for this entirely.
Last but not least, headless commerce platforms are the last type of technology you can use to power your online store.
More ecommerce solutions feature a sales and order processing engine that’s paired with a content management system (CMS) in order to provide maximum flexibility. But, in some instances, companies require a more stripped-down shopping cart solution that they can simply install below their current interface and get started with right away.
A headless commerce solution is the best platform for ecommerce for these scenarios because they are not packaged with a CMS and can be used with a variety of tools that help manage your ecommerce site.
It’s important to note that headless commerce is a type of SaaS that’s known as commerce-as-a-service, so it’s also a more cost-effective alternative that’s suitable for lean companies. That said, you need to have a solid CMS solution, email service provider, hosting, order management system, and other powerful features in place already for the headless commerce platform to work.
Business Models Compatible with Ecommerce
Billions of people rely on the internet to discover and acquire new goods and services every month, so having an ecommerce store is a good idea for almost every business. While the industry directly affects the ecommerce platform you choose, your business model will also impact the partner you choose to build your online store.
Traditional ecommerce businesses operate in the same way as a conventional store because they stock their inventory and then attempt to sell it. Online stores are much more versatile, so with the right website builder, you can start selling products that you haven’t actually ordered at the time of purchase. Plus, the right ecommerce platform will also help you make sure that these goods are promptly delivered and that your customers are happy.
Below, we’ve listed some of the business categories and industries that tend to experience superb results with an ecommerce store.
Big Retail and Fashion Stores
Selling products online and developing a robust ecommerce store is a no-brainer for large fashion stores and big retailers, regardless of their specific niches. Consumers are opting for online purchases more and more each year, a phenomenon that has become even more common due to the global health crisis. So, these companies are poised to make a huge profit from online channels, as long as they focus on developing solid online stores.
Retail and Fashion stores that have a larger budget can opt for premium ecommerce platforms, such as Shopify and BigCommerce. These companies may have the resources to work with open-source software, but the same functionality can be achieved through lighter cloud-based solutions, but this will again depend on your specific requirements.
Shopify and BigCommerce ecommerce platforms are a great way to maintain and grow the number of sales you produce per month. Just make sure that you have the right features by choosing your ecommerce plan based on your needs rather than its price.
Small Fashion and Retail Online Shops
Small retail, fashion, and similar stores can also benefit greatly from establishing a multi-channel sales mechanism. According to Google, 3 out of 5 purchases begin online, so having your products available on the internet can significantly increase the number of sales from local customers.
Small businesses that have the ability to invest in higher-quality platforms should definitely implement these advanced tools. But, companies that have limited resources will also be able to choose from a solid list of ecommerce platform providers that have a lower price tag and allow for the development of simple yet effective online stores.
Startups are small businesses that are still in the growth stage, so these companies can benefit from running ecommerce stores for obvious reasons. Finding the best ecommerce platform can help these organizations build an SEO-friendly site that also serves as a full-fledged online store. But, make sure to consider the type of product you’re selling and the audience you’re targeting.
Although Shopify ecommerce platforms are powerful enough to be used in almost all cases, opting for a top-notch solution can put a lot of financial stress on a young business. In these cases, startups may be better off opting for a more basic website builder that still offers drag and drop features, but that’s also more budget-friendly like Volusion.
Dropshipping has become a billion dollar industry in its own right, but it still falls under the category of ecommerce. There are Many popular ecommerce platforms that also integrate with solutions designed specifically for dropshippers. For example, Shopify and other top ecommerce platforms can link directly to AliExpress, MegaGoods, as well as other providers to create a more streamlined fulfillment process.
Remember, even if a platform doesn’t offer dropshipping solutions, take the time to research the add-ons you have available. For instance, Wix and WooCommerce don’t have native dropshipping features, but you’ll be able to find extensions for both platforms that also produce a more effective process.
Most Affordable Providers
Companies and individuals who are interested in buying bulk always try to find the most affordable providers online. You can cater to this segment by developing an online store that specializes in providing the most affordable rates. And yes, you can definitely find an ecommerce platform designed specifically for stores that want to provide the lowest prices to their customers.
While these tend to be the cheapest ecommerce platforms in terms of price, alternatives designed for budget online stores are designed to provide basic features that work extremely well. The good news is that these consumers aren’t looking to be delighted by an online store’s appearance. As long as it’s easy to use and contains all the basic ecommerce features, your audience will be happy with your platform
International and Multilingual Sites
It’s common for B2B ecommerce platforms to sell products and services to clients around the world. Even small-scale B2B companies can get valuable business from foreign customers, so they need to have a site that’s available to all international visitors. Not only this, but offering different languages based on your visitor’s location can also help improve user experience.
Creating a version of your site in a different language represents a significant amount of work, unless your ecommerce website builder is designed to simplify this process. But, keep in mind that some of these solutions may not be compatible with your email marketing and SEO plans, so you should choose a platform like Shopify in these cases even if it’s among the most expensive options.
Selling Services, Subscriptions, and Digital Products
Selling services, subscriptions, and digital products share similarities with physical goods, but it also has unique elements you need to keep in mind. The first thing you need to do is keep in mind the type of intangible product you’re selling. For example, software, accommodation, and gym memberships all require different approaches, even if they are not technically physical goods.
The good news here is that selling digital products doesn’t require as many post-purchase steps. For this reason, the best ecommerce platform for selling intangible goods doesn’t have to be complex or bring complex features. Instead, pay close attention to usability, customer experience, and price per month.
Brick and Mortar Locations
In the early days of internet marketing, thousands of brick and mortar businesses around the US relied on digital channels to drive foot traffic. Many of these companies have now gone digital, but driving foot traffic through your website is still a superb alternative. This is especially true for companies that can’t necessarily sell their products at an online store because of shipping complications and other logistic issues.
In addition to driving traffic by showcasing your products, the right ecommerce website builder can help your small business process payments. In some cases, Shopify and other leading platforms even provide the physical card readers and other devices you need to support your business.
Benefits of Working with an Ecommerce Platform
Selling products online may seem relatively simple, but it’s actually just as hard if not harder than running a regular store. Small business employees rely on face-to-face selling to boost the number of sales they generate for their business. When customers make purchases through online stores, they retain more control over the products they buy or the amount of money they spend, which doesn’t always translate to more sales or happier clients.
To help customers and ensure that your site generates as many sales as possible, you should implement an ecommerce solution that’s been tailored to fit your business’ specific needs. Having a functional store on your site can give your company a positive reputation and reduce abandoned cart instances.
In addition to the above, some of the benefits of working with the best ecommerce platform include:
Develop an Online Store without Coding Knowledge
The most obvious benefit of working with an ecommerce website builder is the ability to create a site using a drag and drop interface that doesn’t require any coding knowledge. Despite the fact that not all website builders include this feature, many small business owners and entrepreneurs usually opt for a platform that has an easy design interface because they can use it to build their entire site.
The best part? These top ecommerce solutions often consider SEO elements and other advanced features. So, even if these aren’t as good as if they were developed by a specialized SEO agency, you can still enjoy additional benefits that were not available to non-technical users a few years ago.
Forget About Managing Security Issues and Updates
Paying per month for an ecommerce website builder like Wix may not be appealing to some entrepreneurs, but these platforms often take care of security upgrades that are essential to a safe ecosystem. Cybercrime is on the rise, so all ecommerce sites need to have the right security features in place to protect their customers as well as their brand.
Remember, an open-source website builder may require manual upgrades, so don’t assume that your ecommerce platform will take care of these requirements. Instead, you should research the different providers you’re considering and figure out which ones include security in their ecommerce features.
Process Orders and Payments Online
Another obvious benefit of having an online store is the ability to process orders and collect payments in an effective and practical way. Rather than depending on your sales personnel, an ecommerce site allows your customers to browse through your catalog, pick their favorite product, ask for a free trial (if you’re selling a service), and make a purchase on their own.
Although this is a given in a platform’s ecommerce features, you should pay close attention to the types of payments that are allowed. The most used ecommerce platforms often give you a series of basic options plus the ability to integrate additional payment options as needed.
Easily Manage Taxes and Shipping Process
Choosing a shipping provider is important, but you also have to set up a reliable mechanism that allows you to send your goods through a streamlined process. Store owners that work with a reliable ecommerce platform usually have access to shipping features that help automate certain actions.
But, the shipping process isn’t the only thing you need to take care of after every order. Every completed order affects your taxes, but waiting until the last minute to organize these payments can result in hours of additional work. If you work with the right provider, you can get access to ecommerce features specifically designed to simplify the tax calculation process.
Ideal for Pairing with SEO and Other Content-Rich Approaches
All stores need a marketing strategy to be successful. This is even truer for online shops as these sites are compatible with SEO, inbound marketing, and other promotion approaches that rely heavily on content quality. These marketing tactics also allow you to set up abandoned cart recovery mechanisms and boost sales in your store while also giving your brand more personality.
Additionally, having built-in ecommerce SEO tools at your disposal can also help you create a better multi-channel selling machine. Keep in mind that advanced marketing features are usually available in the top-tier ecommerce plans from the leading platforms, so you’ll probably need to have a significant budget to cover the per-month cost of these tools
Built-In Features and Capacities
In addition to SEO and marketing, working with a reliable ecommerce provider also means having additional features and capacities at your disposal. For example, if your website builder allows you to create or choose from predefined design templates, you’ll be able to produce new product pages in a matter of minutes. This, in turn, can increase efficiency when performing a recurring task and save you a significant amount of time later on.
If you’re working with an ecommerce platform’s free plan you’ll probably have limited features. While free plans may work in the early stages, your best bet is to invest into a solid SaaS or headless commerce platform that gives you more control over the shopping cart settings.
Powerful Reporting Features
It’s true that you can and should implement tracking and analytics tools to help you monitor the performance of your site. That said, the most used ecommerce platforms like Shopify also offer powerful reporting features that give you a wholesome view of the performance of your site.
Relatively new ecommerce companies may be able to benefit from relatively simple reporting features. Larger businesses that have already worked with open-source hosted ecommerce platforms may require more comprehensive reporting and analytics features. So, these may have to opt for the top-tier plans from one of the leading providers.
Allows for Cross-Channel Integrations
While they are not strictly necessary from an operational perspective, cross-channel integrations are a must-have for ecommerce businesses. The good news is that basic integration has become a standard among most ecommerce platforms, so you can link one or more tools to improve ease of use across all channels.
Some of the most popular integrations include linking to SEO, PPC, and social media tools. You may also be able to place light versions of your store on different platforms depending on your setup, but this feature is usually only available from SaaS providers. You can also get integrations using an open-source platform, but remember that your business may need to edit the code directly or try to use a drag and drop extension to potentially build the integrations interface if the one you want isn’t already available.
Easily Import and Export Data
Whether you’ve developed graphics, created reports, or need to share data, a robust ecommerce platform can help you import and export files in order to improve the way you share information. This feature is often available in both SaaS and open-source deployments, but you may not have it available if you’re on a free trial.
If you’ve just established your online store, you may not see the benefits of importing or exporting data just yet, but this feature comes in handy when analyzing performance and optimizing your content.
How Much Does an Ecommerce Platform Cost?
Although some platforms offer plans for free, you should consider investing in a paid ecommerce solution that helps you sell products and address abandoned cart issues. Not only this, but you should also examine your circumstances and determine whether you need an additional platform to help you achieve your goals.
It’s worth noting that testing out a few platforms on a 30-day free trial is a good idea, but this may also represent a lot of work if you don’t find the right provider quickly. Some platforms offer 10 or 15-day free trial options as well, but finding a provider that offers a longer period will give you more time to evaluate your results.
Ecommerce solution providers have developed paid plans designed to fit the various types of online shops out there. Some of the elements that affect the cost of an ecommerce platform include:
Shopify, Wix, and Volusion are among the many ecommerce platforms that have worked hard to earn a solid reputation. These names are now synonyms of reliability, but remember that ecommerce business owners need to pay top dollar to work with the best providers.
If you don’t have the resources to work with the biggest names, you can always opt for another ecommerce platform as long as it has a solid reputation. If you’re working with a smaller provider, make sure that the platform is user friendly, contains a drag and drop option, and has abandoned cart recovery features.
Plans and Features Included
It doesn’t matter if you’re thinking about a self-hosted ecommerce solution or a SaaS platform, you need to evaluate the different plans available and choose the best one.
In some cases, you can partner with a platform that offers a free version and upgrade as your company grows. But, keep in mind that this will only work if the free plan has everything you need to start with. If this isn’t the case, your best bet is to find a paid platform that has everything you need as the right solution will save you time and resources in the long run.
Before you evaluate the different alternatives you have available, you can always create a list of must-have and secondary features. Keep this list handy and note which platforms offer what features and make a decision based on this information.
Maintenance Fees and Additional Expenses
In addition to the monthly subscription charges, you may also need to cover maintenance fees and additional expenses when working with a cloud ecommerce platform. Shopify, Wix, Volusion, and other providers are transparent about all their transaction fees and other charges. But, this is not the case with more obscure providers, so always review the terms of service to make sure you consider all potential costs.
Moreover, remember that some ecommerce providers work on a commission basis, so your expenses are directly tied to the amount of money you generate. But, the good news is that these platforms usually allow you to improve design variables, implement analytics tools, and create abandoned cart recovery mechanisms without additional costs.
Best Overall Ecommerce Platforms for 2021 and Beyond
Now that we’ve covered the benefits of working with ecommerce platforms, let’s go over our list of the providers for 2021 and beyond. Our list includes both open-source and SaaS ecommerce platform providers, so make sure to evaluate your company requirements and choose the best option based on the features you really need.
Shopify is used by thousands of ecommerce stores and it’s regarded as one of the leading platforms you can work with. Perfect for traditional ecommerce as well as dropshipping, Shopify is based in Canada and offers top-notch security as well as functionality features. These include the ability to generate superb product pages, plus you can start working with this platform for close to $30 per month on the most basic plan.
Some of the best features available on Shopify include:
- Easy to use
- Thousands of templates to choose from
- SEO-friendly structure
- Shopping cart functions
- SSL encryption
Although Shopify may have more users, BigCommerce provides a robust list of technical features that result in superb performance. From page speed to social media integrations and extension availability, BigCommerce is a powerhouse that brings a unique combination of flexibility and performance.
Some of the top features of BigCommerce are:
- Robust reporting capacities
- Customizable order confirmation emails
- Allows for easy tax organizing
- Provide a customer portal
- Suitable for the sale of digital goods
Wix was one of the first ecommerce platforms to provide a functional drag and drop builder. Today, the website builder is one of the best ecommerce solutions available for entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes. Although it still employs its traditional click and drag interface, Wix has added a huge variety of features that have improved its technical performance as well as its usability.
In addition to the above, Wix is also a great alternative because it:
- Features more than 500 templates
- Has improved its SEO structure
- Allows for easy communication with customers
- Includes basic plans that start at $23 per month
WordPress has become the most popular platform for building powerful websites quickly. Companies and entrepreneurs that want to use this as a base for their ecommerce site can choose to install WooCommerce.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that’s used in more than 80 million platforms, making it the most popular online store solution in the world.
When using WooCommerce, you’ll be able to:
- Edit all parts of your online store
- Automate tax and shipping rate calculations
- Download the WooCommerce app for iOS or Android and track order progress there
- Accept multiple payment methods including PayPal and Apple Pay
- Leverage additional WordPress extensions, like Yoast
Instead of simply having passable SEO tools, 3dcart is a robust ecommerce platform built for search engine success. Although it’s best reserved for experienced users, 3dcart has quietly been delivering reliable ecommerce solutions for more than two decades. Some of its best features include:
- No transaction fees or commissions
- Web hosting service available, which includes a free domain for one year
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Around the clock customer support
- Hundreds of payment options available
Volusion is a comprehensive ecommerce solution that’s ideal for companies that want to sell a large number of products. This platform has also been in the game for more than 20 years and it’s perfect for building complex stores, but companies will have to eploy WordPress or a similar platform to develop a blog.
- Scalable option that’s suitable for catalogs made of thousands of products
- Superb customer service
- Competitive pricing
- Not ideal for digital goods
- 30-day money-back guarantee
If you’re looking for low-cost open-source solutions, PrestaShop may be the best alternative. PrestaShop is free to use, but you may want to implement a few of its paid extensions in order to make the most of your store. Some of its main features include:
- Completely customizable designs
- Compatible with dozens of payment methods
- Large network of developers that provide support
- 33 free add-ons, including PayPal and Mailchimp marketing
- Paid extensions only require a one-time fee
Weebly was founded back in 2006 and it has become one of the leading platforms for small companies and startups. The platform has more than half of a million active users and it provides separate marketing services that can help entrepreneurs grow their stores using modern techniques.
- Free domain included
- Ideal for companies that don’t need a strong web presence
- Suitable for hundreds of products
- Order automation based on inventory available
- Shows customers the number of remaining products that are available
If you’re looking for a drag and drop alternative that’s not as expensive as Shopify, you should strongly consider Squarespace. This website builder offers ecommerce features on its third most expensive plan. However, it’s still more affordable than other alternatives and brings powerful features like:
- User-friendly interface
- Attractive design templates available
- Include logistic software tools like real-time shipping rates
- Powerful mobile templates
- Integration with common third-party tools
Magento ecommerce platforms are best suited for companies with larger budgets. But, this powerful platform is one of the best alternatives in terms of customization and integration with other sales channels.
- Provides full control over your shop
- Suitable for large inventories
- Reliable customer support
- Dedicated order management system designed for ecommerce
- Compatible with other ecommerce tools
Tips on Finding the Best Ecommerce Platform for Your Business
There aren’t any exact steps to identify the best ecommerce platforms because the process is different for every business. Rather than evaluating each platform based only on its features or ease of use, you need to analyze your brand’s requirements and determine which features are the most important for your company.
In addition to your products, you should assess the resources you have available and determine how the entire selling and order fulfillment process will work. Which team members are in charge of updating the inventory online? When will orders be shipped and through what carrier? How often will you review your sites analytics and optimize your store? These are some of the questions you need to ask yourself in order to choose the best platform.
Some of the main elements you want to evaluate when choosing the best ecommerce platforms include:
Setup and Ease of Use
Ecommerce solutions are usually graded based on internal structure rather than their ease of use or usability. However, usability is a crucial element for any business working on a budget because these organizations often rely on their internal team to develop and manage their ecommerce campaign.
In general terms, self-hosted solutions tend to be more complicated because they require a certain degree of technical knowledge. These may provide more flexibility in terms of shopping cart design and other areas, but small companies usually struggle with this setup.
Cloud-based platforms provide a more user-friendly alternative that requires fewer resources but can still help companies sell significantly more products.
Ecommerce Platform Goals
Needless to say, the main goal of all ecommerce sites is to sell more products and create a better image for the brand. But, you need to analyze your internal goals to decide which platform is right for you. For instance, if you plan on achieving high SEO rankings and getting millions of organic visitors per month, your best alternative may be to partner with Shopify or other leading platforms.
Additionally, you may also want to offer all of the products in your inventory through your store, so you may need a powerful cloud-based store. Unless you have the resources to implement a self-hosted alternative like Magento, which would give you more power over the supporting features that appear on the shopping cart page.
Types of Sites and Products
All ecommerce sites serve as a store, but this isn’t the only purpose they can have. For example, your digital store can also double as your company website and contain information about your brand, products, and services. Just keep in mind that the type of site will help you decide which platform works best for your business.
What’s more, you should also consider the products you want to sell before choosing the best ecommerce platforms. If you’re selling intangible goods like software or subscription services, you can get away with implementing a lighter platform that focuses more on design and has lower per month costs.
For physical products, you may need to choose a store builder that has complex shipping and order fulfillment features, especially if you sell goods internationally. Shopify is always a great alternative, but Wix has also earned a reputation for delivering functional and powerful sites through a simple building interface.
Needless to say, the features available on each platform will help you decide whether or not it’s a good fit. You can always refer back to the list of necessary features you created before you started evaluating your different options. That said, also consider the fact that you may still need to hire additional analytics services and add these to the cost of your ecommerce platform plan.
Self-hosted solutions are flexible, but managing this setup requires a significant amount of resources. Cloud alternatives are usually easy to work with and feature more default design options, but you’ll need to pay per month in order to use these platforms.
Value, Cost, and Potential
As with other business tools, the price of the ecommerce plans you opt for won’t really matter if they allow you to exponentially increase revenue. That said, it’s important to understand whether the ecommerce provider you choose can help your brand achieve long-term success.
For example, if you partner with a provider that has a list of superb features, but doesn’t offer SEO capacities or add-ons, there’s a limit as to how much potential it has. You should always evaluate the features that you have available from a value and potential perspective without sacrificing ease of use to make sure that the platform you choose is worth it.
Start Creating Your Ecommerce Website Today with Fannit
Creating an ecommerce site that has a solid SEO structure and reels in high volumes of sales may take a lot of time and effort, but the results are definitely worth it. There are thousands, if not millions of potential customers who are looking for your products. Ecommerce platforms allow you to deliver the best experience for each user while boosting the number of sales you generate from your digital platforms.
Choosing between Shopify, Wix, Magento, Volusion, and all the other options isn’t always easy. But, we hope the tips above have helped readers find the ideal platforms and select the right plans.
If you’re interested in learning more about getting a custom site built on any of these platforms, contact Fannit today and our team will be glad to help.
- More helpful reading: https://www.inc.com/bill-carmody/top-seven-ecommerce-platforms-in-2018.html