Which e-commerce Platform is Right for your Business?
by Ben Wilson on July 5th, 2016
More and more people are doing their shopping via the internet. Any retailer who wants to expand their business needs not only a strong online presence, they also need to provide a great experience for people that want to buy online.
You will need an e-commerce platform that meets your business requirements and also makes it easy for your customers to use — finding a platform that satisfies both sets of criteria can be a whole lot trickier than you might think.
Types of e-commerce platforms
Before implementing an e-commerce platform, it’s important to be aware of the two main categories available to you: self-hosted solutions or hosted solutions.
Self-hosted solutions are websites and storefronts you configure, integrate and run yourself. The main benefit is that they tend to be far more flexible and adaptable to specific or bespoke requirements — like inventory management, parcel tracking, unusual or complex shipping configurations. Self- Hosted solutions do however require additional technical expertise and most such systems are not designed to be managed by the non-technical among us. It is not uncommon depending on the size of the project that you will need a team of developers willing to manage and maintain your website infrastructure and that can become a very expensive undertaking both during set-up and longer term. Some of the most widely used systems include Magneto, Woo Commerce and ZenCart.
Hosted solutions are e-commerce systems that are offered by companies that provide packaged e-commerce solutions. These systems will usually more than accommodate the requirements of most small to medium businesses and retail organisations. There are many benefits to using a hosted solution, particularly if your business has limited time and manpower available to allocate to the set-up and configuration and then the maintenance of a self-hosted solution. The web store can be functional and ready to go in a matter of days instead of weeks or months. Hosted e-commerce solutions have already ironed out the technical issues and usually the support infrastructure is in place to help you integrate your shopping cart to your website if that is your plan. Most e-commerce providers offer support help lines which can assist with any technical configuration issues. Usually, hosted services also guarantee up-time, meaning your customers will always be able to access your storefront and purchase your product.Some of the most widely used systems include Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion.
Choosing the right hosted e-commerce solution
A good e-commerce platform offers not only an easy and intuitive way to build a store; it needs to integrate a content management system (CMS) in order to provide the best customer experience by allowing you to manage product pages, galleries within product layouts and other aesthetically important elements of how your online store looks to the world. Most e-commerce platforms have a very basic CMS which means that to get the look and feel you want it is likely that you will be required to pay additional fees.
There are hundreds of vendors offering these solutions, all offering different features and pricing schemes. Some may appear to be user-friendly systems that appeal at first glance, but turn out to be very costly because of all kinds of issues that usually can’t be scoped accurately until the online store is either launched or a long way toward launch date. Others offer a multitude of features, most of which are simply unnecessary for small businesses and can ultimately simply confuse you whilst you are trying to determine which features your business requires. You may find several e-commerce platforms that are extremely flexible and powerful but require almost as much technical expertise as self-hosted solutions to manage. So again, from a cost and manpower perspective, they are just not worth it.
The Web Force 5 e-commerce capabilities are by no means the most sophisticated systems available but that is because we have only incorporated the most commonly requested e-commerce functions. As is the case with the entire Web Force 5 website system we have built the shopping cart functionality in such a way that you do not need to be a programmer or graphic designer (or pay lots of money) to have an e-commerce system that rivals the big guys.
When attempting to select the right e-commerce solution for your business we offer this advice:
1. Make a decision about your businesses online presence as a whole – don’t just buy a shopping cart
2. Make a list of the things you want it to do (manage inventory, send invoices, etc.) and check those off with each option
3. Ensure that you see a demonstration of critical functions like, bulk product, price and image updates, shopping analytics and reports
4. Interrogate how easily it integrates with your current online presence and what will be required to maintain it
5. Clarify to ongoing license fees and per purchase fees levied
6. Check what else you need to go live – online merchant bank accounts, payment gateway accounts, SSL certificates etc.
The creation of a professional and functional e-commerce system can be overwhelming in what is increasingly becoming a market saturated with options. Web Force 5 offers a host of features including an extremely robust and easy to manage e-commerce platform and CMS in one. The Web Force 5 system is designed so that is remains intuitive and easy to use, whilst (in most cases) remaining powerful and flexible enough to meet your specific requirements. Users get instant access to upgrades and improvements which ensures that you'll always have the most up to date software and will be able to avoid any additional or hidden costs.