An online storefront can be an entire business platform, or can work in tandem with a brick and mortar. By offering products or services online, both new and established businesses are able to reach a wider audience, while strengthening brand identity. It is easy to assume that when online, retailing platforms are completely automated but this isn’t the case. Regardless of what you are selling, only marketplaces and storefronts all rely on third party platforms.
It is possible to create a stand-alone website with the intention of selling products and services, using a third party e-commerce platform can help to scale operations, provide peace of mind to customers and aid in creating exposure. E-commerce platforms are great for businesses, but each of these have their own benefits and limitations. Choosing the wrong platform can reduce functionality, as well as user experience, and can lead to unexpected costs.
What to Consider When Choosing an E-Commerce Platform
E-commerce platforms are incredibly competitive and will often create marketing campaigns, designed to draw new users in. Not every business has the same needs. For example, for those online stores that specialize in physical items, inventory management is a huge support and asset. For those that sell online services, inventory is less important than scheduling. When choosing the right platform for your business, it is important to consider daily needs, as well as long-term, and one-time needs.
Associated Costs: There is no such thing as a free website. The cost of e-commerce websites will vary depending on the range of desired features and design costs. A web designer will often charge a flat rate for design and creation, as well as the implementation of platforms. Some platforms will boast low starting costs but will rely on additional apps or plug-ins for functionality — and each of these come along with additional costs! This method of sneaking in costs can serve as a nasty surprise for site owners. Incorporating certain features are well worth their cost but it is important to take an in-depth look at what is and, what is not, included in base costs.
One of the most commonly asked questions about new websites is, “How much does an e-commerce website cost?”. In addition to monitoring start-up costs, it is important to consider recurring monthly base fees as well as transaction fees, hosting fees, server storage, apps and plug-ins.
Unique Features: A great marketing campaign might get your attention but that doesn’t mean that it should get your business. Every business operates differently, so word of mouth is not always enough to mean great results. Comparative study is the best way to fully understand all of the e-commerce features included on each platform. It is easy to assume that features like inventory syncing are obvious inclusions, but this is not always the case. Speaking to a web designer can help to understand how a certain platform can benefit your website.
Some important factors to consider are customer support options, editing orders, rescheduling services, access to mobile apps, newsletter creation automating emails and more.
Ease of Use: Before committing to a platform, consider who will be using the programs. Basic plans will often account for one user while paid plans offer e-commerce features that allow multiple profiles for users and administrators. If you are not the only person who will be handling your site, consider the strengths of your team members and ask their opinion. If an interface is complicated, cluttered or confusing, it will be a big drain of time and resources trying to figure it out. The main purpose of an e-commerce platform should be to make your life easier. Digital products with a clean interface make it easy to connect with your customers, handle credit card payments, list inventory items and even link your social media to your website. Streamline your processes and increase customer and administer experience by getting rid of inefficiencies and a prolonged learning curve.
Consider Your Hosting: Building an e-commerce website is not enough to make it run. You might have a fully constructed car but it can’t run without a working engine and that is what hosting is! You can spend days researching various platforms but if the hosting isn’t adequate, any platform will turn into a negative experience. When dealing with e-commerce websites, slow load times can cause audiences to bounce, visiting competitors or even causing the site to go down.
The annual hosting cost of an e-commerce website should be relatively low, particularly if purchased as part of a plan. If you sign up with a hosting service but are unhappy with the costs, speed or functionality, it is possible to switch hosting providers but it is not always easy and can take the help of a developer to get the job done right, which can take days of expensive hourly rates.
Which Is the Best E-Commerce Option: Our Experts Weigh In
When closing an e-commerce platform, the best option is to have an expert give their opinion based on the specified needs of your site. When you want to create the best experience, the specialists at Quake Media prefer using WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that is known for its clean design, efficiency and ease of use. Unlike other platforms, WooCommerce is highly customizable and can be used for any product or service.
Flexible Listings: Don’t be limited in your listing options. Customizable listings allow users to offer everything from physical items to products and services, as well as articles and subscriptions. This plugin can also connect to external affiliates like Amazon.
Custom Themes and Branding: Templated themes are a dime a dozen but pose a ton of issues. Audiences aren’t interested in seeing the same web design over and over again, so using templates can quickly push your site into the background. Instead of just being another face in the crowd, create a statement for your unique brand. Functionalities can also be customized by integrating plug-ins.
Security: Any time that financial details are involved, security should be a top priority. WooCommerce incorporates secure payment lines to protect customers and their personal information. Developers update security measures regularly to prevent cyber attacks. Customized websites allow web developers to create frameworks that are designed to provide additional security benefits. In addition to built-in security practices, it is possible to add backup plug-ins to protect records and data, as well as security that provides additional protection from malware and other threats.