When it comes to choosing a platform for your eCommerce online store, there are tons of options out there. Which one should you choose? Which one will fit in your business model?

“eCommerce is the activity of buying or selling of products and services online or over the internet” – Wikipedia.

So, an eCommerce platform is what helps you achieve this goal. It is your store on the World Wide Web, much like a physical store in the real world. Choosing the right eCommerce platform is the most crucial step in setting up your store.

The first and most important aspects to consider are…

Business, Functional and Technical Requirements:

Deciding the right eCommerce platform depends on your requirements.

Take the tome to jot down all business, functional, and technical requirements. This structured approach will help you shortlist the right platform.

Some examples of each requirements are:

Business Requirements
These requirements will depend on your business model.

  1. Are you a small business looking for a quick and hassle-free setup? Or are you an organization looking to integrate the store with your existing setup?
  2. What are your marketing goals? What kind of products or service do you want to sell online?
  3. What is your budget? How much are you willing to spend on the solution?
  4. What are the legal, regulatory and security requirements you need to adhere to?
  5. What are your policies on pricing, shipping, returns etc?

Functional Requirements
These requirements will detail the level of functionality you need.

  1. What theme do you need? Minimalist or colorful and vibrant?
  2. What payment options do you need to use?
  3. How should your workflow of an order be?
  4. What shopping cart functionality do you need?
  5. Do you need a responsive site which works on any device? e.g. mobile, tablet, computer etc.

Technical Requirements
These requirements should list all of your technical needs.

  1. What level of technical complexity is workable? Do you have the required technical expertise?
  2. Do you need a stand-alone platform or do you need to integrate with other software?
  3. What are the infrastructure needs? Do you need a cloud-based hosted solution or do you want to invest in the infrastructure?
  4. Security functionality e.g. password, logins, payment gateway integrations, storing customer data etc.

Platform Options

Once you list down your requirements, the next step is to check the available options. Let’s take a look at some different solutions to consider:

Online Marketplace
If you have very few products to sell, yet have an online eCommerce, this is the right solution for you.

These online marketplaces let you list your products on their site. Examples being Amazon or E-Bay.

Benefits include low set-up cost, access to a large customer base, and low complexity. Disadvantages include high fees or commission on selling, lack of branding and scalability.

Cloud-Hosted eCommerce Platforms
These solutions are good for small to medium business with limited products, looking for a quick solution with limited initial investment and technical expertise.

These platforms let you create your eCommerce store on their cloud-based platform. They provide you with the software, domain and host your store. Within minutes, you can create your online eCommerce store with little technical expertise. They provide thousands of templates and plug-ins. They adhere to most security requirements. However, you don’t have access to the source code. Hence scalability, flexibility, and customization can be an issue with these platforms.

Some of the famous cloud-hosted eCommerce platforms are

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • Wix
  • Volusion

Self-Hosted eCommerce Platforms
These solutions are good for companies having many products across different categories. If you have the budget and technical expertise, this platform would be ideal.

Self-hosted platforms are commonly open-source software customized as you need it. You are free to host it with any hosting provider of your choice. Since they are open source, they offer great flexibility and customization. They can also integrate with your existing back-end systems like CRM or ERP. The flipside is that it requires an initial investment, time and a good level of technical expertise to take full advantage of the software features.

Some of the famous open source self-hosted platforms are:

  • Magento OpenSource & Commerce
  • WooCommerce
  • ZenCart
  • OS Commerce
  • Prestashop
  • X-Cart

Platform Features:

Whichever platform you select, some of the key aspects you need to consider:

  1. Scalability: What level of scalability of hardware, software, users, and products is available
  2. Integration: What level of integration is possible with your own backend system or plug-ins
  3. Performance: One of the most important feature to consider for best user experience
  4. Responsiveness: How well it works on desktop, mobile, and tablet?
  5. Software Features and Add-on’s: Different types of add-on feature available e.g. seamless checkout experience, abandon cart recovery, coupons, offers, analytics etc.
  6. Payment solutions: What different payment solutions are available. e.g COD, Paypal. Credit/Debit card etc.
  7. Security: What security feature does it offer e.g. SSL, Data privacy, PCI-DSS compliance etc.

Finally, the answer to which eCommerce platform is right for your business is – it depends. It depends completely on your business goals. You need to make an educated decision taking into consideration all the above aspects.

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