If you’re going to set up an online store you’ll need to pay careful attention to the ecommerce platform that you’ll use. Several factors come into play such as ease of use, pricing and integration among others. In addition, you also need to consider what you will be selling, as that is very important and spell the difference between success and failure.
What Will You Sell?
There are ecommerce platforms that can handle both physical and digital products, but others can handle only one or the other. That’s not all though, as some platforms allow for unlimited product inventory while others have a fixed number allowed. A barebones platform only presents you with limited options, while the most comprehensive ones offer complete inventory of products.
To make it easier for you, answer the following questions:
• Are you selling physical or digital products? Or both?
• How many items are you going to put up for sale?
• Is inventory tracking necessary?
• What options (color, size etc.) do you want for each product?
• How do you want to handle shipping?
• Will you sell your products in an offline store too?
Keep in mind that some platforms don’t accept certain products (alcohol, adult material etc.), so make sure you read the platform’s terms and conditions and if they’re acceptable.
Who Will Host the Store?
It’s either you or the platform. Hosting the store on your own website gives you complete control, but this also requires constant maintenance. You will also be solely responsible for the security of your customers’ data and ensuring the software is up to date.
For small businesses, that’s just too much work so they choose to let the platform host their store. This is more convenient, and they also let you use your store’s domain name. Before agreeing, compare the features and hosting options of a few platforms first.
Assess the Design Options
It’s not easy to design an online store from scratch, which is why most platforms come with pre-built themes and templates you can use. Some of these themes are free while others require payment. Some of the better platforms even allow for custom themes. Most of these platforms also offer previews so you can see how the theme will look and decide if it’s worth a purchase.
Application and Tools Integration
If you’re using specific programs and tools for email, referral marketing and accounting, it’s imperative that the platform offers integrated support. The good news is that most popular ecommerce platforms offer integrated support for popular tools. In addition, they also offer services related to reporting, social media, inventory, customer service, marketing and accounting. The ideal ecommerce platform offers integration with the services you use, as this cuts down on the amount of time you need to spend to learn the system.
What are the Payment Gateway Options?
Do you want your customers to pay via PayPal, or use another payment option? Ensure that the platform you choose supports your preferred payment gateway. While virtually all ecommerce platforms today support PayPal, the same cannot be said for other payment options, so make certain they’re covered.
Pricing and Features
Pricing on ecommerce platforms are very competitive nowadays, but you’ll need to assess the features across the different packages to get the most value for your money. For instance, you may find ecommerce platform A for just $20 a month while platform B costs $30.
At first glance platform A may seem like the better option, but as it turns out you’re only allowed to sell 12 products a month while platform B, for $30, lets you sell 120 products. In this case, ecommerce platform B is the more practical option.
Some of these platforms also don’t allow discount codes while others do, and some offer full support while others only offer them at particular times. It’s for this reason why you need to spend as much time as possible comparing the features.
Watch for Hidden Fees
The pricing listed for the package may not be the whole deal, as there may be additional or hidden fees included. Contact the website and ask how much it will cost, and make sure that you specify everything including the fees for setup, processing, the payment gateway and service integration.
In addition, you should look for charges involved in the use of apps and themes. You should also check if the platform offers scalable solutions and specialties. For instance, some ecommerce platforms specialize in marketing automation, sales automation, etc. Learn as much as you can about the platform so you can take full advantage of its services.
Finally, remember that these platforms can only provide you with the tools you need to set up your store. In the end it’s still up to you to make the most of the platform’s features to get people to your store.