Sears, one of the most famous symbols of the U.S. capitalism and a relic of the 80s mall culture, filed for bankruptcy in October 2018 after 132 years. The retail giant, which managed to survive some of the harshest times back in the 20th century, admitted defeat in the face of the e-commerce dominance.
Macy’s, another famous department store has been struggling with financial woes and closing shops, unable to reinvent itself and carve out a suitable niche. Brick-and-mortar retail stores are dead; long live e-commerce retail stored. Amazon, eBay, Alibaba, and Rakuten transformed the way people shop and reshaped customer experience. It’s predicted that by 2021, global retail e-commerce sales will reach $4.5 trillion. This fact alone is enough to encourage people to become online entrepreneurs and capitalize on the consumers’ need to make shopping as accessible and comfortable as possible.
If we bear in mind that starting an e-commerce website and setting up an online store is pretty straightforward, it’s clear that this kind of business offers many opportunities. However, there are several factors which are crucial to the success of an e-commerce store, and picking the right e-commerce platform is the most important one.
Here’s why this is so and what things you should take into consideration when you’re making your decision.
The first step is calculating all your costs and make an estimate, and not rushing into making such an important decision. Most platforms usually offer a monthly fee, so that you can make a comparison and find the one that fits your needs and financial limits. However, this doesn’t mean that you should go for the cheapest option because there are other things that you should consider, and processing fees are one of them.
Another important factor which you should think about is what you get for the price you’re paying. Sometimes it’s better to invest more if that will provide both you and your customers with different options, meaning that such an approach will pay off in the end. For example, don’t forget to check what payment options each of the platforms offers, as a variety of choices can speed up your potential customers’ decision-making process. Multiple payment methods are a must when it comes to e-commerce. Nowadays, when the competition is fierce, customers have much higher expectations, as well as their preferred payment options. This means that if you’re allowing only credit card payments and not some alternative online payment systems such as PayPal, you’re practically driving your customers away and leaving money on the table.
Don’t forget that people like to be in control when it comes to their money, and they’re sometimes reluctant to give away their sensitive information, particularly after numerous leaks that recently occurred. On the other hand, some people don’t have a PayPal account, which means that you need to offer traditional payment methods too.
Finally, by accepting different kinds of payment types, you’ll come off as a serious and credible merchant and an abundance of payment methods on your online shopping website gives a certain sense of security to your potential customers.
Self-hosted or hosted platforms?
While having different options is great, it can also render you indecisive. Since e-commerce platforms can be self-hosted or hosted, it’s essential to choose what’s right for you before you decide to set up your store. There are pros and cons for both options, and it’s up to you to weigh them up and opt for the one that’s better for your business in the long run.
With a self-hosted e-commerce platform, you get an open-source application which requires web hosting, which is practically the space where you can install it. In other words, it’s like an online property on which you can build your e-commerce website. So, in order to install your open-source application, you need to rent the space from a hosting provider. One of the most important benefits of self-hosted platforms is that they allow you to tweak and fine-tune them thus adding different functionalities to your web store. You can either do it yourself or hire a professional who will take care of that.
There are numerous plug-ins and extensions which you can add and enable many new features. So, does a high degree of control over your online store and the fact that you can adjust almost every element of it make self-hosted e-commerce platforms the best option for you? Maybe, but before you make up your mind, there are some downsides to the whole concept that you should know before you decide. Namely, this level of control comes with great responsibility as you will have to make sure that all elements of this structure are aligned and harmonized if you want your e-commerce website to run like clockwork. Basically, you’ll have to adjust every single part of this sophisticated engine. In other words, this will make the set-up process complicated.
There usually isn’t some kind of centralized support that you can contact when there’s a problem or a bug, so if you aren’t tech-savvy yourself, you’ll have to hire a someone to manage and maintain the whole system. Last but not least, in many cases, as your business grows, the same will happen to the hosting expenses.
Hosted e-commerce platforms are managed much more easily and they’re much more user-friendly so that you can set up your webshop on your own, and if you encounter a problem, there’s customer support which will help you troubleshoot it. What should also be noted is that such platforms allow customization too. All these benefits will ensure that you won’t be bothered with technical details so that you can dedicate all your time to building your business. There are different hosted e-commerce platforms, but Shopify is most certainly one of the most popular as it powers more than 300,000 stores which have cumulatively generated $20 billion in profits.
Besides providing ready-to-use solutions for online stores, this company also allows retailers to use its shopping cart functionality on their websites built on WordPress and similar platforms. If you want your online store to thrive, it’s always a good idea to enlist the help of a reliable Shopify developer and make the most of this platform.
Although SEO primarily goes hand in hand with blogs and content-based websites, e-commerce stores can also greatly benefit from implementing the principles of this marketing strategy. SEO can catapult your e-commerce store to the top of the SERPs and bring you tons of qualified traffic.
As the results on the first page of Google scoop 92% of all traffic, it’s pretty self-explanatory why you need to have a sound SEO strategy in place. Besides optimizing your product descriptions and other elements for SEO, there’s no better way to attract visitors and potential customers than by producing relevant, high-quality content, and enriching it with suitable keywords. That’s why it’s of tremendous importance to choose a platform with a blogging feature.
An SEO-friendly platform also provides you with the ability to use your own domain name, as well as the option for customers to leave reviews. The latter is a particularly valuable functionality because people are more likely to trust their peers than brands, so that customer comments and reviews can do wonders for your ratings due to the fact that they’re some of the most powerful examples of social proof.
According to the Cisco Visual Networking Index, global mobile data traffic will increase sevenfold between 2016-2021. Besides that, Google’s Mobil-First indexing rolled out in 2018, thus prioritizing mobile devices as their first source of information when it comes to indexing. No wonder that mobile optimization is one of the hottest digital marketing trends at the moment. Now, if you want to run a successful e-commerce business, you need to align your website with all these best practices.
As more than 60% of people use their mobile devices to browse the internet, they are extremely annoyed if a website isn’t optimized and if they had to zoom in and out and make all other adjustments if they want to find the information they’re looking for. If that happens, they’ll be very likely to go to your competitors. However, if the platform you’re using allows optimization for mobile, your visitors will stick around and even make a purchase via their mobile device.
Migrating from HTTP to HTTPS is of critical importance, and this particularly applies to e-commerce websites as customers are supposed to submit their credit card numbers and other highly sensitive information. Just imagine a scenario in which your potential customer decides to buy something from your e-commerce store, and when they’re about to proceed to the checkout, an alert saying that the website isn’t secure and that it’s not safe for them to provide their personal information starts flashing on their screen. So, don’t forget to check whether the platform of your choice supports this security protocol.
Also, compliance with PCI (Payment Card Industry) is another factor that you should take into consideration. These standards are responsible for preventing data breaches, and they can protect both your business and your customers by fortifying your information database.
These tips can help you find the e-commerce platform which is most suitable for your store and point you in the right direction.