If you are a business looking to create an online presence, choosing an eCommerce platform will be your first step. E-Commerce Platform is a software application where businesses can provide eCommerce to their customers over the Internet. An eCommerce site’s success or failure depends on the platform chosen, so it’s necessary that you pick the best one for your business.
Let’s look at the factors that will help you decide the best platform for your needs:
In future your business may grow and expand. Therefore, to accommodate higher order volumes, more products, and an increasingly complex business, you should look for a solution that can scale your website’s infrastructure painlessly. Conversely, an unresponsive website will frustrate your customers and drive them to your competitors.
When choosing your eCommerce platform, look for the one that will fit your constantly growing business. Scalability can refer to different parameters of an eCommerce site:
• What is the acceptable response time for your home page, search result, and the product details page?
• What is the estimate size of your product catalog? How many categories, products and stock-keeping units (SKUs) are in it?
• How much additional traffic can it handle?
• How many more transactions can be processed?
• How many orders does the site take per day?
• How easy it is to add more storage capacity?
• What is the peak number of visits supported by the site?
• How much infrastructure is required to handle these volumes?
2. Product Catalog
One of the disadvantages of online shopping is that online shoppers don’t get to touch or feel the products before buying. A comprehensive online product catalog can overcome this drawback by providing more detailed information about the products, accompanied by a plethora of product images. Catalogs or product display listings are therefore critical to the success of any eCommerce website. Pick the eCommerce application that offers flexibility. Ask the following questions to help you decide:
• How many products will you be selling?
• Can the catalog have different variants of products and attributes, and if so, what would be the limitations?
• How many product categories and sub-categories will the catalog support?
• Can the catalog track stock levels?
• How easy it is to upsell via Related Products?
• Can one product belong to several categories?
3. Business User Control
Many eCommerce applications require IT resources for daily maintenance. But it is difficult for IT managers to plan and prioritize the urgent requirements coming up from business users. Business users therefore need to be able to maintain the daily routine of your eCommerce website without IT.
While analyzing the eCommerce application, make sure you choose the one that your business managers can easily use. Get the answers to following questions to know if it would be user-friendly for your business manager or not:
• Can business managers maintain a catalog on it?
• Can they run promotions without the involvement of IT people?
• Will they be able to send out newsletters?
• Will they be able to run/create reports?
• Will they be able to directly manage constantly changing content?
4. Search-Friendly Website Architecture
Search is the main feature of an eCommerce site to provide a positive shopping experience to the visitors. Search will help your customers easily find what they are looking for. A good search experience for your customers will therefore help improve your conversion rates.
When evaluating eCommerce applications, make sure the application you pick supports search that is user centered, customizable and interactive. Providing visitors with great user experience will generate happy shoppers who will come back and order again.
For a search-friendly website, get the answers to following questions:
• What product attributes can the customers run searches along?
• What happens if a customer searches using terms that are similar to but not the same as product names?
• What happens if a customer makes a spelling mistake while searching for a product?
• Can I learn about my customers based on their searches?
• Can I present relevant promotions to my customers as they search my site?
• What business control do I have in creating filtering and navigation options?
5. Optimized for SEO
To gain traction, it’s necessary that external search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing find your products easily. But search engine spiders at times misinterpret what they find on dynamically generated pages. So, while assessing eCommerce applications make sure you choose the one that helps external search engine spiders index your dynamic site easily.
6. Reporting & Analytics
For an eCommerce website it’s important to successfully analyze sales and customer behavior.
When considering an eCommerce system, it’s important to list and prioritize the statistics that are important to you:
• What is the average time spent on the website by a visitor?
• What insights can I gain from visitors’ searches?
• How does the system get and store both sales and behavioral data?
• What are the average order sizes per category of products?
• How easy is it to monitor conversion rates?
Once the marketing department gets hold of the data regarding visitor behavioral analysis, it’s important they implement actions accordingly like sending a newsletter to customers offering discount for their abandoned cart, notifying a customer when a product is available, etc.
7. Standards-Based Platform
When picking an eCommerce platform, make sure you choose the application that is technically and architecturally sound with proven capabilities. To control your technical cost, choose a well-known platform that is technically easy to maintain and support. Make sure the application is built on a standard platform that uses standard technologies for language, databases, framework and architecture.
An eCommerce platform operates with sensitive data. When entering sensitive data like bank account number, password, or credit card details, any informed user will check if the http” in the Web address is replaced by “https”. This will assure your customers that your website is using a Secure Socket Layer protocol to protect the security of their payment details. Conversely, compromising on the security can ruin your business.
When selecting an eCommerce platform, look into its security practices and procedures. The key features to look for are PA-DSS (Payment Application Data Security Standard) & PCI compliant. Ask your provider to show you their AOC (Attestation of Compliance). This is a certificate that eCommerce platforms are awarded by the PCI Security Standards Council for passing a series of complicated security tests and requirements.
Apart from the eCommerce website, your company uses other channels like brick & mortar, different social networks, mobile, comparison engines, etc. to market and sell its products/services. Customers expect to interact with the company across all or any of these channels. For this reason, all of these channels need to be integrated.
While selecting an eCommerce application for your business, make sure it can easily integrate with different channels. It’s important to synchronize the product catalog, promotions and discounts with other channels.
10. Load Time
How fast do your homepage, search results page and individual product pages load? As your store grows and more SKUs are added, search results pages and individual product pages may take longer to load. Slow loading pages impact SEO negatively and create a high abandonment rate on the pages.
When evaluating an eCommerce platform take into consideration the load time of each of your site’s pages and make sure that as your site grows the eCommerce application is able to handle the product catalog without affecting the speed of your website.
With these concepts in mind and after conducting a detailed analysis of their own requirements, any retailer can confidently find an eCommerce platform which not only suits their business the best but also meets their customers’ needs.