Easily the most important decision you’ll make when launching an online retail operation, choosing the right ecommerce platform will get your store off to a very strong start. In addition to be the primary aspect of your business with which your customers will interact, it’s the foundation of your endeavor. You have to make sure it’s easy to navigate, attractive to the eye and has the backend functions you’ll need to operate efficiently.
But there are a number of other concerns, too.
Consider the following:
- The Size of Your Business
If you’re launching a small operation and that’s all you’ll ever want it to be, select an affordable and easy-to-use platform capable of having you up and running quickly. Choose well and you’ll be freed of the need for coding, even as you enjoy features such as abandoned cart recovery, a broad variety of plugins and extensions, mobile friendliness and 24/7/365 technical support. In a perfect world, this will take the forms of live chat, telephone assistance, online video tutorials and a robust forum.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, operations anticipating huge volume will have different priorities. Customization options should be unlimited, as should scalability. This will require a strong library of plugins and extensions. Open source coding can make changes easier to implement. However, you’ll need a dedicated team to keep the site running smoothly. This means additional staff—or third-party contractors. Both will involve additional expenses.
Wherever your business falls in this continuum, ease of administration should also be one of your guiding criteria. The platform you decide upon should allow you to monitor your store and make changes as you see fit from anywhere you have access to the internet.
- Customer Nature
Regardless of your anticipated volume, you must take the nature of your ideal customer into consideration. People have become accustomed to certain conventions when interacting with websites. Enterprise ecommerce platforms must adhere to these to keep shoppers in the purchasing funnel. Navigation menus should function according to accepted norms. Search windows, call to action buttons and other common details should be readily discernable and intuitive.
- Hosting Solutions
Key to the security of your operation, as well as its robustness, your hosting choice will be the difference between a well-functioning site and routine crashes. If you have a strong technical background (or team), a self-hosted solution will give you complete control. Meanwhile, a hosted solution will get you everything you need to be online and selling quickly. You’ll get a domain name, the website itself, a shopping cart solution and a payment gateway. Ideally, you’ll also get a dedicated server. If your budget won’t support one, go with a virtual private server to insulate you from other sites sharing the server.
- Security Protocols
Any platform intended for ecommerce must comply with Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS).This means it should be built upon a secure network and maintained as such. Cardholder data should be protected, and the platform should be routinely probed for vulnerabilities. Access control measures must be strong, and an information security policy must be created, maintained and updated as new threats emerge.
- Mobile Friendliness
Odds are, you’re reading this on a mobile device. There was a time when mobile was the wave of the future. That time has passed. Mobile is what’s happening now. Shoppers are now making purchases with hand-held computers. Your ecommerce platform must be capable of supporting responsive design so your site can optimize itself for any device upon which it is viewed.
When it comes to choosing the right ecommerce platform, these five considerations will cover most issues you’re likely to encounter. You’ll also want to weigh pricing, compatibility with existing resources and suitability for your product catalog in your deliberations. Support for marketing efforts, payment acceptance and reporting functions are equally important to launching your ecommerce business on sound footing.