An e-commerce platform is a website builder you can use to create an online store.
It typically makes it easier to perform complex functions in the front and back of retail operations, such as inventory management, warehouse fulfillment, customer relations management, and customizable web design.
Before commercial e-commerce platforms became available for companies to buy, they had to create their platforms from scratch. These homemade solutions were often challenging to manage, expensive, and almost impossible to integrate with other enterprise software.
This article will cover the benefits of e-commerce platforms, what to look for in an e-commerce platform, and the three best e-commerce platforms for startups.
Shopify offers hundreds of pre-made templates and first-class customer support. As a Shopify user, you'll be able to select from hundreds of integrations you can use to customize your shop to your exact needs.
Shopify’s Meta Manager app precisely optimizes your website for search engines. This gives you more page views and increases brand visibility.
With 3D Cart, you can create your very own online store in minutes. Just like Shopify, the app store hosts a dizzying array of integrations you can add to build the e-commerce site of your dreams.
3D Cart's lowest-priced plan (known as the Startup Store plan) comes packed with features that make it easy to run your retail operations. It has more than 50 themes that are professionally designed, visually appealing, and fully customizable.
Unlike most other eCommerce platforms, WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin. Many e-commerce businesses that use WordPress also use WooCommerce.
The basic version is free. However, the company charges you for additional functions like appointment booking, subscription pricing, and a product recommendation engine.
Benefits of an e-commerce platform
These days, many customers want their online shopping experience to be blessedly free from speaking to a sales rep. E-commerce platforms make this possible, often giving your startup more opportunities for revenue growth.
Moving to an online e-commerce platform can help you to expand into new markets since you’ll usually be able to operate 24/7 and reach any customer on the planet.
An e-commerce platform often makes upselling and cross-selling easier because it encourages customers to purchase related products at checkout or offers them discounts if they buy more products. This can help to increase sales.
What you need in an e-commerce solution
More than 230 million US consumers own smartphones. 79% of them made purchases from their devices in the last six months.
That's why any platform you choose needs to be mobile responsive. Most of your sales will likely come from smartphones and other mobile devices, so if your online store isn't mobile-friendly, you may miss out on lots of potential revenue.
Google considers responsive web design as a critical factor in making a site user-friendly. Thus, it will rank sites with responsive designs higher than others.
Good user experience
Let's say your e-commerce startup has been in business for a while. In that case, you probably know that offering an exceptional product often isn't enough to remain in operation. You also need to deliver a fantastic user experience to your customers. Good e-commerce platforms will usually allow you to do just that.
Your platform needs to have easy and convenient navigation so that buyers can find what they’re looking for without a lot of clicking. It should also provide a great user experience for you, allowing you to set up your online storefront even if you have no programming expertise.
SEO (search engine optimization) is a powerful weapon that can help you beat the competition. By using SEO techniques, you increase the chances your target audience will find you.
When a web user enters a keyword into a search box, a list of web pages pops up. The most relevant ones appear at the top of the first results page. Most people only look at this page. It’s essential to find an e-commerce platform with tools that make it easy to use SEO, so you get seen by the customers you're looking to sell to.
Trusted payment methods
An e-commerce platform should have payment methods you and your customers can trust. This makes it easier for customers to purchase your products while offering top-notch security features such as fraud and chargeback protection.
An e-commerce platform should ideally have round-the-clock support, so you get the help you need with technical issues when you need it. This can help to ensure that your online store operates without revenue-killing glitches getting in the way.
Things you don't want in an e-commerce platform
Why pay for features you’re never going to use?
That’s why you may want to steer clear from using an e-commerce platform that has way more features than you require. Aim to choose one that has what you need currently, and allows you to add new capabilities as you scale your business.
Some founders choose an e-commerce platform at random and then try to customize it to fit their business model. However, this may not be the best approach. There are e-commerce platforms that will be much more suitable for your needs than others, so you may want to do your research prior to purchasing.
The best e-commerce platforms for startups
Busy founders often need an e-commerce platform that'll scale quickly.
Squarespace makes building an e-commerce website easy with its convenient drag-and-drop functionality. The tools let you jump right in and start selling your products right away. There’s also a mobile app with an elegant and easy-to-use interface.
What's more, the platform arguably offers the most visually appealing templates of all the e-commerce platforms.
Most e-commerce platforms are mobile-friendly. However, Squarespace goes further than most other e-commerce solutions to ensure that the user experience on a mobile device is first-rate.
The platform uses a responsive image loader that generates multiple scaled versions of each photo you upload. The software can automatically detect the type of device being used. Then, it selects the best image for optimal viewing.
All business plans come with:
- Unlimited bandwidth and storage
- Expert SEO help
- Granular website analytics to track conversions and sales
- Promotional pop ups and banners
- Integration with all major credit cards, Stripe, Apple Pay, and PayPal
- Email marketing features
Many startups may prefer the basic commerce plan because you get extra functions like:
- Being able to store customer account details
- The ability to show related items on product pages
- Selling and accepting gift cards
- Spreadsheet bulk editing tools to manage inventory
- Multiple currency support
Squarespace pages can load slowly, especially when there are a lot of large image files. There are a limited number of integrations when compared to other platforms.
The company charges a 3% transaction fee for payment processing with the business plan (the basic plan). This is in addition to fees already charged by your credit card processing company.
BigCommerce can be a great platform option for startups that need to get their e-commerce operations off the ground as quickly as possible. When you go with BigCommerce, you’ll get a slew of useful features including an on-page SEO tool, full integration with PayPal, and built-in product ratings and reviews.
The user-friendly interface allows you to customize your online shop even if you don’t know how to code. The dashboard is customizable, and there’s a preview button that lets you test run your store before launching it. Use any of the customizable templates to design your store or to sell and market your products.
Although it's designed for those who don't have web development skills, it lets tech-savvy people tweak things like HTML and CSS.
There have been reports of inconsistent load times and broken integrations with some major partners, including Amazon.
BigCommerce puts a cap on yearly sales depending on which plan you choose. Here are the limits:
- Standard: $50,000
- Plus: $150,000
- Pro: $400,000
- Enterprise: negotiable
Wix is a no-cost website builder that also offers e-commerce plans for entrepreneurs.
With the easy-to-use tools that the platform gives you, creating a site that looks great on both mobile and desktop is relatively effortless.
Like most e-commerce platforms, Wix gives you the ability to sell physical and digital products. However, there are many other great features.
For example, Wix offers the best page builder and editor of any other e-commerce solution. There are hundreds of themes to choose from, and most of them are free.
Booking functionality lets customers schedule appointments or sign up for classes. Wix allows you to do online takeout or delivery orders, accept reservations, and send email reminders to customers right through the platform if you own a restaurant.
Unfortunately, web pages on Wix are often slower to load than other e-commerce platforms. Customer support could be better.
You might have to rely on third-party apps for some essential e-commerce functions. The app store contains a wide range of solutions to help you with functions such as payment processing and stock management, but these will cost extra.
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