How to Pick an Ecommerce Platform for Your Business

  • August 21, 2013

It seems to me that we’ve reached a stage in business where many small and medium-sized businesses are realizing that if they don’t start selling their products or services online, they will miss out on a large potential customer base. While starting an ecommerce business - or adding ecommerce to an existing business - can be overwhelming, it doesn’t need to be.  Generally, for under $100 a month you can add an ecommerce component to your existing business, or even start a new business. You’ll be able to reach an entire customer base online, and grow your sales.

Determining the right platform for your business

There are a plethora of choices when it comes to ecommerce platforms. It just depends on what kinds of products or services you’re selling, and what you need your ecommerce platform  to do for you. If you already have a website and are looking to add an ecommerce component, you can do this by integrating a shopping cart to your website. If, on the other hand, you’re looking to start from scratch, then perhaps  hosted ecommerce software is the solution for you.

To find the right fit for your business, you need to determine what you need. Do you plan to do a lot of email marketing to promote your ecommerce services, or would you like to have your ecommerce site mobile optimized? Compile a list of your must-haves and then try to match that with an ecommerce provider that has a proven track record in providing the  items on your list.

Existing ecommerce marketplaces

There are a number of existing ecommerce marketplaces where you can also sell your products and services. Three of the biggest examples are Amazon, Etsy. and eBay. Amazon doesn’t charge  you a fee for listing your items for sale. However, they will take a cut once you make the sale. eBay will charge you a monthly fee but you also have the option to list products for free as well.  The benefits of setting up your store in an existing marketplace is that it’s cost-effective, and a great way to test the water for your wares. Existing marketplaces have millions of visitors every day, so you can be sure your products are in front of potential customers. However, because you are sharing the marketplace with lots of other vendors, it’s easy for your products to get lost in the crowd. You really have to ensure your products will stand out against the competition.

Hosted ecommerce marketplaces

If you decide that you want to set up your own hosted ecommerce marketplace, you’ll be pleased with the low cost of entry for this option. The set up is generally quick and easy, and some providers will even manage the privacy of your customer data, along with a host of other services. Shopify is an excellent example. It’s quick and easy to configure, and has a low cost of entry. However, your store will look like the stores of a lot of other online businesses because you’re working with a template. You may not be able to brand your online store the way you want. In my opinion, the biggest benefit to going this route is that someone else takes care of the technical issues. You won’t have to worry about down-time, system crashes, or payment problems. The provider will take care of that for you, (for a monthly fee, of course).

Starting from scratch

Many small and medium-sized businesses choose to start their online store from scratch. You can tailor your store to cater to all your requirements and your branding needs.

You can go this route in a few different ways. You can use an existing ecommerce system, and get a developer or web designers to install, configure, test, and deploy it for you. You can also get someone to create a custom design for you. You can make sure your branding is fully integrated in every aspect of your store. While this option can be costly and take some time, you get the exact results you want.

Your ecommerce needs are unique to your business, so  don’t feel pressured to go one way or another. Focus on your requirements and cost restrictions and work from there. You might want to start small and test out the waters for selling your products or services online before you invest in a large scale store, or you might already have an indication of how your products will sell and go to that route directly.  

Do you have an ecommerce success story to share? We’d love to hear from you! Tell us your story in the comments below.

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