Which E-commerce Platform is Best for You?
Since E-commerce was first developed over forty years ago by English inventor Michael Aldrich, it has become one of the fastest-growing consumer markets in the world. From big-box retailers to small businesses, everyone is selling online—and everyone’s shopping there, too.
The ever-growing popularity of E-commerce also means that there’s an abundance of options when the time comes to build your own online store.
So, how do you know which E-commerce platform is best for your business?
Let’s talk about how you can determine which E-commerce platform to choose by exploring how E-commerce platforms work, the pros and cons of different types, and how to identify which solution meets your needs.
What Is An E-commerce Platform?
Before diving into which E-commerce platform is the best for you, it’s helpful to have some background information on E-commerce platforms in general.
To start, an E-commerce platform is a software that allows businesses to sell and consumers to shop—all online. It’s an application that offers front-end functions, like browsing and purchasing, as well as back-end business functions, like order management, payment processing, and inventory management.
Given the growing popularity of E-commerce, it should come as no surprise that there are myriad platform options available. While the wealth of options means that you as a business owner have choices, the saturated market can make it difficult to pick the best from the rest.
Generally speaking, there are three primary categories.
Also known as a hosted E-commerce platform, this type of platform typically operates according to a Software as a Service (SaaS) delivery model. The majority of features are configured out-of-the-box, which may include cloud-based hosting, shopping baskets, sales and marketing automation, order management, inventory management, servers, some access to plug-ins, and more. Two popular examples of this model would be Shopify and BigCommerce.
A native E-commerce solution provides several benefits for businesses, including:
- Simplified payments – These platforms are subscription-based, meaning you pay a monthly fee for access to a certain set of tools and features. There is a commission fee on sales, but hosting and environment setup are free of charge. There’s also an upgraded version (Shopfiy+) which provides more room for customization and checkout modifications, though it does come with a higher price tag.
- Quick launch – You can get started the moment you’re ready to go. The host already has the framework and infrastructure in place— you just need to personalize it to your needs.
- Robust support – If you encounter technical issues, you have access to a team of experts whose sole focus is resolving the problem as quickly as possible.
- User-friendly – These platforms have been fine-tuned and optimized over time with an emphasis on ease of use.
There are some disadvantages to using a native E-commerce platform, including:
- Limited customizations – Native platforms can be customized to an extent, but these customizations are limited by what the vendor allows or has the technical infrastructure to support.
- Increasing subscription costs – The larger your business and the greater your demands, the more you’ll have to pay for increased traffic and functionalities.
- Potential need to re-platform – You may reach the point where you realize that the E-commerce platform you chose isn’t suitable for your needs anymore. If so, you’ll have to change to a new one, which can be costly and time-consuming.
As a middle-ground option, this type of E-commerce solution is often open-source, meaning that you have unrestricted editing access and greater control over a modular system. Most of the features will require specific configuration, but you also have access to a variety of plug-ins— some free and some paid—which can be set up according to your needs and desires.
There’s no platform access fee, nor a commission on sales with this model; however, both hosting and environment setup cost money. WooCommerce is a popular example of this platform type, and there’s a long list of others just like it.
A semi-native E-commerce solution provides several benefits, including:
- Greater customization – There are (almost) no limits on what your website can include or how it works. You can modify and customize each individual element to your heart’s content.
- Modular system – You still have access to pre-built plug-ins, features, and extensions, which can cut down on development and editing time.
- Advanced security – Semi-native platforms like WooCommerce have several layers of cyber defense because these sites are popular targets of hacks and cyberattacks.
Naturally, this option also has some disadvantages you should consider:
- Harder to set up – Native hosted platforms can be set up by someone with little digital acumen. But with a semi-native platform, you may need professional assistance when it comes to finding a hosting server, selecting a platform, setting up the E-commerce functionality, and customizing the many different elements of your site.
- Lack of expert support – Because this solution has far more customization options, it means you may run into unique issues based on your individual configuration. If you don’t partner with a web design professional, you won’t necessarily have built-in assistance if technological troubles arise.
Some businesses have needs that go beyond the native or even the semi-native solutions. You may need design, features, and functionalities that are entirely personalized to your specific industry and business model. In this case, the team at Adchitects would work closely with you to create a personalized E-commerce platform—the only limitations are your budget, timeline, and imagination.
As with anything custom-made, there are many exciting benefits you won’t enjoy with the first two platform types. Bespoke E-commerce options are:
- Built for you – The more individualized and specific requirements you have, the less likely it is that existing libraries will be able to meet your needs. A customized platform enables you to work with your web and design partners to create a site that offers everything you could ever want. It will match your brand voice, identity, product, and shopping needs.
- Scalable – A customizable web and mobile solution isn’t just built for your business today, but it’s also usually created with your future expansion and eventual needs in mind. With this model, it’s less likely that you’ll need to re-platform.
- Prone to transparent processes – When you partner with the right agency, you will have instant access to the project’s status, budget spend, and progress around the clock.
There are also some factors you need to weigh before you opt for this platform type:
- Longer development process – As with any custom project created from scratch, the timeline is usually longer than with a plug-and-play solution. You sacrifice a quick start-up for greater control and customizability.
- Can be more expensive – The budget for this type of solution depends on your requirements, so it’s not necessarily more expensive than other options. However, most of the companies that opt for this E-commerce platform do so because they have highly specialized needs. As you might imagine, the more complex features you need, the higher the costs to fulfill those demands.
The Uniting Benefit of Headless Technology
From native/ready to bespoke, the options discussed above may be a perfect fit for a number of different businesses. They’re easy to implement because they can function on headless technology, which means you can combine the content management system (CMS) you already use, like Shopify or WooCommerce, with additional features and customization options to surpass the limitations of other E-commerce platforms.
With this model, the front-end of your website can independently fetch and display data from various sources. That could include your Shopify CMS, for example, as well as other inputs, like your company’s mobile app or usage metrics from a Bluetooth-connected device, to create a more valuable customer experience.
By choosing headless technology, the entire platform can reach optimal performance levels. For example, this headless model allows you and your development team to:
- Increase page speed
- Support complex animations
- Improve plug-in performance
- Combine best-of-breed solutions for the ultimate site
Keep in mind that while the limit is truly your imagination, this technology is still relatively new. Despite the ongoing innovations, this also means that some plug-ins may not be compatible with your desired setup (yet, anyway).
Now, that you’ve familiarized yourself with these options, which platform is best for E-commerce businesses like yours?
Which Option is Best for You?
This likely won’t come as a surprise, but there’s no easy answer or obvious “best option.” It all depends on your business’s needs and limitations.
Still wondering, “Which E-commerce platform should I use?”?
You can make an informed decision by carefully considering your needs. For example, if you want a completely unique, never-been-done-before webshop, you’ll need a more customizable solution. In that case, a bespoke solution is your best bet, or at least a semi-native platform.
However, even a native solution may be able to satisfy most of your requirements. It all depends on the specific features you want, and whether any of the available platforms have that built-in functionality or the right plug-ins.
Beyond that, you’ll likely need to consider:
If you have a limited budget or aren’t looking to make a significant investment at this stage, a native solution is a safe choice, especially because you can get up and running in a flash. But every option has associated costs. It’s important that you add all of them up prior to spending the money.
Past E-commerce experiences
If you already have an online store, you probably have a list of business and customer requirements as well as a wish list of elements you’d like to have. This provides a solid baseline for narrowing down your options.
Applying the latest technologies will translate into on-page performance and Google rankings. But this can increase the labor costs, especially if there are no ready-made solutions available to implement, test, and adjust.
It’s important that you consider your team before making a final selection. Who will be managing your online store? You’ll want to make sure they have the technical aptitude to maintain and edit the platform type you end up choosing. Ideally, your E-commerce platform should make their job easier and not harder.
With some of these options, you’ll also have to select a hosting server. This decision can be every bit as important as the platform itself since your E-commerce solution can only operate on a functioning server. Ideally, you want a host that will provide:
- 24/7 technical support
- Daily backups
- Robust physical and digital security
If you’re looking for a web design agency that specializes in high-converting website design, contact Valley of Digital today. Our team of experts can help you create a website that meets your business goals and delivers results. Whether you need a new website design from scratch or want to improve the performance of an existing site, we can provide customized solutions tailored to your specific needs.