Today, nearly everything is online, so ecommerce solutions are essential. The internet is changing, and traditionally accepted business practices, now, are getting the digital treatment. The Internet, social media and mobile access are here to stay.
However, many businesses are failing to keep up.
In particular, small or local businesses often neglect the brave new world of online selling. The thing is, a lot of smaller companies are operating on shoestring budgets these days. Additionally, many business owners are not particularly tech savvy.
When these factors combine, they might cause business owners to decide that going online isn’t an option for them.
Ecommerce Solutions: Background
‘Ecommerce solutions’ is really just a fancy way of describing online stores. More specifically, it refers to the backend of an online store, and how it’s put together. This includes the likes of payment processing, stock management, order fulfilment and even email marketing.
While some online giants might build their stores from scratch, these days, most ecommerce solutions are based on a handful of off-the-shelf tools. We’ll look at some of the most popular a little later.
What’s important to understand in the meantime is that these tools make setting up a killer ecommerce store accessible for businesses of all sizes.
This is a huge mistake.
The truth is that modern ecommerce solutions are cheap and easy to use. In this article, we’re going to look at how to choose the perfect ecommerce solution for you.
The Goal of Ecommerce
At their core, ecommerce solutions can benefit your business in a handful of ways:
- Attracting new customers,
- Increasing the lifetime value of your existing customers,
- Creating efficiency savings.
In other words, they’re job is to increase revenues and cut costs. Typically, ecommerce stores have much higher profit margins than brick and mortar retail:
However, this is far from guaranteed.
Successful ecommerce websites understand the client’s needs, expectations and goals. To act on this, they must deliver impeccable experiences.
A lot of these ecommerce websites are driven by intensive data management systems, ensuring good technical performance like social and mobile optimization. However, the top priority doesn’t change — buyer satisfaction comes first.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at some more concrete features you should look out for when deciding between ecommerce solutions.
Ecommerce Solutions: What to Look for
As we’ve already seen, the increase in demand for ecommerce stores has made the technology behind them a lot more accessible for the average business. Because of this, there are more companies than ever offering ecommerce solutions.
To help you wade through this, here are some of the essential features you should consider.
Desktop computers, of course, are central to ecommerce solutions. Recently, however, mobile devices have made ecommerce investment more worthwhile. That is to say, people spend more time online than ever, thanks in part to mobile devices.
Today, ecommerce customers can interact with an online store from anywhere across the earth. They might be on a beach in Bali or the London underground. In either cases, you want to be able to sell to them.
The key to this is responsive design. In particular, you want to look out for an ecommerce platform which offers native responsiveness, with as little back-end fiddling as possible.
Comparison and Featured Product Technology
Product and service comparison technology, too, is at the heart of ecommerce. Today’s ecommerce platforms help you to increase your chances of making sales with internal links between sales pages.
Because comparison shopping is incredibly popular. Customers want low prices, and highly personalised products. If a user doesn’t immediately find the item they’re looking for, embedded recommendations help to move them to exactly the right page.
This is also great for your SEO strategy, as it’s essentially an automated way to build up killer internal links.
Purchasing Analytics Technology
Businesses who interact with vendors, clients and other e-businesses need information. It’s difficult to follow massive trends, buyer personas and prospective market forecasts.
A lot of numbers exist, and large corporations are taking advantage of business technology to pinpoint likely trends before they even exist.
In fact, an MIT Sloan Management Review joint study suggests that businesses who adopt ecommerce analytics are three times as likely to outperform competitors who don’t.
On a smaller scale, it’s also really important that your ecommerce solution allows you to gather data and insights on your existing customers. This can include simple things, like which items are frequently bought together.
Instant Order Processing, Fulfilment and Delivery
Remember that part of the job of an ecommerce solution is to create efficiency savings for your business. As such, it’s important that whatever platform you choose does not create additional admin work.
This means that the more processes your ecommerce solution automates, the better.
At a minimum, this should include order fulfilment and processing tasks.
Additionally, many ecommerce stores now use what’s known as a drop shipping model, where stock is held and dispatched to the customer by a third party.
If this is a route you’d like to go down, it’s vital to choose an ecommerce solution with direct integrations with common drop shipping outlets, like Ali Babba.
By contrast, if you have your own warehouse and already have a stock management system, you’ll want to ensure that your ecommerce solution can integrate with this.
Of course, authorization is always a priority. Digital privacy is highly valued—more than ever before—and it’s becoming a highly-valued component of digital commerce. That said, social media has lessened the gap between consumer and business.
The crux of this is that if your ecommerce store isn’t totally secure, you can expect massive reputation damage.
The important thing to look out for is how each ecommerce solution processes payments, as well as their reputation for data protection.
Popular Options for Ecommerce Solutions
The next question is which ecommerce solution should you opt for. These days, there are countless options out there. For the sake of simplicity, let’s take a look at some of the most popular ecommerce platforms on the market today.
For the most part, these meet the minimum standards we’ve outlined above.
Shopify is a popular option for setting up an ecommerce business from scratch. This is because it’s effectively a website builder which is specifically geared towards online selling. It’s also well known for its ease of use and wide range of integrations.
However, Shopify might not be ideal if you already have a site which you’re happy with. Their model is built around having you managed your entire online presence through their platform.
If you’d rather add ecommerce functionality to an existing site, it might not be the right option for you.
WooCommerce is probably the next most popular ecommerce solution. In some ways, it offers a little bit more flexibility than Shopify. This is because it’s primarily based around WordPress.
Because of this, it can be configured one of two ways:
- As a dedicated WordPress-based build,
- As an ecommerce integration on an existing WordPress site.
This is preferable in a number of situations. For instance, if you are already used to managing your site through WordPress, it makes much more sense to continue doing so than to learn a whole new content management system.
Which leads nicely to…
While WordPress doesn’t actually have any native ecommerce functions, it’s still a good option as the basis of your new web store. Essentially, there are innumerable ecommerce plug-ins which can quickly get your store up and running on a new or existing WordPress site.
Why would you go down this road instead of opting for a dedicated platform?
We’ve already touched on one reason, which is ease of use. Beyond this, WordPress offers pretty much unrivalled performance and options for things like hosting, business emails and additional marketing plug-ins like SEO and UX.
How to Choose an Ecommerce Solution
If you want to create a new online store, your options are basically endless. The question then becomes how do you choose an ecommerce solution? To answer this, it’s vital to keep the ultimate goal of your web store in mind.
That is, to maximise revenue and minimise costs.
To achieve this, there are certain basic standards you should keep in mind, including security and usability. Beyond that, your priorities should be choosing a provider which integrates with your existing website and warehouse systems.
It’s also helpful to speak to experts who may have a better idea of which ecommerce solutions will be best for your business.