Top 5 eCommerce Platforms To Take Your Business Online
Updated: Sep 21
New to the Internet and doing business online? Amazingly, there are quite a few business owners that haven't embraced Internet-based business practices. Even so, the options available to get up and running have expanded and available for all levels of business.
Doing business online doesn't require a great shift in mentality. It does require an understanding of all moving parts involved. There are three key areas that someone new to eCommerce should familiarize themselves with as part of their online strategy.
Your eCommerce Platform
In the past, an eCommerce website would require extensive and costly web development. Those days are past. There are more options available to meet the needs of every sized business in operation. Let's review some of the more popular platforms:
If you've not heard of Wordpress, you've quite possibly been on a deserted isle for the past 10 years. Welcome back (just kidding).
Wordpress is THE platform, not only for eCommerce but for websites in general. The platform initially started as a blogging platform, a key component to content marketing today. It evolved over the years as third-party developers discovered innovative ways of integrating new features. A benefit of open source development.
The core platform is free as are some of the plugins that add functionality, eg. contact forms, social media, surveys, etc. Templates are available as well, both free and with a cost.
WooCommerce is the plugin that adds eCommerce functionality to a Wordpress website. The relatively low cost allows you to easily add shopping cart and checkout options.
The only caveat to a Wordpress/WooCommerce combination website is that it does require a bit more knowledge of web development and coding. Retaining a web developer even for initial setup is recommended.
Also, as it is open to third party development and with no centralized customer service, it is one of the more highly targeted platforms by hackers. Security should not be taken lightly when developing your Wordpress website.
Another platform, one most people could setup themselves, is Shopify. Like Wordpress, it offers both free and paid templates, but has eCommerce already built in. It still offers extensions/plugins if needed, but out of the box, Shopify is 99% ready to go (1% is reserved for those tech anomalies that almost always arise minutes before launch which I’ll dive further into below).
The allure of Shopify is that the platform has already taken the steps to automate many of the integrations needed to perform transactions online, many with a few clicks of your mouse.
Need a payment provider? (yes, you do)
Looking for website hosting?
Forgot to purchase a domain name?
Desire customer service?
In addition, Shopify offers the Buy Button, a $9/mo option to add to an existing non-eCommerce website.
Shopify is the ultimate one-stop shop for an eCommerce website.
Not that it is without issues. There is no perfect platform. Though Shopify templates are available for free, there’s only 10 basic layouts. You’ll definitely need to invest in a paid template.
As for the payment provider, high risk businesses may not be able to access Shopify Payments, their low cost option. We ran into this issue with a client and it was not easy. With so many regulations in place, the approval, setup and integration process took almost 3x as long as a typical setup required.
Lastly, if you ever decide to move to another platform, taking your data and content with you will be a major undertaking. The benefit of a wholly integrated platform is also its drawback. Let’s just say that maintaining an accessible backup of your content will avoid most of the headaches if you do decide to move.
Similar to Shopify, Squarespace is also an all-in-one eCommerce platform. The major noticeable difference between the two is visual.
Squarespace came at a time when visually appealing designs ruled the interwebs. Yet, it allowed you to sell online. Then 4 years later, the iPhone was unveiled and mobile web access trumped any beauty in technology.
You could say it was a victim of timing but the platform does benefit a certain industry niche and that is the artist, eg. photographers, performing artists, designers and any industry linked to visual presentation.
If you lean heavily on digital content and need basic selling options, this platform may be your choice given the limited payment processing (PayPal and Stripe).
With social media a major marketing channel, Facebook saw a niche to be filled. Thus, they partnered with Shopify to create Facebook Shops.
You'll still need a Shopify account but will now have the expanded ability to sell directly within Facebook and Instagram. Why is this important?
The ability to sell through multiple platforms while cutting down on the number of steps (or clicks) to complete a transaction benefits the business owner. Much like the one-click option on Amazon, customers appreciate multiple options and quick access to those options.
If you’ve built your following and exist mainly on Facebook (and/or Instagram), you can potentially bypass setting up and maintaining a separate website.
Do I recommend this? In some cases, possibly. The drawback to this approach is control. You’re operating within a social media platform with plenty of distractions that could interrupt the nature flow of a checkout. Your brand is also somewhat diluted by always being associated with Facebook or Instagram.
This year will provide many challenges for the business owner. We can only hope this option offers a suitable and lucrative pathway to success.
Amazon, eBay & other Storefronts
Much like a Facebook Shop, Amazon, eBay and other storefront sites provide an option to sell, but with a cut of the profits.
There's nothing wrong with pursuing this revenue stream, even if you have a website. It's up to the individual business owner whether they can part with some of their profits.
The ease in which to set this up may be appealing to the technophobe. You’re on a shopping site that is heavily trafficked but the downside is you're one among many, many others. Advertising is available, though it will require an investment.
Similar to a Facebook Shop, the lack of control in addition to the cost and the cut in profits may dissuade business owners to invest in this option.
FOR CONSIDERATION: Delivery Options
Delivery options, especially this year warrant a specific focus. Due to COVID19, delivery has been tested and in some cases, failed (mostly related to grocery delivery).
Restaurants have wider selections from which to choose. DoorDash, Grubhub, UberEats and others integrate and provide online ordering and delivery options.
Again, a percentage of the profits goes to paying for these services, but in this case, may be the better option. Unless you're a franchisee with access to online ordering and delivery options, the cost to custom develop your own online order, reservation and delivery platform will be prohibitive to a new restaurateur.
With the future of in-store shopping and dining curtailed, at least for the moment, a solid eCommerce and delivery action plan can supplement the loss of physical purchases.
If you need specific help to take your business online and grow it further with strategy and executions,please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org