Market research hub eMarketer estimates e-commerce sales will represent 10 percent of total retail sales in the U.S. this year. That equates to a whopping $526 billion.
Opening an e-commerce site can be a lucrative undertaking. Many entrepreneurs dream of e-shop empires as automated business models that don’t come with the headaches of a traditional brick-and-mortar establishment, but a lot more goes into building an e-commerce business than you might think. While e-commerce is a highly profitable business model, it’s far from being a cheap and easy start-up. And choosing the wrong e-commerce platform can doom your venture to failure from the beginning.
Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, Volusion, and 3dcart are just a few popular platforms. You’ve heard of them because they spend big on marketing, but that shouldn’t distract you from learning about their limitations. Selecting the right e-commerce platform for your empire up-front will prevent major headaches down the road. Consider factors like cost, what kind of business you have, and what functionalities and features you want in your vetting process.
E-commerce platforms aren’t one-size-fits-all. Some cater to startups, others to small and mid-sized businesses and others to enterprise-level customers. Industry and business size are key factors in choosing the right platform. Think of your e-platform as the engine that allows you to build, customize, and run your store. Does your store need a 4-cylinder or a V-8 engine? To determine your size, consider things like how much inventory or how many services you offer. Are you B2B or B2C? Will your products fly off the shelf? If you expect heavy traffic, sell multiple inventory items or downloadable items for purchase, you’ll want to ensure your e-platform provider offers robust online storage space and bandwidth.
Consider the features and functionalities you require. Safety protocols like fraud protection and SSL encryption are key for buying or selling online. Ask about options like site customization and easy-to-use design features, marketing tools, and conversion tools that will make your site user-friendly for your team. The best e-platform providers also provide 24/7 customer service support.
Finally, consider where your business is going. What is your expected growth and ROI over the next few years? Some e-platforms can expand as your business grows. Many offer integrated services like hosting, site building and design templates. Of course, these services come at a price—either monthly fees, per-transaction fees or both. Small shops might start with an e-platform like Shopify, which offers low monthly rates and basic features and functionalities. Medium e-businesses might prefer BigCommerce, and larger businesses might choose a provider like Magento.
If you’re on the road to an e-platform decision in the near future, don’t rush to hang your e-shingle on the first shiny platform deal you see. Do your homework, call providers, read reviews, and, above all, pick a provider you believe can grow with your business.
Tricia Warren, Marketing Strategist at RedRover Sales & Marketing Strategy, can be reached at www.redrovercompany.com.