How to Choose the Best Ecommerce Platform For Your Small Business
Okay, so you are a small business owner and like many other small business owners, you are either considering setting up an e-commerce store or have already done so and wish to improve your website by hosting it through an e-commerce platform. This is a great idea since starting an eCommerce store is one of the best ways to expand your business’ reach, increase brand awareness and visibility, grow your company, and ultimately increase your sales.
EMarketer reports that e-commerce retail sales will increase in the double-digit percentages from 2019 till 2023, while brick-and-mortar sales will increase only 1.9% on average for these same years. Now we should not be misguided by these reports since online retail still only accounts for approximately 10% of total retail in the U.S. (at least in 2019), so it is not like brick-and-mortar retail stands to disappear anytime soon. However, in addition to the growing sales benefits of e-commerce stores, there is also the benefit of brand visibility that is provided by an e-commerce store since customers will often check out a brand online before going to the brick-and-mortar store nearby to do their actual shopping.
Clearly, the potential benefits of moving your business onto the web are staggering.
But just because you have an e-commerce site does not mean that people will shop on it. For an eCommerce store to be successful, it has to be fast, easy to use, and trustworthy. For example, slow site speed has a direct effect on your bounce rate (the number of visitors who navigate away from your site after only viewing one page). Research conducted by Torbit, analyzing more than 6.7 billion page views were able to correlate the bounce rate and page load time. They found a direct correlation between how fast your page loads versus the bounce rate of your website. For every added second to your load time, the bounce rate increased 0.65%. Moreover, slow website speed can have a significantly negative effect on your SEO, one of the most important aspects of drawing customers to your store in the first place.
There are also other important considerations. You want to be able to manage your online store in the simplest, most efficient, and cost-effective way possible. However, building an online store can cost a lot of money and take a lot of resources. This is why it is important that you find the best e-commerce platform for your small business.
Ecommerce platforms are software applications that provide businesses with a way to manage their websites, sales, and operations.
In other words, e-commerce platforms offer businesses a way to manage the front end component of online businesses, while additional software is needed to handle back-end functions such as accounting, order management, inventory management, and customer service.
However, with hundreds of e-commerce platform providers out there, you are probably wondering which platform is the best choice for your small business. Well, there is no single overarching best e-commerce platform for small business in general since what platform is best for your small business will largely depend upon what type of business you operate (i.e. does it have complex website needs or will a paired down and leaner platform do the trick?), what your budget is and what type of payment method works best for your small business, what technical features you are able to manage, and the types of functionality and integrations you want to be included in your e-commerce platform.
The task might seem daunting, but in this article, we will explain what to look for when choosing an e-commerce platform, and, in the end, point you in the direction of some of the top e-commerce platforms that you may want to check out.
What to Look For in an Ecommerce Platform
In order to choose the best e-commerce platform for your small business, you will need to know what types of features are the most relevant when it comes to the differing e-commerce platform brands and models. Here, we provide you with an overview of these relevant features so that you may see where your business needs fit into each one of these categories.
Type of Platform
Firstly, there are two major distinctions that must be pointed out when it comes to the different kinds of platforms and the types of businesses they are geared towards. The first distinction is between enterprise e-commerce platforms and small to mid-range e-commerce platforms. The second is between platforms geared towards B2B (Business to Business) stores and those geared toward B2C (Business to Customer) stores.
Enterprise businesses are those larger businesses with hundreds to thousands of employees. Naturally, they will generally require platforms that differ in functionality from those platforms geared towards smaller businesses. This is something to keep in mind when you are on the search since often the same company will offer a small or mid-range option and an enterprise option, such as Shopify (the small to mid-range option) and Shopify Plus (the enterprise option).
B2B businesses are those businesses that sell to other businesses. B2C businesses are those that sell to individual customers. Often times, these two different types of businesses will require different kinds of websites and online stores, which also means that the e-commerce platforms they use will differ. Sometimes companies, (for example, Magento), will offer software for both B2B and B2C businesses while other companies like Shopify are geared towards solely B2C businesses.
Saas and Open Source
One of the biggest differences to consider when determining the best e-commerce platform for small businesses is the difference between SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms and open-source platforms. When considering these different ways of classification, it is also important to keep in mind the different types of hosting environments that each type of platform requires or is able to accommodate. The two different types of web hosting environments are the Cloud (in which your website is hosted elsewhere) or On-Premise (in which your website and online store are hosted on your business’ premises).
A SaaS e-commerce platform is software with which a third-party provider hosts applications and makes them available to customers over the internet. Typically, you pay a monthly fee to the provider for access to their service and this gives you the ability to set up and run your online store through their infrastructure. That is, you essentially ‘rent’ the platform.
Typically, SaaS platforms are more or less all-inclusive, with large amounts of e-commerce functionality built right into the platform. Moreover, SaaS e-commerce platforms generally have the ability to integrate many of your back-end needs as well as your front-end ones, such as handling your web hosting, updates, security, and PCI compliance. It should also be noted that SaaS platforms are hosted in the Cloud which is very appealing to businesses without a large technological infrastructure.
Open-source e-commerce platforms, on the other hand, are generally free or require a one time purchase and are either hosted on the cloud or hosted on-premise. Unlike SaaS platforms, open-source software is completely customizable, as they give you full access to their code to edit, modify, and add to as you see fit. This can be tempting for merchants who don’t want to be boxed in by traditional SaaS software.
However, although open-source solutions are often considered free e-commerce platforms, they can, in fact, end up being more expensive than SaaS options, depending on your development and maintenance needs. This is because, in terms of speed of development and amount of maintenance needed, Saas is generally far ahead of the open-source options, meaning that for many businesses, Saas e-commerce platforms are well worth the pay-as-you-go subscription fee. Moreover, although there is in some ways limitless potential for your website when you acquire an open-source option when things go wrong, they can go very wrong.
Successful businesses that make open source work often invest in workarounds. This can include hiring agencies to handle site design and maintenance. To mitigate outages, they may pay extra for fast and reliable hosting with service level agreements (SLAs). They also often commission custom solution builds to avoid dependence on plugins.
Stock Size and Inventory Options
When looking for the best e-commerce platform, you’ll want to consider how many products you’re going to be selling. Some platforms adjust pricing depending on the size of your catalog. For example, an e-commerce platform may adjust its pricing depending on the number of products you plan to sell at a time. Some top e-commerce platforms, on the other hand, will allow you to sell an unlimited number of products regardless of your subscription plan. For many small businesses, considerations like these can be the definitive factor.
You’ll also want to see what types of tools the e-commerce platform offers to help you list your products and manage your inventory. For example, you might check to see if a platform provides a bulk upload option or whether it offers SEO optimization for product listings. Answering these and similar questions will help you get a sense of how different e-commerce platforms will work for your inventory—which is essential for just about any business, especially those with a large or growing inventory.
It is important to determine the types of products you are selling and see which platforms will be most beneficial to your type of product. Are you selling a product or a service? If you’re selling a product, is it digital or physical? If it’s a physical product, how big is it? Do you want to sell to people outside of your country? These are important questions to ask since certain solutions will be better suited for different types of products and services.
Potential E-Commerce Platforms that you Should Check Out
This is a great Shopify alternative with better options for themes, design, and accepting payments.
PresetaShop is a great example of a highly popular and functional small business open-source eCommerce platform.
This is all around one of the best eCommerce platforms for small businesses, and it has a particularly good free eCommerce plug-in for WordPress users.
This is an ideal eCommerce platform for very small businesses.
If you are selling digital goods, rather than physical goods, you may want to check out this eCommerce platform.
There is no definitive best e-commerce platform for small businesses in general, but there probably is a best e-commerce platform for your small business in particular. Putting in the time to research each platform while keeping in mind the relevant differences between platforms is essential for the long term future of your e-commerce business.