Realizing a successful ecommerce business and making money while at sleep is a dream for many. I mean, who would not want a share from the $4.88 trillion pie of eCommerce sale in 2021?

Be advised that choosing an eCommerce platform would be the first step in this journey, and you will need a perfect eCommerce store builder to put up your dream storefront.

Which eCommerce platform is best to build your eCommerce store in 2019? What eCommerce platform features make a perfect CRM while giving you the best eCommerce SEO features? Finally, which option makes an affordable solution in a specified budget? You can find some of the answers to these questions on My Best Website Bulider Page.

But there’s a lot to uncover here!

It doesn't matter what's your niche is, and how much you are willing to invest in eCommerce website development, choosing an eCommerce platform is always a big headache. It's a long term commitment and you can't just experiment with… Click To Tweet

It also doesn’t mean that you can simply lob some hefty budget and get the best storefront for your business. It’s a double-edged sword and there are tons of options viable to get hurt. You can spend fortunes and hire a team to develop everything from scratch, or you can opt for a turnkey eCommerce platform and save a lot of time and money.

Here in this article, I am going to discuss the second option. I will tell you how to know if you are choosing a correct eCommerce platform for your dream setup. Outlining the things to consider while choosing an eCommerce platform, I will also give an estimate implication on your overall investments.

What will you find in this article?

Cost of development: How much it costs to get an eCommerce store?
SaaS-based eCommerce platforms
Open-source eCommerce platforms
8 features to look for in any eCommerce platform you choose
1. SEO Friendliness
2. Mobile friendliness
3. Security features
4. Platform Scalability
5. Product Management System
6. Order Management System
7. Return Management System
8. Multi-channel Integration
Over to you: choose wisely

Sounds good? Let’s dive in.

Cost of development: How much it costs to get an eCommerce store?

There are hundreds of eCommerce solutions available in the market, and each offers something unique. However, you don’t need everything that every other business is using. Every business is unique in terms of goals, products, business model, and investment limitations. You must know what kind of software would work best for your unique requirements and venture constraints.

There are two major types of eCommerce solutions/platforms available in the market:

  1. SaaS-based eCommerce platforms
  2. Open-source eCommerce platforms
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SaaS-based eCommerce platforms

SaaS eCommerce platforms are well known for their simplicity of management and swiftness of building eCommerce stores. These are ready-made eCommerce solutions, which are delivered through cloud as hosted service. You can simply sign-up and setup your online store in just a few hours using a graphical user interface.

  • No coding knowledge required
  • No web hosting required
  • No technical team required

However, you are required to pay some monthly or yearly recurring fee based on the features you want to use. The recurring fee includes the cost of using the platform and other miscellaneous charges like payment processing fee, hosting fee, SSL certificate cost, and commissions per sale.

Such solutions are best suited to entrepreneurs who do not want to deal with the complications of website development and just want to focus on their business development. You can focus on making your sales while the SaaS vendor will take care of everything technical such as web hosting, platform customization, security updates, payment processing, and others.

  • The recurring fee becomes hefty over an extended period.
  • You don’t get complete control on your website and business.
  • Complete dependence on vendor for technical customizations.
  • Solutions are closed-source; no source code is available to you.
  • No or minimum customizability. Have to deal with existing features.
Top 5 SaaS-based eCommerce platforms in 2019:
  • Shopify (starts from $29/month)
  • BigCommerce (starts from $29.95/month)
  • Squarespace (starts from $16/month)
  • Volusion (starts from $29/month)
  • Big Cartel (starts from $9.99/month)

Please note: These are the preliminary pricing plans. However, the opening pricing plans are generally not sufficient to start a full-fledged eCommerce store with at least hundreds of products. Moreover, most of the useful features are either locked or not available with lower plans. You would need to purchase higher plans to enjoy full features. For example, the recommended plan for Shopify comes for $299/month.

Shopify and its pricing plan

Open-source eCommerce platforms

As the name suggests, these are ready-made online store builders with open-source code access. You are offered with a source code that you can install on any web-host and setup your entire site in a few hours.

Why would you want an open-source eCommerce platform?

  • To get absolute control over your site and business.
  • To avoid recurring charges as in SaaS-based solutions.
  • To get higher scalability and customizability on the website.

You can consider open-source eCommerce platforms as a modular approach to build something big. They work on the principle of giving you control of what you want in your web store. You can micro-personalize your store and select every feature to add as a module.

For example, a particular platform may come with a certain payment gateway pre-loaded. However, if you don’t want the same, or thinking about using some other payment gateway, you can simply install a module for it.

  • With access to the source code, you need some technical skills to manage the same.
  • You need a team to manage the platform and its technical aspects.
  • Free open-source platforms have limited features. You need to purchase extra modules.
  • You are responsible for finding a good web host for your eCommerce store.
  • Site management and admin UI is generally trickier than SaaS-based solutions.
Top 5 open-source eCommerce platforms in 2019:
  • WordPress WooCommerce plugin
  • Magento Community edition
  • PrestaShop
  • Open-cart
  • Drupal Commerce plugin
  • Premium Open-source platforms

Apart from these free open-source eCommerce platforms, many vendors have developed some premium open-source platforms as well. The limitation with free platforms is that they offer very limited features and most of the features are not even useful to everyone. Moreover, to get access to advanced features and priority technical support, you need to purchase extra modules and services, which are quite expensive.

That’s where premium, also called as custom open-source platforms, provide all useful features and dedicated technical support out-of-the-box. It could be a better option than other solution methods as it offers the combined benefits of both SaaS and Open-source platforms.

  • Ready-made and out-of-the-box solutions
  • Easy to use, no technical skills required
  • Full customizability & source code access
  • One-time payment; no recurring charges
  • Absolute control on platform and business

The only limitation of such solutions is their higher one-time cost. Though you get everything out-of-the-box, you still have to pay a hefty upfront cost to purchase the source code. Not every startup can afford an upfront $2000 payment for the website and mobile apps.

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    8 features to look for in any eCommerce platform you choose

    Now you know about the options you have to choose an eCommerce platform under various models. It’s time to know about some crucial features to consider in any eCommerce solutions you select from the market. Don’t hesitate to re-consider your choices if your selected solutions lack these features:

    1. SEO Friendliness

    It can be highly beneficial to rank higher in the search results. You need your customers to find your store while searching for the likes of products that you sell. It’s important that your eCommerce platform offers basic SEO friendly features by default:

    • Add a custom domain name
    • Update meta tags and meta descriptions
    • Add captions and descriptions in images
    • Access to the robot.txt file of the platform
    • Add canonical tags where required
    • Add pagination in product search results
    • Convert into SEO Friendly URL structures
    • Access to update the XML sitemap
    • API integration for Google Analytics tool

    2. Mobile friendliness

    When 60% of searches happen on mobile, you can’t just ignore your mobile ecommerce prospects. Often time, these searches result in final purchases, and you might just lose them if your site is not mobile-friendly. There are two ways to ensure a mobile friendly eCommerce business:

    • Get an eCommerce platform with a mobile responsive theme or template. For example, Shopify. There are tons of mobile responsive themes and templates available for Shopify.

    Mobile responsive theme

    • Get an eCommerce platform that is mobile responsive but also offers native mobile apps. For example, Genstore node.js eCommerce platform comes with native Android and iOS mobile apps out-of-the-box.

    3. Security features

    No customer would love to shop on an imprecise store that cannot safeguard customer data. When eCommerce stores are always on top of the lists of hackers, it's not a wise move to choose an unsecured eCommerce platform. Click To Tweet

    One of the best ways to ensure if your chosen platform is secure is by confirming if it supports HTTPs or SLL support. Moreover, it’s must be equipped with PCI-DSS compliant payment solutions, which a standard for secure payment processors. Few of the examples of highly reliable PCI-DSS compliant payment solutions are PayPal, Stripe, Square, WorldPay, Braintree, and SecurePay. The platform must support these payment solutions natively or through customizations.

    One more feature that makes eCommerce platforms secure, especially from DDoS attacks, is Google Captcha. You can put the Captcha on different forms on the site and ensure they are not miss-used by hackers or spammer to harm your site.

    Check out how this open-cart site is using Captcha to secure its ‘Contact Us’ form. You need a similar feature on your site to secure it from spammers.

    Captcha in contact us form

    4. Platform Scalability

    Every eCommerce business hopes to become successful in a niche and later expand its operation to a greater level. You cannot judge the scalability of an eCommerce platform by its mere capacity to handle a large amount of traffic.

    It must also possess the abilities to integrate certain APIs, which businesses use to manage large scale implementations. For example, Salesforce CRM integration, RSA archer integration, custom PIMS integration, CDN integration, and so on. Always ensure if your chosen platform can upscale the features as per growing needs and demands.

    Here is a screenshot from a custom Magento extension for Salesforce integration. One can simply install this extension and synchronize data from Magento store and Salesforce CRM Products Leads, Contacts, Accounts, Orders, Invoices.

    Magento extension

    5. Product Management System

    The basic function of Product Management System is letting the Admin upload a product and manage the product listing. However, in 2019, you need much more than that. You need advanced eCommerce product management with cutting-edge features out-of-the-box.

    • Bulk product upload through CSV and Excel files
    • Ability to create different categories and Map products to them
    • Ability to map different shipping options with individual products
    • High-quality product image upload in bulk
    • Advanced product listing based on Wish list, Product Comparison, and Recently Viewed.
    • Dynamic catalog filters like sorting, price range, color, size, location, specifications, etc.
    • Create product variations and combinations based on color, size and other metrics.Given below is an example of how PrestaShop lets you create bulk product and combinations upload by using a CSV file.

    Product management system

    6. Order Management System

    Ecommerce is a highly competitive business, and you don’t want your orders to take ages for processing. A competitive order management system uses features like order tracking, email notifications, and shipping service API, to ensure that orders are being processed accurately and on-time.

    The OMS needs to communicate with your inventory Management system to ensure the stocks are being updated correctly and only in-stock products are available for purchase. Moreover, it should also be available for integration with popular ERP and CRM solutions through API integration or plugin installation.

    For example, a Shopify store owner can integrate Zoho CRM by simply installing the ZOHO plugin. It’s a one-click installation that makes it easy to synchronize your eCommerce store and ZOHO without playing with the codes.

    Order management system by Shopify

    7. Return Management System

    Return Management System is yet another crucial feature that takes care of your stores return policies. You cannot compromise with this feature if you want to acquire some happy customers who trust your store. Typical return management features of any eCommerce platform may include:

    • Create return rules: Return date limit, products eligible for return, and return charges
    • Create return types: Product return, Product exchange, full order refund, partial refund
    • Place return request
    • Approve/Disapprove return request
    • Auto-refund approved returns
    • Auto-process approved product exchanges
    • Print return address slips
    • Print return invoice
    • Return status update
    • Stock update in synchronization with return status updates

    Given below is how Big Commerce manages the returns. It allows the Admin to create different return rules and map them to individual products.
    Return Management System
    This is how the return console looks like to the Admin. The admin can approve both full refund and partial refund requests as per the store’s policy.
    Return policy

    8. Multi-channel Integration

    It’s a hectic task to manage a seller account on Amazon and your own eCommerce site at the same time. While you would focus on making some good sales on the marketplace, you also move away from your site. Same happens while doing the vice-versa.

    That’s where multi-channel marketplace extension of your eCommerce platform comes handy. To start email is a topic not covered yet, but an integration of your platform with an affordable ecommerce email marketing system is an absolute must to drive people back to your online shop. Preferably that is able to load products and RSS feeds automatically.For example, you can integrate your Amazon seller dashboard on your eCommerce platform and synchronize your store with your Amazon seller account. Now, the products on your site get instantly synchronized with your Amazon product listing. Not just that, it also synchronizes your inventory and orders on both the channels.

    Using the same way, you can synchronize all your seller accounts on multiple marketplaces with your site. Ultimately, you will be selling on Amazon, eBay, Etsy, Google Shopping, and on your site at the same time without doing any extra work.

    For example, this is how you can extend a PrestaShop store to synchronize with your Google Shopping listing.
    PrestaShop synchronised with Google Shopping
    You can control the feeds and make sure all your store products are listed automatically on the Google Shopping Catalogue.
    Google Shopping Catalogue

    Over to you: choose wisely

    I have not gone deep in the generic eCommerce features as anyone can identify them with just a mere look. However, the features explained here go way deep, and many popular eCommerce platforms do not even offer them out-of-box. You need to carry out comprehensive testing to judge the platforms correctly, and it’s probably the best way.

    There are adequately many options accessible for building an eCommerce store, and possibly this is one of the biggest challenges in choosing an eCommerce platform. Rather than predicting, or trusting a popular name alone, you should consider using the criteria I have highlighted in this article. Narrow down your choices based on the given aspects and ultimately you will have the right mix working perfectly for you.

    Author bio:

    Jessica Bruce is a professional blogger, guest writer, influencer & eCommerce expert. Currently associated with ShopyGen as a content marketing strategist. I also report on the latest happenings and trends associated with the eCommerce industry. Follow her on Twitter @Jessicabruc

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