How do I choose the right platform to host my ecommerce website?
In section two we saw what kinds of software exist. This chapter will help you to make a well-informed choice for your ecommerce site.
The first factors to consider
Basically, there are three main questions you should ask yourself when choosing a solution for your ecommerce website.
- What is my budget?
- How important is 'user-friendliness' for me?
- What features do I need?
If your budget is unlimited, a custom solution would be the way to go. In reality, most starting online merchants will have to decide how much they are willing to spend on their ecommerce software. In most cases, this means that you are limited to a specific type of software.
Another limiting factor can be your (lack of) technical skills. For example, if you are relatively unexperienced and you do not have someone around who is, Open Source software may not be for you. These solutions usually require a relatively high skill set from their users. Depending on your level of knowledge, you should choose an ecommerce solution you are comfortable working with.
If you have answered question one and two, it is time to look at the feature sets. This can be a bit tricky, because if you just started, most of the time you do not exactly know what you need. In that case, first get familiar with the features online store builders offer. Check out various solutions and make a list of options that you believe are essential to you.
Important features of ecommerce software
Now we will discuss which basic - most important - characteristics an online store builder should have.
1. Design possibilities
Having your own online store is fun, partly because you can create a design for your storefront that appeals to you and your target audience. Therefore the design options are an important factor when choosing your software. With a SaaS platform, make sure templates are offered and check to what extent you are free to adjust fonts, backgrounds and the layout according to your personal wishes.
With open source software, you can design your online store pretty much any way you desire. However, you need to have the technical and graphic knowledge and skills to do so.
2. User Friendly
It is important that you are comfortable using the back office, or admin panel, of your online store. This is where you design your store and create products and pages, where you determine payment methods and where you take care of your orders.
Especially if you do not have a lot of technical skills, it is very important that the software is user friendly. Tip: Software providers will often let you try out their solution for free. It is a good idea to make several different test stores with various providers and see which one suits your needs the best.
3. Mobile Friendly
Nowadays it is a “must” to have an online store that is mobile friendly. In most cases, more then half of all online store visitors enter through smart phones or tablets. Be sure that the software provider you choose can make your ecommerce website suitable for mobile devices. This technology is called responsive design. Also check to see if they have various mobile viewing options available.
4. Search Engine optimized
You can own a beautiful online store and great products, but if people cannot find you, then your chances for success are slim. It is important to see if the ecommerce software you are considering gives you the option to adjust the meta titles, descriptions and text for your pages. Google attaches a lot of value to sites based on the relevance and uniqueness of their content. The more relevant and unique you are, the higher you will score in the search results.
5. Multilingual website
This point is more important to some merchants than to others. Do you want to offer your products in different countries? If so, be sure you choose software that will allow you to show your online store in multiple languages. Things to consider: what languages are supported? Is it also possible to create international stores? Can you easily manage your orders from all the different countries?
6. Other features
Different forms of ecommerce software come with different sets of features. Usually, the more features that are offered, they higher the price. Most open source software provide a very broad range of options and modules. And when something you need does not exist, you can always have it developed. In SaaS platforms, most of the time all 'basic' features for an ecommerce website are provided. If you need more advanced features, you will have to research their product and compare which solution offers (most of) the features you need.
7. Customer Service
Hopefully, based on the information provided above, you have been able to choose software that works well for you. However, especially in the beginning, you may stumble upon a few problems. Therefore, it is important that your provider gives you support, preferably for free. If free support is important to you, a SaaS system is a good option; with most Open Source solutions, you will have to pay extra for this service.
Being aware of these differences will help you make the right choices. Because each person has different priorities, it is difficult to make an effective comparison per system. Make a list of the most important points for your business and try the systems for yourself.