Whether you’re starting an online business, taking an offline brand into the digital landscape, or are at a point where your online presence brings in thousands of orders in a week or a month, the ecommerce platform your storefront is hosted on, has a big impact on your growth.
Imagine getting an influx of visitors only to see your storefront not functioning right. Or think about the checkout system failing and resulting in a loss of revenue you never estimated.
No matter what stage of business you are at, the foundation of success lies in the ecommerce platform you choose.
In this article, we’re going to list down the markers of a reliable ecommerce platform based on the different stages of business.
Markers of a reliable ecommerce platform
The best ecommerce platform comes with the following set of features and tools to enable online businesses:
- Web hosting - You need to ensure that your ecommerce platform offers a fully-hosted solution. This means your store data should be entirely hosted on the platform’s servers, instead of being hosted with third-party providers. Learn more about hosting here.
- Domain name - Take a look at whether the ecommerce platform enables you to buy a domain from them. This will keep things streamlined - even in terms of the billing. Learn more about domains here.
- High up-time - An online storefront needs to be 24/7 available for online shopping. Your ecommerce platform needs to ensure a high uptime; which means it should keep your store live and running at most times. For example, Shopify offers a 99.99% uptime.
- Bandwidth - Bandwidth is the amount of "traffic space" your website uses and it may increase as your business grows; ensure your platform offers plenty of bandwidth and can scale.
- User-friendly dashboard - Another important feature to look at is how intuitive the ecommerce platform is to use. From the basic editor that lets you customize the look and feel of your store, to creating new pages and so on, it should be easy to do.
- Ready-to-use and editable themes - Designing a website can be tough; that’s why the ecommerce platform should either come with a set of free and premium themes and templates that can be edited to match your brand, or should have partners who are able to provide you with the same.
- Extensive app-store with pre-built integrations - As you start to grow, you will require a number of solutions for marketing, sales, advertising and similar use cases. The ecommerce platform should come with easy to use plugins/ add-ons/ apps instead of having you seek third-party solutions that will require building integrations. For instance, Shopify has over 4000 apps for merchants.
- Mobile optimized site and functionalities - With an increasing number of online shoppers using mobile devices to make purchases, you need to ensure that the functionalities and templates the ecommerce platform offers, are mobile-optimized. Read more about the importance of mcommerce here.
- PCI compliance - Make sure that the ecommerce platform follows an ongoing process that aids in preventing security breaches and payment card data theft in the present and in the future.
- Sales channel integrations - To grow a business, you need to be present on the right channels. This is where it’s important for your ecommerce platform to enable easy sales channel integrations to popular marketplaces and platforms. Learn more about sales channels here.
- Inventory management - No matter how big or small your ecommerce business is at the current stage, you will need to keep a clear account of your orders and product availability; that’s where inventory management becomes important. Learn more about inventory management here.
- SEO tools and capabilities - Since most online shopping journeys start from the search engine, the ecommerce platform you choose should enable you to optimize for search with ease; from URLs to metadata, the controls need to be in your hands. Learn more about the importance of SEO here.
- Great customer support - You will require assistance in setting up your storefront or implementing certain features. So make sure their customer support team is available and they have received positive reviews for the same.
- Ability to scale - Even if you’re starting small, a good ecommerce platform should ideally have the ability to scale with you in all ways. From the extent of your storefront set up to the bandwidth it has to offer and functionalities, everything should be accounted for.
- Checkout and payments - A good ecommerce platform should offer easy integrations with popular payment gateways in the demographics you intend to sell in. This is to ensure easy checkout. Checkout the payment gateways available in India here.
- Shipping partners - Take a look at the integrations available for order fulfillment. A good ecommerce platform will have pre-built integrations with popular courier service providers or aggregators to save the manual effort on delivering the orders you receive. Learn more about shipping and fulfillment here.
While it’s always good for an ecommerce platform to have all the features for businesses at all stages, some of them are more critical to the stage your business is at. In the following sections, we’re going to categorize them accordingly.
New age D2C brands getting started
If you’re just starting out, you need an ecommerce platform that isn’t complex to set up a storefront on. It needs to equip you with all the essential features and offer an easy learning curve during store set up.
Here’s what you should be looking for:
- Pricing - If you’re just experimenting with an idea or starting small, keep in mind the pricing of the platform. You need it to offer you the maximum number of features and tools from the above list at a budget that suits you.
- Ease of use - Initially, you may not have a team to help you with the design and development of your store. This makes it critical for the ecommerce platform you choose to offer an easy-to-use and intuitive dashboard.
- Free themes - Designing an online store from scratch can be a costly affair; look for a platform that offers free themes and templates to get started with.
- Knowledge base - Since you will be managing most of your store set up on your own, you’re going to need a reference point. This is where you should evaluate the knowledge base and learning resources a platform offers.
- Customer support - No matter how well you’re able to follow instructions, you may run into roadblocks when setting up an online store for the first time. This is where the customer support and service offered comes into play.
Traditional brands/ retailers moving online
If you have an offline presence in the market and a customer base you’d like to offer online shopping to, your ecommerce platform should enable an easy sync between the two channels. The idea is to offer a seamless omnichannel shopping experience in this case.
Here’s what you should be looking for:
- Fast set up - As an offline retail store, you need to quickly adapt to the changing purchase behavior of consumers. It’s important that your take to market time is short and hence the platform should enable an easy store setup.
- Offline store integration - You should be able to integrate your online and offline presence to manage customer data, orders and run operations smoothly. This is also important to offer a more seamless shopping experience to consumers.
- Inventory management - When you start selling both online and offline, you need a better hold on your product availability to fulfill orders in a timely manner. The platform should enable easy integration with an inventory management system that can sync both online and offline.
- Customer support - Moving online may seem easy, but if you’re someone who has a large catalog, you might have to seek support from experts. Make sure your ecommerce platform offers the same or leads you to those who can.
- Analytics - Maintaining both online and offline storefronts requires resources. Hence, you will need to keep a close eye on which of the fronts helps you business grow faster alongside investments in marketing and advertising.
Businesses at the brink of scaling
If you started an online store a while back and have seen exponential growth in the number of sales you get every month, it’s time to step up. Your ecommerce platform needs to be able to scale with you.
Here’s what you should be looking for:
- Headless commerce - Once your business starts to grow, you require making updates to your storefront more often. This requires separating your frontend from the backend to ensure these updates are made faster. Check if your ecommerce platform offers headless commerce functionalities.
- Platform and app customizations - When your brand is established, you will need more than just your storefront’s look and feel customized. You may require app customizations to make a widget or a section look and engage visitors in a certain way. Make sure customizations are a possibility.
- Sales channel integration - When you’re scaling your business, you will need to explore more sales channels to reach your target audience. Do a thorough research on the sales channels that can be integrated with the ecommerce platform of your preference.
- Inventory management - At this stage as well, inventory management capabilities are a must; even more so because you’re going to be selling on multiple channels.
- Analytics - Your ecommerce platform should be able to help you keep track of your marketing and advertising efforts, sales channel performance and help you make informed purchase decisions.
Which ecommerce platform should you choose?
Remember, there is no one-size-fits-all approach to choosing the right ecommerce platform.
You need to choose a platform based on not just your current needs, but also your future requirements.
It’s also a good idea to always keep in mind the resources available to you - this includes both time and human resources, and how you’d be able to scale them up or down based on the changing requirements of your online business.
We recommend choosing an ecommerce platform that doesn’t just enable you to set up a powerful online storefront, but makes you a part of a community that gives you a platform to network with other brands in the industry, learn and seek help from experts.
Want to know why leading brands choose Shopify from day one of their online journey?
Still seeking information on other platforms, here are some additional reads we recommend:
Want to see which brands have chosen Shopify as their ecommerce platform? Explore brand stories here.