Before you establish your ecommerce storefront platform, read these tips to improve your chances of ecommerce success. What follows is a list of thirteen factors to consider when researching your ecommerce storefront platform. This is the list I use in working with clients; however, there are likely more factors than what are included here. Not all of them will apply to your current business needs, but it’s better to be aware of them in advance than be blindsided by a lack of needed support later on. Let’s take a look at the features a platform should offer:
1. It should be simple to set up, integrate so that you can use your own domain name, be affordable, and easy to run. Most ecommerce stores are free to set up, but they cost anywhere from $29 a month for 100 products or fewer to $179 a month for unlimited bandwidth. Some platforms allow you to use your own domain and others don’t. If using your own domain name is important to you and a company can’t do it, go elsewhere with your business.
2. It should have a good selection of design templates and excellent shopping cart functionality. Look for an ecommerce platform that offers hundreds of beautiful design templates along with the ability to preview and customize the design with the help of your own technology designer. Make sure photos can be easily uploaded so that they will look fantastic on your site. Having a smooth shopping cart and checkout experience will create an exceptional buying event for your customers.
3. It should have unlimited ecommerce hosting. Whether you are selling two products or two thousand, ask your vendor if there are any hosting restrictions. For example, you don’t want an additional charge for increased traffic to your site. Success shouldn’t bring you lower profits — it should bring you more! It’s always wise to look through the lens of the best-case scenario and seek vendors that offer scalability and the opportunity to quickly add more capacity.
4. It should offer real-time carrier shipping that includes complete international coverage and calculates real-time rates. Real-time carrier shipping connects your storefront with a shipping account, such as Pitney Bowes Global Ecommerce Solutions, that your customers can use to calculate shipping costs. (See this video for an example: Planet Shoes) This means you don’t need to manage your shipping rates manually. Pushing that concept further, inquire as to whether the ecommerce platform provider can quote international shipping costs in real time, quote customers without including shipping costs, and build the shipping into the customer’s cost.
5. It should accept currency from all over the world. Be sure the ecommerce stores you set up will be able to accept payment from all around the world, whether dealing in your own currency or another country’s.
6. It should be able to serve as your host platform if you don’t already have a domain name. Shopify is a good example of a platform that provides this. You will then add content, design, products, payment methods, taxes, shipping, and a domain name. Then you are ready to sell to the world.
7. It should offer a web host if you don’t have one already. All Shopify plans, for example, include secure, unlimited ecommerce hosting for your online store. On the other hand, Network Solutions requires you to have a domain name registration and web-hosting package before you can use its ecommerce website.
8. It should have mobile-friendly add-ons. Shoot for responsive web design (RWD), which allows web visitors to access the same site and content no matter what kind of device they are using, whether it’s a PC, tablet, or mobile device. Snowboard retailer Burton is a good example of a company that has designed its website for use from phones and tablets.
9. It should not require you to have IT experience to build and maintain your site. Choose a platform that offers ease of use: plug, play, and sell. You should be able to plug in all the information about your company and products, play with it to get it looking good and working right, and then start selling. It should take only a couple of hours to get things up and running.
10. It should offer 24/7 service and tech support. Inquire as to how the vendor would handle a situation where your ecommerce platform crashes. It should have a cloud backup, offer support after hours and on weekends, and operate in several different time zones. For every minute you are down online, you lose existing and potential business.
11. It should have social media support. Ensure that it has buttons to connect to Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, and so forth. Strategic use of social media will increase your customer base and your bottom line.
12. It should have app support. Some ecommerce sites, like Magento, offer what are called white-label ecommerce apps. These apps essentially translate an existing ecommerce site into a mobile app that fits each device, complete with a full catalog, a product-search mechanism, a shopping cart, and the ability to offer ratings and reviews. A few sites now also offer an app for order fulfillment. Inquire.
13. It should offer strong protection against potential fraud, viruses, and scams while not getting in the way of ecommerce. Security — or the lack of it — is at the top of the list concerning ecommerce, so cover this issue extensively with your vendor until you are convinced that the company can protect your business interests and your customer’s business interests. Some ecommerce platforms provide a badge that you can install on your design to show your customers that your checkout is safe and secure. Despite the absolute importance of security, the bottom line is that security measures must be implemented so that they do not inhibit or dissuade the use of ecommerce.