WEB & TECH / MAY. 27, 2014
version 3, draft 3

Tips for Selecting the Right Ecommerce Platform

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From hosted platforms such as HighwireShopify and Magento Go, to simple platforms like SendOwlE-Junkie and DPD, there are many options to choose from when it comes to ecommerce platforms. With all these options, selecting the right platform for your site can become a very frustrating process. Here are some questions you need to ask yourself before you make a decision.

1. What is your product?

Your choice of an ecommerce platform will be greatly influenced by what you will be selling. Some platforms are suitable for physical products, while others work better for digital downloads. For instance, ecommerce platforms such as E-Junkie and DPD are ideal for digital products. Besides hosting the product you are selling, they also allow your customers to download securely after making buying. In addition, these platforms have features which protect you from fraud and theft. Hosted and open source platforms are usually suitable for selling physical products. They offer features such as varied shipping options, tax and shipping calculators and inventory control.

2. What is the budget?

Ecommerce platforms come with different prices. Simple platforms such as E-Junkie and SendOwl have no setup costs but charge monthly fees based on the number of products you are selling. Open source platforms such as Magento allow you to use the system for free, though you might need to get an expert to install it for you. Another option is to use a free WordPress plugin. However, it would be advisable to buy a few add-ons to enhance functionality. Hosted platforms such as Bigcommerce and Shopify charge monthly fees for their plans, but also offer pre-made themes which can help you save on design costs.      

3. What is your range of products?

Before choosing an ecommerce platform, you also need to consider the number and variety of products you are selling. If you are selling a few products, simple solutions such as E-Junkie and DPD would be ideal. Choosing a platform with too many features that you don’t need will not only be a waste of money, but will also make it more difficult to manage your site. However, large shops with many different products require platforms such as Magento, osCommerce and Shopify that have more advanced features.

4. How flexible is it?

You might want to customize things such as the functionality of the platform or the appearance of your pages. Most hosted platforms are flexible when it comes to changing the appearance of the site, but rigid when it comes to customizing functionality. Open source platforms are more flexible, though you might require an expert to make the changes. Custom platforms, though costly, offer complete freedom when it comes to customization.

5. What is involved in future upgrades?

When selecting a platform, you need to take into account your future needs. Does the platform allow you to upgrade to an advanced plan if necessary? What are the time and cost implications for such upgrades? For instance, open source platforms need to be upgraded to newer versions once in a while. This could mean a higher cost for maintaining your site. WordPress plugins also need to be updated often. Updating WordPress is a very simple procedure, with some plugins even allowing automatic updates. When it comes to hosted platforms, all the upgrades are done automatically.

6. What are the options for support?

The kind of customer support available is another major consideration. For free plugins and open source platforms, the main source of support is user forums. SendOwl and DPD provide support via a ticket system or email, while BigCommerce and Shopify provide support via online chat, email or phone. Therefore, paying a monthly fee for an ecommerce platform allows you to enjoy better customer service.

The ecommerce platform used to build your site will play a major role in the success or failure of your business. Therefore, take time to think through the questions outlined above before making a decision.

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