7 Attributes to Look For in an E-commerce Platform

November 30, 2023 - 12 minutes read

With dozens of options, make sure the platform you select checks these seven boxes.E-commerce platform on a laptop

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E-commerce is as old as the internet itself, but things really took off in the 1990s when companies like Amazon and eBay became ingrained in our consciousness. Today, establishing and maintaining a strong online presence is almost compulsory for businesses of any size. There is no shortage of E-commerce platforms available to help you tap into the digital market, but how can you decide which option is right for your business?

The earliest E-commerce pioneers were primarily brick-and-mortar retailers attempting to expand their business through omni-channel commerce. Today, many new B2C and B2B companies exist only in the digital realm, so failure is not an option when it comes to choosing the right platform. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key factors and features that should drive your E-commerce platform choices.

“E-commerce is not an industry; E-commerce is a tactic.” Tobias Lutke

Why E-commerce?

The E-commerce ecosystem generates over $850 billion of revenue in the U.S. alone, with over 2.6 billion consumers participating worldwide. All those sales have led to a healthy level of competition among E-commerce platform providers, but a handful of top companies continue to lead the pack. These platforms offer similar features and price points, so a fair bit of homework is required to zero in on the best choice. In general, a third-party E-commerce platform enhances your business by providing: 

  • Scalability: The leading E-commerce platforms are designed to scale along with your business in a variety of ways, including functional upgrades and ramping up bandwidth as your traffic increases.
  • Marketing opportunities: Established E-commerce platforms provide built-in sales and marketing tools that help you promote your business in innovative new ways.
  • Customer support: Think of your E-commerce platform provider as a partner rather than just a vendor. That includes a high level of customer support throughout the lifespan of your storefront that ripples down to your satisfied customer base.
  • An established platform: A recognized and respected E-commerce provider brings your business instant credibility and brand enhancement through association.

How to choose the right E-commerce platform

When you carefully choose the right E-commerce software for your business, the results can include an improved user experience, increased ROI, and profits that continue to multiply each year. Making the wrong choice can have the opposite impact; the platform is such an integral part of your presence that choosing the wrong one can spell disaster. 

In the end, your choice may be influenced by intangible factors like comfort level or recommendations from enthusiastic friends and customers, but as you narrow your choices, be sure to consider these seven key factors that contribute to long and short term success:

1. Security

In the 1980’s, the Ford Motor Company launched their highly successful “Quality is Job 1” marketing campaign. When it comes to choosing an E-commerce platform, Security is job one. In other words, ensuring customer privacy and data protection is more important than any other factor.

With E-commerce platforms so frequently targeted by hackers, your platform should deploy a multi-layer strategy to defend against tactics like phishing, SQL injections, and DDoS attacks. Features like secure hosting, PCI compliance, and frequent data backups signal the commitment to security you need to look for.

E-commerce platform security

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2. User experience

It’s hard to ignore a common element that runs through the most popular digital platforms of all types: A well-designed and functional customer interface. You should select an E-commerce platform that offers a differentiating customer experience while providing enough customization options to make your storefront stand out in the crowd. With 46% of customers using their smartphones for shopping, the focus on user experience should extend to both mobile and desktop platforms. Additional user experience factors to consider include:

  • Themes: Leading E-commerce platforms offer subscribers a variety of themes to choose from. If you can’t find a theme that aligns with your brand, you may need to consider other options.
  • Efficient searching: Savvy customers with limitless options have no patience for slow or inaccurate search features. Make sure the platform you select includes search options like filters and autocomplete that enhance usability.
  • Self-service: An effective E-commerce user experience also incorporates self-service features like chatbots to answer customer questions and gather feedback in real time. Self-service community forums allow customers and visitors to exchange information and ideas, helping to build your brand.

3. Pricing

No E-commerce platform guide would be complete without discussing cost as a guiding factor. However, since most of the leading platforms target a similar monthly subscription cost, pricing may not be a determining factor. If you find yourself concerned with listing and transaction fees that add to your cost burden, some quick calculations will reveal how much you could potentially save by switching to another platform. Unless the numbers are significant, these fees should not be relevant if you have found a solution that checks other boxes for you. 

Price is what you pay. Value is what you get.” Warren Buffett

4. Integration

To connect your E-commerce platform with systems like order fulfillment, customer relationship management (CRM), and inventory management, you need the right integration capabilities. Integration with inventory management is especially important since it allows you to track inventory levels through the E-commerce platform in real time. Robust integration capabilities also let you scale the business by adding new tools and systems or customize your E-commerce solution using third-party plug-ins and APIs.

5.  Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

Organic traffic is more likely to discover your E-Commerce storefront if your search engine rankings are consistently higher. SEO optimization helps your business stand out in a sea of digital competition. The right E-commerce platform should have features in place to support SEO so that you won’t need to build this infrastructure from scratch. The best platforms include built-in systems and practices to optimize SEO for Google algorithms, including metadata updates, image captions, and canonical tags to direct traffic to your preferred URL.

6. Payment support

Customers use a variety of payment methods, so it’s important to ensure your E-commerce platform supports most or all of them. This should include payment methods preferred by international customers. You should also verify all payment transactions are executed smoothly, even on mobile platforms, so that customers are less likely to abandon their carts. In a recent survey, 47% of E-commerce customers reported they had abandoned online shopping carts based on long or seemingly unsecure payment experiences.

7. Inventory management

Your order management software allows you to track shipments accurately and send customers regular, timely updates on their purchases. E-commerce storefront, order management, and inventory management software must be well synchronized to prevent overselling and other issues that can impact customer satisfaction levels.

When you select an E-commerce platform, you should consider whether it’s compatible with your existing inventory management system. If you are happy with your current option, selecting an incompatible E-commerce platform might force you to change too many things at once.

Do you really need to decide? 

The good news is you can leverage many E-commerce platforms simultaneously if it benefits your business. Each of the platforms you select can help you tap into different market segments and collectively build sales and brand reputation. Factors to keep in mind when operating on multiple platforms include: 

  • Competition: Is your multi-channel approach just confusing customers by pitting you against yourself? Make sure each E-commerce platform serves a specific niche or sub-set of your portfolio.
  • Inventory management: Your inventory management software should be capable of supporting multi-channel commerce by integrating all sales data across a common backend database.

E-commerce platform selection: Final thoughts

With approximately 2.5 million E-commerce businesses operating in the United States alone, the days when only major retailers could pivot to an online sales platform are long gone. This incredible number of options signals intense levels of competition, with low margins for error. In this competitive landscape, choosing an E-commerce platform for your business could be one of the most important decisions you’ll ever make.

Agiliron allows you to sell in more places while managing them all through a true multi-commerce solution. Our extensive library of templates will allow you to get your new E-commerce store up and running or migrate an existing store. Agiliron supports integration with the leading E-commerce platforms as you leverage our inventory management, POS, warehouse management, CRM, and other advanced software suite capabilities.

Inventory management and E-commerce must work together seamlessly to optimize business performance and the customer experience. We can help you choose and implement the platform (or platforms) that best complement your business model. Schedule a consultation today and let our solution experts share their advice and expertise.