Once you’ve decided it’s time to implement an e-commerce platform, the next step is to decide which one. There are a lot of solutions out there, so how do you know which e-commerce platform is perfect for your organization?
We wanted to help you get off on the right foot, so we put together a list of the most important factors to consider in choosing the best online sales platform for your business.
Define Your Goals
First, you need to ask yourself what you need your solution to do for you. In every organization, there are a wide variety of needs that need to be fulfilled.
From a marketing perspective, you probably want to be looking at a platform that will support personalization and an omnichannel strategy, for instance. From a sales perspective, you’ll need a solution that reduces admin work and gives your customer service representatives and sales agents the tools they need to best assist clients. From a finance perspective, you’ll want your e-commerce solution to speed up order processes and offer more functionality for analyzing your business.
In order to tackle all of these different types of needs, we’re going to divide them into two groups: functional and technical.
Functional needs cover features that will help you reach goals like increasing brand awareness, improving communication with clients, improving your clients’ buying convenience and broadening your customer reach nationally or even internationally. Technical needs, on the other hand, cover goals such as having up-to-date information with a low error margin, data analysis to improve workflow, and simplifying implementation and maintenance of your new web store.
We suggest starting with your technical needs. First, consider whether you want a self-hosted or hosted platform.
Self-Hosted or Hosted
A self-hosted platform is a plugin that allows you to set up a web store within your existing website. Such a solution gives you complete control over your online store, but it does mean you’ll have to build from scratch and manage it all yourself.
Hosted platforms come with a domain, website and shopping cart, and they don’t require any maintenance. That’s because the hosting company takes care of everything relating to e-commerce once you subscribe to their hosting package.
One thing to look out for if you decide to go for a hosted solution is what kind of customization options the provider offers. You’ll want to verify whether the web store can be designed to suit your brand, and whether it offers the functionality for all of the features you’re planning on having.
Interfaced or Integrated
Next, you’ll need to think about whether you want an interfaced or integrated platform.
Interfaced web stores run autonomously, meaning that the data is synchronized with your ERP from time to time. The result is that all adjustments and calculations need to be performed twice – once in your web store and once in your ERP. Not only does this mean you’ll have to deal with redundant data, but it also increases the risk of errors.
An integrated solution actually installs your web store partially within your ERP. Such a solution provides advantages such as quick implementation and a short time to market, no double work, lower maintenance costs and more flexibility in updating your ERP system. For these reasons, many businesses choose to base their e-commerce solution on their existing ERP.
Open or Closed
Now you’ll need to decide whether you want your e-commerce solution to be open or closed.
With open software, you own the source code, which means you’re not tied down to a single supplier to provide the software. The downside is that this does increase the risk of cybercrime. Closed solutions minimize that risk but make you dependent on your supplier.
There is, however, a middle road – a hybrid solution. These solutions protect your source code and your internet connections. The software can be modified by a selected group of partners, developers and users.
As we mentioned, functional needs are going to pertain more to your marketing and sales goals. One of the great things about launching an online sales platform is that you’re suddenly able to reach an entirely new client group that you wouldn’t have otherwise had access to.
New Client Outreach
Implementing an online sales platform opens up the doors to developing an omnichannel strategy – an approach that involves engaging clients through multiple channels and in multiple stages of the buying process. Social media is very important in this, so you’ll want to be sure to choose a solution that makes it easy to share information on platforms like Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and LinkedIn.
Improving the Experience for Existing Clients
E-commerce is a great opportunity to improve the customer experience for your existing clients. It’s therefore important to choose a solution that gives your clients the ability to log in and enjoy a completely personalized web store experience with full access to their order history, an efficient checkout process, real-time product and inventory information, and a wide range of payment methods.
It’s also a good idea to ensure that your solution allows you to create customer profiles based on the information in your ERP, so you can personalize the content your clients see when browsing your web store. Not only does this improve your client’s experience, but it gives you opportunities for cross-selling and upselling, which is beneficial for your business too.
Never underestimate the importance of good mobile functionality. Increasingly more users are browsing, getting informed, and making purchases on their tablets and smartphones – it’s a convenience that they value greatly.
Mobile sales are great for your business because they give your clients 24/7 access to your web store and they give your sales team new opportunities for making pitches and closing deals when visiting clients.
Putting it All Together
Remember that the most important thing is to always make your decisions based on your e-commerce business goals. If you let that guide you, you’ll stay on the best path for your business. We wish you the best of luck on your digital transformation!
Do you think you’re ready to take on the world of e-commerce? Take our quiz and find out!
17 January, 2017