E-commerce companies are perennially on their toes to make the online shopping experience as convenient and seamless as possible for their clients. They are always striving hard to come out with the most innovative and potent features that make online shopping an enjoyable affair.
That’s because, the slightest hitch in your e-commerce site can turn your customer away – for good!
Let’s face it, online shoppers are extremely touchy and impatient when it comes to e-commerce purchases and are always seeking for an ultra-convenient experience on an e-commerce store. Hence, your e-commerce platform must be prepared to cater to those demands of your online-store visitors.
You must ensure that the e-commerce platform you choose is not just secure, convenient, and responsive, but also offers a superlative shopping experience to your visitors – all the time.
Talking about innovation and convenience in e-commerce platforms, the most critical attribute should be your site’s ability to adapt to a wide range of mobile platforms.
Seachengineland.com reports in August 2016 that around 60% of the internet searches are done on mobile devices. E-commerce companies were quick to respond to this trend and made mobile commerce the focal point of all their innovations.
Now all major e-commerce platforms work seamlessly on most mobile devices. From an e-store owner’s perspective, this must be of utmost priority.
If your e-commerce platform is not mobile compliant, you are losing out on a major chunk of online revenue.
Amazon.com and eBay.com are some of the popular examples of responsive e-commerce sites that are highly mobile-friendly and adapts perfectly well on all mobile devices. But it is always recommended to install their respective mobile apps (Android/Apple) on your device (if they have one). This makes browsing faster and more responsive.
Here’s how Amazon.com looks on an Android mobile device
Now social media has emerged as a pivotal force in driving up e-commerce sales!
With the use of Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter seeing unprecedented and exponential growth across the world, social media is definitely a force to be reckoned with when it comes to increasing your e-commerce revenue!
Sproutsocial.com reveals that in 2011, a whopping 74% of the buying decisions were influenced by the social media.
Emarketer.com reports that a survey conducted by PWC on buyers above 18 years revealed that 45% of the digital buyers valued social media comments and feedbacks, which exercised a major impact on their purchase decisions.
Undeniably, social media platforms are also an incredible medium to attract leads and convert prospective customers into sales. Today’s e-commerce platforms also provide their customers the facility to purchase directly from their favorite social media site, which eliminates the hassle of having to exit and use a different shopping cart to complete the purchase.
To give you an idea, please take a look at this Facebook store of MVMT watches integrated to their Facebook page.
If their Facebook fans wish to make a purchase, they just need to click and go over to the ‘Shop’ section in the Facebook page, select their favorite item and complete the check-out process on the merchant site. (As shown in the following screenshot)
Most e-commerce Facebook pages these days also have a ‘Shop Now’ button provided on the top-right corner of the page that takes the visitor to their main site where they can continue with their shopping.
But there are many other brands that allow you to complete the entire purchase process right inside the Facebook page.
For example, Voonik.com.
Voonik.com (powered by Big Commerce and sells fashion product) allows you to complete every step of the purchase process right from their Facebook shop and works just like a regular e-commerce store.
From Voonik’s Facebook page’s’ Shop’ section, you can add a product to the shopping cart
View your shopping cart
And proceed to checkout right inside the social media page
Similarly, other popular social media sites like Pinterest and Twitter also allow brands to sell directly from their platforms.
Here’s a buyable Pin from Pinterest
An example of how you can make a purchase directly from Twitter
This intuitive social media integration has taken e-commerce shopping experience to a new level of convenience, which is likely to become a hot online shopping trend in the future.
Yes, two of the vital attributes required for an e-commerce site is its ability to be easily found in the search results (optimized for the search engines) and a good design. But these two features will serve no purpose as long as your site is not mobile-ready and social commerce compliant.
In addition to these two innovative features, e-commerce platforms these days are extremely easy-to-use. This simplicity-in-design has made e-commerce business well within the reach of more and more new-comers who are less tech-savvy or completely unaware of the e-commerce technology.
Without much ado, let’s analyze some of those state-of-the-art e-commerce platforms that have always stayed ahead in the game and kept pace with the fast-evolving e-commerce business.
With $40 billion worth of sales and 500,000 active e-stores, Shopify is arguably the most trusted name among e-commerce platforms. The platform continues to come up with innovative features to suffice the fast-changing requirements of e-commerce sites. Shopify works perfectly on a wide range of mobile devices and integrates social media platforms for seamless social commerce.
At Shopify, you can choose from more than 100 store templates to launch your online store. And if you wish to further extend your store functionality, the platform offers more than 1500 plugins and extensions through their app store.
The app store lets you install and use a wide variety of apps that can help optimize the user-experience, analytics, email marketing, landing pages and various other aspects of your e-commerce store.
For instance, the ‘Product Personalizer’ app lets customers personalize the products with live preview. This will not only improve the user experience and customer confidence but also help improve your conversion rate. The app costs $9.99 per month.
Another app named ‘Hindsight – Visitor Recording and Heat Mapping’ can help improve your analytics efforts by recording and evaluating your visitor’s interaction on a micro-level on your site. This app also generates the heat map of every user mouse click, interaction, and movement on the site. The cost of this app is $19/month.
You can also sell directly from your Facebook page thanks to its ability to integrate your e-commerce store with Facebook.
The platform offers
- A mobile-friendly shopping cart (e.g. Tattly.com)
- A platform for store owners where you can get in touch with app developers in case you need new apps developed for your e-store.
- Most importantly, if you are stuck with a glitch, you can avail their customer service using 24/7 live chat support or phone or through their helpful online forum.
Despite the benefits, there are some notable shortfalls to this sought-after e-commerce solution. It charges an additional fee for payments done without Shopify Payment method. And as discussed earlier, many of the additional extensions and plugins come at a cost, so extending your store functionality may not be always cheap.
Is Shopify the right e-commerce platform for you?
This is the ideal e-commerce platform for anyone looking for standard e-commerce features. With packages ranging from $29 to $299, Shopify caters to a wide range of budget requirements. However, Shopify doesn’t allow high levels of customizations, making this platform unsuitable for store owners looking to incorporate specialized features or functionalities to their online stores.
With 29.1% of the total market share, Magento is the most popular e-commerce platform! At present, Magento powers more than 240,000 e-stores worldwide and growing. This open-source platform clearly has an edge over other major e-commerce platforms thanks to its reliability and scalability. Due to these reasons, Magento is the trusted e-commerce platform for a number of big brands including Nike, Ford, Samsung, and Olympus to name a few. Currently, this is the most sought-after platform for enterprise-level e-commerce stores.
Magento is known for its ease-of-use and -management that translates to a hearty user experience to both the visitors as well as the store owner. Being an open-source platform, the possibilities of customization is almost endless! You can easily incorporate new functionalities to your store by utilizing the extensions. Right now, the platform offers more than 2300 extensions to scale up your business.
Let’s check out a couple of extensions to give you an overview.
Let’s take the Search Autocomplete extension for example. This extension greatly simplifies the search process and improves the user experience. When a user searches for a product, this extension (if properly installed) will provide relevant product suggestions to the user, making the search faster and precise. This extension is free of cost.
Google Analytics Enhanced Ecommerce is another extension that enhances the analytics capability of your e-commerce site by tracking a wide range of parameters pertaining to your products, promotions, checkout, and refunds. This is a free tag management tool that’s implemented using Google Tag Manager.
Similarly, you can search the Magento marketplace for a wide variety of other extensions as per your requirements and easily enhance your site’s capabilities.
You can also make your store social-commerce-ready (sell directly on social media sites) by integrating any of the free social media extensions. The platform also offers an extensive array of resources that you can harness to manage your store, grow your online business and give demos to your customers and more. If you are faced with a business or technical problem, you can always seek assistance from the online community of store owners and plugin developers that Magento provides.
Magento is not cheap! If you are a newcomer who’s looking to set up a basic open-source e-store from the scratch, Magento may not be the right choice. Even for the basic version, you need to shell out a one-time investment of $20,000, which can go up to $40,000 or more depending on the additional functionalities that you wish to add to your store. A custom Magento site will cost you in the range of $40,000 to $100,000 (one-time cost). And an enterprise-level site will cost you more than $100,000(one-time).
What we’ve just discussed above are open-source solutions, which require competent developers to get your site up and running. If you don’t want an open-source solution, Magento also provides two out-of-the-box solutions with 30 days trial period. But these solutions cost you the same. The Magento Commerce Starter (for small merchants) starts at $1988/month and Magento Commerce Pro (large organizations) starts at $3417/month.
Due to its complex open-source nature, the customization of Magento platform can often be costly as well. You need competent developers to carry out these customization tasks, else you run the risk of messing your store up. But such developers come at a heavy price. They can easily charge you anywhere between $65 and $150 per hour.
Is Magento the right e-commerce platform for you?
If you are an enterprise-level store owner with an enormous quantity of products to sell, then Magento is the best platform for you. With the high degree of complexity and cost involved in setting up and managing a Magento store, it is definitely not recommended for beginners.
Established in Austin, Texas in 2009 by Mitchell Harper and Eddie Machaalani, BigCommerce powers more than 50,000 online stores across the globe and is one of the leading names in e-commerce solutions. From leading brands like Kohler, Gibson, and Motorola to small and medium-sized businesses, BigCommerce clientele ranges from small start-ups to Fortune 1000 companies. This platform offers a wide range of inbuilt features that make it the ideal e-commerce platform for the non-techies and for those who don’t have time to tweak the code.
This platform offers a comprehensive array of inbuilt functionalities such as newsletters, analytics, tax, shipping, coupons and more. There’s zero transaction fee on BigCommerce, unlike Shopify. The platform lets you choose from a wide range of paid and free mobile-compatible themes that offers a robust shopping experience to your customers.
Big Commerce also has a full-fledged app store that features a plethora of apps to enhance your site’s functionalities.
For instance, if you wish to give an improved user experience to the customers, you can install an app called Freshclick – Advanced Product Filter that makes product search more accurate and faster for your customers.
Choice AI is another intuitive app that harnesses the power of artificial intelligence that will offer a much-personalized browsing experience to the customers.
The app store offers a wide variety of apps under numerous categories that help to increase the conversion rate, analyze a whole array of user activities, and make your site a more secure and a safer marketplace for your customers.
BigCommerce lets you easily integrate your online retail store with social media sites like Facebook, Google Shopping, and eBay and to various other comparison sites. The customer support provided by this platform is unparalleled. The best part is its hassle-free setup. It is a breeze to set up a Big Commerce store thanks to their intuitive and easy-to-follow setup wizard. The platform also comes with all-inclusive tutorials with graphical demonstrations and instructional videos that make it a charm to work with this platform.
One of the biggest disadvantages of BigCommerce is its limited selection of free themes. At present, you only have 7 free themes to choose from, whereas other leading e-commerce platforms offer much more than that. However, the selection of premium themes is impressive. You have an extensive list of premium (or paid) themes to choose from at the theme store, which allows a high level of customization in case you want a complete redesign of your e-store. The prices of these paid themes range between $170 and $235 (one time cost).
Is BigCommerce the right e-commerce platform for you?
BigCommerce platform offers almost all the functionalities of a full-blown store. This eliminates the need for integrating additional plugins and unwanted code modifications. If you are looking for a platform that offers the features of a full-fledged store right off-the-shelf, then look no further than BigCommerce. If themes don’t bother you much, then BigCommerce offers nearly all the powerful features that Shopify does at almost the same price range, and without any incremental transaction charges. You can choose from a pricing plan that ranges from $29.95 to $249.95 a month.
Founded in 2005 by Matt Wigham, Big Cartel is specifically targeted towards artists who are looking for an easy-to-use and inexpensive e-commerce solution to sell their products on the internet. Until now, this platform has helped millions of artists to sell their products since its inception.
With more than 250,000 stores powered by Big Cartel, this platform offers all the required functionalities for a basic e-commerce store. For artists and creative people who wish to sell their creations online with minimal overhead, there’s no better platform to choose than Big Cartel.
Big Cartel e-commerce store is extremely cheap, easy to setup and manage. The most intuitive feature is the ability to access your store via Facebook. Although you only have 13 themes to choose from, they are aesthetically designed and robust. If you want to change the look and feel of your e-store, you can make use of its WYSWYG editor to tweak the code.
If your modifications are not overly complex, you can check out the various apps, add-ons, extensions, and integrations offered at the Big Cartel’s app store. But there is a downside! You would find no more than 6 basic apps under each of the app/extension category (at present), which greatly limits your ability to scale up the functionalities of your site. However, if all you need is a basic e-commerce platform, the limited number of apps shouldn’t bother you much.
One notable app in the app store that needs a special mention is Zapier. This free app lets you integrate your e-commerce site to more than 500 apps that can automate various functionalities of your e-commerce store such as e-mail marketing, accounting, social media campaigns, and customer service to name a few.
Facebook Store is another free app that lets you sell items right within your Facebook page by integrating a Shop tab. This allows your Facebook page fans to purchase your items without having to leave their favorite social media page.
LiveChat is yet another free app in the store that can enhance the user experience of your e-store visitors and ultimately increase sales. It enables you to assist your visitors if they are stuck with a query while browsing, which greatly improves the chances of converting a lead into a permanent customer.
If you are faced with a query, don’t panic! Big Cartel provides detailed tutorial documents, FAQs, helpful tutorial videos, and also offers an efficient customer support system via email and social media pages.
At present, Big Cartel offers 4 pricing plans. A lifetime Free plan that lets you list 5 products, a Platinum plan at $9.99/month with 25 products, Diamond plan at $19.99/month with 100 products, and a Titanium plan at $29.99/month that lets you sell 300 products on your site.
The maximum number of products that you can sell on Big Cartel is only 300, which is a major drawback for merchants wanting to sell thousands of products or more. Yes, the platform is definitely easy to use, but the trade-off here is the lack of functionalities, which limits you to just selling products and nothing else. The lack of functionalities in Big Cartel platform is due to the fact that it is only targeted towards a very specific audience – artists and creative people.
You only have 13 themes to choose from, and out of those, only 2 are optimized for mobile devices. The choice of add-ons is also quite limited on this platform. However, you can incorporate Zapier and make use of more than 500 add-ons to scale up your e-store. The platform does offer social commerce, but it is currently limited to just Facebook.
Is Big Cartel the right platform for you?
If you are an artist or a creative individual looking to sell your artistic creations online, then Big Cartel is definitely suited for you, but if you are a typical retailer, then it’s better to look for some other e-commerce solution. But for an artist with zero or minimal e-commerce knowledge, this platform will provide a hassle-free and inexpensive way to launch an e-commerce store and sell their creations online.
Although comparatively a new entrant, Yokart is loaded with features and offers three flexible pricing plans. In three of these plans, you need to pay some money upfront and pay the rest when the site is ready. This platform is absolutely targeted at start-up businesses looking to set up an e-commerce store with the least amount of effort and cost.
YoKart allows you to easily build multi-vendor stores like eBay and Etsy thanks to its easy-to-setup and implementation features, all-inclusive reporting, SEO and efficient support feature. What makes YoKart stand out from the other multi-vendor e-commerce platforms is that it is flawless!
YoKart is a highly easy-to-use multi-vendor e-commerce platform that you can launch right off the bat. With unrestricted access to the source code and framework of the platform, you can completely customize your store according to your requirements. However, it is highly recommended that you employ only an experienced PHP developer to carry out the customizations as this platform is built on an intricate encrypted framework. The best bet is to let YoKart’s developers do the customizations for you. YoKart is totally mobile-compliant and offers a fully-functional Android App.
Other notable benefits,
- Offers state-of-the-art functionalities and tools at attractive rates
- Allows social media integration to drive more traffic
- Highly intuitive and responsive interface
- Immensely secure
- Wide range of multi-vendor capabilities
- Real-time shipping calculations depending on the shipping costs of sellers in different locations
- Fully optimized for the search engines, which means YoKart stores will rank high in the search engines, and easily found in the search results
- Offers 15 payment gateways, powerful theme management, and blog setup toolkit
- YoKart also offers a complete analytics suite that helps you keep track of the traffic, conversion rates and other critical statistics of your e-store.
As YoKart is still in its nascent stages, the availability of 3rd-party extensions is almost zero. Due to which, the incorporation of additional features to your store can be quite a challenge. This platform is still not social-commerce ready, which means you cannot sell directly from a social media platform of your choice.
However, if you want to enhance the functionalities of your site you see
Is Yo!Kart the right e-commerce platform for you?
If you are looking to set up a multi-vendor store with minimum cost, then YoKart is the go-to platform for you. Its pricing plans range from $999 to $5999 (one-time cost). And it is also very easy to switch from one pricing plan to another in YoKart. If you are a start-up with a sound business model, you can opt for the self-hosted version, else you can go for the start-up package that lets you validate your business model.
7 Things to consider while choosing an e-commerce platform!
Is it scalable?
Your store must be able to grow with the time. It must let you add more features to enhance its capabilities and remain as responsive and fast even when the traffic increases. Make sure your store can scale up in terms of the number of products you can list on it.
Does it suit your budget?
It’s always exciting to launch an e-commerce store, but it won’t be that cool if you have to break the bank. There’s no point paying through your nose if your e-commerce requirements are basic. So brainstorm this aspect well before taking the plunge.
Does your store look professional?
You may have all the cool features in the world jam-packed on to your e-store, but if it looks shoddy and slapdash, all your efforts will go down the drain. Hence, you must ensure that you store has a decent design that looks professional and appealing to your visitors.
Does it give a smooth user experience?
This aspect cannot be stressed enough! E-commerce is all about providing a rich user experience to your visitors – right from the moment they land on your site till they leave. Your site must not only have a good design, but it must also offer a fine browsing experience and a hassle-free check-out process.
Does it offer a trial period?
You may not need to take the platform on a test drive if it’s a reputed brand, but if it’s not, it’s definitely a good idea to get a hands-on experience of the platform before parting with your money. This will give you a chance to find out if the platform has all the functionalities that you are looking for in your online retail store. Most importantly, guarantee that the platform offers sufficient plugins and extensions to easily improve your store’s functionalities, if not, it must be easily customizable (a service preferably offered by the platform’s creators).
Does the platform offer assistance?
Make sure that your e-commerce platform has an efficient technical support mechanism in place. Check if they offer multiple support (via phone, email, online forums, live chat), and offer resources (help documents, videos etc.) to refer to if you get stuck.
Does your platform offer secure environment?
With the rising incidents of online frauds and data thefts, people are extremely wary of divulging their credit card details on e-commerce sites. Hence, there must be no compromise when it comes to securing the sensitive payment data of your customers. Make sure all their card info and personal details are 100% secure on your site. This is crucial, whichever platform you choose, it must be PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant.
Let me conclude
Mobile phones and social media have become so much deep-rooted in our lives that it has even changed the way we purchase items!
From an e-commerce perspective, this only means one thing – making your online stores compliant to these two vital mediums. In the years to come, the influence of these mediums on the purchasing habits of people is only going to get stronger.
So while choosing an e-commerce platform, make sure that the platform allows you to harness these two major growing trends and it is also geared to help you accomplish your objectives and goals as an online retailer.