eCommerce is booming. Every year it has a larger and larger place in the retail market, and each day the tools and capabilities of store owners increases. As a business owner, entrepreneur or just general maker of things, now is the time to stake your claim and launch your online store. The problem is, there are so many eCommerce platforms to choose from.

Selecting the right eCommerce platform for your online business is crucial to setting yourself up for success. Whether you go with Shopify, WooCommerce, Volusion, BigCartel or another platform, you’ll want to make sure to do your research ahead of time. It’s easy to get caught up in slick marketing and presentations from sales reps, but in the end what matters most is how each platform will help you grow your eCommerce business and succeed in a burgeoning marketplace.

As a creative web design agency, Harlo has experience developing, designing, and marketing eCommerce stores for a variety of industries and and businesses. Along the way we’ve learned a few things that help us set our customers up with the very best eCommerce platforms for the goals the have set. Like anything you build, it all starts with a platform.

Hosted vs. Self Hosted eCommerce Platforms

For starters, there are two basic types of eCommerce platforms two choose from, self hosted platforms and those hosted by the platform themselves. An example of a self hosted eCommerce platform is the WooCommerce Wordpress plugin. This option makes sense if you are already savvy with web design and web development, as you will be doing most of the heavy lifting in managing your store’s elements. The benefits are that you can tailor your online store to nearly your exact specifications.

The benefit of a hosted eCommerce software is that they come with tools that make the design and management of the site extremely easy. Shopify is popular because they offer design templates that catered to specific product types and industries, taking a lot of the stress out of setting up your eCommerce store. In fact most people use hosted eCommerce software for that exact reason.

The Right Platform for Your Product

Different eCommerce platforms have different strengths, and they often depend on the product you are going to be selling. There are platforms that are better at selling digital products with no shipping needs, and others that excel in bulk orders. When choosing an eCommerce software you’ll want to select the right platform for your products and business. Consider the amount of stock you will be moving, as well as the physical nature of what you are selling.

There are also eCommerce platforms that work well with a variety of product types, and Shopify is probably at the top of that list. By far the most popular eCommerce software, Shopify’s easy to use design and flexibility has helped it dominate the eCommerce space. From digital products to physical goods, Shopify makes marketing, managing and delivering your products to customers easy.

How You Pay, and How Your Customers Pay

Another thing you’ll need to consider is pricing. Whether you’re a small business just getting your start in the digital retail market, or an established business looking to expand its eCommerce opportunities, you’ll want to choose a platform and pricing model that makes sense for you.

Most eCommerce platforms, with the exception of BigCartel, will charge you a monthly fee that varies depending on whether it is self hosted or hosted by the platform. eCommerce platforms will also charge fees attached to processing transactions. Determining which of these pricing models is best for you will depend on what each platform offers and the amount of business you predict you’ll conduct there. However, don’t make a decision based on price alone. Often times the more expensive options will offer more tools and flexibility that can help you sell more products.

You’ll also want to make sure that the eCommerce platform you choose is compatible with the way your customers purchase items, meaning it is both easy and secure. If an eCommerce platform doesn’t offer the ability to pay via third party vendors, like PayPal, it could make customers less likely to buy, and lead to dreaded shopping cart abandonment.

Customization and Flexibility

The eCommerce market is growing at an incredible rate, with more and more people getting involved everyday. But with more people comes more competition, and the need to stand out. Being able to customize your eCommerce platform is critical to building your eCommerce brand and distinguishing yourself from the competition. Building an eCommerce identity that customers can recognize and relate to will keep them coming back.

To do this, you’ll want to make sure your eCommerce platform is set up to host custom product photography, unique design elements and most importantly, personalized URLs. These are all brand materials you will want to invest in on your own, but making sure the eCommerce platform you choose is compatible with these efforts will play an important role in your decision making. Shopify is one of several platforms that is recognized for having great customized branding solutions.

Putting it All Together

Once you’ve considered all the aspects you’ll need in an eCommerce platform, and decided which is right for your business, it’s time to get to work. designing your store and implementing your branding elements can be a daunting task, but creative web design agencies like Harlo have the experience and knowledge base to help you through it. From developing a structure that works best for you products, to unique copywriting, photography and design, we can help you through the process. Start your research and marketing efforts today, and you’ll end up with the very best eCommerce platform possible.

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