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(Almost) everything you need to know about e-commerce

Have you been running a traditional brick-and-mortar storefront, and now you’re considering whether an e-commerce platform is the right move for you? With seemingly endless options of platforms available, it can be hard to know what will work best for you and your business.

In this article, we’ll share why you should consider an e-commerce platform, what to look for and some of the best e-commerce options available. So, let’s dive in.

Benefits of using an e-commerce platform

There are many benefits to incorporating an e-commerce platform into your business, including:

A wider reach

When you move to an e-commerce platform, you can extend your customer reach well beyond your store (and even geographical) limits. It opens up your business on a national—and sometimes global—scale, making it easier to attract new customers from almost anywhere.

An increased convenience for buyers

55% of consumers shop online per week, according to the Global Consumer Report: Current and Future Shopping Trends.¹ Going the e-commerce route greatly impacts your consumers by allowing them to purchase from you 24/7.

Greater brand visibility

E-commerce platforms offer marketing tools and integrations, like SEO, email marketing, social media marketing and analytics, which help increase your brand’s visibility. That drives more traffic to your website and, if done correctly, increases sales.

Scalability

As your business grows, so can your e-commerce platform. There’s no need for a significant physical expansion if you increase traffic, product lines and transactions.

A competitive advantage

An online presence can give you better visibility over your competitors, who may not have much of an online presence.

Streamlined operations

Many platforms offer inventory management, automated shipping and tax calculations, and they integrate with other business tools. This helps streamline business operations and reduce workload.

Better customer insights

With online platforms, you gain invaluable insights into customer behavior, preferences and buying patterns. This helps to tailor offerings and even individual experiences for your customers.

What to look for in an e-commerce platform

When you’re ready to make the foray into the world of e-commerce, here are some key factors to consider so you can ensure whatever platform you choose meets your specific needs and goals.

Budget

Consider the total cost, including setup fees, monthly fees and transaction fees. Depending on the platform, tiered pricing based on features may be available.

Ease of use

If you’re not technologically inclined, look for a user-friendly and intuitive platform.

Customization capabilities

Check whether the platform offers customizable templates that align with your brand. Being able to make modifications is important for your brand and customer experience.

Integration availability

Can the platform integrate with tools you already use, such as email marketing services, accounting programs or payment apps?

Scalability

When your business grows, your e-commerce platform should be able to grow with you. Confirm that it can handle increased traffic and sales without hindering performance.

Payment processing

Make sure the platform accepts multiple payment methods, like PayPal, credit cards and Venmo, among others.

Security features

Look for a platform with robust security measures, including secure payment processing, SSL certification and data protection.

Mobile friendly

With about 76% of adults making purchases via smartphone, according to Pew Research,² you want to choose a platform that’s optimized for mobile experiences.

Shipping and fulfillment

If shipping physical inventory, consider platforms that offer flexible shipping options, integrations with major shipping carriers and the tools to manage your logistics.

Analytics and reporting

You want a tool with robust analytics to track and analyze sales, customer behavior and key metrics important for informed decision-making.

Common e-commerce platforms to consider

The following five platforms are widely used due to their functionality, ease of use and scalability. While this list isn’t all-encompassing, it provides a good start to your own research.

Shopify

Offers a range of customizable templates and integrates with multiple payment gateways. This is a popular choice among small businesses.

WooCommerce

This platform is ideal for those familiar with WordPress as it’s a highly customizable plugin for WordPress websites.

Squarespace

This user-friendly platform has visually appealing design templates and is great for small businesses that prioritize aesthetics and simplicity.

Wix

Suitable for small businesses that want a simple online store, Wix offers a drag-and-drop website builder for ease of use.

Amazon

With its large customer base and distribution network, Amazon is a viable e-commerce option for small businesses.


Making the move

Armed with the knowledge and e-commerce platform options above, you’re ready to take the next step on your e-commerce journey. Remember, the important thing is to choose what’s best for your current needs and the platform that will support your growth and success in the online marketplace.

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