Mark Fitzsimmons
Mark Fitzsimmons 18 February 2019

Six Questions to Ask When Sourcing an Ecommerce Platform in 2019

Finding the right ecommerce platform in today's congested marketplace.

Selecting the appropriate ecommerce platform for your needs is one of the most important decisions you can make when looking to successfully grow and scale your business.

Today, there are a multitude of platforms available to retailers. New ones are coming into the market, existing ones are evolving and others are seeing their lifespans come to an end – at least in terms of updates and security patches.

What are the six questions you should ask in 2019 to ensure you source an ecommerce platform that matches your requirements?

Does the platform deliver a standout mobile experience?

Mobile is king in web search, with 52 per cent of searches taking place on mobiles worldwide. This also means that search engines are now prioritising mobile friendly websites. Any ecommerce platform that is sourced must be able to help you to build a fully functional, engaging website on mobile that delivers a standout user experience.

Can it personalise the website to the customer?

Consumers want to receive highly personalised communications from the brands they shop with. Ecommerce giants like Amazon are leading the way here, which raises consumer expectations when engaging with other online retailers. Therefore, select a platform that can help present relevant web content and products to customers to increase customer engagement and conversion. There are platforms available that can track users and help retailers build up a strong level of business intelligence around them, thereby making sure that content is personalised to the individual.

Does it accept digital wallet for fast payments?

Anything that helps speed up the checkout process is a vital driver in improving the customer experience. Platforms must be able to ensure that users can checkout quickly and smoothly, which means they must allow the retailer to access digital wallet via the likes of Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal’s Smart Payment Buttons.

Does it offer multi-lingual store fronts via a single content management system (CMS)?

As many retailers look to scale up internationally, it makes sense to have the ability to create different websites that can all be controlled via one CMS to speed up and simplify the management of the various store fronts / websites in all markets. Always look for an ecommerce platform that offers this function.

Licensed or Open Source? Tier One or Tier Two?

These are some of the most important questions retailers need answer. A licensed tier one platform provides a maintained code base, usually sold as a packaged solution, with the appropriate support included. Tier two platforms have a lower cost of entry and whilst they offer a good amount of functionality out of the box, retailers can quickly outgrow the platform.

It’s essential when making a large investment into a licensed ecommerce platform to be safe in the knowledge that it will be supported for many years to come. For example, from June 2020 feature updates and security patches will no longer occur for Magento 1, so it will be at risk as time goes on and vulnerabilities are discovered, either with the core code or unsupported plug-ins.

Open source is a free application, usually supported by a community to find bugs and suggest improvements. It’s a good option for flexibility and those looking to deliver a very high level of customisation for their ecommerce offering. Because of this the open source approach is becoming increasing popular. However, for those who take this direction it’s strongly recommended that they invest in an ecommerce agency with the technical skills to effectively build and maintain their website.

Does the platform integrate with third party solutions?

It’s vital to ensure the platform allows for a range of direct and development-based integration options. With today’s etailer ecommerce requirements beyond the basic front-end shopping experience, it’s crucial to have a flexible platform capable of integrating with third party solutions. This functionality helps to take complex and resource intensive services off your platform, reduces server load, hosting costs, and development and maintenance costs of those features.

Plug-ins are one of the biggest culprits in bloating out applications, with features such as channel integration, eMarketing, product information management (PIM), point of sale (POS), CMS, reporting, and lots more. With too many plugins a website can become difficult and costly to maintain, and even slow the site down, reducing its core primary function as an online sales channel.

To overcome these issues plan your ecommerce solution carefully, and expect to use third party systems and multiple servers to share the load. Also, be very focused on limiting the number of plugins and investigate their quality, security and reliability prior to bringing them onto your ecommerce platform.

An impartial expert is the best way forward

Impartial advice is essential when evaluating ecommerce platforms, because no one size fits all. Source an ecommerce agency that has its finger on the pulse of the ecommerce platform market, as to which one will best suit your needs and objectives. Ideally, it’s one that can also help migrate your data to the new platform, build the website, host and manage it.

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