eCommerce platforms are essential software tools that help businesses establish, manage, and maintain their online stores.
They provide a wide range of features and tools to support online businesses in selling products and services effectively – ultimately driving sales and growth.
This in-depth guide will explore the types of platforms available, their unique features, and how they increase sales.
We’ll also compare the best eCommerce platforms in the market and offer valuable insights on selecting the most suitable one for the eCommerce website of your company.
Let’s dive in.
What are eCommerce platforms?
eCommerce platforms are software solutions that help businesses to build, manage, and grow their online stores.
They offer various tools and functionalities to help businesses sell products and services online, including:
- Website builder: Enables businesses to create a visually appealing online store using templates and drag-and-drop functionality, without requiring extensive technical know-how.
- Inventory management: Helps businesses track and manage their products, maintaining accurate and up-to-date stock levels to prevent overselling.
- Order management: Streamlines the process of receiving, processing, and fulfilling orders, making it easier for businesses to manage customer orders efficiently.
- Payment processing: Integrates with various payment gateways, allowing businesses to accept payments from customers securely.
- Marketing tools: Offers tools for businesses to promote their online stores, such as email marketing, social media integration, and search engine optimization (SEO).
- Analytics and reporting: Provides businesses with data and insights on sales, customer behavior, and overall performance, helping them make informed decisions to improve their online stores.
Today, there are plenty of different platforms for businesses of all shapes and sizes.
How eCommerce platforms drive sales
Before we get into the details of each platform, let’s unpack exactly how they help you drive sales in your online business.
Improved customer experience
The real beauty of an eCommerce platform is how it integrates both a seamless web browsing experience (by giving you the tools to create an online storefront) with a full-fledged commerce engine on the back end.
A content management system or website creator (like WordPress or Webflow) may have what you need to create content for an audience, and a payment processor or online store (like Stripe or Amazon) may have what you need to take orders.
But an eCommerce platform can marry the two of them, creating one single seamless user experience for both you and your customers.
Increased visibility and reach
In the competitive world of eCommerce, business owners have to spend just as much time on lead generation, acquiring new customers, and nurturing prospects as they do on developing their products.
Using tools with email marketing capabilities, social media integration, and search engine optimization (SEO) can have a significant impact on a business’s reach and customer engagement.
In fact, these have quickly become essentials for any successful eCommerce business.
eCommerce platforms can provide native support for these marketing channels, including:
- The ability to create a blog for content marketing,
- Freedom to adjust tags for SEO purposes,
- And integration with popular social media channels for social selling and marketing.
Better product management
eCommerce platforms can enable more effective inventory and order management.
Using these tools, businesses can maintain updated product information, monitor stock levels, and optimize the order fulfillment process, ultimately leading to higher sales in their online store.
While the built-in tools aren’t nearly as robust as a dedicated inventory management software like SkuVault, they provide many of the foundational tools businesses need to manage their SKUs.
Streamlined checkout process
An efficient and secure checkout process is crucial to driving sales in eCommerce platforms.
By offering features like one-page checkout, guest checkout, and various payment gateway integrations, businesses can provide a seamless shopping experience for customers.
Enhanced marketing and advertising capabilities
eCommerce software platforms equip businesses with a range of marketing tools and features, such as promotional banners, discount codes, and abandoned cart recovery.
(Though it’s worth mentioning that some of these features are only available via third-party plugins that augment and enhance the platform.)
These tools enable businesses to create targeted, marketing strategies and campaigns, ultimately driving more traffic and sales to their online store.
Ability to leverage data and analytics
Data-driven decision-making is essential for businesses to optimize their eCommerce store and drive sales.
eCommerce platforms offer analytics and reporting features, providing businesses with insights into sales, customer behavior, and overall business performance.
The advantages of open source and headless eCommerce platforms
If the terms “open source” and “headless” sound a little odd to you, don’t worry.
(That second one does sound a little macabre, doesn’t it?)
In this section, we’ll unpack what these eCommerce platforms are, how they work, and the advantages of each one.
Open source eCommerce platforms
Open source eCommerce platforms are called “open source” because anyone can see how the program works and even make changes to it if they want to.
This makes it easier for people to create their own unique online stores without having to start from scratch.
This is the opposite of a typical SaaS platform (Software-as-a-service) like Shopify, which is closed-source and does not allow users to edit the source code of the core software itself.
There are several advantages of using an open-source eCommerce platform, including:
- Cost savings: Open-source eCommerce platforms are often free to use, which can save businesses a significant amount of money compared to proprietary platforms.
- Customization: Open-source platforms allow for greater customization and flexibility, so businesses can tailor their eCommerce site to their specific needs and preferences.
- Community support: Open-source platforms have a large community of developers who contribute to the platform and provide support, which can be a valuable resource for businesses.
- Security: Open-source platforms are often more secure than proprietary platforms, as the code is open for scrutiny and can be audited by a community of developers.
- Integration: Open-source platforms offer a wide range of integrations with third-party tools and services, making it easy to add new features and functionality to your eCommerce site.
Headless eCommerce platforms
Headless eCommerce platforms separate the front end (the user interface) from the back end (the data and functionality) of an online store.
This allows businesses to develop and manage the front end independently, which supports greater flexibility and customization.
That said, headless eCommerce platforms require significantly more technical expertise. So, if you’re not a tinkerer or aren’t willing to hire a developer, it may be best to choose another platform.
Some of the advantages of a headless eCommerce platform include:
- Flexibility: With a headless platform, you have the flexibility to customize and design your front-end user experience without being tied to the back-end system. This allows for more creative freedom and the ability to experiment with different technologies and design elements.
- Scalability: A headless eCommerce platform can handle high levels of traffic and complex transactions more efficiently than a traditional platform. This makes it easier to scale your business as it grows.
- Better Performance: By separating the front-end and back-end, a headless eCommerce platform can deliver faster page load times, better user experiences, and better performance overall.
- Integration: A headless eCommerce platform can integrate with a wide range of third-party applications and tools, so you can build a comprehensive eCommerce ecosystem that meets your business needs.
- Future–Proofing: Because a headless eCommerce platform is designed to be flexible and scalable, it can adapt to changing business needs and emerging technologies. This helps future-proof your eCommerce business and ensures that you can keep up with changing customer demands and market trends.
Top eCommerce platforms for driving sales in 2023
Shopify is a well-known eCommerce platform. It offers a wide range of functions, including tools for developing websites, managing inventory, and processing payments.
The platform is built to be simple to use, making it an excellent solution for businesses of all kinds.
Key features: Shopify provides a wide range of features to enhance your online business.
With its intuitive interface, you can easily manage your inventory, promote your products through built-in SEO tools, and process payments from various gateways.
Furthermore, Shopify’s app store contains an assortment of apps that you can use to customize your own website and enhance your online business.
Pros: Easy to use, scalable, and a large app store for additional functionality.
Cons: Transaction fees for external payment gateways and premium themes can be costly.
Pricing: Plans range from $39 to $399 per month.
Customer support: Shopify provides 24/7 phone support, live chat, and email support.
WooCommerce is a popular eCommerce platform that operates seamlessly with WordPress websites.
You can use WooCommerce software for free because it is open-source. If you’re searching for a configurable and versatile eCommerce platform, WooCommerce is a great option.
Key features: WooCommerce is an eCommerce platform that seamlessly integrates with WordPress.
This platform is open-source and totally free to use. This platform offers a range of plugins and themes from which users may freely choose – excellent for customization.
Online businesses can also benefit from WooCommerce’s multiple payment gateway options, making it a popular choice for eCommerce ventures.
Pros: Highly customizable, open source, extensive plugin library, and free to use.
Cons: Requires technical knowledge and may require additional costs for plugins and themes.
Pricing: Free, but hosting and domain costs apply.
Customer support: Access to a large community, documentation, and support forums.
BigCommerce is a powerful hosted eCommerce platform that allows businesses to easily sell their products or services online.
This platform has a variety of features and integrations. It offers robust inventory management, marketing tools, and a user-friendly interface.
Key features: BigCommerce offers a range of built-in features, such as inventory management, marketing tools, and various payment gateways.
It supports multichannel selling and provides a range of themes and integrations.
Pros: No transaction fees, scalable, and offers a range of built-in features.
Cons: Not as user-friendly as some competitors and limited free themes.
Pricing: Plans range from $29.95 to $299.95 per month.
Customer support: 24/7 live chat, phone support, and email support.
Adobe Commerce (formerly known as Magento) is an open-source eCommerce platform that is suited for large corporations and organizations searching for extensive customization choices.
It offers powerful features, such as multi-store, content management system, and a range of plugins and extensions.
Key features: It’s open-source and offers numerous useful features, including inventory management, marketing tools, and support for various payment gateways.
Pros: Powerful and customizable, suitable for large enterprises.
Cons: Requires technical knowledge and can be resource-intensive.
Pricing: Adobe Commerce offers two tiers: Adobe Commerce Pro and Managed Services (for enterprise-level support). Adobe does not reveal pricing on its website.
Customer support: Access to a large community, documentation, and support forums. Magento Commerce users receive dedicated support.
Squarespace is a comprehensive eCommerce website and solution that boasts eye-catching templates with a modern touch.
It offers user-friendly website-building tools and various free eCommerce platform features, making it a suitable choice for small businesses and creative professionals.
Key features: Squarespace is known for its visually appealing templates, drag-and-drop functionality, and built-in eCommerce features.
Pros: User-friendly, beautiful templates, and all-in-one solution.
Cons: Limited integrations and less suitable for large-scale eCommerce operations.
Pricing: eCommerce plans range from $23 to $65 per month.
Customer support: 24/7 email support, live chat during business hours, and access to a knowledge base and community forums.
Wix is a popular website builder with eCommerce functionality. With so many layouts to select from, you can effortlessly customize your eCommerce site with a few clicks.
Drag-and-drop functionality allows you to effortlessly move things around and create a website that truly represents your brand.
The platform also includes various integrations that may improve the operations of your online store, making it an ideal choice for small businesses.
Key features: Wix offers a user-friendly website builder, drag-and-drop functionality, a range of templates, and built-in eCommerce features.
Pros: Easy to use, customizable, and affordable.
Cons: Limited scalability and fewer advanced eCommerce features compared to competitors.
Pricing: eCommerce plans range from $27 to $59 per month.
Customer support: 24/7 phone support, email support, and access to a knowledge base and community forums.
Volusion is a comprehensive eCommerce solution and software platform that operates in the cloud.
Volusion is an all-in-one eCommerce solution with inventory management, marketing tools, and customer support.
Volusion is worth considering whether you’re just starting out with eCommerce solutions or looking to grow your existing online business.
Key features: Volusion offers an inventory management system, marketing tools, a range of payment gateways, and a built-in CRM system.
Pros: No transaction fees and a good range of built-in features.
Cons: Limited design options and requires knowledge of coding for customization.
Pricing: Plans range from $35 to $299 per month.
Customer support: 24/7 phone support, live chat, and email support.
Shift4shop is a free, comprehensive eCommerce platform offering a range of features, including secure website building, inventory management, and marketing tools.
The only catch, according to their website, is that you have to process a minimum of $500 per month in order for your platform to remain free.
If you don’t process $500/month, the plans start at $29/month.
Key features: Shift4shop provides a range of built-in eCommerce features, including inventory management, order management, and marketing tools. It also supports various payment gateways and offers a range of integrations.
Pros: No transaction fees, scalable, and offers a range of built-in features. The business model is interesting and may be advantageous to smaller stores doing at least $500 in sales.
Cons: Less user-friendly than some competitors and a limited amount of templates and third-party apps than more established platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce.
Pricing: After the “free for life” plan, more feature-rich plans start at $29 a month and go up to $299 a month.
Customer support: 24/7 phone support, live chat, and email support.
Weebly is a user-friendly website builder that offers a variety of templates as well as an intuitive drag-and-drop feature.
Weebly also contains basic eCommerce functionality to assist customers in managing and selling their items online.
Key features: Weebly offers a user-friendly website builder, drag-and-drop functionality, built-in eCommerce features, and integration with Square for payment processing.
Pros: Easy to use, affordable, and includes basic eCommerce features.
Cons: Limited advanced eCommerce features and fewer integrations compared to competitors.
Pricing: eCommerce plans range from $12 to $26 per month.
Customer support: Phone support, live chat, email support, and access to a knowledge base and community forums.
How to choose the right eCommerce platform for your business
Identify your business needs and goals
Prior to selecting an eCommerce platform, it’s essential to identify the exact requirements and objectives of your business.
Take into account elements such as your target market, the items you offer, and the extent of customization you desire.
Knowing exactly what you want can help you select the platform that will best serve your business goals.
Determine your budget
eCommerce platforms offer various pricing plans and fees, so it’s essential to determine your budget before making a decision.
Keep in mind not only the initial setup costs but also ongoing expenses, such as transaction fees, app integrations, and hosting.
Be sure to weigh the benefits and features offered by each platform against its pricing to find the best, most cost-effective solution around.
Evaluate the features and capabilities of each platform
The success of your online shop does depend on the eCommerce platform provider you choose.
There are several platforms available, and every one of them offers a unique set of features and functionalities.
You must assess your unique requirements and give priority to the features that will have the greatest influence on the performance of your online store.
Consider the user experience and customer support
It’s essential your eCommerce platform gives clients a positive shopping experience.
Make sure the platform service provider that you choose has a straightforward design, user-friendly features, and is easy for people to navigate.
Establishing seamless and delightful customer experiences may encourage recurring business and excellent word-of-mouth recommendations from customers.
Consider the platform provider’s customer service as well, since prompt and efficient help may be vital in addressing problems and maintaining your online business.
Take advantage of free trials and demos
Many platforms offer free trials or demos, so you can explore their features and functionalities before committing to a plan.
Make use of any chance to assess the software’s user experience, convenience, and fit with your business requirements.
Get recommendations from other business owners
One effective method to evaluate the compatibility of an eCommerce platform with your business is to request feedback from fellow entrepreneurs.
Talk to peers in your industry or read online reviews to gain insights into the experiences of others with various types of eCommerce platforms.
Gathering valuable insights from experienced professionals supports an informed decision.
eCommerce platforms provide a variety of functions and tools to improve the shopping experience for customers.
The goal of all the platforms is to create an efficient and satisfying online shopping experience for customers while boosting revenue for businesses.
Selecting the appropriate eCommerce platform is an essential step in guaranteeing the success of your digital shop.
And as your business grows, you can continue to increase efficiency and sales by automating key areas of your business – like inventory or warehouse management.
For instance, SkuVault is a cloud-based inventory and warehouse management solution that seamlessly integrates with many popular eCommerce platforms.
SkuVault helps businesses streamline their operations, reduce errors, and get more orders out the door fast.
A robust inventory management system is essential if you want your eCommerce business to succeed in 2023 and beyond. We can help you get there.