What is an eCommerce platform? This is a type of software that allows consumers to access and purchase your goods or services over the internet.
Online sales are rapidly rising. In the first quarter of 2021, retail eCommerce sales in the U.S. totaled $215 billion.
If you currently sell online but don’t have a modern eCommerce platform, it may be time to implement one. If you don’t yet sell online but want to, you’ll need to first develop a digital business model and then implement an eCommerce system.
Regardless of your situation, this robust technology will enable you to expand your customer reach and build your bottom line.
Today, we’re sharing everything you need to know about eCommerce software, so you can determine if it’s right for you.
What is an eCommerce Platform?
eCommerce is the practice of buying and selling over the internet. There are a few different ways this practice can take place. The main ones include:
- Business to business (B2B)
- Business to consumer (B2C)
- Consumer to consumer (C2C)
- Consumer to business (C2B)
An eCommerce platform is a software application that allows both parties (seller and consumer) to participate in the transaction.
Selection & Implementation Case Study
We assisted this client with the selection process, while ensuring it obtained maximum discounts and favorable terms. We were then contracted to assist with implementation.
eCommerce and ERP
Many companies integrate their ERP system with their eCommerce platform. This eCommerce integration enables information to flow bidirectionally between the two systems.
This means that mission-critical insights are available to both customers and staff in real-time. The main types of data transmitted include, but are not limited to:
- Customer details
- Order information
- Shipping and tracking
- Inventory levels
- Item descriptions
When these details are no longer siloed in disparate systems, your business can operate more efficiently. You have a unified data hub that streamlines the ordering process and makes your eCommerce function easier to manage.
For example, when a shopper adds an item to their cart and completes the online checkout process, your ERP software would send them a confirmation email, update your inventory count, and create a shipping label. Depending on your software, it may also provide tracking information and update your financials.
Different Types of eCommerce Platforms
There are three different types of eCommerce platforms. These include:
- Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) platforms
- Platform-as-a-Service (PaaS) platforms
- On-premise platforms
Both SaaS and PaaS platforms conduct eCommerce activity through the internet. However, PaaS has both a software and hardware component.
Key players in the SaaS and PaaS space include:
- Shopify (SaaS)
- Squarespace (SaaS)
- Magento (PaaS)
- Wix (SaaS)
- Big Cartel (SaaS)
- WooCommerce (WordPress plugin)
Retailers typically purchase this software through a third-party provider and access it on the cloud. This makes these platforms ideal for smaller companies that are new to the eCommerce realm or whose online storefronts are relatively small.
However, most SaaS and PaaS vendors charge a fee to use their site and there are also transaction fees to consider.
The third type of eCommerce platform, on-premise platforms, are hosted locally. Your IT staff manages the solution, rather than a third party. In addition to avoiding fees, you have greater control over your eCommerce site and can create a tailored solution that fits your unique business processes.
3 Features to Look for in an eCommerce System
Before you begin software selection, it’s important to understand the key features that every eCommerce platform should have. Let’s review what these are and how they work.
1. Search Function
Customers must be able to find your products online. For this reason, any platform you choose should include a robust search function. This feature should be intuitive and easy to use.
2. Shopping Cart
You might not need a physical shopping cart if you’re just popping into a brick-and-mortar store for one small item. However, online shoppers need a place to store their intended purchases until it’s time to check out.
Thus, an eCommerce platform should include a shopping cart feature that allows customers to easily store and view their items.
3. Payment Gateway
Naturally, the goal of an eCommerce transaction is to make a sale. To do so, you’ll need a payment gateway that allows shoppers to successfully pay for their products before leaving your site.
Depending on the platform you select, shoppers may be limited in how they can pay for your goods and services. For instance, some platforms may only take credit cards, while others allow alternative forms of payment, such as PayPal or Apple Pay.
3 Advanced Features to Note
The three features listed above come standard in almost every basic eCommerce platform. In addition to these, you may also be interested in more advanced features. Here are some to remember and review.
1. Sale Database
You’ll want to keep a record of every transaction that occurs across your platform. While you can do so in a variety of ways, some providers include built-in databases that automatically store and update sales as they occur.
2. Customer Support
Especially if you’re new to the eCommerce space, it can be helpful to have access to 24/7 customer support to assist with any technical issues you may encounter. This team can answer questions and troubleshoot your system as required.
3. Order and Inventory Management
You may also want an eCommerce platform that helps you track available merchandise and update your storefront accordingly.
Platforms that include order management functions allow you to inform customers where their shipment is and relay any updates concerning their purchase and delivery. These features can help improve the customer experience and build your brand reputation.
How to Select the Right eCommerce Platform
There isn’t a one-size-fits-all eCommerce platform that will work for every business. To choose the right one, it’s important to consider your unique business requirements. Here are a few of the top factors to keep in mind.
1. Gross Merchandise Volume
Start by calculating your gross merchandise volume (GMV). This is the total number of sales your company makes over a certain period before accrued expenses are deducted. It’s usually measured quarterly or yearly.
If your GMV is low to mid-range, you may only require standard eCommerce services. In this case, you need something quick and easy to set up that will allow you to get up and running as quickly as possible. An inexpensive SaaS platform might be all you need.
Conversely, larger enterprises with high volumes of orders will usually benefit from more extensive solutions. They need a more robust eCommerce platform that is flexible and scalable.
You probably won’t find a solution that does everything you need it to, so be ready to consider configurations, customizations, and add-on applications. For example, you may want to integrate your eCommerce system with a content management system (CMS) to create a fully functional solution.
2. Coding Experience
If the platform has a highly technical back end, it can be difficult to master, so you must consider the amount of coding experience your IT team possesses. If this isn’t your strong suit, then consider a website builder that offers drag-and-drop eCommerce templates that make this step easy.
3. Depth of Functionality
The search for the ideal eCommerce platform can be a long one. Once you’ve narrowed your list to a few of the top contenders, you then need to further analyze the features each one provides.
Key features to look for and compare include:
- Search capabilities
- Payment options (credit card only vs. alternative options)
- Security functions
- Integration with larger campaigns
Is it Time to Embrace eCommerce?
What is an eCommerce platform? If you’re a modern business, it might be the missing piece between you and the target audience you want to reach.
Ready to become more accessible and available to online shoppers? Contact our team of ERP consultants to benefit from our expertise in a range of enterprise software, including eCommerce systems. We can help you find the right solution and assist you in developing an eCommerce implementation plan. Request a free consultation below to learn more.