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Choose an E‑commerce Platform

Choose an E‑commerce Platform

What is an E-commerce Platform?

For e-commerce business owners, online marketplaces make it easy to begin selling and are a good place to start. But eventually, most business owners find they need more flexibility and control to shape their brand and serve their customers. This is where e-commerce platforms come in and form the foundation of your online store.

For e-commerce business owners, online marketplaces make it easy to begin selling and are a good place to start. But eventually, most business owners find they need more flexibility and control to shape their brand and serve their customers. This is where e-commerce platforms come in and form the foundation of your online store.

Why do you need an e-commerce platform?

An e-commerce platform can take your sales — and your brand presence — to the next level. It's as vital to your growth strategy as having the right products and reaching the right customers. The right platform can make the entire purchasing process — from order to arrival — seamless and stress-free for you and your customers.

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How to Choose an E-commerce Platform

Research the features and tools of each platform that make sense for your needs now, and as you expand (e.g., accounting, inventory control, fulfillment, or marketing). You can get the inside track on how platforms function based on user feedback (e.g., online comments and reviews).

Does the cost fit into your operations budget? Most platforms charge a monthly fee, but may also offer a quarterly or annual contract. It is important to look into what is included within the fees. Many platforms have helpful add-ons and apps, but these could increase the total cost of using the platform.

Different platforms require different levels of technical know-how. Make sure whoever is in charge of maintaining the platform has the tech knowledge needed, whether it’s you, or a team member. Drag-and-drop interfaces tend to be the easiest for less tech-savvy people.

The advantage of establishing your own website in addition to selling on online marketplaces, like Etsy, is the ability to create a strong brand identity and design your customer's buying experience.

Think about how product listings will be handled, customized and presented.

  • Are you selling one or two products, or listing hundreds of SKUs? Some platforms can support large databases of SKUs, some cannot.
  • Can you feature photos and descriptions of your products to their full advantage? Selling perishable food items requires different information than say, custom artwork or clothing.
  • Will you need to offer optional add-ons or requests for gift wrapping?
  • Are you offering a subscription service?

Shipping is a huge part of an online business, and a customer’s purchase isn’t complete until they’ve received their order on time and undamaged. You can ship with the services already built into most platforms. However, the platform provider typically negotiates the shipping services and rates. The alternative is to use a shipping plug-in with your own FedEx shipping account.

Many e-commerce platforms support the ability to send a range of automated emails to your customers. These include account updates, order confirmations & updates, invoices, shipping confirmations & updates, refund details, and more. Shipping-related communications, specifically, will need to include relevant details from your carrier (such as the estimated delivery date, tracking number, and tracking link). Here are the options available to ensure that these details make it into your emails to customers:

  • Some e-commerce platforms support direct integrations with shipping carriers. This approach is the most straightforward and will require the least amount of work on your end.
  • Other e-commerce platforms support integrations with third-party services that act as the middleman between your e-commerce platform and your carrier. If you choose to go this route, ensure that the service you choose has the ability to not only generate shipments but also trigger/support shipping notifications via email (with the relevant details automatically populated).
  • If you are working with a platform or software that does not provide you with automation benefits, you may be required to manually transfer shipping details to email notifications.

To learn more about the importance of shipping notification emails and best practices for laying out your design and content, visit our Shipping & Delivery Notifications page.

Website downtime can affect your sales, revenue, and brand image, so it’s important to ensure the platform you choose is secure and reliable. In addition, check the level of tech support offered and research existing customer feedback.

For customers to checkout safely, your platform needs to support HTTPS/SSL protocols.

It needs to be secure and support your customers’ preferred payment methods, including credit cards, foreign currencies, etc. Make sure your platform is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant and can accept payments using a third-party vendor, like PayPal®, if needed. Take into consideration there may be additional processing fees for your sales transactions.

Mobile shopping has become a major channel for e-commerce.  Make sure your online shop has a responsive design, loads quickly and looks good on multiple screen sizes. Introduce a way to make purchases with just a few simple clicks.

Choose a platform that allows you to boost your search engine ranking, build your brand and increase your customer engagement by:

  • using your own custom domain name;
  • adding a blog for fresh content; and
  • letting your customers leave reviews.

If you want to increase your presence on social media, your platform should offer that type of integration. For example, social media sites allow companies to sell right in a customer’s feed (i.e., Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest).

Checkout Flow Considerations

A user-friendly checkout experience is vital to your business' success. A streamlined flow that expedites the purchase process and is easy to understand will set you apart from your competition.

A user-friendly checkout experience is vital to your business' success. A streamlined flow that expedites the purchase process and is easy to understand will set you apart from your competition.

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Clean User Interface

Develop a clean and structured user interface to keep your customers engaged, less likely to abandon their cart, and more likely to return. 

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Cost Transparency

Display a breakdown of the costs in the checkout flow clearly and accurately to build trust with your customers.

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Advertise Trusted Providers

Use logos, badges or other media to highlight the reliability of your security and shipping providers. 

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Additional Help

Ensure your 'Help' section is easily accessible if your customers experience challenges during the purchasing process.

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Progress Tracking

Create a progress bar to help your customers easily identify where they are in the checkout flow.

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Payment Details

Payment confirmation and cart details are critical for customers’ understanding of transactions.

Plan Your Shipping Strategy