Choosing the right e-commerce platform can be critical for any small business. In the modern era, the majority of the consumers are connected via the internet. They prefer to buy products from businesses which have a strong online presence, enabling them to browse and purchase products online. Providing consumers the option to buy products online can help any business to grow quickly and substantially. In terms of buying as well as selling products online, e-commerce platforms are a widely used medium. Modern consumers have access to these platforms on their PCs as well as their mobile devices. This has ensured that e-commerce platforms continue to capture the imagination of the consumers even more. Physical brick-and-mortar stores are struggling to match the power of online platforms simply due to the fact that these platforms are more convenient and easier to use. Consumers can order a wide variety of products from the comfort of their homes. Thus, in order to penetrate any market, it is vital for any small business to choose the appropriate e-commerce platform.
The first step in choosing the right platform is to identify and enlist they key products that you are willing to sell. It is vital to understand whether the goods sold will be suited to a particular platform. For instance, platforms such as Shopify are more suited to sell products like clothes and furniture, whereas a platform like Amazon can be more appropriate for selling consumer electronics and mobile devices. There are other platforms which specialise in different categories of products. So, for any small business, the first step is to identify your own key lines of business and match them with the prominent product lines of the e-commerce platform. Also, there are certain platforms which offer exclusive products to customers. This is also worth evaluating whether it is worth for a small business to sell products exclusively on a particular platform.
Secondly, since almost every business has the ultimate motive of making a profit, it is important to understand the fee structure of the platform. There are platforms which charge up to 20% of the cost of goods sold as fees. On the other hand, there are platforms which are much more economical for sellers. This can be a key determinant in choosing the right platform, simply because most small businesses have tight budgets and cannot afford to pay a higher margin in fees. The business model of these e-commerce platforms is such that they focus on earning from sellers rather than the buyers. This implies a fee structure that is skewed against the sellers. In order to bypass this skewed structure, it is critical to choose a platform which is charging a lower fee. Additionally, there can be other costs involved such as shipping and packaging. It is important to take into account all of these costs and then compare the platforms in order to arrive at the one which provides the most value-for-money. This is because there may be a cheaper alternative available, but it may have a limited number of customers. Therefore, it is important to achieve the right balance in terms of a platform which has a wide customer base and is also relatively cheaper at the same time.
Thirdly, the user interface of the platform should be smooth and easy to use. The primary objective of selling on an e-commerce platform is to make it easier for the users. However, some platforms overcomplicate proceedings and this, in turn, results in a flawed user interface. Customers prefer to use a platform which ranks higher in terms of ease of use and lower in terms of complexity. Additionally, the chosen platform should also be well defined for sellers. For any small business, there will be staff members who will use the platform on a day-to-day basis. If it is not user-friendly for sellers, it will be difficult to adapt to, resulting in a loss of time and resources. There are various platforms which force the users or vendors to download multiple apps or to create various accounts in order to monitor and carry out the sales. This can be a major hurdle in terms of time management. A small business should look to choose a platform which gives it the freedom to manage all seller metrics in one place. This makes it easier for the seller, and at the same time, it helps in efficient resource management. Thus, the chosen e-commerce platform should be well rounded and easy to use for both the buyers as well as the sellers.
Further, another key element is the scalability. There are many platforms which allow you to list your products online but do not give you the ability to increase the scale of offerings without paying additional fees. The various platforms need to be compared in order to analyse this. There are platforms such as Amazon which allow for multiple product lines and operate on a per unit fixed fee model along with a monthly fee. Such a platform can be more suitable for businesses that are looking to start with a small number of products and expanding gradually. On the other hand, platforms such as BigCommerce can charge additional fees for any new product lines. Often, for smaller businesses, a flat fee model works better, simply because it gives you the flexibility to increase or reduce your products lines as per the consumer demand. It also saves the small business from additional fees being levied on them.
To sum up, there are a number of determinants which can help in identifying the right e-commerce platform for your business and all of these must be taken into account in order to make the right choice. Suitability of product lines, fees, ease of use and scalability are some of the key characteristics that differentiate a good platform from a not-so-good platform. Comparing and researching all of the available platforms beforehand can ensure that the right choice is made.
Anna Clarke is the owner of online writing company 15 Writers. She is a successful entrepreneur with over 20 years’ experience in freelancing, academic dissertation writing consulting, specialising in Business, Economics, Finance, Marketing and Management.