How to Choose an E-commerce Platform for Your Small Businesses

A young female business owner leans on a white table as she uses an e-commerce platform for her small business.

These days, when it comes to finding an e-commerce solution, it’s not about one product. It’s about an e-commerce platform that can holistically service all your needs. That might include helping your warehouse management system talk to your online store or processing returns with top-notch customer service.

There are several types of e-commerce platforms available: you can build your own, you can license the basic platform and let your dev team customize it, you can use open-source tools and upgrade as needed or you can buy a software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution.

Make sure you evaluate your business's unique needs before finding an e-commerce platform that you're sure meets each one before you invest.

Find some key questions to ask about an e-commerce platform you're considering for your business.

Is the E-commerce Platform Secure?

If you’re online, you absolutely need a secure solution to protect your data. Social engineering, phishing and ransom hacks can leave both your business's and your customers’ data vulnerable. A full-service e-commerce platform is a better solution as it has minimal security gaps.

What's the Full Cost?

While there is the initial cost of purchasing the platform, the very nature of the platform means factoring costs for upgrades and maintenance. All platforms offer monthly or yearly fees, and those may vary depending on whether you license, build or purchase a SAAS solution and whether you host it yourself or it operates via the cloud. Whatever you choose, don’t sacrifice performance or security to save money on startup costs.

Does It Match Your Company’s Objectives?

There are several e-commerce options out there, so you want to make sure you choose the one that matches and supports your company’s strategy and objectives. If you need a platform that gives your customers payment options, choose the one that offers options for credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay or other wallet solutions.

Is the Platform Easy to Use?

This is for both you as the small business and the customer. Any e-commerce platform has to be easy to use, because having complicated technology and processes ensures that your customers (and employees) will leave to find an easier solution.

Can It Scale?

Will the platform support your business’s ability to scale up as quickly or as slowly as you need? Can it handle a sudden in crease in orders of your product?

Will It Help Boost SEO?

Success in e-commerce means customers can find you easily. Your platform of choice should allow you to leverage all types of SEO-friendly content, including headline customization, the ability to create and host content such as blogs and reviews, metadata and alt text.

Is It Mobile-Friendly?

Most people shop, share and read via their phone. Your e-commerce solution should have a mobile-first customer-facing platform that has a fully-integrated payment process. That way, your target customers can complete the entire purchasing journey via phone.

Does It Offer Reporting?

An ideal e-commerce platform will offer the data analytics you’ll need to help grow your business. This would include market and competitive data, customer purchasing data, trend forecasting, purchasing data and inventory data.

What Are the Customer Service Capabilities?

Customers expect an almost immediate response to any product question they may have. An e-commerce solution needs to ensure that not only can customers contact and engage with your company, but also that you can respond as quickly as possible, ideally in a single day.

Before you start shopping, it’s always a good idea to know what you want from an e-commerce platform not only from a company perspective but from your customers. This means taking the time to create a list of best practices and solutions, and knowing how much you want to spend and how much time you want to spend managing the platform yourself. Shop around and you’ll find the right platform for your e-commerce needs.

The views expressed by the author are not necessarily those of Fifth Third Bank, National Association, and are solely the opinions of the author. This article is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute the rendering of legal, accounting, or other professional services by Fifth Third Bank, National Association or any of their subsidiaries or affiliates, and are provided without any warranty whatsoever. Deposit and credit products provided by Fifth Third Bank, Member FDIC.