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You’ve decided to move from the marketplace to your own site! This means that you’re ready to take advantage of all the benefits offered by eCommerce platforms:

Establishing strong relationships with your customers for return business
Developing a stand-out identity and reputation for your products
Setting your business apart from the limitations of large marketplace sites

As you begin your eCommerce platform research, it can be tempting to search for the “best” platform. There are so many options that it can be tough to know where to begin.

We’ve designed the ultimate resource for choosing between eCommerce platforms to help you figure out what is fundamental to you before you make this decision.

The Ultimate Resource for Choosing Between eCommerce Platforms
How Will Your Site Look?
How Much Will It Cost?
How Do You Already Run Your Business?
How Do You Promote Your Business?
How Do You Use Data?
How Comfortable Are You With Technology?
How Much Support Do You Want?
How Do Different eCommerce Platforms Align With Your Product?
What Does Your Customer Want?

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When looking for an eCommerce platform, you’re looking for a trusted partner in your business. We recommend approaching your research the same way you would a job interview. You want to learn as much as you can about your new partner before making a commitment. You want to make sure that you both agree on the important things. You don’t want the best eCommerce platform for everyone, you want the platform that is best for you. Ask the hard questions now and you’ll save yourself money, effort, and time.

How Will Your Site Look?

Many newcomers to eCommerce head straight to the platform with the most visual templates but regret that decision later because of other meaningful challenges with the platform. While visuals are a major selling point, there are other details you’ll want to consider first. If the way your site looks is a big priority, bookmark a few sites from each platform. Take a handful of screenshots that highlight the websites you think are powerful, interesting, and effective. Put together a folder that organizes these screenshots so that you can get a sense of the look you want once you’re ready to build your new site, and so you have a resource to go back to when you want to make changes.

How Much Will It Cost?

When you decide to go with an eCommerce platform you’re making a vital long-term investment. Be sure you have a clear plan and a prioritized list of what you want, then go into the process with a set budget. There are many free and low-cost plans that include simple tools, but that low cost sometimes comes with a risk. Some basic packages look very enticing, but the platform has embedded the features you want most in plans with a higher price point.

eCommerce platforms will make more if you sell more, taking a cut of each sale. That is generally an accepted cost of doing business, but it can also take a big chunk of your profits over time- compare the monthly cost of using each platform, and factor in the percentage taken from each sale for a better sense of the financial commitment you are making.

How Do You Already Run Your Business?

You will be the one constructing (and probably running) the site on this platform. What do you want your daily interaction with the site to feel like? Take a look at your business plan. When you start comparing eCommerce platforms you will need to consider the platform’s impact on the smallest details of your product and buying experience.

If you have a business plan, then you’ll also have a road map that makes it easier to prioritize as you pick between plans and features. Your business plan should include answers to questions like:

Will this platform support the size you want your business to be in 5 years?
Does this platform have the tools that are essential to you as your business grows?
What data and reporting tools do you need?
What can this platform do to make your business better?
What functions do you need?
What extra functions would be ideal?
What functions do your competitors have?

You’ll also want to consider the tools that you are already using. Examine your current business process in detail. Do you already have a payment processor or an accounting app that you’ll want your site to integrate with for reporting? Are there challenges that your new eCommerce platform can help you overcome? Is there something you are already doing that you feel is central to your success? How will the new site align with that process? Think about your deal breakers too. Don’t underestimate the importance of your convenience and peace of mind. It’s crucial to be realistic about your personal likes and dislikes as you get your new eCommerce site off the ground and running.

How Do You Promote Your Business?

Take a look at your marketing plan and the tools you are already using to promote your products. The primary benefit of an eCommerce platform is the opportunities it offers to nurture your customer relationships. You’ll need your email process, customer lists, and overall marketing plan to be in sync with the platform offerings. Many eCommerce sites also offer tools to help with SEO and automation, but look carefully at how these features perform. For example, many platforms will try to seduce you with promises of a magic SEO tool. Remember that while these tools are helpful, your SEO success will come down to your knowledge of how SEO works, your understanding of your customers, and your ability to produce interesting and relevant content.

Many sites also offer specific reporting and tracking tools to address shopping cart abandonment. This is a major data point to keep track of, and a valuable consideration in eCommerce. At the same time, as wonderful as these benefits might be, you should rely on your marketing plan. Trust your ideas and form strong relationships with your customers. It is up to you to generate return business, and developing your knowledge and skill-set are better long-term goals than relying on the shiny tools that may come with a new platform.

How Do You Use Data?

Your new platform needs to be a seamless part of your business, and it should offer reporting that coordinates effortlessly with your goals and priorities. These numbers will tell you what you’re doing right and what still needs work if you take advantage of them. You may not leverage data too much now, but as your business grows they should become the driving force of any new initiatives. Dig through the reporting functions on each eCommerce platform. Ensure that the data they are pulling aligns with your business model and your current approach to using data. Make sure that you have a clear understanding of how the data reporting in the platform can help you address the needs of your customers. The right reporting data can show you where your hottest leads are coming from, and it can also help you identify and develop new business.

How Comfortable Are You With Technology?

Many start-ups decide to use eCommerce platforms because they are easier than a standalone site to create, operate, and maintain, but the devil is in the details. Many platforms offer extensive accessories to customize your site, and someone comfortable with coding and other advanced technical skills will have a much easier time navigating those platforms.

Head to your dream eCommerce platform. You fall in love one of their design templates, but that same template will require two additional plug-ins to do what you need it to. Do you know how to navigate those changes? Platforms frequently update templates, and those updates may produce work on the back-end to maintain the functionality of your template. Changes on websites can often create a waterfall effect, altering other parts of the site in unexpected ways. Remember that A/B testing can be a great way to increase conversions. As you look into the tech expertise required by some eCommerce platforms, consider some common problems:

How easy is it to add or remove a product on your site?
Are there extensions, add-ons, or plug-ins needed to get the site you want?
What are the required updates or maintenance for those accessories?

Many eCommerce sites also offer integrations with commonly used apps and programs, as well as options for automation. Keep a lookout for these features and consider the tech knowledge that you may need to keep them running.

How Much Support Do You Want?

Another benefit of eCommerce platforms is support. You’ll want 24/7 support not only for the issues you can anticipate, but for the challenges that you’re not expecting. Each platform approaches customer service in its own unique way, so think about the kinds of support that you respond to.

Do you to talk to someone on the phone during urgent situations?
Are online chats and email a better fit for your communication style?
What kind of resources are most helpful for you as you learn a new tool? Videos? Online tutorials? Blogs?
What extras does the site provide for you to get up to speed and keep things running smoothly?
What kind of technical support do they offer?
What are the limitations of that support?
Does the support system vary depending on what package or payment system you go with?

How Do Different eCommerce Platforms Align With Your Product?

You developed a unique selling point when you first started your business, and just like you, each eCommerce platform has something special that determines the services it offers. Some platforms were made with eCommerce in mind, while others have developed add-on features over time to support this growing industry. As you look at each platform, ask yourself how the eCommerce platform specializations align with your business goals.

What businesses do they already work with?
Are they the kind of companies that you want to connect to?
How will you use the eCommerce platform’s community?
Is it an active and supportive community, or is it a place for other sellers to promote their products?

Many eCommerce platforms are also known for working with a particular type of product or seller. For example, if you are a jewelry designer, you may have a better experience on a platform that already hosts other jewelry designers because the platform has more knowledge about the specific needs and concerns of your industry. Many eCommerce platforms also have community boards. When they are active these boards can be a great way to connect with other people in your niche about trends, trouble-shooting, and other questions you’ll have for your site. Of course, FounderU is a great resource for all things eCommerce.

What Does Your Customer Want?

After you’ve considered everything that you want on the back end with eCommerce platforms, take some time to see your new site through the eyes of your customer.

What kind of site will help you improve your relationship with your customers?
What do they want, and how can the platform help deliver it?
What kind of visuals appeal to customers in your niche?
How will the look of your site meet or exceed your customers’ expectations?

You’ll also want to consider how your customer will use your site. Do they spend more time on the phone or on a laptop? Nearly 60% of searches originate on mobile devices, and some platforms are less friendly for mobile users. Mobile shoppers are a primary area of growth for all online ventures, so make sure that your site is as attractive and functional on a mobile device as it is on a laptop or desktop computer.

Another important consideration for your customer is how the platform approaches security. Look for a platform that is PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliant to ensure the safety of their transactions on your site.

Are You Ready?

You’ve done your homework! You’ve chosen to go with an eCommerce platform that will be the perfect fit for your business. There will be some give and take, but soon your new site will take some of the weight off your shoulders. Your new eCommerce platform is there to make your business exactly what you want it to be.

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About the author

Jana Rumberger

Jana is a writer and Content Manager at Selz. She has expertise in ecommerce strategy, selling products online, and small business solutions. Jana combines diverse experience in education, design, and manufacturing to craft engaging content.

In addition to her writing, she is a visual artist and foodie in Portland, Oregon.


  1. Thomas Wazzow

    Didn’t realize mobiles were so big for online shopping. Good to know. What is A/B testing?

    1. Bryce Patterson

      Hi, Thomas. A/B testing (or split testing) is essentially where you compare two different versions of your marketing or store to see which converts better. In general, this means changing a single element and comparing the results to the original set-up. Usually you want to make small edits, like trying an alternate header for your store, or moving a call-to-action button to increase conversions.

      Hope that’s helpful! Thanks for checking us out and commenting.

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