The best e-commerce platforms in 2018
The rise of the web enabled countless companies to reach a broader market. Not only that, it has given rise to countless new online-only companies, fueled by the exponential rise of mobile connections.
It is therefore not surprising that one analyst claims that the market of the SMB e-commerce platform will break the billion dollar barrier.
There is no doubt that the Internet offers a huge opportunity for companies, but it is important for organizations to make the most of that opportunity. In order to sell your products or services online, your website must be properly equipped.
Building a complete webshop is a gigantic and happily unnecessary task. Nowadays there is a wide variety of e-commerce platform packages from which you can choose.
Most e-commerce platforms offer companies standard functionality, such as the ability to display products in an online catalog, make online payments, manage customers and provide aftersales.
Others offer more advanced features, such as online marketing features, the ability to manage or integrate with in-store systems and the delivery of APIs.
Which e-commerce software is best for your business depends entirely on your specific requirements. If you are an online outfit, POS integration is not necessary, but you may receive a lot of business from abroad, in which case support in foreign currencies would be a requirement.
In this article, we will highlight some of the best e-commerce platforms currently available before continuing to explore other options that you may want to explore in terms of creating your own e-commerce solution.
The best e-commerce platform packages
Giant of the e-commerce world
Easy to use
Shopify is perhaps the best-known e-commerce platform available. It was founded in 2006 by the founders Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake who, as the story goes, found that there was no easy-to-use e-commerce platform available and thus built their own platform. The company claims that: "You do not have to have technical or design experience to easily make a nice online store."
According to Shopify, it is possible to get one of its online stores up-and-running within minutes. Users can choose from a wide range of templates, or they can determine the look of their store themselves. It accepts an extensive range of credit cards, has Level 1 PCI compliance and 256-bit SSL encryption for security, and offers 24/7 support via telephone, instant messaging or e-mail.
The platform offers a complete CMS that allows users to manage the functionality and layout of their online store. Users can manage their store on the go with Shopify's mobile apps and the platform itself is fully responsive, meaning that the store will be optimized for visitors regardless of whether they open from a desktop or mobile device.
Shopify also offers users unlimited hosting for their stores, in-depth analyzes of how visitors use the store and functionality for marketing, such as SEO optimization, a discount and coupon engine, gift cards and email marketing tools.
E-commerce expertise with a full-fledged CMS
Flexible product management
Access to expertise in web design
Bigcommerce was founded in 2009 and promises to support your business, not just your store. In addition to providing support via telephone, instant chat and e-mail, it also offers articles and videos to help with e-commerce and access to a team of e-commerce experts who can provide advice and guidance on online to sell. Their experts are qualified in both Google Analytics and Adwords.
Like Shopify, Bigcommerce offers a variety of templates and themes to make stores look their best and get started quickly. Alternatively, users can design their own store or use Bigcommerce designers to do this. The platform contains a fully equipped CMS that allows users to run a complete website instead of just a store.
Users can benefit from detailed and flexible product management, optimized rankings in search engines and a variety of integrated marketing tools and analyzes. Payments can be accepted through 40+ pre-integrated gateways and shipping data can be customized according to the requirements of the company. The platform offers automated order processing, flexible tax rules, depending on where orders are made and shipped and support for multiple currencies.
Veteran supplier with a customized design service
Wide range of tools for site management
Abundant tools for help
Free trial period of 14 days
Volusion has been around for almost two decades, and was founded in Texas in 1999 in the US. The company pronounces its platform as an "all-in-one e-commerce solution" and offers a free 14-day trial (no credit card required).
As with other e-commerce platforms, users get a variety of templates to choose from and can customize templates as needed. If a more complex design is required, Volusion offers a tailor-made design service that can include branding and the presence of a company on social media.
The platform provides the site and product management tools you would expect, marketing functionality for SEO, social media and affiliated sales points, along with emails and order management functionality for quick order processing, payment acceptance, tax calculations and POS integration.
In addition to the platform and related services, Volusion offers apps from its partners, support for users and a knowledge base for e-commerce assistance. Users can draw from blog posts, manuals and webinars.
Service that focuses on SMEs
All functions that are offered in each plan
Secure hosting with 99.9% uptime guarantee
Proud of transparency
CoreCommerce was founded in 2001 and focuses on offering e-commerce services to small and medium-sized businesses. The company emphasizes simplicity and transparency, where it promises that the platform is easy to use and that customers will not stumble over hidden costs.
Perhaps the most unique aspect of CoreCommerce is that all functions are offered to all customers, regardless of the plan. Price plans are determined by the number of products, the number of e-mail addresses, the amount of bandwidth and the amount of storage the user needs (and higher subscriptions also benefit from extra support).
As with other e-commerce providers, CoreCommerce offers functionality for store design, product management, order processing and marketing. From its headline features, the platform offers unlimited options for product customization, a built-in blog engine and secure hosting offered by Rackspace and comes with an uptime guarantee of 99.9%.
Ensures an impressive degree of alignment with your needs
Numerous innovative functions
Many additional services that are offered
Founded in 1997, 3dcart is the oldest of our recommended providers here. It has been set up with the aim of integrating as many of the most requested functions for e-commerce on one platform.
The company says it has six core values that it works with: continuous innovation, good service, simple solutions, promoting trust, keeping employees and customers happy and encouraging prosperity among employees and customers.
Some of the innovative features of the platform include a module that users can install to offer gift wrapping, a purchase order system, the option to implement a loyalty program and the ability to offer recurring orders. Many of these functions are very specific, meaning that stores can be adapted to the needs of each company.
Stores can be designed using one of the many templates that 3dcart offers, or users can design their own store. A quick edit bar means that changing the design of a store is easy. Product images come first with the automatic zoom function of 3dcart and products can be sold via Facebook with store integration. As with some other platforms, users can blush directly from 3dcart and are provided with tools for setting up coupons, sending out newsletters and affiliate marketing.
In addition to its platform, 3dcart offers a number of professional services. Users can request help with SEO, PPC, shopping feed management, social media, Facebook ads and conversion consulting. Help can also be provided to ensure that a user's store is set to the highest standard. Services such as cloning sites, setting up custom tracking, data migration and training are offered.
In addition, 3dcart can offer SSL certification. Hosting is guaranteed with an uptime of 99.9% and 24/7 support is provided via telephone, e-mail or online chat. You can test the service with a free 15-day trial period.
If you do not want to go the way to use a standard package, what other options are there that you can explore? That is what we are going to look at in the second half of this piece …
Is eBay suitable for your business?
EBay UK has now opened its doors in 1999 and now has more than 14 million users. More than 10,000 people use the site for a company that is their primary source of income. It is not just about people who sell unwanted goods – companies have used the simplicity that eBay offers to set up lucrative activities. Even the larger brands such as Argos, Debenhams and House of Fraser use eBay to sell online.
With advanced tools now available, you can get started with your store within a few hours. The eBay Seller Center has all the information you need. Each store is managed through the familiar eBay user interface and there are a number of tools provided by eBay to help manage, track and promote your store once it is established.
Using eBay as a platform for your business could be ideal if your company wants to sell goods on a fixed price basis. The complete integration of the PayPal e-payment system in eBay provides this essential part of your store.
The key at eBay is to think carefully about the costs and also the transaction costs that PayPal charges before you go further and set up your own store.
How to create your own e-commerce solution
Of course, if you want full control over every aspect of your new online store, building up each page is the best way to act. Hiring someone to code your website is an option. If you decide to do so, follow these steps:
- Ask the company to view live examples of their work
- Write a detailed overview of the site you want to create. The more detailed, the better to avoid confusion
- Make sure you understand which price is charged and how many revisions this price includes
- Always ensure a signed agreement or contract before the work begins
- Ask the designers to host your site and whether you can make updates yourself or whether all updates need to go through the design agency at an additional cost
- Ask to assign the copyright of your design to your company because your website is an important part of the intellectual property of your company
- Put in your contract details on how the agreement can be dissolved amicably if something goes wrong
You also do not have to rebuild your site completely. Buying a template can give you all the basic pages that your site needs. You can then customize them yourself with an application such as Dreamweaver or hire an encoding expert to make the changes. Website templates are available from a number of suppliers, including Template Monster.
If you already have a website and want to add e-commerce functionality, this can easily be achieved with a number of applications, including:
Whichever route you choose to take when building your website, always remember:
- You must ensure that your store can be easily updated and managed.
- Good professional web hosting is vital to ensure that your site is always available.
- Look for payments and shopping carts that are intuitive and efficient to use.
- Customer service is king these days. Companies must not only take efficient money from customers, but also support them well.
- Make sure your store is fully integrated with all leading social media sites.
- Set security first – shoppers are now more comfortable in buying online, but always ensure that your site uses SSL (Secure Socket Layer), which is now the industry standard for online payments.
- Above all, any other consideration must be the visitor experience of your site. Do not forget that your competitors are only a mouse click away in the world of e-commerce.
Setting up your online store must be carefully and diligently approached to ensure that you place a professional and efficient site live. Internet shopping continues to expand. Make sure your company does not miss a sales channel that shows no signs of delay.