The Best eCommerce Platforms

Starting an online store? Choosing the right platform is crucial, but how do you cut through the jargon and find the right solution for you?

Choosing an eCommerce Platform:

The first thing to say here is that although re-platforming is a daunting task, it is not impossible and its important to work with the resources you have available now, not what you aspire to be.

Every seller and brand want to take their place next to the Gym sharks and Apples of the world, but investing all important time and money in a system that takes too long to set up and is difficult to manage is sure to lead to your downfall. It is much easier to scale up than it is to scale down and eCommerce is a fast-paced, ever evolving industry. Trends tend to have a bigger impact, and change more quickly than in bricks and mortar stores so you need to have the capabilities to respond just as quickly.

Fortunately with eCommerce platforms there are a range of solutions allowing you to outsource unnecessary complications so you can focus on generating sales.

Key Considerations:

Business Needs

Identify what you need from an ecommerce platform in terms of your goals, product type, budget, technical capabilities and growth projection.
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Essential features

List the essential functions you need included like payment processing, security, marketing tools, integrations, SEO support.

Pricing structures

Ensure you have a good understanding of the different pricing structures and a comparison of monthly fees, transaction fees, app costs, hosting charges and transaction fees.

Best eCommerce platforms for small and medium businesses:

If you have already begun your research you will likely have come across terms like SaaS, CaaS, Cloud-based, Open-source and Headless commerce but if you don’t have internal developers and experts its likely a lot of the solutions they are suggesting are simply going to be too expensive and labour intensive for you to maintain.

If you want to focus on marketing and product development that can grow your sales its best to go for a SaaS platform such as Shopify. SaaS platforms have all the security, licensing and maintenance fees included in a monthly subscription cost. This gives you a single transparent cost with a lot of the heavy lifting taken off your hands.

The other benefit of Saas eCommerce platforms is that they are easy to use and update with pre-built themes and user-friendly editors requiring little to no technical development. Saas platforms also have app stores where you can easily add additional features at low cost and join communities to discover new possibilities for your storefront.

The drawbacks of these platforms are that as you grow your product range and brand they can become limiting as you don’t have access to these more complex tools in order to further customise your website, and subscription fees are often based on volume which can become expensive as you grow.

Best eCommerce platforms for large and enterprise sized businesses:

Larger eCommerce business prioritising flexibility to operate at scale and personalise their online presence are where these alternative solutions such as open source or headless commerce come into play.

With open-source platforms, all aspects of the code can be modified and the brand is responsible for all aspects of compliance, hosting, security and everything else required to run the site. It gives complete freedom but requires a lot of IT and development work and therefore the costs and timescales can quickly escalate.

Headless commerce or CaaS platforms balance between SaaS and open source by separating the shopping cart from the content management system allowing you to build complex, experiential websites in order to avoid out of the box themes and limitations of drag and drop editors.

The best
Social Media Platforms for eCommerce:

One of the big marketing drivers for ecommerce brands is social media. With influencers, shoppable posts and sponsored ads, social media can be a huge discovery channel driving new buyers to your site.

One of the great things about out of the box ecommerce platform is that they will have integrations to the majority of these channels ready to go to you can easily track how much traffic and sales this is driving for your business. Having this plug and play functionality however is not just beneficial for social media channels but also marketplaces and other technologies such as ERPs, subscription tools and marketing apps, making integrations an important consideration when looking at SaaS platforms.

Which social media platform is best for driving real sales to your business will vary depending on your audience demographics, as there will be more Gen Z on TikTok than Facebook for example. For this reason we are comparing the platform by shopping functionality and therefore buying conversion, to be more product agnostic.

TikTok Shop

The newest social media platform, TikTok focuses on short form video content with a large percentage of Gen Z users. With the launch of Tik Tok Shop in some markets, this channel has the most advanced ecommerce capabilities with built in checkout for a seamless customers experience that looks to reduce drop-off. The platform has also optimised for influencer and live video sales to bring all of this into one place and make it easier than ever for brands to drive sales from social content. Looking ahead TikTok Shop has also been reported to be working on functionality that will enable users to discover similar products to those featured in posts for all content on the platform- including where no product was purposely advertised, which will truly turn this social media channel into a product discovery channel.

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The number of Instagram users worldwide is meant to reach 1.4 billion in 2024. With this audience using the platform at least once a month. Although video content is increasingly popular, Instagram was initially created as a static photo first platform. When it comes to using Instagram as an ecommerce platform it is not as advanced with no shopping feed for discover, only “Shops” acting as digital storefront across Facebook and Instagram where brands can list their products and tag them within content.

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As with Instagram, Facebook is part of the Meta family, using the same “Shops” functionality to enable selling through posts. This is managed through Commerce Manager with the checkout completed through your website, with Shopify a front runner for connecting this marketing channel. Facebook is a much more established platform compared to TikTok and brands have long been using its group function to create customer communities and drive greater engagement and loyalty. Something than is now following through to Instagram with broadcast channels.

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Pinterest is primarily a discovery and inspiration channel, allowing users to create boards with posts like a digital mood board and find items they didn’t necessarily know the name of. Pinterest business boasts 96% non-brand searches and claims shoppers are willing to pay 40% more per month than on other social platforms. Posts are search able by product type features and can be bought using the checkout of your website, connecting with Adobe commerce, saleforce commerce cloud, shopify, woo commerce and API.

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This longer form video content site has a high number of highly engaged male users and is a close competitor for TikTok amongst content creators. YouTube shopping is its ecommerce function, allowing brands and creators to promote products in their content. The checkout is handled by your website again so it is important to use a platform with a supported connection.

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  • Shopify is an American business popular with English speaking countries. In the US, Shopify has a 28% market share. The UK is its second largest market with 4.38% share. Globally this equates to over 4.6 million active online stores in 2023.

  • A website is created with the main purpose of providing information to the searcher, regardless of whether that is a collection of images, videos, educational content, or advertising a service or products, while ecommerce platforms enable businesses to create websites with a checkout function that allows customers to purchase products directly from the site.

  • An eCommerce platform is considered as the end to end software that enables sellers and consumers to connect for the purpose of purchasing goods. The ownership of the process belongs to the seller and they have a high level of control over the goods, marketing and checkout.

    Amazon, etsy and eBay are all examples of ecommerce marketplaces. With a marketplace, the site or app facilitates the shopping experience from multiple different sources. The seller has little control over the process other than the goods themselves as the checkout and responsibility for driving traffic sits with the third party.

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