What are E-Commerce Management Platforms?
E-commerce, like traditional stores, have many needs. There is far more to owning a successful online store than simply posting products and watching the cash roll in. Despite the fact you have all the awesome perks of working from home, you still have the same responsibilities as a brick-and-mortar shop owner. You need to handle payment information, communicate directly with suppliers, manage customer service, handle shipping and so much more. Rather than scramble to juggle everything on your own, you can simplify and streamline all your e-commerce jobs with a single platform.
E-Commerce Sites vs. Platforms
An e-commerce site allows you to post products for people to buy. There are some built-in features that allow you to easily update and edit your store, but these are not designed to be management suites. Instead, they’re hosting tools that the entrepreneur can use to their advantage. If you want to go a step further, especially if you’re growing fast, you’ll need a good platform instead. E-commerce platforms are software specially designed to support the evolving needs of an e-commerce owner. They help you manage everything from payments to customer service in one place. You can tweak the platform to suit your unique needs, and they are highly scalable to encompass growth.
What Type Do You Need?
Every store’s needs differ, so you should clearly define yours before you start shopping around. However, there are some core elements every good e-commerce management platform has you won’t want to miss out on. There are three main models to choose from:
- Fully customizable open-source software.
- SaaS platforms with limited customization.
- Headless commerce for front-end users only.
Open-source software like PrestaShop allows you to customize every element of your shop from within its platform. From the design to its back-end functionality, you have access to everything in one place. You can even use PrestaShop to oversee marketing efforts and on-page search engine optimization. For more detail, you can read this guide on PrestaShop SEO tips and how to boost rankings in 2021.
SaaS platforms are cloud-based solutions that are less tech-heavy than open-source software. All the major technical elements are taken care of by your provider, including cybersecurity, site hosting and the like. You don’t have to be a developer or have the knowledge of one to use SaaS, so it can be a good middle ground for someone who doesn’t need open-source but finds headless commerce too restrictive. A headless commerce platform, like Shopify, functions more like a website than a software. You can modify certain elements, but you’re largely restricted to the on-page functions. This works fine for many people, but if you’re in the market for enterprise solutions, you’ll want some greater flexibility.
Additional Features to Look For
The integrated features of a software should be your primary concern. Once you know your tech level, you can choose a model that’s easy for you to use. From there, you can begin to tackle the most important elements as they pertain to your store. Some of the most common features you should look for include:
- Point-of-sale management
- Product information management
- Email service provider and email list management
- Inventory management
- Marketplace access
- Site analytics and reports
You should also look for a platform that has an intuitive website builder. This supports all of your ongoing SEO efforts, and you’ll find it easy to modify your site as your business changes. In addition to design tools, there should also be reliable hosting provided, mobile optimization and PCI compliance for stress-free payment processing.
Factors to Consider
Once you’ve identified your needs and wants, it’s time to look at your business and assess how it will benefit from a particular type of software. First, look at your growth. Are you anticipating strong revenue and demand increase over the next three to six months? If so, then you’ll want a suite capable of handling that with ease. Even an increase in bandwidth should be considered to avoid any unseemly downtimes.
You also have to think about the cost. Large-scale suites cost more to operate, and they also require you to pay a hosting fee. Ongoing maintenance and management could become expensive, especially if you’re paying for a level of software you don’t actually need. Keep this in mind before splurging solely because a program looks impressive. Finally, think about your goals. What are you hoping to get out of this? Any tool you choose to integrate into your management should consider your objectives. Only choose products that present a clear benefit.