Think about the last time you wanted to buy something. You didn’t jump in your car and head straight to a local store – you hopped on Google and started checking out your options, prices, and delivery times.
In today's digital age, having an online presence for your business is a necessity. Customers want convenience at their fingertips, and it’s up to you to create a seamless online experience that keeps them coming back for more. Customers expect you to support all the options like buy online, return or exchange in store, buy online pickup in store, and more. This is not easy to provide if you don’t have great ecommerce software implemented correctly.
Ecommerce software provides the framework for managing online sales, purchase and return, inventory, and order fulfillment. But not all platforms are useful for every type of retail business.
In this article, we'll show you how to choose ecommerce software that helps your business thrive online, and what to look for in an ecommerce platform.
Ecommerce software is the backbone of your online business, providing you with the tools you need to manage your product listings, process payments, and fulfill orders. With over 63% of shoppers beginning their search online, it has become increasingly important for businesses to have a strong online presence in order to remain competitive.
Without the right ecommerce software, running a retail business becomes unprofitable and nearly impossible. Not only is it hard to connect with customers, when they do find you, you will need to manually process each order, keep track of inventory levels, and manage customer information without any automation. This will inevitably lead to errors, delays, and, ultimately, a poor customer experience.
The essential role of ecommerce software in your retail business
Ecommerce software provides a centralized platform to run your online and physical stores and/or pop-ups, making it easier for you to manage your business operations. From streamlining your product listings to processing payments and fulfilling orders, ecommerce tools allow you to streamline your business operations and provide a seamless customer experience.
The best ecommerce software also gives valuable insights into your business performance, from data on sales and inventory levels to customer behavior.
All of this helps you make better business decisions, optimize your marketing strategies, and build a successful retail brand.
5 key features to look for in ecommerce software
When you choose ecommerce software for your company, there are five key features to consider.
Quality ecommerce software should provide a secure and easy-to-use payment processing system. This should include support for multiple payment gateways and the ability to process refunds and chargebacks.
Shipping and order fulfillment
Your ecommerce software should also provide features to help you manage your shipping and order fulfillment process. This includes the ability to print shipping labels, track packages, and manage returns.
Keeping track of your inventory levels is crucial for any online business. Look for ecommerce software that provides real-time inventory tracking, low stock alerts, and the ability to manage multiple warehouses.
SkuVault is one of our favorites for inventory tracking. It provides data analytics, cycle counts, automated re-ordering, and real-time inventory tracking, so you never run out of your bestsellers.
Product catalog management
Your ecommerce software should also provide features to help you manage your product catalog, so you can add and edit product listings, manage product variants, and create categories and collections.
One of the most important features to look for in an ecommerce platform is integration with your existing systems, including inventory and accounting platforms, ERP order management software, retail POS, and shipping platforms. With strong integrations, you’ll have real-time data including order status and inventory levels.
Seamless integrations save your business time, reduce errors, and open opportunities to build lasting positive customer experiences.
Reporting and analytics
Finally, you need tools to help you analyze your business performance. This includes data on sales, customer behavior, and website traffic. Look for software that provides customizable reports and analytics dashboards.
How to choose the best ecommerce software
There are dozens of ecommerce tools on the market, but not all of them will be the right fit for your retail business.
The right ecommerce software will streamline your operations, improve your customer experience, and increase your revenue. But choose the wrong software, and you’ll be left with headaches, wasted resources, and lost sales.
Here’s how to choose ecommerce software that helps you business grow.
1. Identify your target customer
Who is your target customer? Are you selling B2B or B2C? Understanding your audience will help you select software that provides the features and functionality they need.
If you're selling to businesses, you may need software that supports bulk ordering and invoicing. If you're selling to consumers, you more likely need software that integrates with social media and offers mobile-friendly checkout.
It's also important to consider the demographics of your target audience. If your audience is primarily older adults, your ecommerce tools should have a simple and intuitive user interface. If your audience is primarily millennials, software that offers personalized recommendations and social proof will be more useful.
2. Determine your product catalog size
How many products do you plan to sell? Some platforms are better suited to large product catalogs than others. If you have a small product catalog, a simple and affordable platform like Shopify will be a useful tool. However, if you have a large and complex product catalog, you may need a more robust platform like Magento or WooCommerce.
You should also consider the types of products you're selling. If you're selling physical products, you’ll want software that supports inventory management and shipping integration. If you're selling digital products, software that supports secure file downloads and licensing is a must.
3. Evaluate your budget and resources
Do you have the resources to manage and maintain the software in-house, or will you require outside support? These factors will influence your software choices. Keep in mind that the cost of ecommerce software can vary widely, from free open-source platforms to enterprise-level solutions that cost thousands of dollars per month.
Implementing your own software takes time that many retail business owners don’t have. At Coachbar, we match you with integration experts that can set up your new ecommerce software and integrate it with your existing software and systems. By working with an implementation expert, you can start seeing the benefits that much quicker.
You should also consider the ongoing costs of ecommerce software, such as hosting, security, and maintenance. If you don't have the resources to manage the software yourself, you may need to hire a developer or an agency to help you. Alternatively, you can choose a hosted solution like Shopify or BigCommerce that handles many of these tasks for you.
Ultimately, choosing the right ecommerce software requires careful consideration of your business needs, your target audience, your product catalog, and your budget and resources. By taking the time to assess these factors, you can select ecommerce software that will help you achieve your goals and grow your business.
Comparing the different ecommerce software platforms
Once you've assessed your business needs, it's time to start comparing ecommerce software platforms. There are several factors that you need to consider, so let's take a closer look at the different options on the market.
Open-source vs. hosted solutions
Open-source ecommerce platforms offer more flexibility and customization options but require more technical expertise to set up and manage.
WooCommerce is a popular plug-in that gives a WordPress website ecommerce capabilities. It powers over 6.7 million ecommerce websites, and is one of the most used platforms by online retail businesses.
Hosted solutions, on the other hand, offer a more user-friendly interface but may have limitations on customization. It's important to consider your technical expertise and the level of customization you require before choosing a platform.
Shopify is the largest hosted ecommerce platform on the market. You won’t have to worry about coding, but can still fully customize your online storefront.
Pricing models and hidden costs
Be sure to compare pricing models and be aware of any hidden costs. Some platforms may charge transaction fees or require premium add-ons for certain features. It's important to factor in these costs when evaluating the overall cost of the platform.
Open-source software – while free to download – will require additional hosting and potential maintenance costs that will need to be considered in your budget.
You’ll also need to consider the cost to implement the software in your organization, including the integrating with your accounting, inventory, ERP/order management, and shipping software to build an efficient software system.
Scalability and customization options
Consider whether the software you choose can scale with your business as it grows. You'll also want to check the customization options available to make sure the software can be tailored to your specific needs. It's important to choose a platform that can grow and adapt with your business.
Aside from these key factors, there are some other important points you may want to consider when comparing ecommerce software platforms:
- User experience: Your platform should be easy to use and navigate for both you and your customers.
- Integration with other software applications: Can the platform integrate with other tools that you use, such as email marketing software, social media platforms, accounting software, or inventory management tools?
- Software implementation: Do you already work with a software implementation consultant who can assist in setting up the software and integrating it? If not, are there consultants available who charge a fair price and deliver outstanding results?
- Security features: Make sure your platform has robust security features to protect your customer data and prevent fraud.
- Customer support: Does your platform offer reliable and responsive customer support to help you resolve any issues that may arise?
Features & functionality to look for in an ecommerce platform
Once you've narrowed down your options, it's time to evaluate each platform's features and functionality. This process can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it to choose the right ecommerce software for your business needs.
User-friendly interface and design
The software should have a user-friendly interface for both you and your customers. It should be easy to navigate and provide a seamless shopping experience. A well-designed interface can help increase customer satisfaction and encourage repeat business.
Consider the design elements of the platform, including the layout, color scheme, and font choices. Does the platform offer customization options, or are you limited to pre-set templates? A platform that allows for customization can help your business stand out and create a unique brand identity.
Shopify is a great example of an ecommerce platform that allows for detailed customization. Check out any of the stores hosted on Shopify and you’ll see how well-branded you can make your shopfront.
Payment gateway and shipping integrations
Your ecommerce software should seamlessly integrate with the payment gateway and shipper you plan to use. This integration will help streamline the checkout process and improve customer satisfaction – around 88% of customers say a bad checkout gives them a negative perception of a company.
Don’t forget to look at the fees associated with each payment gateway and shipping provider. Some platforms may charge additional fees for certain integrations, so be sure to factor these costs into your decision-making process.
Inventory management and reporting tools
Inventory management and reporting tools are essential for tracking product levels and assessing your sales performance. Be sure that the software you choose provides the tools you need for inventory management and reporting.
Do they offer real-time data, or is there a delay in reporting? Are the reports customizable, or are you limited to pre-set templates? A platform that provides detailed and customizable reporting can help you make informed business decisions.
BigCommerce is a leading choice for detailed reports, real-time analytics, and a huge range of built-in tools to help with marketing. It even has unique features specifically for manufacturers and wholesalers.
Marketing and SEO capabilities
Your ecommerce software should provide marketing and SEO capabilities to help drive traffic to your website. Look for features such as email marketing integrations, social media sharing, and SEO optimization tools.
Also, look at the level of automation provided by the marketing tools. Do they offer pre-set campaigns, or can you create your own? Are the tools easy to use, or do they require technical expertise? A platform that provides easy-to-use marketing tools can help you reach your target audience and increase sales.
By evaluating each platform's features and functionality, you can select ecommerce software that best meets your business needs. Take your time and consider all of the factors before making a decision – it could make or break your business.
Need help implementing your ecommerce software?
Choosing ecommerce software for your business doesn't have to be a daunting task. By assessing your business needs and evaluating the available options, you can select software that will streamline your operations and provide a seamless customer experience.
If you’re unsure which ecommerce platform is right for your business, our consultants at Coachbar can help. We’ll take the time to assess your business and needs, and help you implement the best tools to reach your retail goals.
Get started with Coachbar today and we’ll connect you with an integrations expert in your niche.