You may have heard the saying that it’s easier to sell aspirin than vitamins, which is probably true, as people want their immediate pain addressed before they tend to care about long-term benefits. With that in mind, this blog post will suggest options on the best platforms for eCommerce, but it will also offer some cautionary advice on what you must address in your selling platform to avoid a nasty fail.
A little background first
The global B2B E-Commerce market was valued at more than $8 trillion in 2021 and is projected to be $18 trillion by the year 2030, according to MarketWatch.
Statista data has a similar predication that U.S. online B2B online sales will continue to surge at home and worldwide. The B2B U.S. market in 2022 is more than $6.7 trillion (USD), with manufacturing online sales continuing to increase, according to Statista B2B online sales information.
With numbers that inviting, eCommerce lands in the win bin, but before you choose your online selling platform, ask how your platform addresses these two issues:
- How user-friendly is it?
- How safe and stable is it?
User-friendly is a must
Compelling content is a fundamental element, but what exactly is it and why does it matter to a site’s user-friendly feel? Start with the website structure and its design.
According to HubSpot, site structure is “integral to the success of your eCommerce business.” You may know from experience that if you can’t immediately find what you’re looking for on any site, but particularly an eCommerce site, you leave the site. Bounce. So do most people. Clean and streamline navigation that helps visitors easily view site pages, shopping carts, and whatever customer support offers (email, chat, phone numbers) all help keep users on a site to complete what they came to do.
Eye-catching, engaging and consistent design that speaks to your brand essence and your target audience is also key to the user-friendly feel of an eCommerce site. Even the Gettysburg Address would have benefited from photos of the battlefield, a few Abraham Lincoln selfies and some beauty shots of Pennsylvania. We kid, of course, but only about the joking references to Lincoln and Pennsylvania. The address itself is considered one of the most important speeches in American history, so the content was top-notch and memorable. What might be needed today, to emphasize its importance, is a designer’s thoughtful consideration of colors, fonts, product page layouts and a clear one-page checkout form.
While we’re on user-friendly aspects of your eCommerce site, consider page load times. Know that 53% of mobile site visits are abandoned if pages take longer than three seconds to load and a two-second delay in load time can result in abandonment rates of up to 87%. According to Google, the ideal website load time for mobile sites is 1-2 seconds. (If you’re interested in deeper Google tidbits on load times, see them here.)
Site abandonment is different from cart abandonment, but let’s look at carts as an element of eCommerce. Unforeseen shipping costs are the number one reason shopping carts are abandoned, according to Statista, which specializes in market data and research. The failure of a discount code to work is the second most-common reason people dump their carts, followed by an order taking too long to ship and having to re-enter credit card and shipping information. When you choose an eCommerce platform for your business, assess the options to see how they address abandoned cart recovery.
Safety and stability
You may not hear it as much today, but you probably remember people (maybe your mom or grandad) saying they’d never buy online because it’s “just not safe.” Although we don’t hear that said as much today (except for those reluctant to use mobile sites), safety of a website, particularly an eCommerce site, is vital. Your users must feel it’s as secure as possible, website security is a basic, or they just won’t use it.
When you choose a platform, keep that front-of-mind and look to your platform choice to have your back on PCI compliance, DDoS mitigation and site-wide HTTPS. What’s this alphabet soup? Start with the fact that you’ll need to accept credit cards to stay competitive in the eCommerce marketplace. With credit cards comes fraud and stolen data and the requirement to create a safe environment for credit card transactions becomes a priority. Maybe priority #1. Also with credit card charges comes PCI.
“Payment card industry (PCI) compliance helps ensure the security of each one of your business’s credit card transactions. Whether you are a startup or a global enterprise, your business must be compliant with 12 operational and technical requirements to protect your customers’ cardholder data and your reputation as a reliable company,” according to Forbes magazine.
Feel free to bookmark the official PCI merchants’ security standards to keep you updated, but, as earlier stated, many SaaS eCommerce platforms handle this for their customers.
As for Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS), it’s just what you think. A padlock is displayed on all pages within your eCommerce site, which increases trust for site users, who see the padlock as a necessary security measure. Although BigCommerce.com is one of the platforms we suggest you use, its explanation of site wide HTTPS is concise and informative.
Microsoft Security identifies DDoS as a distributed denial-of-service. The attack targets websites and servers by disrupting network services.
“A DDoS attack attempts to exhaust an application’s resources. The perpetrators behind these attacks flood a site with errant traffic, resulting in poor website functionality or knocking it offline altogether,” according to the Microsoft Security webpage on DDoS. Ugh. No, thank you.
Stability is just what it sounds like. Your site shouldn’t crash when everyone visits you because your offerings are must-haves. It shouldn’t crash when one person goes to checkout, either.
Dropshipping is an order fulfillment method where a business doesn’t keep the products it sells in stock. Instead, the seller purchases inventory as needed from a third party—usually a wholesaler or manufacturer—to fulfill orders.
Consider these 5 platforms
You can address both big issues by yourself as you create your eCommerce website, or you can use a SaaS platform that does all (or most) of it for you. Large companies may want to use enterprise-level platforms, such as Shopify, if they sell to other businesses in large monthly volumes. If you’re a smaller company or business, consider the following (not an exhaustive list) as a place to start:
WooCommerce is a plug-in that takes the basic WordPress operating system and transforms it into a fully functioning eCommerce site. Its appeal lies in its connection to WordPress. According to HubSpot, 45% of websites on the internet use WordPress, so it’s not a big jump from website to eCommerce site.
“WordPress is used by 65% of all websites using a CMS, which is a huge market share. The second most popular CMS — Shopify — has a market share of 6.6%. Wix, Squarespace, and Joomla are next, with 2.8%, 2.7%, and 2.6% market shares, respectively,” according to HubSpot, sourcing from web technology surveys W3Techs.
Part of WooCommerce’s appeal is the functionality of its shopping cart features. Remember those abandoned carts? With WooCommerce, site owners can do the following to help eliminate or address cart issues:
- add multiple payment gateways
- enable geolocation to calculate taxes
- allow guests to checkout without creating an account
- force secure checkout
- redirect visitors to their cart once products are added
It does require you to learn WordPress, if you don’t already know it, which can be a time drag. But WordPress is customizable, which makes it a versatile CMS. WooCommerce also requires you to buy a domain name, an SSL certificate and web hosting (all separate) and WordPress premium themes, which you may want for great design, may be pricier.
If you’re an online seller looking to use built-in sales and marketing tools to generate leads and increase sales, BigCommerce may be for you, as its options are filled with features needed to do both. Its plans include unlimited storage and it offers the ability to process multiple currencies, which may matter to you if you do business across country borders, including Canada and México. If your customers want payment flexibility, BigCommerce offers the ability to process Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Pay.
You will need to include a domain name, which you’ll need to purchase, and not all BigCommerce themes are free. A drawback, if you’re a bigger business, is that BigCommerce plans have a limit on the number of sales you make per year. For example, its entry-level plan has an annual sales cap of $50,000. If you earn more than that, you’ll need to choose a higher limit and more expensive plan.
If you’re an omni-channel seller or require dropshipping flexibility, consider Shopify. (What the heck is dropshipping?) Shopify has the most dropshipping integrations and offers point of sale (POS) functionality, which is simple and complex at the same time. You’ll need to purchase or import a domain name and Sellers must purchase a custom domain name or import one and Shopify offers a limited selection of free themes. And, as you’ll see in the link, Shopify offers a free trial but it has no free plan.
If you’re just getting started in eCommerce, or your primary business is to provide information and you happen to sell products on the side, Squarespace may be a good fit for you and your business.
Forbes Advisor rated Squarespace its top pick overall, based on Squarespace features, including free domain and SSL certificate, no transaction fees, and award-winning templates (Remember that need for beautiful design?) Forbes did note that “unless you have either one of the Commerce plans, there is a 3% transaction fee on sales. These fees are in addition to the standard credit card fees per sale charged on each plan.”
Before you go…
And because any blog post about eCommerce isn’t complete without a mention of search engine optimization (SEO), remember all websites should be search engine optimized. According to HubSpot, optimization enhances your site “in a way that makes it more likely to appear at the top of the search engine results page (SERP) for words, phrases, concepts, and content that you specialize in.”
What you get out of that is more organic traffic, greater brand recognition and awareness, more conversions, and a happier day at the office. Well, maybe not the last one.