The best eCommerce website platform
Anyone who has an idea for an eCommerce business doesn't have long before they come across an important question - "what's the best platform to build my website?"
As eCommerce technology evolves and changes to keep pace with new and exciting opportunities and challenges online, it can be difficult to find the right way to create a shopping cart platform that will survive Google's upcoming merchant quality algorithm updates.
The answer, fortunately, is fairly straightforward, but in order for it to have credibility, we need to first look at what eCommerce entails in order to understand why the answer is correct.
Top eCommerce platforms
There's a complete list of all the leading shopping cart solutions, ranked by their popularity and SEO at What is the most popular eCommerce software (shopping carts)?
Chances are you will end up using one of these eCommerce platforms for your business - since they represent the best hosted shopping cart solutions on the market.
eCommerce is a virtual model of traditional retail
In other words, the website should be able to sell its product or service in the same way a normal, offline business does.
For example, if the product has several attributes that customers must choose from (say t-shirt size, color and style), then the website needs to have the correct functionality in place to facilitate these choices.
By the same token, if the charges for a product or service are recurring then the payment capture facilities have to handle this elegantly and efficiently too. Of course, online stores can also sell digital goods via download which is something traditional businesses tend not to do, and eCommerce stores also need to cater for this possibility.
Attributes of a good eCommerce store
It should be fairly apparent that a good eCommerce site should be flexible and highly configurable in order to cater for the wide variety of products and transactions that modern commerce utilizes.
Even if your intent is to sell tins of cookies and nothing else, you'll be at a serious disadvantage if you decide to expand operations and don't have a site that is flexible enough to update with ease.
Having a flexible and adaptable eCommerce platform is wasted if the website itself is not robust and reliable.
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If your site is down every other day then don't expect customers to remain loyal.
Reliability is not the sole domain of the website itself. The hosting service plays a big role in avoiding downtime. It is critical for eCommerce sites to have a quality hosting service as well as a reliable and well coded web platform.
In addition to being flexible and reliable, an online store needs to be easy to operate. There's no point in selling tonnes of products if the website cannot keep track of them, or doesn't automate shipping and packaging, or allows product that are out of stock to be sold, much to the irritation of customers.
Having a full featured administrative interface to help manage and maintain store operations is an absolute necessity. I hear horror stories of how much unnecessary work people do behind the scenes to maintain their store, simply because they are using poor or outdated eCommerce platforms.
What about design and eCommerce?
I was going to let it go without saying, but I guess many people might be wondering about it. Yes, an eCommerce website also needs to have an attractive and professional interface, which means it should be easy to design with.
Most people intuitively understand the importance of presentation because it can help a website meet the expectation of customers and encourage them to purchase.
One of the most important factors to consider is cost.
Cost comes in three forms that you need to weigh against each other - namely, time, effort, expense. You might find that avoiding expense leads to time wastage or prevents you from concentrating on the business itself because you are putting to much effort into building the platform.
Alternatively, you might waste money by paying for services that could be done with a bit of time and effort on your part.
eCommerce stores with SEO
Finally, the store needs to be SEO enhanced from the ground up.
SEO is pretty important in today's search engine dominated market.
While there is room for you, as the content producer, to boost your SEO, it can be far more beneficial to have powerful automated SEO features embedded into the design of the site.
So what's the best eCommerce platform around?
With all these requirements to consider it is no wonder that confusion reigns supreme online, but here's the answer:
Hosted eCommerce solutions
- Pinnacle Cart: Paid. From $60 and up. Full featured. Flexible. Powerful. Often comes with a free trial.
- BigCommerce: Paid. Flexible. Full-featured. Integrates with 3rd party platforms like eBay, FaceBook. Suitable for entrepreneurs and niche businesses.
- Shopify: Paid. Flexible design. Great features including mobile. Extensible using apps.
- Volusion: Paid. Scalable features. Caters to businesses of different sizes.
- GoDaddy: Paid. Limited products. No Web experience required. Suitable for smaller online stores.
Basic eCommerce solutions (suitable for small or simple business requirements)
- PayPal: Free. Simple. Relatively high transaction expenses.
- Drupal + UberCart: Free. Requires hosting and manual setup - probably a bit of HTML, CSS or PHP experience too. Flexible, full featured and powerful.
- WordPress + eShop: Free. Requires some setup. Modest feature set.
- osCommerce: Free. Poorly coded. Not recommended - although many legacy eCommerce stores still use it.
Advanced eCommerce solutions (suitable for specialized requirements or larger businesses)
- Pinnacle Cart licensed eCommerce solution: Paid. Once off fee of around $800. Full featured. Additional support plans available.
- Pinnacle Cart enterprise VPS eCommerce solution: Paid. From around $250 per month. Complete eCommerce solution. Suitable for larger businesses.
- Magento: Free & Paid options. Well established. Flexible. Powerful.
Learn more about how to promote your eCommerce store
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