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Make or Break Your Brand: How to Select the Best E-Commerce Platform

Choosing the software you'll use to support your brand is one of the most important decisions you'll make for your online business. The right e-commerce platform can set your company up for success for many years to come.

Selecting the best merchant software is no easy task. There are plenty of options available, each with its own unique capabilities, features and benefits. So how can you choose the optimal fit for your business both now and well into the future?

There are a few questions to answer along the way:

1) Does it have the capabilities your business needs?
Examine the features and tools included with each software. Depending upon the type of online business you are running, you may have unique functionality needs. Make a list of the capabilities you will need and compare this to each platform's features.

"Not only do you need features to help you drive conversion – stuff like suggested products, behavioral discounts and more – you need ease of use from a back-end management perspective," SparkPay pointed out.

Many merchants will offer trial periods so you have the opportunity to ensure that the platform has the tools your brand needs. Such a test drive can be the best way to pick a product.

2) Does it offer a beneficial end-user experience?
It's also critical to examine the solution from the point of view of the end user. Not only does the platform need to have specific tools for the business owner, but it must address the needs and pain points of the end user as well. An enjoyable end-user experience can not only help attract and retain customers, but it can also set your brand apart in the marketplace.

"If your store requires [customers] to jump through hoops to complete their purchase. odds are they'll head for the hills without spending a penny," SparkPay noted. "Your customers are the ones who'll use your shop, so make sure their experience is paramount."

An enjoyable end user experience can help set your brand apart in the marketplace.
An enjoyable end user experience can help set your brand apart in the marketplace.

3) What are the top platforms being used today?
It can also be helpful to see which platforms have the most users. For example, according to Datanyze, Magento has the most users among the Alexa top 1 million websites, with a 26 percent market share. WooCommerce, PrestaShop and Shopify are also leading solutions, each powering more than 2,000 of today's top sites.

4) What security protections does the platform offer?
In the current environment, security is more important than ever. With threats ever increasing, it is paramount to ensure that your customers' sensitive information will be continually protected. Therefore, it is essential to examine the protections that come along with the e-commerce platform.

SparkPay advised ensuring that security measures align with PCI guidelines for full industry compliance. This standard requires that brands have specific safeguards in place. Any breach can severely damage a brand's reputation. It is critical to have the right security in place.

5) Can the platform integrate with other solutions?
Administrators often focus on the initial rollout of the solution without examining how the platform might connect with their other systems. Practical Ecommerce contributor Armando Roggio pointed out that today's companies will need to unify their solutions to ensure they have the full breadth of capabilities they need. For example, the brand may want to integrate an email marketing solution within their website to better connect with its customers.

"Look for app stores, extensions and integrations for the e-commerce platforms you're considering," Roggio recommended.

6) What will it cost?
It's also important to factor cost into your considerations. This includes not only the price of the initial deployment, but the costs incurred throughout the company's lifecycle.

Roggio pointed out that there are free platforms available, as well as those that come with high price tags. Often, the price of the platform is equivalent with its capabilities – a more expensive solution will likely have more to offer. However, you must select the one that suits your needs as well as your budget.

"Half of today's users expect a page to load in two seconds or less."

7) How will the platform be hosted?
You must also decide what hosting environment is right for your brand. Roggio pointed out that a hosted solution – where the vendor takes care of the maintenance and upkeep of the platform – can be particularly beneficial for organizations that have limited technical resources.

In addition, having the proper support can also make a big difference when it comes to scalability and speed. Merchants often have to expand their hosting environment as their business grows or to account for seasonal spikes in traffic. A robust hosting provider can provide this flexibility.

With the proper computing resources in place, pages load faster. KISSmetrics noted that a speedy website can support increased conversions. Half of today's users expect a page to load in two seconds or less, and they will likely abandon the site in favor of a competitor if content doesn't load in under three seconds. The majority of shoppers – 79 percent – won't return to a site if they've had performance problems with it in the past.

For these reasons and more, it is essential to not only select a top e-commerce platform, but to also choose a hosting partner that can provide the support your brand needs. The best hosting vendors can provide the flexibility, scalability and customer support to ensure the success of your company throughout its lifecycle.

For more information on Magento and e-commerce hosting, contact Hostway today.