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How to source the appropriate ecommerce platform for 2019

By Mark Fitzsimmons | Managing director

January 29, 2019 | 5 min read

The choice of ecommerce platform is a critical one for any retailer. It’s a decision that will determine if they will meet their business objectives and have the ability to scale.

The issue most retailers face is that there’s a plethora of ecommerce platforms available, with new ones coming into the marketplace all the time.

While at a glance they may look similar, all are unique, which makes the search for the appropriate ecommerce platform that meets your needs very important. Particularly because purchasing a platform is a significant investment that requires much additional time, and often spend, post acquisition to tailor it to your requirements.

Whatever your reasons for sourcing a new platform provider – maybe your existing supplier can’t support your growth, or the platform licence is due for renewal – there are six important questions to ask:

Does the platform help to deliver a standout mobile experience?

Today, all websites should be built on a mobile-first basis. 52% of web searches are taking place on mobile phones worldwide, and Google is prioritising websites that are built for mobile in search results. Therefore, any ecommerce platform must deliver excellent functionality for mobile websites and have a proven track record in delivering standout ecommerce experiences on mobile.

Can it personalise the website to the customer?

Customers expect to receive highly-personalised communications from the brands they shop with. Therefore, select a platform that can help present relevant web content and products to customers to increase customer engagement and conversion. Platforms can track users and help brands build up a strong level of business intelligence around them, thereby making sure that content is personalised to the individual.

Does it accept digital wallet for quick payments?

Customer experience is king, so any platform must be able to ensure that users can checkout quickly and smoothly. Accepting digital wallet via the likes of Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal’s Smart Payment Buttons helps to significantly speed up the checkout process.

Does it offer multi-lingual store fronts with a single admin content management system (CMS)?

It’s vital that the ecommerce platform can scale up with you as you grow. To this end, if you are looking to expand into various international markets it makes sense to have the ability to create different websites that can all be controlled via one CMS to speed up and simplify the management of the various store fronts and websites in all markets.

Licenced or Open Source? Tier One or Tier Two?

These are some of the biggest questions retailers need answering. With a licenced tier one platform, you will receive a higher level of support and a maintained code base, usually sold as a packaged solution with the appropriate support. Tier two platforms have a lower cost of entry and whilst they offer a good amount of functionality, out of the box retailers can quickly outgrow the platform.

On the other hand, open source is a free application, usually supported by a community to find bugs and suggest improvements. It’s a good option for flexibility and those looking to deliver a very high level of customisation for their ecommerce offering. Because of this, the open source approach is becoming increasingly popular. However, for those who take this approach, it’s strongly recommended that they invest in an ecommerce agency with the technical skills to effectively build and maintain their website.

Does the platform integrate with third party solutions?

Ensure the platform allows for a range of direct and development-based integration options. With today’s retailer ecommerce requirements beyond the basic front-end shopping experience, it’s important to have a flexible platform capable of integrating with third party solutions.

By integrating complex and resource intensive services off your platform, you often benefit from reduced server load, hosting costs, development and maintenance cost of those features.

One of the biggest culprits in bloating out applications are plugins, with features such as channel integration, eMarketing, product information management (PIM), point of sale (POS), CMS, reporting, and lots more. With too many plugins a website can become difficult and costly to maintain, and even slow the site down, reducing its core primary function as an online sales channel.

To overcome these issues plan your ecommerce solution carefully, and expect to use third party systems and multiple servers to share the load. Also, be very focused on limiting the number of plugins and investigate their quality, security and reliability prior to bringing them onto your ecommerce platform.

Source an impartial expert who can help source the appropriate platform

Because no one size fits all, it’s important to source advice from an impartial ecommerce agency that has its finger on the pulse of the ecommerce platform market, as to which one will best suit your needs and objectives. Ideally, it’s one that can also help migrate your data to the new platform, build the website, host and manage it.

Mark Fitzsimmons is a managing director at Xigen.

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