Running an online business? Check out the 10 best e-commerce platforms!
As online shopping is taking down traditional retail at a fast pace, businesses across sectors have put great effort into e-commerce so as to delight their customers. But with so many e-commerce platforms available, deciding the best for your company can be a daunting task. Hope to take advantage of the new opportunity? SleekFlow is here to give you an ultimate guide on choosing the best e-commerce platform.
An e-commerce platform not only is a place where businesses sell products and services online but also where they manage their daily operations, from accounting and inventory to marketing and customer service. In other words, it is the combination of the front office and the back office, except that everything happens online.
SaaS platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce deliver e-commerce solutions through the internet, involving software only. Smaller businesses will find it the easiest entry point as the infrastructure is already ready to use. All you need to do is to customize the theme or integrate extensions through apps.
The main difference between SaaS platforms and PaaS platforms is that the latter involves hardware. Like SaaS, it usually charges a monthly fee for usage and provides setup and support, making it another good option for smaller companies. Magento is one of the leaders in the area.
Hosted locally by the companies, on-premise e-commerce solutions are managed by their own IT staff, enabling them to have more control over their site. Established enterprises with more resources may opt for this solution.
If you want to take your business online and reach billions of internet users from all around the world, it is essential for you to build an e-commerce platform. Without one, businesses cannot make the basics work. Accepting orders and payments are all done on e-commerce platforms.
Back-end functions such as customer relationship management (CRM), inventory management, website design, and warehouse fulfillment that an e-commerce platform can do for you will also help you streamline workflows and improve scalability.
Read further: What’s social CRM and why you should invest in one.
Each e-commerce platform has its own selling point but there are some key features that are essential to help businesses operate online.
If you are not going to build an e-commerce platform from scratch on your own, you should choose a provider which offers a web hosting service. There should also be a shopping cart software and a payment gateway for customers to make orders and complete transactions.
To expand your businesses, you need more than what is mentioned above. Abandoned cart recovery is just an example of how an e-commerce platform to help you sell and do targeted marketing better. You may also want to collect information to refine your strategy and make data-driven decisions.
Shopify is one of the leading players in offering e-commerce platform solutions. Businesses can start their 14-day free trial to set up their store. The basic plan costs USD29 per month. You can even integrate your Shopify store with an omnichannel messaging tool like SleekFlow to chat with customers instantly while having order information displayed alongside.
Wix is another popular platform for you to create your professional website to showcase or start your own e-commerce store to accept online payments. You can create a website for free but if you want to connect a custom domain, include online payments, or use Google Analytics to track traffic, you have to sign up for a Premium Plan, price ranging from USD4.5 per month to USD35 per month. Add a Live Chat widget to your website powered by Wix to chat with customers.
BigCommerce offers a free trial for 15 days and then you can choose one of the different plans to sell and grow online. The Standard plan only costs USD29.95 per month. They do not charge additional transaction time and you can enjoy unlimited products, file storage, bandwidth, and staff accounts. Enterprise can have a customized plan to suit your needs.
Squarespace provides SEO features for site visibility, templates to fit every need, and mobile-optimized websites. You can try for free for 14 days and the monthly fee starts from USD12 (Personal plan, pay annually). The Live Chat widget powered by SleekFlow is also available for Squarespace stores.
WooCommerce is your perfect option if you already have a WordPress site. The plugin is free to use but you need to pay the hosting and domain fees. When it comes to store management, communication, SEO, and security, costs vary and are optional. You can choose the add-on services that suit you. App integration is also available, like connecting to SleekFlow via Zapier for automation.
Magento offers 2 solutions, Enterprise one which is hosted on Adobe cloud. Second one is a community edition which is open source and needs a proper Magento hosting server from a third party.
Magento is an Adobe company that offers rich features for e-commerce players. From catalog to payment to fulfillment, the platform allows you to develop a flexible and scalable business. It is a solid choice if you have a developer as coding is an integral part. Add a Live Chat widget on your Magento store to chat with customers in real-time.
Square Online is a product from Square. You can start selling online with no monthly fees, only with a small fee per transaction. Automatic inventory, order sync with Square POS, and Instagram integration are available for free.
The free plan of Sellfy does not charge any transaction fee and sales per year are unlimited. You can sell print-on-demand and physical products with a limited number. Discount codes are also available. The Starter plan starts from USD19 per month.
What makes Ecwid stand out from the crowd is social media advertising. You can easily add and sell products on your Facebook and Instagram feeds and it is free - no monthly price or transaction fees. Venture plan which starts from USD12.5 (pay annually) even allows you to set up a Facebook shop and Instagram store instantly.
Volusion offers a 14-day trial and the Personal plan starts from USD26.10 per month. You can easily create your unique store with responsive themes and a comprehensive site builder. SEO tools, social integrations, and reporting features are also available to take your business further.
AI collects data for personalization
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are nothing new but there are still rooms to fully utilize their potential. AI is continuously collecting the browsing and shopping history of customers and offers useful insights for marketing. With the data, AI can even customize shopping experiences, from making personalized product recommendations to providing detailed customer service. Many customer relationship management tools have been developing such features to assist in cross-selling and up-selling.
AR visualizes purchases
The name change of Facebook to Meta has brought all the spotlights to the future of metaverse, also the critical component of it, augmented reality (AR). The e-commerce industry has already made good use of AR to enhance the reality of online shopping. For example, IKEA launched a mobile app in 2017 to let people virtually “place” furniture in your place and Snapchat’s AR features allow real-fit try-on from fashion brands. Businesses should add AR where appropriate to help customers make buying decisions.
(Screenshot from IKEA’s YouTube video)
Mobile commerce is on the rise
As mobile devices become more available, more people shop online using their smartphones or tablets. In 2017, mobile commerce only made up 58.9% of all retail e-commerce sales while the number in 2021 was forecasted to skyrocket to 72.9%. Mobile commerce is going to define the future of e-commerce. Any business should optimize their site for mobile devices and make the customer journey on mobile smooth and seamless.
Chatbot provides instant support
Compared to a brick-and-mortar store, what an e-commerce store usually lacks is customer support from an actual salesperson. But what if businesses can offer the same level of customer support online? Chatbots are the perfect tools to offer immediate support when a shopper is getting lost in your e-commerce store so as to improve the customer experience. Chatbots can also be connected to Live Chat widgets, WhatsApp, Instagram, Messenger, and more communication channels.
Choosing an e-commerce platform that suits you is the first step in starting the journey but to outshine your rivals, you will need more tools. Here is where SleekFlow can step in and make a huge difference.
When we talk about the future of e-commerce, basically it is all about improving the customer experience. One of the keys is to make sure your customers receive support promptly.
90% of customers rate an "immediate" response as important or very important when they have a customer service question. 60% of customers define "immediate" as 10 minutes or less.
SleekFlow, an omnichannel social commerce platform, allows businesses to communicate with customers across different channels simultaneously.
The response time has become much shorter (after we use SleekFlow). At the same time, we will not miss messages anymore. This elevates customer satisfaction.
Cheuk Ying Wong
Founder, Weirdo Beauty
What SleekFlow can do:
integrate all the messaging channels, including WhatsApp, into one place to provide efficient customer support in real-time;
enable multiple logins to team up with colleagues and boost productivity instantly;
assign conversations automatically to co-workers for immediate assistance;
categorize contacts to launch targeted marketing campaign;
add Live Chat widget plus customer form to generate leads.
Now, SleekFlow has upgraded customer relationship display to reinforce your e-commerce ecosystem. With Shopify integration, you can:
show purchase history and order status alongside the chatroom; and
automate messages upon customers’ actions on Shopify.