What is an eCommerce Platform? 9 Questions & 9 Answers

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Your Burning eCommerce Questions Answered Plus Expert Tips and Vital Facts You Need to Know.

Shopify Ecommerce

Here’s the answer in a nutshell.

An eCommerce platform is an online tool or software that enables buying and selling or other commercial processes over the internet.

This type of platform requires a search engine that enables customers to find a particular product or service, a cart feature that allows them to manage their order, and a checkout or payment system.

You can opt to use an eCommerce website hosted by a third-party provider like Shopify, WooCommerce, Joomla, Wix, or others. This hosting is delivered through the cloud, or you can have your platform hosted on their website.

If you are choosing a platform, avoid the following common mistakes that companies make.

  • Not deciding on their goals in advance.
  • Not choosing the best platform that matches their business needs.
  • Not looking closely at security agreements.

Soon in the future, innovative devices including IoT or the Internet of Things, voice, and VR or virtual reality will change eCommerce as we now know it.

Now, let’s dive into the details!

Nine eCommerce Questions – Answered

  1. What is an eCommerce platform?
  2. What are the different types of eCommerce platforms?
    • Seven of the Most Popular eCommerce Solutions
  3. How do you choose an eCommerce platform?
    • Criteria to Consider When Picking an eCommerce Platform
  4. What capabilities does an eCommerce platform need?
    • Platform Features That Will Benefit Your eCommerce Website
  5. How do you set up an eCommerce platform?
    • Other Vital Digital Marketing Efforts
  6. Large vs. small companies – what are eCommerce platform requirements?
  7. What mistakes do business owners make when it comes to eCommerce platforms?
  8. How have eCommerce platforms progressed over time?
  9. How will eCommerce platforms evolve in the future?

Question No. 1 | What is an eCommerce platform?

To answer this question in its entirety, we have to first define eCommerce and the various forms that it takes.

eCommerce is the activity of purchasing and selling products or services over the internet.

It is essentially buying, selling or trading online.

Ecommerce Platform

Here are the different types of eCommerce.

  • B2B or business-to-business deals with a business selling to another business, usually services.
  • B2C or business-to-consumer is the basic model of a company selling something to a consumer
  • C2C or consumer-to-consumer is when a consumer sells to another, usually by means of a third-party platform like eBay.
  • C2B or consumer-to-business is when, for example, a consumer, usually an influencer, sells media exposure or PR to a business in return for a fee.

Now that we have a clear picture of eCommerce, we can quickly grasp the definition of an eCommerce platform.

An eCommerce platform is a software, tool, or application where both parties involved can initiate and complete a transaction.

To illustrate this, consider the B of a B2C as a pizza seller, and the C is you. If B sells the pizza in a food court and you go there to buy the pizza, then the food court is the platform – essentially regular, traditional, and physical commerce.

Take note that the platform is not for free. B pays rental for space, and you and other buyers contribute to B’s ability to pay for that fee.

For eCommerce, the platform would be a website like Shopify, eBay, Facebook, Instagram, OnlyFans, YouTube, Netflix, and others.

Shoping List

Taking eBay, for example, it is a C2C scenario where when a particular buyer, C2, completes purchasing from seller C1 where eBay takes 9% of the selling price as a commission.

So an eCommerce platform is where you do your business, most of the time, for a fee of some form.

For example, when it comes to Netflix, the platform usually buys shows at the rate of the production cost plus around 30% while retaining most of the future licensing rights. For movies, Netflix pays the studio a licensing fee to stream a particular movie for a specific duration.

Netflix

Nevertheless, the producer of a show will be able to, in a way, use Netflix as a means, i.e., platform, for getting views and earnings.

Sellers, mostly, pay for using the platform as an opportunity to sell. On the other side of the coin, a consumer will use an eCommerce platform to discover services and products, subscribe for a service or shop for products using a cart, and then check out or pay.

Question No. 2 | What are the different types of eCommerce platforms?

There are three main types of eCommerce platforms, and they are the following.

  • SaaS or software-as-a-service platforms where software is available via a third party.
  • PaaS or platform-as-a-service platforms are hardware and software tools.
  • On-premises platforms are software you have to install in the same building as your enterprise.

SaaS and PaaS deliver eCommerce solutions via the internet. However, on-premise eCommerce solutions are hosted locally.

The retailer hosts the on-premise platform, and their IT staff does the management.

For small to medium companies or young eCommerce businesses, SaaS and PaaS options are the best because of their professional setup and support. However, the solutions usually require monthly fees for site usage in addition to transaction fees.

On the other hand, an on-premise platform grants an eCommerce company more control over its website. With on-premise support, you can create a custom storefront solution for your eCommerce business.

Ecommerce Solution

Here are 7 of the most popular eCommerce solutions.

Platforms like WooCommerce (a free WordPress plugin), Squarespace, and Shopify are better for small businesses that require easy solutions to get them up and running.

On the other hand, Magento and BigCommerce are more inclined toward larger businesses that deal with high order volumes.

Squarespace or Wix, which are simple-to-use website builders, which offer drag-and-drop templates that make things easy for retailers who do not have ample coding experience.

If you are looking to make the best out of your eCommerce platform, there are services that can increase your traffic.

Question No. 3 | How do you choose an eCommerce platform?

When choosing an eCommerce platform, you will have to complete an exhaustive searching process.

Question 3

You must have a good look at what you can do with a particular platform and how its features will meet your needs.

You will also have to consider your Gross Merchandise Volume or GMV. Merchants with a high GMV usually require more custom configurations, and for those with a low GMV, the opposite.

If you are a high GMV company, you have to find a suitable platform that enables substantial customizing.

If you are a low GMV merchant, you most likely will need standard services at relatively lower costs.

Here are some other criteria to consider when picking an eCommerce platform.

  • Search features
  • Payment options
  • Security levels

Remember that no single platform can enable you to do everything you need to do for your customers. Every platform has a gap.

Hence, you have to consider the details of your requirements.

An option for you to ensure fewer gaps is choosing a platform that is extensive as well as customizable using add-ons and plugins. When you do this, you can integrate other features that your platform cannot give you.

Question No. 4 | What capabilities does an eCommerce platform need?

  • Search – One feature that an eCommerce platform needs is the ability to search the store. An in-platform search engine will help customers find products quickly.
  • Shopping Cart – Your eCommerce site should have a shopping cart where a shopper can store and view intended purchases before proceeding to the checkout process.
  • Checkout – An eCommerce platform’s purpose is to facilitate purchasing. Hence, it needs to feature a payment gateway where shoppers can pay for the products they are buying.

You can weave these primary features together in any way you want. These capabilities essentially complete an eCommerce website.

Here are additional platform features that will benefit your eCommerce site.

  • Database – You use this to store transaction details.
  • Inventory management – You use this to track available products.
  • Customer support – You use this to provide customer service.
  • Security – You use this to gain shoppers’ trust in giving you payment details.

Not all platforms will have all these features. Hence, you have to consider which of these features you need and find the solution that has them.

Question No. 5 | How do you set up an eCommerce platform?

G Pay

Here’s the basic gist of using an eCommerce platform with a little bit of CRO.

  1. Select your eCommerce platform.
  2. Prepare and categorize your products for the shopping menu.
  3. Pick or create a visual design and elements.
  4. Create copy.
  5. Plan your navigation.
  6. Test your copy, designs, and processes.
  7. Build your pages with the best results from A/B testing.
  8. Create a simplified checkout process.
  9. Include as many payment methods as possible.
  10. Prepare for contingencies.
    1. Exit popups
    2. Promo baiting
    3. Fun 404 page
  1. Go public and convert!

Now, these are merely basic steps and with a few tips for conversion rate optimization, i.e., making your eCommerce site more engaging, pleasing, attractive, and convincing for your audiences. The end result of CRO is more conversions.

Here’s an article about why CRO is important.

And here’s PART 1 of a 2-PART complete guide to starting an eCommerce business or online store.

Going back, there is more to eCommerce sites than maximizing your platform.

Let’s say you entirely use the features of your platform and create an excellent website. If you do not implement ads, email marketing campaigns, and SEO or search engine optimization, you will have a limited number of visitors and, of course, buyers.

You have to supplement your eCommerce platform’s capabilities with the rest of digital marketing’s roster.

You will need the following additional efforts and more to enjoy the benefits of your eCommerce site fully.

  • CRO or Conversion Rate Optimization – You have to make sure that all elements of your website will appeal to your audience and bring them to purchase.
  • SEO or Search Engine Optimization – You have to make sure that your content will appear on top of search results when people search for a keyword related to your brand and products.
  • Email Marketing – You have to engage your audience in emails to funnel them towards using, reusing, or returning to your eCommerce site.
  • Ads – You have to play smart for targeted ads on platforms where your niche or target audience thrives.
  • PR or Public Relations – You have to find opportunities to appear in mainstream or authority media so that people will trust your website and brand more.

Now, here’s a hindrance that you are probably facing – this is just too much.

Like many business owners, you could be someone who has more expertise about your product than when it comes to digital marketing and technical eCommerce work.

Hence, the best way for you to maximize your platform and implement excellent digital marketing processes is to work smart by outsourcing a team of experts.

Question No. 6 | Large vs. small companies – what are eCommerce platform requirements?

For large companies, they need a high level of customization to cater to the necessity of maintaining a brand perception. Also, they require a more enormous impact when it comes to profit and key performance indicators or KPIs.

Sale Graph

Large businesses mostly look at how an eCommerce platform will drive purchases of certain products. They will look at how a platform can reduce cart abandonment and improve website security.

On the other hand, a small business will focus more on the customer journey. Small business owners tend to not think about substantial revenue targets because their goal is more on getting up and running.

Question No. 7 | What mistakes do business owners make when it comes to eCommerce platforms?

  • Choosing the wrong platform.
  • Not implementing search engine optimization or completing sub-par SEO.
  • Poor product cataloging.
  • Insufficient research and choosing a platform for low costs.
  • Not enough customization to meet exact business needs.
  • Over-customization that complicates the process.
  • Lack of design quality.
  • Lack of relevant security.

To avoid these mistakes, it would be best if you partner with a specialist who can lead you on the right path. 

Specialist Partner

Question No. 8 | How have eCommerce platforms progressed over time?

In the 70s and 80s, the mail order or telephone order options for purchasing were all the rave. You usually would have had a catalogue or printed menu in hand, called or mailed a store about your order, and picked up or waited for delivery.

You can pay by sending a cheque (mail and cheque upon retrieval of product), telling the agent your payment details (credit or debit card), or via COD or cash-on-hand.

When the internet started its fast growth in the 90s-2000s, the system of the past was integrated into online models. Back then, you could already use your desktop to look at a menu on a website, add-to-cart your selections, and checkout using card details (or selecting other options like COD, and today, digital wallets), then, receive your item via pick-up or delivery.

In the earlier days of the internet, you would only use the website as a catalogue or digital menu. You still had to make calls to transact.

In the mid-2000s, laptops became prominent and online shopping was a small but fast-growing market.

Then, mobile turned everything up 100x a notch.

Aiie Express

Today, you can be reading this from bed and deciding to contact an eCommerce expert to help you with your platform.

Question No. 9 | How will eCommerce platforms evolve in the future?

Every eCommerce platform has limits. Some have the inability to host customizations and integrate new tech. Some are not cost-effective, and some have a sub-par level of security.

In the future, there will be developments that will address many of these limitations. 

There will also be enhanced support for B2B engagements and upgraded mobile eCommerce systems, which we are starting to see now.

The major upgrades that we would likely see for eCommerce platforms will come from the implementation and integration of breakthrough technologies.

Integration

For example, when an IoT or Internet-of-Things function is integrated with your car, you could be able to make a purchase using your dashboard while you (or an AI) are driving.

This example has been experimented with, tried, and tested for decades. And scientists have seen a positive performance for the potential game-changer.

The next step of eCommerce will most probably be upgrading into an IoT-driven system that is enhanced with voice and virtual or augmented reality.

Upgrade Your eCommerce Game

It is not enough that you play by the book when it comes to utilizing your eCommerce platform of choice.

You always have to keep yourself updated at least three steps ahead of the competition.

Always research and immerse yourself with the latest technologies because they will significantly affect the eCommerce landscape you are treading in more ways than you think – and change comes real fast.

The best thing you can do is collaborate with frontier digital marketing experts so that you have a solid grasp of today’s trends and what is yet to come.

Work smart and get converting.

FAQs

What is the best eCommerce platform?

The best eCommerce platform is whatever suits your needs.

If you are doing retail, Shopify, Wix, or similar platforms can work for you. But if you are simply selling your personal items, you can go for something like eBay.

There is no one-size-fits-all eCommerce platform. So if you want to know which is best for your business, you can ask for a consultation with KAMG.

Should I do CRO on my eCommerce platform website?

Yes. Doing CRO on your eCommerce website will reduce bounce rates and cart abandonment. 

As a result, most of the people who will use your website will proceed to shopping.

What do I need to do to increase my eCommerce sales?

You need to do conversion optimization so that your web users will buy your products.

You also need to do SEO or search engine optimization to bring relevant people from search to your website.

You also need to utilize email marketing to engage all user levels so that you can funnel them to conversion and journey.

And you also need to do Ads, PR, Social Media Marketing, and more.

The best way you can make sure that these digital marketing strategies are done for you is to hire an expert team like KAMG.

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