4 Critical Steps in Choosing an e-commerce Platform for your Business

How to choose the right e-commerce platform

Choosing an e-commerce platform that fits the needs of your specific organization can be a daunting task. Between the increasing expectations of your customer base, the number of ecommerce solutions available to explore, and the ever-evolving capabilities of technology, it’s no wonder you struggle to determine the best ecommerce solution for your company.

1.) Take Your Time

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Before you delve into selecting an e-commerce platform, let this be the first decision you make: Take your time. An e-commerce platform is not an impulsive purchase. This process will be labor intensive, it will be costly, and it will demand a substantial amount of time, however the potential rewards are boundless. Going into this project with these understanding will alleviate a good amount of stress during this process.

2.) Do Your Research

Use this time to thoroughly understand your organization, the industry that houses your organization, and the customers your organization serves. What expectations and standards does your organization need to exceed in order to successfully implement its e-commerce offering? Consider the following questions to better understand your specific e-commerce needs:

Industry

How does your industry currently view and use available technology? Is success within your industry determined by how technically inclined and active your organization is? Or can a company thrive utilizing more elementary technological resource? What definitive distinctions are going to make your e-commerce site superior to your competitors’ sites?

Customer

What expectations and standards do your customers have of you and your industry? What portion of your industry’s customer base do you serve? What customers make up 80% of your revenue? What industries do these top customers work within? What is the demographic these customers? What are some of their pain points when working with your organization? How can an e-commerce site alleviate or eliminate those pain points? Is your customer base comfortable purchasing merchandise or services online? If not, what actions can your organization take to ease some of those concerns?

Your Organization

No one knows your organization better than you do: Now it’s time to document that knowledge. What products or services make up the top 80% of your organization’s revenue? How is your organization’s inventory managed? What shipping options does your organization offer its customers? Does your organization have an existing relationship with shipping carriers? What customer-facing policies does your organization have in place? How do you manage your customer records? What security measures do you want in place to protect you against fraud? What internal resources does your organization possess that you plan to utilize for this project? What is your organization’s attitude towards change? Are there any additional large projects on the horizon for your organization?

All of these questions and this is but the tip of the iceberg. It can be exhaustive to analyze to this level of detail, but it is not an investment that your organization will regret. By gaining a deeper understanding of your organization, the customers it serves, and the industry it works within, you are now qualified to document your organization’s specific requirements for an e-commerce solution. Be aware of your organization’s “must have’s” versus your “nice to have’s”. The more detailed your requirements, the better.

3.) Consult A Professional

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Now it’s time to connect with a professional. Research consultants that have e-commerce experience within your specific industry. Identify some of their specific customers, review those customers’ sites and reach out to those merchants to gauge their satisfaction levels with these consultants.

Once your organization has selected a consultant, they’ll depend on you to be thorough on the workings of your organization and the specific requirements for your e-commerce site. Be open to them refining your requirements based on their experience and knowledge. The combination of this information in addition to their knowledge of current available e-commerce solutions will allow them to recommend a handful of solutions that they feel would be a good fit for your organization.

4.) Select the Right Solution for You

Now it’s time to take your short list of possible e-commerce solutions and reach out to those vendors with a request for proposal (RFP). Share your detailed list of requirements and answer any questions they may have as thoroughly as possible. Be sure to ask about available resources and customer support for their specific e-commerce platform.

Upon reviewing the RFP’s you receive, be sure to have any and all of your questions answered. If you want any of their services more clearly defined, share that expectation with them. Share any concerns you may have about the contents of the RFP. You hold the most power during these portions of the negotiations: Use that to your advantage.

Just as you wouldn’t purchase a vehicle without test driving it, you don’t want to purchase an e-commerce platform without conducting a demo. Take your time getting to know the ins and outs of this resource. Does it meet the business needs of your organization? Is it intuitive for your customers’ use?

Hopefully, at this point in time, a clear choice has made itself top of mind: Time to move forward with implementing the selected platform, and what an undertaking that will be. However, if a clear solution doesn’t emerge, don’t be afraid to connect with your consultant again for additional recommendations. There are countless solutions available and you will find a solution that fits the needs of your organization. Remember, this process is labor intensive, it is costly, and it will demand a substantial amount of time. Start off the process transitioning your organization to an e-commerce platform on the right foot by selecting the correct solution for your organization’s needs.

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