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With the rise of ecommerce in recent years, online retailers have more options than ever to work with. New and improved ecommerce platforms are emerging every year, and each platform offers special features so you can build the right ecommerce solution for your business.

Although it's nice to have options, too many variables can make choosing an ecommerce business solution a daunting task. Nevertheless, learning common features and determining the specific ecommerce features you need to evaluate and compare will help you determine which ecommerce platform is best for your company.

Ecommerce Platform Must-Have Features

Building an ecommerce website is an exciting endeavor. It's a huge step forward for your business and can lead to great growth for your company. So how do you determine what features you need? Start by determining which key features are essential.

What features are essential for ecommerce websites?

Some important features are vital for an ecommerce website regardless of whether you're a small business focusing on individual consumers or a large corporation with business-to-business (B2B) customers. Here are a few ecommerce website features your online store must include:

  • Inventory management system: Your ecommerce platform needs to make it easy to track your inventory levels in real time.
  • Customization: Your company is unique, and your ecommerce platform must be flexible enough to accommodate your web design needs.
  • Security: Every ecommerce software package-including a SaaS platform has to provide strong security. This might involve an SSL certificate or payment gateway encryption.
  • Mobile optimization: Many consumers use mobile devices to order products and services online. If your ecommerce platform isn't optimized for mobile use, you could lose potential customers.
  • Support: A company is only as good as its customer service. Before you decide which ecommerce platform to use, make sure it'll support you and your customers with troubleshooting.

Ecommerce has dramatically increased in recent years. You have to keep up with current trends to make sure you don't fall behind your competitors.

Software is constantly evolving, and ecommerce functionality is improving as a result. On the business side, one of the biggest trends is automation. If you have a WordPress site, several popular WordPress plugins can automatically post to your social media channels and block spam. These features make your life easier and enhance your online user experience.

Trends have also emerged on the consumer side of ecommerce. New customers now expect a more user-friendly and personalized shopping experience, including:

  • Search bar
  • Wishlist
  • Product reviews
  • Notifications
  • FAQs
  • Chatbot assistance
  • Clear product descriptions
  • High-quality product images
  • Related product recommendations, special offers, and add-ons
  • Multiple payment methods
  • Shipping options
  • Order tracking

So as you build your ecommerce website, be sure to keep track of the trends that affect you and your customers.

Related Read: The Sustainable Ecommerce Handbook

What can happen to your business if your ecommerce platform does not include essential features?

If your ecommerce platform doesn't include essential features, you could be losing business. For instance, if your platform doesn't help with inventory management, a customer could place an order for an item you don't have in stock. That customer could become frustrated when they find out it's unavailable, and instead buy from your competitor. That means a lost sale, and possibly a lost customer.

Related Read: What Is Order Management?

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Common Buzzwords Used by Ecommerce Platforms and What They Mean

As part of the ecommerce industry, you're already aware a lot of platforms use buzzwords. Although they can sometimes cause confusion, you can stay clearheaded if you're familiar with common buzzwords and know which buzzwords are actually synonyms.

What are the most common buzzwords used by ecommerce platforms?

The ecommerce industry loves buzzwords. However, they can be confusing if you're not familiar with them. Here are some of the most common buzzwords used by ecommerce platforms:

  • API (Application Program Interface): These programs make it easy for customers to make purchases across their apps. For instance, if a customer can log into their account on your ecommerce website using their social media or email credentials, you're encouraging them to use your site just by making it easy to log in.
  • Cart abandonment: Sometimes, customers add a few items to their shopping cart on your store but leave the website before making a purchase decision and finishing the checkout process on your checkout page. This is called an abandoned cart.
  • Headless platforms: A headless ecommerce platform allows back-end website changes without interfering with your client-facing website. They're more flexible than their traditional counterparts and have gained in popularity.
  • Two-factor authentication (2FA): This is a security measure that helps your customers know the payment options you offer, such as credit card or PayPal payment, are safe. It's basically an extra step the customer must go through in order to log into your website.

What are some examples of ecommerce buzzwords that are synonyms?

When you research a new ecommerce platform, you want to compare apples to apples. So it's important to know how various ecommerce software companies refer to their tools and to understand when two differently named tools are actually the same thing. For example:

  • One platform might brand its automation tool as "advanced automation," and its competitor might call it "trigger-based automation." These terms both describe your software's automated reaction to a website visitor's action. An example is your system sending an email as soon as a customer fills out an online form.
  • Some experts refer to the affiliates they partner with to boost their online presence, and others call this influencer marketing.
  • UX stands for "user experience." It's just another term for customer experience.

If you ever come across a buzzword you don't fully understand, be sure to ask the software provider for clarification. If you don't know what ecommerce tools you're being presented with, you won't be able to make an informed decision on the right ecommerce platform for your company's needs.

Related Read: How To Utilise Affiliate Marketing To Boost Sales And Brand Reach

Why is it important to understand ecommerce buzzwords?

Keeping track of industry buzzwords can get confusing. However, these terms help you understand what's happening in the ever-evolving ecommerce industry. Because the online shopping market is so competitive, you need to get the edge on your competitors—and keep it.

How to Evaluate Ecommerce Platform Features

You have options when it comes to ecommerce platform features. You must also make sure each feature enhances the customer experience and your company's operations. Once you determine your essential features, you can begin to evaluate each ecommerce solution.

What do you need to know about your business to determine your essential ecommerce features?

Investing in an ecommerce website is a big decision. In order to choose the right ecommerce platform, you should first answer several key questions about your business:

  • Do you sell direct to consumers or to B2B buyers? An online store open to the public is different than a B2B ecommerce platform due to the type and quantity of products the site sells. It's important to identify your customer group and cater to them.
  • Will your ecommerce store offer custom products, or are your products sold as-is? Make sure your ecommerce website features include any product customization capabilities you need.
  • If your demand increases, do you have the resources to increase your inventory? This will help you determine what kind of inventory management features your ecommerce solution needs.
  • What are your sales and growth goals over the coming years? How will your ecommerce website need to function to achieve those goals?

Once you've answered these questions, you can move on to evaluating the features of different ecommerce platforms.

How do you evaluate the features of different ecommerce platforms?

The best way to evaluate different programs and features is a side-by-side comparison. Some platforms might use buzzwords to describe their tools and features, but it's important to clear away any confusion for a fair comparison.

Start by evaluating the easiest ecommerce platforms that include everything you need to build an online store. Request a free demo of these platforms before you commit to them financially. As you explore each system, evaluate its user interface and usability. Make sure your employees and customers can easily navigate the system.

Once you've got an idea of how the platform works, find out how easy it is to integrate other tools. Examples are your payment gateway or your current inventory management system. Finally, look closely at the program's value. This is an investment, but you have to be confident you'll earn a return on investment (ROI) as quickly as possible.

Who in your business should be involved to ensure you acquire the right mix of ecommerce website features?

Because purchasing an ecommerce solution is such a large decision, you have to involve the right people throughout your company. Here are a few departments you should consult to make sure you get the right mix of features:

  • Production and customer service: These employees are on the front lines, working with your customers and executing orders. Make sure the platform is efficient for them.
  • Accounting: The platform needs to seamlessly integrate with your existing accounting software to ensure you receive accurate payment for each online order.
  • Marketing: You'll launch a marketing campaign advertising your new online store. Your marketing team needs to look at the platform from all angles so they can accurately pitch the new ecommerce features to your customer group via social media, email marketing, newsletters, and more.

Additionally, make sure your C-suite executives are on board with your decision. They oversee the company, so you'll need their support to successfully implement the new ecommerce solution.

Things to consider when choosing your ecommerce platform

Because choosing a new ecommerce platform is a large investment, you should consider all angles before you decide on your new solution.

First, consider which platform will give you the best ROI. Then, look at how each potential platform will work with your resources and what metrics you'll need to track.

How do you determine which ecommerce platform will give you the best return on investment?

ROI is the main factor in every business decision. Identifying the best ecommerce platform for your business is the best way to determine which platform will provide the best ROI.

Open-source platforms allow you to modify the software. This gives you a lot of flexibility—but it does come with a price. By contrast, proprietary software might save on cost, but you're not able to make as many changes as you can with open-source platforms.

What do you need to know about your resources to ensure you choose an easy-to-use ecommerce platform?

Be aware of your resources before choosing an ecommerce platform so you can ensure your team is able to competently use the software. Here are a few resources to consider:

  • Budget: Don't invest in software you can't afford. That won't bring you ROI.
  • Inventory: Make sure your ecommerce solution can accommodate your various products and fluctuating inventory levels.
  • User-friendliness: Employees are your most valuable resources. And although your customers need to have a good experience on your ecommerce site, it's also important that your employees enjoy working with the system.

What kinds of business metrics do you need to choose the best ecommerce platform for your business now and in the future?

A new ecommerce platform has to help your business now and in the future. And to choose the best platform, you have to keep an eye on certain metrics. Your SEO performance, sales conversion rate, and website traffic are important to forecast sales. And there are also intangible metrics like your team's marketing skills to keep your customer group interested in your products.

Choose the Platform That Will Put Your Online Business Ahead of the Competition

As a business owner, choosing the right ecommerce platform is a critical decision. Should you with a brand name like Shopify or WooCommerce or opt for something else?

Now that you know what features to look for in your ecommerce platform to build your ecommerce site, the decision should be easier to make. Take your time when deciding what you need. This can prevent having to worry about replatforming later.

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By Francois Marchand

Francois Marchand is passionate about helping and educating business leaders, ecommerce professionals, and digital marketers grow their skill sets to stay ahead of the competition. Francois holds a BA Specialization in Communication Studies & Journalism from Concordia University (Montreal, QC) and 20+ years of experience in ecommerce, marketing, traditional and digital media, and public relations, including The Vancouver Sun, National Post, CBC/Radio-Canada, Unbounce, and Vancouver Film School.