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Choosing a commerce platform

The Ecommerce Platform Buyer's Guide (2023)

Choosing an ecommerce platform that weighs in the priorities of all key business matters is now more important than ever. How should your business go about selecting the right provider?

Integrating commerce at every step of the journey

There was a time, not long ago, when having an ecommerce platform simply meant being able to process transactions online. But that is not the case anymore.

By 2026, 24% of retail purchases are expected to take place online, so how can one stay ahead of the competition?

Today’s solutions need to offer exactly what the customers expect from your ecommerce business: contextualized user experiences.

Delivering an integrated commerce experience means starting well before the sales transaction, with the acquisition of customers. It continues through and beyond the purchase phase with after-sales service, ongoing engagement, and, ultimately, repeat purchasing.

A complete commerce platform is packed with sophisticated tools and features, including a content management system, inventory management, and customer data tracking, and analysis. It's a must-have on the road to giving your customers relevant digital experiences before, during, and after the moment they open their wallets.

Ecommerce platform key features

Before choosing the right ecommerce platform you must first know all the different capabilities a complete ecommerce platform includes. Let’s get into the details and discover all the essential ecommerce features that an ecommerce platform should offer.

Customization

Every company is unique. Therefore, you need an ecommerce platform that can adapt to fulfill your specific web design requirements and help you build the online storefront themes or templates that suit your business.

User registration and authentication

Allow users to create accounts, login, and manage their personal information. This feature is essential for tracking orders, managing preferences, and providing personalized experiences.

Customer acquisition

What’s the benefit of having an awesome ecommerce site if nobody finds it? Solutions that incorporate or integrate with your digital marketing and advertising ecosystem can help you target and attract potential customers to your site.

Content management

The content management component of your ecommerce platform is crucial, helping ensure that visitors see specific merchandising and product information, as well as guiding them through their purchasing journey.

As one example, a recommendation tool can suggest complementary products based on the behavior of similar buyers — and that’s just the tip of the personalization iceberg. The more sophisticated your content management system becomes, the more personalization capabilities they’ll offer based on what data is already known about the customer.

Shopping cart

If you offer customers a disjointed experience as soon as they put items in their shopping cart, don’t be surprised if they abandon midway through. Enrich the online store experience by offering them a fast, easy, and functional checkout process that allows them to tally their purchases, edit, remove, and add items to their cart, apply promo codes, and select payment options.

And it’s not all about them — this is also the best moment for you to gather specific demographic information on each shopper that you can leverage for future marketing activities.

Customer management

As mentioned earlier, your relationship-building opportunities with your customers don't end when they complete their purchase. Remember that data-gathering aspect we just referred to? This is your chance to leverage all that information and use it to create more personalized interactions in the future. And you can supercharge your commerce business with a headless, API-first commerce platform.

Marketing automation and email marketing

A solid ecommerce platform will include email marketing capabilities. The tool should offer automated process management and reporting to reduce the level of human input needed for repetitive tasks, as well as include opt-in and opt-out features.

It will also enable retailers to easily inform opted-in customers about new offers or information about products or services that might be of interest to them based on their previous experiences with your brand.

More advanced solutions will work with the personalization features of the ecommerce platform to ensure that communications are tailored to specific customer needs and preferences, including purchasing history.

Secure payment processing

Integration with secure payment gateways is crucial to handle online transactions. Offer a variety of payment options, such as credit/debit cards, digital wallets, and PayPal, ensuring that customer payment information is encrypted and protected.

Mobile responsiveness

Optimize your platform for mobile devices to ensure seamless browsing and purchasing experiences for users accessing your site from smartphones or tablets. Responsive design and mobile-specific features are crucial for capturing mobile traffic.

Customer support and communication

Offer channels for customers to contact support, such as live chat, email, or phone. Timely responses and effective customer service are vital to resolve issues, answer questions, and enhance customer satisfaction — just like an in-store experience.

Analytics and reporting

Integrate analytics tools to track key performance metrics, such as sales, conversion rates, customer behavior, and marketing campaigns. This data can inform decision-making, help identify opportunities for improvement, and optimize your ecommerce strategy.

SEO and marketing features

Implement search engine optimization (SEO) features, such as customizable URLs, meta tags, and sitemaps, to improve your platform's visibility in search engine results. Additionally, incorporate marketing features like discounts, coupons, newsletters, and social media integration to promote your products and engage with customers.

Security

Each ecommerce software package, including SaaS platforms, must offer robust security. This includes implementing an SSL certificate or encrypting payment gateways.

Which solution is best for you? Key questions to consider

When it comes to ecommerce platform providers, you have no shortage of options. How can you know which one is going to be the best for reaching your business goals? Is it better to build your own solution using multiple specialist suppliers, or go with a streamlined suite of applications from a single supplier? Your answers to these key questions may help you decide:

  • How important is customer experience management?
  • Is personalization a priority?
  • Does the solution look good on all platforms?
  • Will you deploy in the cloud or on-premises?
  • Is the system secure and regulation-compliant?

Ecommerce trends you should know in 2023

Where are things headed? Let’s discuss the latest ecommerce trends that will see a rise in the near future:

  1. Voice search will take the lead
  2. The mobile commerce will resume growing
  3. Personalized shopping experiences foster repeat buyers
  4. AI will help collect data on customers’ shopping behaviors
  5. Livestream shopping is about to explode
  6. Conversational marketing is rising
  7. Demand is increasing for enhanced, affordable global shipping options
  8. Companies are adopting subscription models to attract loyal customers
  9. Social commerce will revolutionize shopping
  10. Customers demand for more payment options is growing
  11. Chatbots are becoming virtual personal assistants
  12. Headless and API-driven ecommerce allow continued innovation

Equip your brand for the ecommerce journey

When you’re choosing your ecommerce solution, think of how you’ll deliver excellent customer experiences before, during, and after the transaction.

You’ll want to opt for one that offers these key features, along with those discussed in this article:

  • Customer engagement
  • Catalog, inventory, and order management
  • Pricing and promotions management
  • Multi-site and multi-brand functionality
  • Cloud-based offering

Sitecore Commerce Cloud, the ecommerce solution from Sitecore, offers all these capabilities and more. It enables precise personalization in real time, seamlessly integrating content, commerce, and customer insights across every channel.

A powerful platform for digital experiences