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Best eCommerce Platforms You Should Consider Using in 2022

17 Mins read

An e-commerce platform is a comprehensive software that allows companies to manage all operations related to online sales of products or services. E-commerce platforms create a centralized, digital hub for product and customer data, allowing e-commerce businesses to manage product information, personalize store content and layout, and process online transactions and payments.

While most e-commerce platforms are designed for B2C sales, some vendors provide versions for B2B. Traditional e-commerce platforms focus on managing sales of physical products, but more and more solutions are providing features for digital products that are sold as a subscription model. This type of software can be used by all employees of an online commerce company but is most beneficial for sales, product management, and marketing.

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1 Listing in eCommerce Platforms Available.

1. Shopify

SellerShopify
HQ LocationOttawa, ON
Company WebsiteShopify
LinkedIn Page16,651 employees on LinkedIn®
Deals on SaaSDekhoShopify Deals Page
Year Founded2006

Shopify is the leading cloud-based, multichannel commerce platform designed for small and medium-sized businesses. Merchants can use the software to design, set up, and manage their stores across multiple sales channels, including web, mobile, social media, marketplaces, brick-and-mortar locations, and pop-up shops. The platform also provides merchants with a powerful back-office and a single view of their business.

The Shopify platform was engineered for reliability and scale, using enterprise-level technology made available to businesses of all sizes. Shopify currently powers over 800,000 businesses in approximately 150 countries and is trusted by brands such as Tesla Motors, Budweiser, Red Bull, LA Lakers, the New York Stock Exchange, GoldieBlox, and many more.

Choose Your eCommerce Platforms:

Choosing eCommerce Platforms can be a daunting task but it doesn’t have to be. The best thing to do is make a list of your must-haves and compare the possible tools on SaaSDekho to select the right software for your team.

Or, Schedule a Call with our SaaS Consultant and they’ll guide you in your SaaS Discovery and Buying Journey. 

Spotlight Categories in Commerce Software:

Payment GatewaysPoint of Sale (POS) | Product Reviews | Subscription Management


What are eCommerce Platforms?

E-commerce platforms are end-to-end solutions that cover most aspects of an online business. While there are hundreds (maybe thousands) of products that provide features for online sales, not all of them are e-commerce platforms. The basic e-commerce tools are usually known as shopping cart software and their functions are limited to creating the online store, adding products, and embedding the shopping cart on a website.

What Types of eCommerce Platforms Exist?

B2C eCommerce platforms

Business-to-consumer (B2C) e-commerce platform is the most common and focuses exclusively on selling to consumers. B2C e-commerce is open to anyone who wants to purchase online. There may be geographical limitations regarding shipping or currencies, but theoretically, any consumer with a valid credit card can use this type of software to buy online.

B2B eCommerce platforms

Business-to-business (B2B) e-commerce platform allows companies to sell online to other companies. 

B2C vs. B2B e-commerce platforms

There are a few essential differences between B2C and B2B e-commerce:

  • Invoicing is used for B2B while for B2C, consumers only need receipts or payment confirmation
  • Account-specific pricing ensures business customers can benefit from special pricing when purchasing online
  • Catalogs can be customized for corporate customers
  • Product configuration and quotes are used for custom products or to personalize standard items for each corporate customer
  • Multistore management allows businesses to consolidate purchases from various physical and online stores
  • Integration with contract management, finance, ERP, or retail management systems is essential for B2B

Besides physical products, companies can also use online stores to sell services and software. While traditional e-commerce software can, in theory, be used to sell both products and services, it is preferable to use a platform dedicated to services. These service-based platforms provide features such as:

  • Subscription plans to define what service or software is being offered on a regular basis
  • Subscription billing to invoicing and track payments for the products and services delivered using a subscription model
  • Subscription analytics to monitor the efficiency of plans, packages, or promotions

What are the Common Features of eCommerce Platforms?

E-commerce platforms feature for merchandising and marketing

E-commerce personalization: Personalization features help companies customize their online content and messaging to better target users and influence their purchasing behavior. It can be used to provide recommendations and to deliver messages at critical stages of the buying process. For instance, when users try to close a webpage, they will get a popup window that is meant to convince them to stay on the page.

E-merchandising: This combines product marketing and merchandising to provide potential buyers with information and purchase flows that make it easier for them to buy online. E-merchandising can also improve the buyer experience, which translates into consumer loyalty.

A product catalog (or catalog management): This feature helps display products by category in a way that’s easier to navigate than scrolling or searching through lists of hundreds or thousands of products. Most basic e-commerce tools do not provide this type of functionality because it is not critical for small companies. Medium and large businesses that sell a high number of products and services can significantly benefit from using catalog management software by creating custom catalogs for various consumer segments and sometimes even for individual B2B customers.

E-commerce platform features for order processing

Shopping cart: The most basic feature but also the most critical, shopping carts are the interface between the company and its customers. The first thing that customers will use to buy online is a shopping cart, and they usually do not care how it works and what’s needed to keep it safe. The essential characteristic of shopping cart software is its ease of use. Buyers want the ability to perform transactions fast, so the user interface of a shopping cart needs to be extremely easy to use.

Product management: Product management is essential for companies using e-commerce platforms since they usually sell many types of products. A complex offering of products and services means that a lot of product data needs to be managed and maintained to ensure that the online store accurately represents what the company sells. Product information is also important to track sales and revenues by product, a mix of items, packages, or product types.

Check out: This functionality is critical to finalize the online transaction and placing an order. If consumers and customers are having a hard time during checkout, they may abandon the purchase and not try again.

Online payments: This feature ensures that the buyer pays for the products and services purchased and the company receives the payment. The accuracy of payments is vital to avoid adjustments and payment gateways should provide sales tax functionality for multiple countries and regions.

Additional features of e-commerce platforms

The following features are not usually included in a typical e-commerce platform but can be very beneficial to companies that need advanced functionality:

  • Standard themes and online store personalization allow companies to customize their online sales portals
  • Payment gateway or out-of-the-box integrations with payment providers eliminate the need for companies to need to work with third-party providers for payments
  • Fraud protection may include SSL certificates and other security measures to protect the company and its customers
  • Multichannel sales allow companies to sell on other channels than their websites, such as social media or email
  • Global, multicountry, multilanguage, and multicurrency features are critical for companies that sell products in different countries
  • Product information management (PIM) allows companies to manage and keep all the details about their products up to date, such as description, price, and characteristics (size, color, weight)
  • Marketing functionality such as A/B testing and SEO help companies promote their online stores so that consumers can find their products or services
  • Web content management helps companies convince potential consumers to buy their products and services
  • Shipping is an essential feature for online sales and e-commerce platforms allow users to choose how and when the products will be shipped
  • Customer service is critical for aftersales to address issues, avoid returns, and keep customers happy

Many e-commerce platforms will also offer the following features:

  • Product search and filtering capabilities
  • Reporting/analytics capabilities
  • Omnichannel capabilities
  • Storefront design capabilities
  • Product visualization capabilities
  • Order management capabilities
  • Multi-site management capabilities
  • Test-to-product migration capabilities
  • Shopping cart abandonment capabilities
  • Product review capabilities

Platform functionality refers to the technical characteristics of the software. 

  • E-commerce platforms need to integrate with other software such as inventory management or shipping, which can be done using APIs. APIs can be customized by users to integrate with most cloud solutions, making it easier to transfer product data or sales information between solutions. 
  • The customization and personalization of the software make it easier to use and increase adoption. Configuring screens and dashboards eliminates unnecessary clutter and helps users quickly access information. 
  • Access rights and user roles define who does what in the system and which features employees can use to do their jobs effectively. It is also important to manage access for external users, such as suppliers or drop shipping partners, who should only use particular modules of the e-commerce platform.
  • Security features protect against unauthorized access to private data such as the consumers’ personal details or credit card information. User access should also be limited to business data. For example, a user in charge of shipping should have access to orders and inventory but should not access payment information.

Overview of the most common features of e-commerce platforms 

What are the Benefits of eCommerce Platforms?

The main objectives that e-commerce platforms can help companies achieve are to:

Manage online stores: Online stores and all related data such as product details and availability, pricing and discounts, customer addresses, and payment information.

Attract buyers: Attract buyers and convince them to purchase the products and services sold by the company.

Address post-purchase issues: Including returns, shipping or payment errors, and discrepancies between what consumers expected and what they received

Track online sales: Track sales by volume and value, as well as missed opportunities such as abandoned carts

Compliance: Comply with regulations for data security and avoid data breaches and cyberattacks or online fraud

Another significant benefit of using e-commerce software is that it generates a lot of data that is used by other systems such as CRM software, accounting software, ERP systems, and supply chain and logistics suites. For instance, detailed information on sales and returns can be used to determine the profitability of the company, how to improve inventory levels, or which customers are the most profitable and which ones are not generating significant revenue.

Using all this information, companies can adjust their strategy to adapt to changing customer preferences and focus on markets and segments that are more likely to generate important revenues and sustainable profits.

Traditionally, businesses sell products and services to two separate categories of customers: businesses and consumers. These two types of customers can be covered by companies that sell to both, usually known as business-to-many (B2M).

A recent approach to attract more customers involves partnerships between businesses to expand their market presence, or business-to-business-to-consumer (B2B2C). By using this approach, companies can promote each other and cross-sell products and services to reach new market segments.

eCommerce Platforms

Who Uses E-commerce Platforms?

In theory, any company that sells online can use e-commerce platforms. In practice, the cost of this type of software can be prohibitive for small businesses. For this reason, these companies usually choose free or limited versions of e-commerce platforms. There are also hundreds of shopping cart tools that can provide sufficient functionality for small companies. Finally, online marketplaces allow these companies to sell their products without investing in e-commerce software. 

E-commerce platforms are most beneficial to medium and large companies who sell their products or services in multiple countries or markets and have complex operations. Since e-commerce platforms provide the most extensive features in the market, this type of software can be used by various employees, customers, and partners.

Employees

Employees from many departments can benefit from using e-commerce platforms, the most important being:

Product management: who makes sure that the product information is accurate and up to date and that only active products are available for purchasing online

Marketing: who need to ensure that the products and services sold online are represented and promoted in a manner that protects the brand image and differentiates the company from its competitors

Sales: who define and implement strategies to improve revenues and monitor the performance of the products and services sold by the company

Customer service: who deals with complaints and other interactions with customers that may impact the purchasing process

Additional user personas

Partners: Partners may sell their products and services on the e-commerce platform of a company or their online stores. Partners can also use online marketplace platforms, so they need to synchronize data between these platforms and e-commerce platforms.

Suppliers: They usually provide products and services to other companies and do not sell them directly to consumers. Suppliers need access to e-commerce platforms to provide product information and inventory availability.

Distributors: Distributors buy products from other companies and sell them online. They may sell these products in their online store or online marketplaces. Retailers combine in-store and online sales to target multiple segments of customers or consumers. For this purpose, they need to integrate e-commerce with the point of sale (POS) or retail management software.

Customers and consumers: Consumers use e-commerce platforms to look for products and services and to make purchases and payments. The ideal software should provide the easiest and most engaging way to facilitate purchasing.

What are the Alternatives to E-commerce Platforms?

Alternatives to e-commerce platforms can replace this type of software, either partially or completely:

Shopping cart software: This is a lightweight version of e-commerce platforms, with limited functionality that focuses mostly on creating and managing online stores. This option is most beneficial to small businesses that sell a limited range of products.

Marketplace software: This is beneficial for companies that allow partners to sell on their websites. This type of software allows each partner to create a separate online store and manage sales independently from the others. 

Omnichannel commerce software: This helps businesses sell their products on multiple channels—online and in-store. There are also several online channels such as websites, social media, and mobile devices.

Software Related to E-commerce Platforms

Related solutions that can be used together with e-commerce platforms include:

Inventory control software: This allows companies to manage the availability of the products they sell online. This type of software can also be used to identify the products’ quantities required to fulfill demand, for inventory valuation, and for inventory transfers between warehouses and locations. All these features are vital to ensure that companies ship the right products for each consumer and customer.

Accounting and finance software: These tools manage all financial aspects of the sales transactions performed on the e-commerce platform. While consumers do not require invoices and other documents related to a purchase, the high volume of sales data needs to be consolidated and allocated to the appropriate general ledger accounts. For B2B, the volume of transactions isn’t very high, but invoicing is more complicated. Corporate customers may need custom invoices, shipping manifests, and warranty documents. Also, large companies have multiple business units that can purchase online individually or at the corporate level. Payment can also be made by numerous business entities from multiple bank accounts or credit cards.

Product information management (PIM) software: This is a standalone, more sophisticated version of the product management functionality described above. While most e-commerce platforms provide features for product information management, PIM is used by companies selling tens of thousands of products or variations and combinations of items.

Payment gateways: This is usually delivered pre-integrated as part of an e-commerce platform. This type of software can also be used separately by companies who do not want to limit their options to the integrations provided by e-commerce vendors. While most providers of e-commerce platforms offer integration with the most popular payment gateways, other options may be preferable, especially for markets that aren’t well served by the main players.

Challenges with E-commerce Platforms 

The lack of integration between e-commerce software and other solutions can be a critical issue that can cause the desynchronization of data between online stores and the back office. This, in turn, may lead to lost sales and unhappy consumers.

Another challenge is the ability to transfer product information from e-commerce platforms to other platforms or online marketplaces. Companies using these platforms also need to export sales data and analyze it in accounting or ERP solutions. While there are hundreds of tools to export and import data to and from such platforms, not all e-commerce platforms offer robust features for this purpose.

Which Companies Should Buy E-commerce Platforms?

While any company that sells products or services online can benefit from using e-commerce platforms, this type of software is most beneficial for the following types of businesses:

Retailers: They are embracing e-commerce as an increasing number of consumers prefer to buy online. At the same time, retail companies will continue to sell in-store, which means that they need to track sales on all channels. 

Manufacturers: Manufacturing companies use e-commerce for B2B sales but require advanced functionality such as product configuration and quote management. Invoicing is also important for B2B sales, as companies require fiscal documents for each transaction. 

Software companies: These companies use subscription management software, an alternative to e-commerce. This type of software manages software packages, pricing, sales and renewals, and revenue management. Some e-commerce vendors provide some of these features as part of their solutions, but that is the exception rather than the rule.

How to Buy E-commerce Platforms

Selecting the best e-commerce platform for the specific needs of a company can be complicated. 

Requirements Gathering (RFI/RFP) for E-commerce Platforms

Requirements gathering helps companies understand what their users need to be productive at work. For e-commerce, requirements can vary significantly depending on the types of products and services the companies are selling.

There are two main types of products: tangible (physical products) and intangible (virtual goods such as digital content and software). Additionally, some companies may sell age-restricted products or services, such as alcohol or online gambling.

Requirements also vary based on how companies are selling their products and services. This refers to buyer personas (B2B vs. B2C), geographical reach (local or global markets), and channels (online, in-store, or through distribution partners)

Prioritization of requirements helps the selection team focus on what matters most for their company. Requirements should cover the present and future needs of the company. The former refers to all features that are needed to keep the company up and running, such as the ability to create online stores, manage product information, and provide a seamless buying experience. The latter depends on the strategy of the company. For instance, expanding into new markets requires features for internationalization such as multilanguage stores and the ability to process payments in different currencies. 

Choose a selection team

To choose a selection team, decision-makers need to involve subject matter experts from all teams that will use the system. For e-commerce, this includes product management, sales and marketing, and inventory. The accounting team should also be involved to evaluate the integration of the e-commerce platform with financial software. 

The selection team needs to analyze all the data gathered from vendors, customer references, software reviews, or reports and research. This task can be daunting because all this information is not homogeneous, making it challenging to analyze.

  • Users must get rid of irrelevant data such as research that is too vague to be useful or reviews by users from other industries or geographical locations. A company focusing on the market in North America won’t benefit from knowing what users in Europe think about the software.
  • It is important to decide what data is the most significant and then focuses on it. Basic features like creating an online store are provided by most vendors, unlike functionality for cart abandonment. Also, buyers may give higher importance to user reviews than analyst research, or vice versa.
  • Users should validate data from multiple sources. The product description on the vendor website, the opinion of an e-commerce expert, and user feedback may be very different from each other. In this situation, buyers should try the product themselves or ask for a demo.

Negotiation

Negotiation happens between the buyer and the short list of vendors. In some cases, there are only two vendors that make it to this stage, which means that they offer similar products. At this point, the dealbreaker is the price of the product, which can vary based on the discounts offered by each vendor. 

The final decision should be based on all the information gathered previously. 

What do E-commerce Platforms Cost?

The types of pricing for e-commerce platforms depend on the delivery model. For on-premises software, vendors sell named or perpetual licenses. For cloud or SaaS e-commerce, the subscription model is used, which allows companies to pay a monthly fee per user. 

There are three types of e-commerce software costs:

  • The initial price of an e-commerce platform usually includes the cost of implementation, training, and software licenses
  • Ongoing costs such as licenses and maintenance are usually higher for on-premises software
  • Additional costs refer to the customization of the e-commerce platform or professional services such as content creation or marketing campaigns

Businesses looking to try an e-commerce platform without an upfront financial commitment may want to consider a free e-commerce platform. More and more vendors are offering free trials or freemium models that can make these tools more accessible.

Return on Investment (ROI)

The factors that impact ROI can be grouped into two main categories: costs and benefits: 

Costs: This refers to any type of spending related to software such as license costs, training, support, and professional services. The time and effort spent to implement and maintain the software should also be considered. 

Benefits: The benefits are not limited to improving sales and revenues. Other advantages of using e-commerce platforms are increased productivity, better inventory management, and customer satisfaction. These factors impact ROI directly or indirectly, which is why it may be difficult to calculate them.

To calculate ROI, buyers need to estimate software costs and software benefits.

Software costs can include:

  • The initial cost of the software, which includes license cost for on-premises software, integration with other systems 
  • Implementation and training may include migration from other e-commerce solutions and access to learning portals
  • Ongoing license cost and consulting services to optimize the use of the e-commerce platform
  • Software maintenance such as regular backups of the product and sales data

Software benefits can include:

  • Increased online sales of products and services
  • Time saved managing products and processing orders
  • Less manual work and data entry for product information
  • Reduced the number of shipping errors and returns

ROI is calculated as a ratio between the benefits and the costs of the software. When the benefits surpass the costs, the buyers achieve positive ROI.

It is preferable to calculate ROI at least one year after go live since the benefits of the software are not fully realized before that. For e-commerce, companies may need to adjust the platform by configuring it or adding optional features after they start using it. This can generate extra costs, which may impact the ROI.

Implementation of E-commerce Platforms

How are E-commerce Platforms Implemented?

Implementation can be done directly by the vendor, indirectly by one of its partners, or in-house by the company that bought the software. 

Who is Responsible for E-commerce Platforms Implementation?

The implementation team usually includes a project manager from the vendor or its partner, subject matter experts from the buyer, and sometimes external consultants. The IT department of the buyer is also involved in the technical aspects of the implementation such as data migration.

What Does the Implementation Process Look Like for E-commerce Platforms?

As most e-commerce systems are subscription-based, users may think that the implementation means creating accounts and starting using the software. In reality, implementation can be much more complicated. 

First of all, companies need to migrate data from one or more legacy systems to the new platform. Historical data on sales and inventory, product information, and customer records for B2B is the most important datasets that need to be transferred to a new e-commerce platform.

Secondly, a system may require configuration based on user type and role. Also, user access should be defined so that employees can use the modules and features they need most. For instance, sales may be able to see the inventory availability for a product but should not be able to adjust the quantity.  

Finally, training the users is essential to ensure that they are fully taking advantage of its capabilities. E-commerce platforms can be complicated and self-learning is not recommended, especially for modules like product management and e-commerce personalization.

When Should You Implement E-commerce Platforms?

Timing is very important when it comes to e-commerce platform implementation. For instance, implementing this type of software during a peak shopping season is not a good idea because it may disrupt operations. It is therefore critical to define an implementation schedule that works for everyone (employees, managers, vendors, and its partners).

E-commerce Platforms Trends

The evolution of e-commerce platforms will be impacted by new technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and changes in consumer behavior.

Artificial intelligence

AI can be used to personalize the buyer experience or to create bots that can guide buyers through the purchasing process. AI may also help identify fraudulent activity and cyber attacks that can lead to lost revenue and data breaches.

Evolving buyer behavior

Changing buyer behavior is forcing companies and e-commerce vendors to adapt to new ways of shopping. For instance, millennials and members of Gen-Z tend to combine multiple ways to find, compare, choose, and buy products. For each step in their decision-making process, they may use online or offline channels (like stores, events, or public advertising). E-commerce software providers and their customers will need to find ways to engage and influence buyers both online and offline.

Subscription model

E-commerce vendors need to adapt to the increased popularity of the subscription business model, which provides a product or service at regular intervals. Subscription management usually refers to services and software, but some companies also use this sales model for products. A few examples of products sold as a subscription are grooming products or beauty supplies, which are used on a regular basis by consumers. As opposed to traditional e-commerce, subscriptions require regular deliveries and recurring payment options, which aren’t always supported by e-commerce platforms.

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