How to Choose the Right E-Commerce Software and Services

Retail is one of the industries that has been flourishing for decades. With the technological advancements and easier access to the internet, the digital variant of retail, i.e, eCommerce became a popular way of shopping. In 2020, retail e-commerce sales worldwide amounted to $4.28 trillion and are projected to reach $5.4 trillion by 2022 (Source: Statista). However, dabbling in eCommerce is not as simple as setting up a website and listing your products on it. You need to consider the marketing strategy, scalability, transaction security, running costs, and other factors beforehand for a smooth operation. Earlier, businesses had to build their own in-house platform which was laborious and costly along with having severe restrictions. Thankfully, now exist multiple eCommerce platforms that offer a high level of customizations, flexibility, scalability, and dedicated developer community that allows businesses to outsource the headache of setting up their online store.

Choosing the right eCommerce platform could be the first step to having a popular and robust eCommerce store. In this article, we shall look into the multiple eCommerce software and service providers and list out the pros and cons of each.

What is an eCommerce Software?
In a nutshell, an eCommerce software is the centralized console that allows a business to manage its different operations such as running a storefront/website, managing the inventory, monitoring sales & deliveries, running marketing campaigns, and many others. Whether you are a small startup or giant enterprise level business, an eCommerce software offers features that scales as per the needs.

In the modern environment, there exist multiple eCommerce platforms and softwares offering a mix and match of all the different tools a business would require for their daily operations. Since everything being offered may not be what you are looking for, it is important to choose the right eCommerce software after enough research and analysis.

How to choose the right eCommerce Software? Define The Current Business Needs
Before hitting up Google to find you the right eCommerce Software, it is important to define the business needs clearly. At the bare minimum, the eCommerce platform should support listing products and accepting online payments. Anything above that are the features you wish your software has. Yet, as the number of offered features increase, the cost of the software or the license to use it also increases. So, before jumping the bandwagon, have clarity regarding the following two crucial factors:

Cost
The spending power of an online retailer with a handful of products would be different compared to that of an enterprise level seller with products in multiple categories. Hence, the retailer spending on an enterprise level software is an overkill and easy way to close shop quickly. Moreover, when running an eCommerce business, the only cost incurred is not the license cost but also certain hidden charges. In addition to the initial development costs, there are four hidden costs behind an eCommerce platform:

Maintenance Cost: Whether you opt for a self-hosted eCommerce solution or SaaS platform, you will incur periodic maintenance costs. In case of the self-hosted, the costs will be divided between server operation, hiring a dedicated technical staff, and utilities. In the case of SaaS, you pay a monthly or annual fee and everything is managed by the service provider.
Upgradation Cost: Online security is an evergoing battle as ill-willed people try to run malicious code to rob websites and their customers, while platforms come up with new patches and updates to cover any loopholes. However, while upgrading, certain features or functionalities may break and require expert help. Moreover, the downtime during upgradation can impact the sales heavily unless you have an alternate server running (which requires operation costs as well).
New Features/ Improvement Costs: Platforms offer 3rd party feature support that allows certain functionalities that improve the user experience for the customers or store owners. However, since they are 3rd party plugins, the developers charge separately for using their tools.
Changes to the UI/UX: Change is only constant and so any changes you make to the design or certain UX elements requires the assistance of a developer which is covered when using a self-hosted solution but in case of SaaS, is charged separately.
Scalability
Most business owners tend to stick to their eCommerce platform when expanding as platform migration is a tedious and expensive affair. However, in dire situations where the goals of the business no longer align with what the platform is offering, you would have to bite the bullet and migrate. Hence, to avoid troubles in the near future, it is important to consider the scalability of your business. With the right ecommerce software, growth is easily in reach. Hence, you should look for an Ecommerce software that regularly invests in and upgrades its platform. This will more likely help you stay ahead of your competition and on top of consumer behavior trends.

Explore the Available Platforms
(Image Source: Builtwith)

Out of the innumerable eCommerce platforms, tools, and softwares, there are four that are most popular. Here is a basic rundown of each.

Shopify
Shopify is one of the most popular and trusted eCommerce platforms. They offer multiple levels of their software based on the current size of the business.

Shopify Lite – An integration into existing website or social media page
Shopify Basic – A webstore and blog hosted on Shopify platform with basic eCommerce features
Shopify Plan – A full fledged eCommerce store with all the features an eCommerce store requires such as customizable website, online store, blog, even an abandoned cart recovery.
Shopify Advance – A step up over Shopify plan with provision for unlimited product uploads
Shopify Plus – Enterprise level platform with tools and features needed for smooth operation
Plans start from $29 per month for Shopify Basic and $299 per month for Shopify Advance. In terms of security, you and your customers have 256-bit SSL security on all transactions and cover six PCI (Payment Card Industry) standards. The platform supports integrations with 2500 popular apps and provides in-house analytics tools for easy monitoring. From a complete novice to an expert, Shopify offers a great all-in-one ecommerce solution.

Magento
Magento is another popular eCommerce platform that is available in two variants – Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce. Magento Open Source is a free version that can be downloaded, customized, and is self-hosted. Magento Commerce is a subscription-fee and cloud hosted platform. Being a self-hosted platform, Magento offers a high level of customization but might be a rocky road for someone with limited knowledge. Pre-built themes are available in Magento Marketplace but are charged separately and require the assistance of a developer. In terms of security, Magento has a designated Security Center that periodically offers patches & updates. Magento supports thousands of integrations and Business Intelligence Dashboards provides advanced customer reporting in Magento Commerce. Magento Open Source is free to download and use while Magento Commerce charges a hefty sum.

BigCommerce
BigCommerce is another SaaS eCommerce platform offering flexible and robust eCommerce solutions to business owners. Depending on your budget, BigCommerce is available in 4 variants:

Standard – $29.95/Month
Plus – $79.95/Month
Pro – $299.95/Month
Enterprise – Custom Pricing
In either plan, BigCommerce charges zero transaction fees. Initial store set up is cakewalk and comes with 10 free themes. The servers are PCI DSS 3.2 certified and offer DDoS protection. BigCommerce supports most of the common applications and integrations out of the box. The platform’s Ecommerce Analytics and Insights reports offer stats on your store’s performance.

WooCommerce
The open-source ecommerce plugin of WordPress, WooCommerce lets you sell your products from your existing WordPress site. Being a plugin of WordPress, the initial installation and store set up is very easy. It supports the themes available on the store and is completely SEO friendly. Being self hosted, the security lies in your hands. The plugin itself is free but the hosting and domain fees run up the operating costs.

Conduct analysis based on Core Factors
You may still be on the fence about shortlisting the right eCommerce software for you. However, things may become clearer when you compare the following core factors offered by each against your current and future requirements.

Popularity
The more popular a platform is, the more strong the community it will have. It becomes easier to find the right resources and developers and you have a better choice when it comes to the cost of each. Plugins and support for them will be more for a popular platform.

Integration Support
In conjunction with the previous statement, the more API integrations and 3rd party plugins a platform supports, the easier it would be for you to manage your store on your own. Moreover, you can find special plugins that improve the user experience for your visitors.

SEO Friendliness
Since your online store is basically a website, you need to optimize it regularly to be SEO compliant. If changing the page title or description requires you to jump through hoops or take the help of a developer, it is not user friendly. Moreover, sub-par analytics would give you less insights about your visitors and prove counterproductive.

Features offered
Any eCommerce platform should provide the following features by default.

Robust catalog – How easy it is to manage your inventory and keep it updated
Flexible pricing – Any changes to the prices to certain products during a promotion is automatically reflected across the entire store.
Personalization Engine – To suggest products to the customers based on their past purchases and shopping history
eCommerce analytics – A business can only flourish if it receives the correct feedback and hence the platform should have their in-house analytics tools or atleast support integration of third party plugins.
Customer review system – Let the reviews from your customer turn into user generated content to attract more customers and build trust. Moreover, negative feedback can help you learn your shortcomings.
Multiple payment gateway support – To accept multiple payment options such as PayPal, credit card, and debit card.
Wrapping Up
From our expertise, for a complete novice, Shopify or WooCommerce are suitable as it offers complete customization and plugin support, while being robust enough to handle scalability. BigCommerce and Magento are better tuned towards businesses with a local presence and budget to hire staff to manage the online store. However, don’t take our word for it. Refer to the above article and compare the offerings of each against your requirements to find the right one.

What makes Sitecore a coveted choice for marketers?

Gone are the days when marketers used to launch just digital campaigns. Today, brands look for seasoned marketing professionals who are always on their toes and are willing to go a step ahead. However, managing everything from content creation for email newsletters, social networks, and marketing campaigns to crafting digital experiences can be infuriating for marketers. This is where the need for a content management system (CMS) comes in.

With the help of the right CMS, marketers can not only manage all of their content – descriptions, images, videos, infographics, etc. but also deliver compelling digital experiences that keep customers hooked to their brand. However, selecting the right content management systems for your business can be a hard nut to crack for digital marketers, particularly, when there are a plethora of options available in the market. If you are also struggling to decide what content management system (CMS) you should consider for your business, why not choose Sitecore over others.

Launched back in 2014, Sitecore is a robust content management system that is built on ASP.NET. This omnichannel marketing platform comes with a complete suite of marketing solutions that help digital marketers create personalized and seamless experiences for their users. In other words, Sitecore banks on automation to leverage conversions and customer interaction across multiple touchpoints in the buyer’s journey. Not to mention, some of the leading brands including Canon, Honda, GE Healthcare, Fujitsu, Loreal, Puma, P&G, Suzuki, Nestlé, and many more are leveraging the potential of professional Sitecore development.

Why choose Sitecore CMS development for your business?

As said above, there is no dearth of content management systems (CMS) out there, however, the thing that makes Sitecore stand out from the rest is that it operates within the context of a user’s browsing behavior. This enables digital marketers and eCommerce business merchants to offer personalized results (products or services) to their customers. Also, it combines all-inclusive user data with quality content to offer targeted results to marketers in real-time. In other words, this content management system (CMS) brings the power of conversation management and personalization into the hands of business merchants and marketers. Furthermore, the flexibility offered by Sitecore web development enables IT and marketing professionals to collaborate, integrate, and manage their projects cross-channel. This, in turn, makes updating and troubleshooting your business website simpler than ever.

Key features of Sitecore

Though Sitecore offers a host of features, some popular ones for marketers include customer profiles, customer insights, page templates, web content management, and omnichannel capabilities. For marketers that are looking to optimize and organize content for their brands, these features will help them convert their customer interactions into transactions by crafting a laser-targeted customer profile. For instance, the Sitecore CMS platform leverages emerging technologies like machine learning (ML) to make precise predictions about customers’ interactions with your products or services. Also, it consistently accumulates data of all customers and then collates all that data in one exhaustive profile. Furthermore, partnering with a professional Sitecore development company allows businesses to extract data from third-party websites to help marketers gain insights about the buying behavior pattern that could arise with particular users.

Benefits of Using Sitecore CMS for your business

#1 Enhanced segmentation and real-time personalization

Nobody can deny the fact that the Sitecore content management system (CMS) is a powerhouse of personalization. In today’s dynamic market landscape, personalization is one of the key factors that should be taken into account by brands to achieve success. According to a report by Accenture, 91% of customers love to shop from brands that pay attention to personalization resulting in 89% of brands offering end-to-end personalization to their customers.

When it comes to getting personalization done right, it requires businesses to dig into a large volume of data and do proper segmentation. With Sitecore improved analytics and enhanced audience segmentation, businesses can draw out deeper insights into customer interactions. This, in turn, enables marketers to figure out what’s currently working or what’s not in terms of personalization and it also offers suggestions to make adjustments as required. Furthermore, marketers will get a 360° view of the customer with Sitecore CMS, which in turn, empowers them to make decisions based on customers’ interactions across all channels rather than banking on a handful of interactions in one segment. When you pull data across all channels, you can easily build omnichannel experiences and avoid data silos.

#2 Centralized content hub

Producing content for multiple channels can be a nerve-wracking task for marketers, however, with Sitecore’s centralized content hub, you can scale the speed and quality of content production. In other words, the Sitecore content hub acts as a home for all your brand’s content requirements. Having a centralized content hub makes it easier for marketers to execute and manage the content strategy whilst improving content governance and improved content visibility. Not to mention, marketers can also identify content gaps and come up with similar content to bridge the gap while keeping a tab on the content publication status. Keeping a check on the KPIs, timelines, and other crucial metrics, help marketers to make informed business decisions and improve the performance of content.

#3 Align CX

IT departments and marketers need a robust solution that is helpful in breaking down the silos that keep them at bay and aligning their customer experiences strategies. The compelling digital experiences that customers demand these days require more than just building creative marketing campaigns. Experiences require the help of IT and inputs from multiple departments to ensure the right delivery across all channels. With Sitecore, it becomes easier for IT and marketers to collaborate and channelize their efforts to deliver, manage, and optimize customer experiences.

Takeaway

From the above, it is clear that Sitecore is not just a regular content management system (CMS), instead, it is a robust digital experience platform (DXP) that comes with comprehensive marketing capabilities that let marketers manage the digital marketing landscape with ease. Leverage the potential of this platform in your business by opting for Sitecore development services from seasoned professionals.

O2C Automation

Power your operations with an Intelligent Automation powered gated approach

Automating the Order to Cash (O2C) operations allow tapping all the orders received through different channels in real-time and routing them for processing. Less human dependence in order management allows businesses to successfully participate in a value chain. An automated and gated approach allows businesses to prioritize orders, evaluate the creditworthiness of customers, assess other criteria for building successful cash flows and develop long term business relationships.

Intelligent Automation powered O2C Automation Gates

The Intelligent Automation strategy ensures integrations across all systems and multiple touch-points in the O2C Automation scenario –

Order Management: This gate integrates the enterprise CRM and order management system and taps all the orders in real-time. It eliminates all the delays and inconsistencies associated with manual processing.
Credit Management: This gate analyses the credit standing of each customer through their payment history and public sites. It enables the business to assess each order prior to accepting, prioritizing, and processing it.
Order Fulfilment: This gate routes the prioritized orders for fulfilment. The department assembles the order in a just-in-time environment and fulfils it as per the agreement. It keys in the remarks about the order fulfilment after which the order proceeds for invoice generation.
Invoicing: This gate picks up the details from the digital orders, the remarks entered by the fulfilment department, and creates the invoice. It then generates a digital invoice and sends it to the customer through a digital platform.
Payment Receiving: This gate has an integrated customer portal that triggers the invoice and also has the capability of receiving the digital payment. It eliminates the operational overheads for the business and customer in a mutually beneficial approach.
Cash Application: It springs into action on receiving the customer payment and reconciles the data with the order related records in a speedy environment. It allows the business to eliminate error-prone processes and automate the entire operation.
Periodic Reporting: It allows businesses to monitor the entire process with the help of standard and DIY reports in real-time. It allows them to generate actionable insights and streamline the O2C Automation process.
Simply put

The integrated O2C Automation platform offers a fool-proof tracking system right from order receiving to cash flow generation. It eliminates all the bottlenecks related to manual processing as well as streamlines and speeds up the entire O2C process.