5 Must-Have Features for eCommerce Platforms
According to Forrester, online retail sales are projected to surpass traditional sales for at least several years and are expected to reach $370 billion by 2017. Although the right e-commerce platform can help your business flourish, it has become increasingly difficult to choose one as the sheer number of choices is bound to get overwhelming. Last December, to help CMS-Connected readers navigate these daunting waters and narrow down their choices, I compiled a list of the top 6 e-commerce platforms that will enhance your ability to manage your online store and engage with customers. Today, we will take even a step back to look at the prominent features an e-commerce platform must have before getting dazzled by a breadth of features offered by the top e-commerce platforms.
E-commerce is on the rise, so is fraud. Mobile commerce companies experience 880 fraud attempts each month, and 581 of those attempts, representing 66%, are successful, according to the LexisNexis report. There are so many ways to combat online commerce fraud, however, merchandisers have to make sure their fraud prevention strategy is contributing to a seamless, friction-free customer journey. If their fraud prevention is likely to manifest more of an obstacle than a help, then it will not result in better business outcomes either. Therefore, you need to pay close attention to security capabilities of the e-commerce platform. While doing so, you will come across with the head spinning terms like "PCI compliance” and “SSL certificates”, so it is important to become familiar with the terms and requirements as to not endanger your business for an audit and your customers for a cyber-attack.
The PCI Security Standards are a set of 12 security standards applicable to all websites that accept and store payment information. SSL certificates are small data files that allow a browser to securely process sensitive transactions, like online purchases. It would be wise to consider the platforms that users’ online shop is Level 1 PCI compliant whereas the shopping cart includes an SSL certificate that uses industry standard 128-bit encryption technology (the same level of encryption used by large banks). On top of that, some platforms additionally offer customers to purchase/transfer a dedicated SSL certificate that provides an additional layer of security.
Advanced Payment Options
If you sell something online, obviously, you need to be able to receive payment from customers. However, this feature can get complicated depending on the businesses’ needs. If it is a B2B business, for instance, your customers should be able to purchase products in bulk, as well as bundles and kits. In that case, the e-commerce platform chosen should give merchandisers flexibility to set up complex pricing structures such as discounts based on quantity, groups, and locations or special member prices. If you are doing business internationally, then you will need a platform that supports various international payment methods and also offers custom integrations as the data model can be extended to cover any payment method in the world. The platform should also be able to enable users to utilize their preferred payment gateways such as Simple Pay, PayPal, Amazon Payments, Google Checkout, Authorize.net and so on.
There are so many different online payment options out there. The key is knowing what works the best for your buyers and the best-fit method for your product lines. Don’t ever forget about the ease of use especially when it comes to the checkout process as that’s where so many visitors are abandoning their carts. To put that into perspective, think of Amazon’s one-click shopping where shoppers with registered accounts can proceed with their purchases with the click of a button.
Up-selling & Cross-selling Features
Steve Jobs once said: “a lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”
Up-selling is recommending customers a product that has a greater value than the product they are currently evaluating or adding features to the product they are purchasing. Cross-selling refers to selling items that are complementary to the item they are purchasing. According to Mckinsey, up-selling and cross-selling techniques increase sales by 20% and profits by 30%. To put this feature into action, the common phrases used are “Frequently bought together” and “People who bought this also bought.”
Today, almost every major e-commerce platform offers a recommendation engine in an attempt to help merchandisers boost the conversion rates and the volume of orders. For e-commerce websites, homepage, product page, and shopping cart are the pages where a recommendations engine works most efficiently. However, the technology shouldn’t be limited to online as doling out recommendations to consumers via email also delivers a significant conversion rate and efficiency. It is worth reminding that 35 percent of what consumers purchase on Amazon and 75 percent of what they watch on Netflix come from product recommendations based on such algorithms.
Search Engine Optimization Capabilities
Merchandisers need an e-commerce solution that enables users to control the permalinks for their individual product pages, site content, title tags, Meta descriptions, and canonical tags for avoiding duplication so that they can easily optimize at-will for the search engines. Therefore, the e-commerce platform must have a friendly and flexible SEO system through advanced SEO and marketing tools such as customer segmentation and grouping capabilities. Offerings should include metadata for products and categories, sitemaps for Google and other search engines, and full control over URLs.
If you don’t have an SEO expert in house or enough budget to hire one, there are some platforms such as Shopify which automatically generate an XML sitemap for your online store, meaning that even those who don't have much technical knowledge can easily make their store Google friendly.
Speed is crucial for merchandisers in terms of both customer experience and search engine optimization. Websites that load in under three seconds have a lot of advantages over websites that take longer to load. Some platforms not only have the native SEO features but also offer apps to help users with their search optimization, including scoring their current efforts.
Customized and Responsive Design
If your e-commerce website comes out looking exactly like every other online store on that platform, how could you stand out from the crowd and create a brand identity? After all, you will be judged by the cover when the shoppers first visit your online store. Through the crucial first impression of the site’s design, you can either make a splash or mar your business. Therefore, the unique and aesthetic appearance along with basic easy-to-use navigational features can go a long way. Make sure the platform you choose provides a diverse and rich library of e-commerce design templates so you can quickly change the look and feel of a site.
The platform chosen also should support different screen resolutions for normal desktops as well as smaller screens and tablets. You may also want to find the platforms that offer free or low-cost themes developed and made available by a large, thriving community or independent designers for those specific platforms.
Speaking of design, your online store should look great and function seamlessly on every device, regardless of the screen size. BI Intelligence forecasts that by 2020, mobile will account for 45% of the nation’s $632 billion in total e-commerce sales. Therefore, online retailers who don’t have a responsive design are really going to lose out.
Before You Go
As online shopping platforms continue to evolve, we will see more sophisticated and agile features to cultivate brand loyalty with today’s digitally-savvy and demanding customers. Getting caught up in a numerous amount of features is extremely easy when you try to find the right e-commerce platform for your online store. Therefore, outlining your business goals and needs alongside expectations from a platform would be a great starting point. From there, you should also project what can change in the next couple of years so the platform that you will choose wouldn’t become obsolete as your business ramps up.
Now that you know the most important e-commerce features, why not to check out one of CMS-Connected most popular articles entitled How to Drive Sales with Your eCommerce Content Strategy to improve your commerce content strategy.