A guide on finding the best e-commerce platform.

May 12 2020 | Alice Wong, PayPal Editorial Staff

Setting up shop online can be great for business, but trying to pick the right e-commerce platform from the hundreds of them out there can feel like another overwhelming decision. To help you arrive at the decision quickly but still thoughtfully, we’ve outlined the important considerations below so you can get your online store up and running fast and money in your pocket quickly. 
1. Use an existing website template or build one from scratch. 
There are two ways to approach building an online store: You can go with an existing website template using an online website builder or build a fully tailored website from scratch using an open-source platform 
  • Online website builders are all-in-one “off the shelf” platforms. Using pre-built templates, you can customize your brand and domain, set up your store, accept payments, automate marketing, provide shipping options, manage your store accounting, and more. If you don’t want to code a site from scratch or hire a developer to do it, online website builders can be your best bet. Popular ones include:
  • Open-source platforms are an attractive option if you require a more tailored storefront with unrestricted customization and robust supportThey can also offer advanced solutions that help you solve more complex management challenges like multi-site inventory management and cross-border accounting. But because open-source platforms are built to fit, they usually require a developer to designcode, and maintainOpen-source platforms also come with greater responsibilities—you'll need to take care of hosting, security, and software updates. Examples of open-source platforms include Opencart and WooCommerce.  

2. Research platforms that specialize in the type of products or services you provide. 
Some e-commerce platforms and 
marketplaces specialize in helping businesses sell specific types of products, from handmade items to software to electronics.  
Others are tailored to businesses selling products vs. services or digital goods vs. physical goods. For example, if you're selling e-books, you'll need an ecommerce platform that allows online shoppers to download materials from your site after submitting payment. Or, if you sell personalized jewelry, you'll need intuitive product page templates that show off your work and allow shoppers to customize products.  
Sneaking a peek at your competitors' marketplace storefronts can also help inform your decision on choosing the right e-commerce platform for you. 

3. Decide on the payment options you want to offer your customers.  
Online shoppers want to see familiar, trusted payment options when they get to your checkout page. It may even be the deciding factor in whether they go through with a purchase, so double check your e-commerce platform offers the popular payment options (for domestic and international customers).  
If you want to offer customers more buying power, consider extending credit. This can allow customers to pay over time while you get your money up front. E-commerce platforms that offer this are: 

4. Check for extensions that can help you streamline back-office business operations. 
If you're looking to streamline several areas of your business—social media, email, SEO, inventory management, marketing, accounting, analytics, shipping—into a single location, make sure your solution provider works well with your e-commerce platform via an application, plug-in, or API.  
If you have more complex needs like multi-site inventory management, cross-border trade, business taxes, payroll and more, you may want to consider the solutions Intuit offers to take the stress out of back-office management. 

5. Consider future-growth needs. 
Don’t look at your e-commerce store as just a temporary solution—it should support you long term, so go with a solution provider that can support your business's growth. Specifically, look into inventory capabilities (and pricing), plug-ins, and global expansion. 
If you're selling several hundred SKUs, keep in mind some platforms are priced according to the number of product listings. High volumes of product listings can also slow down some platforms and lead ecommerce websites to return poor search results. 
Also think about all of the places you'd like to list your products. Many e-commerce platforms specialize in helping you start your own online store, then scaling your business to extend your reach through online marketplaces, social media and mobile messaging apps. If your goal is to sell globally, make sure your ecommerce platform can help you optimize for selling internationally. 

6. Look into customer service policies.  
Is your e-commerce provider’s customer service open when you need them? Can you reach them by phone, email, or chat? Do they offer basic support, or can they guide you in a step-by-step way if/when you need itIt’s important to choose an e-commerce partner that makes you feel well-supported every step of the way.  

7. Check for special offers available for businesses with a PayPal account. 
Many popular and trusted e-commerce providers have partnered with us to offer a special introductory rate or promotion when you sign up through your PayPal account.  
  • Browse this page for online website builders if you want to use an existing website template. Or, check out platforms to build a fully customized website from scratch. 
  • Take a look here for specialty online platforms and marketplaces. 
  • Need a website designer or developer? Take a look here 
Getting online and growing your audience is key to increasing your revenue today, and in the future. And even if it’s not a perfect process to get your site up and running, we can almost bet that once your site is live and you make your first online sale, you’ll become an e-commerce expert in no time. 
The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision. 

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