An ecommerce platform is a software application that allows online businesses to manage their website, sales and operations.

Ecommerce platforms like BigCommerce offer the powerful features needed to run a business, while also integrating with common business tools — enabling businesses to centralize their operations and run their business their way.

Why use an ecommerce platform?

Whether you're expanding a brick-and-mortar store, looking to switch solutions, or even starting a business from scratch, your choice of ecommerce platform has a huge impact on the profitability and stability of your business.

The only real alternatives to using an ecommerce platform are

  • Building one from scratch, which is out of the question for most businesses — and only justifiable for multimillion (or multibillion) dollar companies.
  • Using a plugin, which isn't an option if you're looking to build and grow a legitimate business – even a small one.

What options are there?

There are many ways to classify or break down the different types of ecommerce platforms, but let's start with two easy distinctions:

  • Self-hosted ecommerce platforms require online store owners to find hosting, deal with installations, and oftentimes perform updates to the software. Running an ecommerce website using self-hosted ecommerce requires developers to maintain and update the website, which can get quite costly. The benefits of this option include more control over your online retail platform, greater visibility of your own data, and a better understanding of data security. While this route makes sense for some extremely complex businesses, it usually results in higher expenses and lower revenues.
  • Hosted, or SaaS, ecommerce platforms remove much of the complexity from running an online business because instead of managing the software yourself, you essentially "rent" it. When factoring in development cost, this is a vastly cheaper option. Product updates, security, hosting, and every other task that comes with managing your own software are managed by the SaaS provider.

  • Learn more about SaaS vs. self-hosted ecommerce

    How will it benefit my business?

    In addition to scalability and protection of your data safely, ecommerce platforms, whether hosted on premise or in the cloud, offer a handful of operational benefits and business tools. These include:

    • A product management suite
    • Merchandising
    • Pricing
    • Promotions
    • Search capabilities
    • The ability to personalize sales and services to your liking

    Ecommerce platforms offer businesses the ability to customize product information and how it's solicited to best fit their own online retail needs, which can be a mutual benefit for both the business and its customers. Here is more information about the different types of ecommerce.

    What should I look for in an ecommerce platform?

    Every business has unique needs, and choosing the right solution is wholly dependent on a platform's ability to solve the day-to-day challenges inherent within your organization.

    There are, however, some basic things you should find out about prospective provider:

    a)Do they integrate with social media platforms?

    Social commerce is getting more important by the day. Advertising to social media users is a must if you want to capture a massive and engaged audience. Facebook alone boasts over 1.94 million active monthly users. That's a lot of potential customers.

    BigCommerce offers built-in integrations with Facebook and Pinterest so you can market to users directly in their news feeds or main accounts. With the advent of Buyable Pins and Facebook Shop, you can even sell directly to users without them needing to leave their platform of choice.

    b) Do they limit the number of products I can sell?

    Maybe you have offer a wide assortment of products, or perhaps a significant number of variants for your basic product line. This can add up to a lot of SKUs, and some platforms are better than others when it comes to SKU count.

    If you have a large catalog or plan to grow your business, choosing a platform with low SKU limits essentially restricts the upside of your business.

    c) Can I talk to a real person when I need help?

    You're inside an ecommerce platform every single day. No matter how intuitive the design or straightforward the features, at some point, you may need assistance. And when that time comes, it's good to know that you can get ahold of a real-life-person to assist you with the problem.

    Some platforms outsource their customer service and make it difficult — or practically impossible — to call in and get help when you need it most. At BigCommerce, we feel that every one of our customers is entitled to personalized customer support.

BigCommerce is the leading ecommerce platform for growing and mid-market retailers.

Learn more:
1. Visit our commerce blog
2. See our best-in-class features
3. Request a demo

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High-volume or established business? Call for a demo. 1-888-248-9325

Start your free trialHigh-volume or established business? Call for a demo.1-888-248-9325