In your journey as an online entrepreneur, picking an e-commerce platform is one of the most important steps you will have to take. Your choice of platform can influence everything from your store’s security to your e-commerce conversion rate.

From the hundreds of available e-commerce platforms with seemingly subtle differences, choosing one can be overwhelming.

Where should you sell online?

There are two options to choose from if you are in the market for an ecommerce platform: Hosted or self-hosted.

Hosted platform

Hosted platforms basically offer software as a service (SAAS) usually in exchange for a fee. They provide an all-in-one e-commerce solution that includes a shopping cart function and technical support in addition to hosting. They lower the technical barriers to setting up an e-commerce store, are easy to manage, and they offer premium support and customization capabilities. Popular hosted ecommerce platforms include Shopify and BigCommerce.

Self-hosted platform

Self-hosted ecommerce platforms refer to applications that require web hosting to function. With a self-hosted platform, you will have total ownership of your store and a degree of control that hosted platforms cannot match.  Additionally, most self-hosted platforms are open-source and hence free. Popular self-hosted platforms include Magento and WooCommerce.

3 considerations to make before choosing an ecommerce platform

· Budget

Different platforms have different price tags. A platform can set you back up to $15,000 annually. You need to take a look at your budget to determine how much you are willing to allocate to pay for the platform. Remember, there are additional related expenses to consider as well including transaction fees, processing fees, etc. Some platforms even take commissions from your sales.

If your budget is tight, you can consider platforms that come with discounts, free add-ons or loyalty programs. Free open-source platforms are also available. When making your choice remember, you get what you pay for regarding capabilities.

· Functionality

You need to ask yourself some questions regarding functionality. Is the platform’s dashboard user-friendly and what capabilities does it offer? Does the platform have the necessary features to support a physical location for your business? Does it provide quality mobile responsiveness? Does the platform offer a friendly payment system for your customers and does it allow easy monitoring and retrieval of these payments?

The nature of your online business will dictate the e-commerce platform features necessary to run it efficiently.

· Integrations

Your platform should integrate with other software necessary in running your online business. Look at the platform’s plugins, add-on library, modules, and app store to find out if all the software you are currently using is available.

Critical integrations to consider include fraud management tools, Amazon compatibility, and your email marketing solution.