What are the different types of e-commerce platforms?

The three main types of e-commerce platforms are SaaS (software-as-a-service) platforms, PaaS (platform-as-a-service) platforms, and on-premises platforms. SaaS and PaaS platforms both deliver the e-commerce solutions through the internet. SaaS platforms, like Shopify, involve software only. Once they add a hardware element as well, they become known as PaaS platforms.

On-premise e-commerce solutions are hosted locally by the retailer and managed by their IT staff rather than being set up by another provider and accessed through the cloud. SaaS and PaaS options are best for smaller companies or companies that are just getting started in e-commerce. They offer professional setup and support, but they usually charge a monthly fee to use the site in addition to transaction fees on every purchase. On-premise platforms allow a company to have more control over their e-commerce site and create a custom storefront solution.

Some of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the market today are Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, Wix, Big Cartel, Squarespace, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and Volusion. Platforms like Shopify, Squarespace, and WooCommerce — which is a free WordPress plugin — are better for small businesses who need something easy to get them up and running, while Magento and BigCommerce are more tailored toward larger enterprises with high order volumes. Website builders like Squarespace or Wix offer drag-and-drop templates that are easy for retailers without much coding experience, while other platforms have more complex back ends.

How does a company choose an e-commerce platform?

One of the features that e-commerce software needs is the ability to search the store so customers can find products. Any e-commerce site should also have a shopping cart where their purchaser, or interested party, can store and view their intended purchases before moving into the checkout process. Because the purpose of an e-commerce platform is to facilitate purchasing, the platform needs to have a payment gateway so that customers can pay for their products. These three features — search, cart, and payment — can be wired together in any way you want to form a basic e-commerce platform.

In addition to those three basic features, an e-commerce platform can also have features like a database to store transaction details, inventory management to track the available merchandise, customer support, and order management to improve the customer journey. A platform might also have security features and integrations to expand into new channels. The features vary from platform to platform, so a brand should consider what features will help them meet their goals before choosing an e-commerce platform.

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