Your website isn’t performing, the platform isn’t user-friendly and it’s time for an upgrade.

From low-cost open source platforms to robust feature-rich platforms with all the bells and whistles, once you start researching new platforms, you’ll find a wide variety of options.

How do you weed through the mix and determine which features are most important and will make you the most successful? Here are ten things to consider when evaluating your next e-commerce platform.

  1. Understand Your Customers
    Know how your customers shop and what features would make them more likely to buy. Is a loyalty program important? Do you need a special interface for wholesale customers? Will your site be optimized for mobile and tablet shoppers? Build your website with the customer in mind and provide an optimal shopping experience.
  2. Know Your Requirements
    Define your must-have list of functionality and make sure you choose a provider that can deliver all the features you need to do business. Make sure you evaluate all of the features a provider offers. If they tell you they have more widgets than the next competitor, ask yourself (and the provider) how those additional features will earn you more sales.
  3. Consider Integration
    Along with defining your feature requirements, you must also outline your integration needs. What backend system do you use and can the provider integrate with it? Consider how frequently you will need to integrate data (real time, every hour, once a day, etc.) and make sure the provider can work with you to achieve this.
  4. Evaluate the Shopping Experience
    Look for easy to use merchandising tools, robust discount modules and a built-in, easy-to-use checkout. You want to make sure this platform has everything you need to sell more online. That means it comes set up with intuitive navigation structure, easy product upload process, and ability to support extensive product information, including reviews, rich media, comparisons, image zoom and color swatches.
  5. Consider Scalability
    Make sure the company you choose has the ability to manage the level of traffic you expect your site to receive. When your website is your business, you can’t afford any downtime. Also consider scalability in terms of features. Maybe you don’t have the need to sell in multiple currencies or to create sub-stores right now, but if your business changes in a few years, your website platform should be able to grow with you.
  6. Make Sure It’s Easy to Manage
    While it’s easy for a company to show you what their platform is capable of, make sure it’s also easy for you to use. Once your website is built and the keys are handed over to you, what type of training will you be given? Is there a staging environment you can use to test? Ask about the type of support you can expect and the hours that staff will respond to your requests.
  7. Evaluate Flexibility
    Make sure the company is flexible in working with you to customize their standard platform to meet your needs. Understand the amount of control you have to take your website beyond a “cookie-cutter” design. Ask about which third-party tools you can use and which ones they have experience integrating with.
  8. Make Sure It’s Search Friendly
    When moving from one platform to another, it can be all too easy to lose your position in search engines if you aren’t paying attention to SEO. Ask the provider how their platform is optimized to make your products findable in search engines. Will you have complete control over URLs, metadata and on-page SEO elements? Make sure their platform will produce an optimized sitemap and has the ability to generate product feeds.
  9. Ask About Their Experience
    Research the provider’s client base. Are there any companies similar to your industry or business model? Look at the type and size of companies – small, local business, SMBs, large-enterprise clients, nonprofits, publicly traded, etc. Ask for references and speak to their clients about what it’s like to work with the provider and use their platform.
  10. Evaluate Other Services They Offer
    What else does the company specialize in? Are they simply a platform provider, or do they offer custom development? Look at other service offerings you may take advantage of, such as online marketing or outsourced IT. A company that understands SEO or merchandising techniques is in a better place to help you optimize your site on their platform.

Be sure to weigh the costs against the platform and overall package. In the end, it’s about more than choosing the right e-commerce platform. You need to find a company that is knowledgeable about the web and can help you grow your business beyond the initial website build.