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What is E-commerce Software? Analysis of Features, Benefits and Pricing

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What is e-Commerce software?

E-Commerce software is a tool that drives all online store processes, helping owners manage inventory, add or remove products, process payments, compute taxes and fulfill orders, among many others. It offers all the things needed to run a retail site, effectively simplifying online store management.

An online store consists of many intricate components and processes, which ecommerce software streamlines through an easy to use interface that even non-tech persons can operate. Further facilitating things is the ability of the system to integrate with other platforms and services such as CRM, CMS, ERP, payment gateways, email marketing tools, accounting software, fulfillment services, and social media networks, to name some.

The ecommerce industry is big business. According recent reports, ecommerce sales are predicted to reach $6.7 trillion by 2020. More than ever, people are opting to buy online. In fact, for the first time in the US, 51% or more than half of shoppers prefer to buy online than from brick-and-mortar stores. The growth in the ecommerce industry has fueled the growth of the ecommerce software industry as more businesses set up online stores and retail websites to take advantage of the online consumer trend.

Credits: shopify.com

In this article, we’ll go beyond answering – What is E-commerce Software? The definition of ecommerce software aside, we’ll examine the many aspects of ecommerce software, including the following:

What are the Types of E-Commerce Software?

There are two general classifications of ecommerce software and they pertain to the type of deployment:

  1. On-Premise. Installed on a local server or computer and managed on-site by a team that handles manual updates, fix problems and do general troubleshooting. Online sellers early on initially went with on-premise solutions because they allowed greater hands-on management compared to hosted solutions.
  2. Software as a Service. SaaS or hosted solutions are technically the hands-off option since all updates, patches, and newly-released features are done automatically or with one-click integrations. Hosted e-commerce software has evolved dramatically to allow wide customization and flexibility, previously exclusive to on-premise, making it now a sufficient solution for most online retailers. Furthermore, SaaS software can be launched quickly and comes in affordable packages.

What Does E-commerce Software Do?

What does ecommerce software do? While ecommerce software in itself can handle most of the important tasks relevant to running your store, it oftentimes integrates with other apps and services to help you do some other things right from within the system. With robust features and functionalities, coupled with powerful integration capabilities, ecommerce software becomes your all-in-one integrated platform that can do the following.

  1. Manage customers and orders. Managing a customer’s order from product selection, to payment, to checkout and delivery is vital. Every order is a sales transaction that will impact your bottom line Hence, it must be done efficiently and conveniently for the customer. Ecommerce software takes care of managing orders, check order status, and making quick changes if needed. On its own or with some other third-party app or service, it can handle payment processing, keep transaction records, manage customer information, create billing and invoicing, undertake accurate accounting, provide analytics and reporting, among others.
  2. Manage products and inventory. You get product specifics from SKUs and variations (size, color, quantity) to names and images, allowing you to organize and catalog items. You’re also notified and made aware if stocks are low and what particular items are fast moving and need replenishing.
  3. Simplify marketing. Built-in SEO allow online stores to rank higher in organic search engines for increased online discovery and presence as well as lower customer acquisition costs.
  4. Automates shipping and taxation. Printing shipping labels, calculating sales taxes based on customer location, and sending notification emails to customers can be done automatically and more accurately.
  5. Enhance customer experience. Ecommerce software is meant to enable customers quickly and efficiently find what they need in your store. Hosted solutions offer service-level agreements to guarantee 100% uptime and simple but robust website management, allowing you to provide your customers with the best online shopping experience.

How Does E-commerce Software Work?

Selling on the internet via your website entails a series of steps and processes that ecommerce software takes care of. What is ecommerce but a system to streamline those steps. How does e-commerce software work? It usually goes like this:

  1. A shopper visits your website which displays products and categories that are loaded/stored in the website database.
  2. The customer uses a shopping cart to add items and creates an account with all information saved in the database.
  3. Once the customer is in the checkout stage, the website normally goes into secure mode displaying a lock symbol and using an SSL certificate.
  4. While in checkout the website may utilize third-party software or services to provide the customer with delivery options, shipping rates, and expected delivery date.
  5. When the customer enters the credit card number, the information is sent to a payment processor or payment gateway such as PayPal.
  6. The customer order is now completed and all sensitive information is stored with the payment processor (not with the ecommerce website).
  7. You can have the payment deposited in your merchant account (a service usually provided by a payment gateway) or transferred to your bank account.

The steps above, from order to payment processing, can take just minutes to complete giving you and your customer/shopper utmost efficiency and convenience. Ecommerce software makes all of the above happen worry-free and hassle-free. Which is why you need a fully capable ecommerce platform to make your online store or website operate in the most flawless and responsive manner.

Wix: Powerful e-commerce software and website builder

Take note that for your e-commerce site to run successfully, some other components would have to come into play. These include:

  1. Web Hosting Service. These companies and service providers offer Web servers to host your website and all the elements and apps that go with it. This is a vital component because having a good online store that is always open, accessible, loads quickly, and is able to handle high traffic depends on a reliable and dependable Web host.
  2. Product Catalog. The product catalog is what your customers view and learn about the products you’re selling. Similar to a printed catalog, your online catalog is made up of products, pages and information you present to your customers. They must be designed to attract, appeal and entice your customers, and reflect your brand, company or the theme of your store.
  3. Shopping Cart. This is what your customers will use to place their orders where they can add the products they want to purchase, provide information about shipping and payment preferences, and submit the order. The shopping cart component may spell the difference between a completed or abandoned sale. It must, thus, work optimally and smoothly.
  4. Merchant Interface. This is the tool you use to manage your online store as well as set up and use all other tools and apps that you may need. The interface must be robust, flexible, customizable while straightforward to operate.
  5. Payment Processing. The backbone of an online store is accepting payment. Simply put, without this component, customers can’t place in their orders. There are several online payment services, payment gateway, and merchant account providers that integrate with ecommerce platforms to ensure safe, secure, accurate, and efficient payment processing.
  6. Order Fulfillment and Shipping. There are many order fulfillment, third party logistics, and shipping services that provide next-day, second-day, and ground shipping services that you can offer your customers, giving them many options which they can avail for prompt and fast delivery. These services remove the heavy lifting from you so can focus on your selling.

Ecommerce software ties all of the above components and services to give you one integrated solution to manage and run you online store from end-to-end.

What are the Advantages of Ecommerce Software?

Why use ecommerce software? Because it has plenty of benefits to your business. Here are the advantages using of e-commerce software.

  1. Quickly start your online business. Most ecommerce software comes with easy to use online store builders with pre-built templates and an assortment of themes to help you build your store quickly. We’re talking here of minutes, not hours, if you’re familiar with drag-and-drop functions where you just put your store elements into place, add product images, put in descriptions and prices, set up your shopping cart, and you’re basically good to go.
  2. Your store is always open. One of the biggest business advantages of using ecommerce software is that it keeps your online store open, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Your business hours are not limited by physical location or the working schedule of your staff. Since everything is automated, you are not required to continually monitor your online store through your dashboard.
  3. You can sell to anyone, anywhere. In relation to the above, which allows you to sell anytime, you can sell to everyone from any location in the world. You have a global market for your products, unhindered by time, geography and boundaries. You harness the internet’s connectivity to sell to anyone, wherever they may be.
  4. You save time, money and resources. When you calculate your expenses, you will find that it costs you less operating an online store than running a brick-and-mortar store where you’ll have to rent expensive space in a prime location, employ sales staff, and pay for utilities, among others. Paying monthly for an affordable ecommerce platform that takes care of your online store reduces expenses and maximizes profits.
  5. You can sell as many products. Unlike a traditional retail outlet which has limited storage space to fit all your products, an online store has no physical space to constrict the number of products that you can carry, display and sell. Since more people are shopping online nowadays, this allows you to sell more, offering products organized in catalog web pages that can easily be searched and viewed by customers. This also results in shorter selling cycles, providing you maximum returns at minimum investment.
  6. Easy online payment and shipping. Ecommerce software and shopping cart platforms are equipped to process online payments, either as a built-in feature or integrated with a payment gateway service, allowing for safe and secure online transactions. The software can also be connected seamlessly with 3PL or order fulfillment service providers that can offer your customers their preferred delivery and shipping options.
  7. Built-in marketing tools. Many ecommerce software are loaded with powerful marketing tools and SEO features to help your store rank higher in search engine results and attract potential customers. There are also built-in analytics and statistical tools that can provide you with real-time analytical data, helping you to come up with targeted marketing campaigns, special deals and offers, as well as make improvements to your product mix or promotion.
  8. You can provide quality online customer service. E-commerce software gives you the means to provide your customers with the best online shopping experience – from easy product selection, order, and checkout, to convenient online payment, shipping and delivery – everything is designed through automation to make it as simple as possible for customers to buy at your store, and get the best service they can expect.

We can go on with several other benefits or advantages, but the above are enough to firm up your understanding and appreciation of the many positive things and the competitive edge that ecommerce software can bring to your online business.

Shopify: One unified platform to run your online business with ease.

What are the Key Features of E-Commerce Software?

To be able to realize its purpose, ecommerce software is designed with a wide range of features and functions that streamline and support the many aspects involved in online selling. Here are the common features of ecommerce software:

  1. Automation. The checkout process, including accurate computation of pricing, taxes, shipping rates, and handling costs are automated to give customers an immediate idea of how much they’ll be paying on items they select for purchase.
  2. Website builder. If you don’t have an existing website, ecommerce software can help you build one from the ground up. It provides design templates for you to quickly create a professional-looking website and storefront based on your preferences without the need to hire commercial designers.
  3. Central database. You get a centralized location for easy storing, access and retrieval of product information, customer data, accounting transactions, product listings, browsing histories, and payment and shipping status.
  4. Search function. Sophisticated search functions make it simple for shoppers to find the items or products they’re looking for. E-commerce platforms are capable of listing, categorizing, and updating new products together with descriptions, pictures, and feature lists.
  5. Integration. Most ecommerce solutions are able to integrate with various business apps and third-party platforms and services to allow you to handle various tasks – accounting, email marketing, order fulfillment, and payment processing – within a single system.
  6. Marketing tools. You can use your ecommerce software to enhance your website’s marketing, promotion, and branding. You can utilize an array of tools to come up with targeted campaigns, SEO optimization strategies, and branding/image reinforcement.
  7. Analytics and reporting. Ecommerce software can help you to analyze and identify trends and patterns that affect customer buying habits, providing with you insights and stats on customer demographics, keywords, and clickstreams. You’ll get to know what is working or not, and craft strategies to improve revenues.

3dcart: Has everything you need to build your online store.

What is the Cost of E-Commerce Software?

The cost of ecommerce software varies. Many product vendors usually offer three to four pricing plans – basic, standard, premium (the wording may differ per vendor) – that cater to various business sizes and budgets. Basic plans can go for as low as single-digit figure subscriptions per month, on the other end, pricing can go as high as triple-digit figures. Plans are based on the number of features and functionalities. With premium, deluxe or professional plans, you get the complete set of advanced features and tools of the product.

To give you an idea of the cost of ecommerce software, here’s a price sampling of the basic and premium plans offered by some of the leading ecommerce software vendors.

  1. Wix: Connect Domain – $4.50/month; VIP – $24.50/month
  2. Shopify: Lite – $9/month; Advanced – $299/month
  3. 3dcart: Nano – $9.99/month; Professional Plus – $99.99/month
  4. Volusion: Mini – $15/month; Premium – $135/month
  5. Bigcommerce: Standard – $29.95/month; Plus – $79.95/month

Aside from their regular plans, some vendors offer quote-based custom pricing according to specific features you need or other particular business requirements. Suffice to say, you have a wide range of plans to choose from whether you’re rolling out your online store for the first or already have an existing one and looking to upgrade your ecommerce software to accommodate a bigger and fast growing business.

What are Examples of E-commerce Software?

To help you get a clearer picture of the marketplace, here are examples of ecommerce software solutions that dominate the landscape.

WixVISIT WEBSITE

Wix is a cloud-based website development platform that allows users to create, design, manage, and develop their websites. With different designer-made templates to choose from, you can make your own website, change its layout, and add any tools and features you need for your business. The platform is also equipped with advanced SEO tools to help you have a better chance on Google search engine rankings. Additionally, it allows you to choose custom and professional domains to match your brand and business.

Shopify

Shopify is an award-winning ecommerce platform widely recognized by experts and business owners alike as one of the best ecommerce solutions available in the market today. Packed with an array of features and functions to help businesses build and operate online stores and even run offline retail business, it is used by over 120,000 stores worldwide. You can quickly and easily set up an attractive-looking and responsive store from a selection of professionally designed themes, import large catalogues, automatically recover abandoned carts, get 24/7 customer support, have your own payment gateway, and utilize powerful marketing tools, among other features.

3dcart

3dcart is an all-in-one ecommerce solution designed to cater to businesses of all sizes for building and managing their online stores. The platform comes in full-packed, cost-effective product plans that are scaled to grow with your business and features a secure system for online payments, customer data, shop inventory, invoice creation as well as tools such as social media integration, order management, shipping options, tax calculator, mobile compatibility, point-of-sale, branding, marketing, and many more.

Volusion

Volusion is a scalable ecommerce and shopping cart platform built with unique features and tools to support the selling operation of small and mid-sized businesses as well as sole and freelance entrepreneurs. Its functionality revolves around four essential modules, each targeting a separate phase of the eselling operation – from creating a custom built storefront, personalizing and optimizing content, to enhancing customer experience, and boosting marketing campaigns. Likewise, it offers self-generated in-house services, secure checkouts, analytics, and integration with third party apps and services, including popular social media sites.

Brightpearl

Brightpearl is a leading omnichannel management solution that retailers can use to manage their orders, inventory, accounting, reporting, and customer data in a single system. In addition, the software offers real-time reporting of customer buying behavior, profitability by SKU and channel, cash flow, inventory and more. The app integrates with ecommerce sites such as Bigcommerce, Shopify, Magento, and online marketplaces, including eBay and Amazon to give users access to many new channels and grow their business.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce allows businesses and individuals to launch their own online stores from the ground up or through their existing WordPress website or blog. It features a plugin that comes with a robust set of tools and an intuitive and powerful interfaces designed to help you easily set up your store and get started as quickly possible. It has an onboarding wizard to guide you through the setup within five minutes. Since it’s powered by WordPress, WooCommerce enables website owners to sell online using a platform they’re already familiar with. They can use an extension library for add-on features such as payment gateways, shipping calculators, subscription management, anti-fraud and many others.

PayPro Global

PayPro Global is a suite of eCommerce solutions that cater specifically to software developers and vendors, helping them simplify the distribution and reselling of their digital products, software, SaaS, and other goods to end users all over the world. With PayPro Global, software developers and vendors are able to sell and market their products online, accept payments through multiple online channels, increase cart value, and improve visitor to customer conversion rate.

3DSellers

3DSellers provides eBay merchants with all the essential tools for managing their business. 3DSellers centralizes all processes and operations of eBay storeowners on a single platform, thus, eliminating the need to utilize multiple applications for handling sales, promotions, customer care, billing, and payment processes. With 3DSellers, eBay merchants can greet their customers with attention-getting store designs and product listings. This also them merchants to improve brand recognition as well. Additionally, communicating with customers is hassle-free thanks to the platform’s automated messaging functionalities, enabling them to provide top-notch customer services with minimal effort.

Sellbery

Sellbery simplifies the way online merchants and ecommerce businesses manage all their online stores. This product feed automation and optimization solution gives you full control over all facets of your business, but without the hassle of individually managing your inventory, product data, sales, orders, and other information on various marketplaces. It automates key business processes to relieve you of the time-wasting manual task of updating your product listings one by one. Sellbery also prevents users from overselling by letting them place a custom limit on when they will receive a low stock notification.

Is Ecommerce Software for You?

If you are an online merchant or seller, ecommerce software should be your priority. As you’ve learned from this article, it provides you with tons of benefits and advantages – simplifying and automating every crucial processe involved in your online business. What is ecommerce software? It’s the system that saves you time, money and effort. It gives you the opportunity to provide customers with top notch service, and  equips you with analytics and marketing tools. This tool handles just about every aspect of running you online store, enabling you to focus on selling. Yes, get the ecommerce software that fits your needs, and see how it makes the world of difference in your business.

Jenny Chang

By Jenny Chang

Senior writer at FinancesOnline who writes about a wide range of SaaS and B2B products, including trends and issues on e-commerce, accounting and customer service software. She’s also covered a wide range of topics in business, science, and technology for websites in the U.S., Australia and Singapore, keeping tabs on edge tech like 3D printed health monitoring tattoos and SpaceX’s exploration plans.

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