Online shopping has gained momentum over the years, but setting up an online store, keeping track of sales and expenses and managing product inventory seems like a challenge to most. However, a Content Management System (CMS) allows you to do it all effortlessly.
Even though a CMS platform was traditionally designed to help a business build and manage a website using tools easily accessible through the admin dashboard, you would be astonished to know that over half of the websites available online are made using a CMS.
In fact, WordPress powers 1/3rd of the web and is the most popular choice among individuals and businesses alike. Wix, on the other hand, is the fastest growing CMS, expanding 149% YoY.
Owing to CMS’s popularity, the global Content Management Software market is growing exponentially and is expected to reach $123 billion by 2026. It is indeed the best option to build a professional, secure and robust online store.
CMS for eCommerce
Ecommerce CMS platforms enable online store owners to create, edit and publish digital web content without writing code. In addition, they boast of many features like payment gateway integrations and inventory management.
In other words, an eCommerce CMS platform is nothing but a user-friendly infrastructure handling all the backend store management functions of a typical eCommerce store.
As you can see below, SquareSpace, followed by WooCommerce and 100sklepow, are the world’s top three eCommerce platforms.
What to consider while selecting an eCommerce CMS?
If you are looking to make the journey smoother for you but are new to the process of choosing a suitable eCommerce CMS, we have listed down crucial points (or features) you must consider while selecting the perfect platform for your online shop:
Knowing how much you need to pay and what you get against it is the most important factor to consider when you purchase anything.
There are some basic features that you should have on your CMS, like organizing product pages, adding payment forms, managing order lists, tracking inventory, and so on.
Prepare a list of all CMS platforms that offer these as core functionalities. Then, compare those options that fit your budget to see which one works best for you.
The point is: do not compromise on any core features due to expense. It is advisable to test features for usability before investing in them. So sign up for a free trial or a bespoke demo if you can to get a true taste of the CMS platform in question.
Ecommerce platforms come with plenty of integrations and plugins. Depending upon your business needs, some of these might work well for your online business. List down the tools you already use for your shop and the ones you require. You can look out for:
Email marketing tools to nurture long-term customer relations
Drag and drop plugins to ease content organization and publishing
Heatmap extensions to study customer browsing patterns on the website
SEO plugins to help with optimization and rank better on Google and Yahoo!
SEO is vital for the success of your eCommerce business. Your store must rank for the products you sell. Therefore, you should consider a platform with an intuitive dashboard and built-in SEO tools. Plus, if you have a dedicated person in the team to look after your store’s SEO, the better.
You would need their help to conveniently build a blog and design landing pages apart from optimizing your product descriptions with the most relevant keywords. Having said that, please also not compromise on the content quality.
A feature to manage your posts and track their performance will be an added advantage. It should allow you to use your own domain name to establish your brand. An SEO-friendly CMS would help you create SEO-friendly URLs either manually or automatically.
The CMS should be capable of populating page titles and meta descriptions. You should be able to edit them manually as well. Another appreciable feature would be gathering ratings, reviews, and comments from your customers to boost engagement.
Mobile devices contribute approximately 54.61% of search traffic globally. Most eCommerce searches and purchases happen over mobile phones, so your online store must be mobile-compatible. Otherwise, you will miss out on a massive chunk of potential customers.
Therefore, look for a CMS platform that allows seamless content editing and page management. In addition, ensure it offers mobile-optimized delivery automatically through a responsive design for a good user experience.
Customer service support
Never underestimate the importance of good customer support unless you have a great IT team to take care of glitches.
If you are a solopreneur or have a small team with limited IT experience, choose a CMS platform that offers easily accessible 24/7 customer service to help you navigate through your online store setup and even later.
This is an important feature as the revenue loss will be more significant if your eCommerce store is down, even for a few hours. Some eCommerce CMS platforms do not provide live chat or phone support service if you are not upgraded to their most expensive package.
Therefore, make sure your CMS support is on-point, and you have no trouble reaching out to them in case the store has to deal with a technical problem.
As an eCommerce store owner, data security should be your top priority. A data breach may instantly ruin your reputation and shatter customer trust. You must also provide convenient and secure payment processes.
Limited and vulnerable payment options may lead to customer frustration and increase cart abandonment rates. Your CMS must comply with security standards and support HTTPS/SSL to make the checkout safer for your customers.
In addition, boost your eCommerce store’s credibility by showcasing security badges on the site. According to eBusiness Guru, 76% of consumers will not buy from a website if they are unable to recognize the security badges.
Therefore, use logos of the most trusted security companies like Verisign, AMEX, Visa, TRUSTe, PayPal, and McAfee.
Other things to include in your eCommerce store are:
A firewall to block unauthorized site traffic and reduce spam
A two-factor authentication system (e.g., fingerprint, OTP, security question)
You did not start a business to sell products for a short period. You are in for the long haul. It is good to look forward to growth and pick a CMS which is scalable. For instance, as an eCommerce store, you may face occasional spikes in traffic during peak seasons.
The right CMS would perform even under pressure and support dynamic features effortlessly. Your CMS platform should enable you to add products as you grow your portfolio to keep up with new trends.
Staging functionality will help you work in the background to see how your store would look post-changes without impacting the live performance of your website.
Think beyond creating and deleting pages to discover what you need from your CMS. For example, you may need functions such as page organization to categorize your products, content tagging for indexing, publishing/unpublishing seasonal content, or simply adding images/videos.
Select a CMS that offers these as core functionalities. Before making a decision, please speak to a few CMS platform providers and their customers. Sit for a demo or use the platform for free for a few days if that is possible.
Most CMS solutions come with a traditional WYSIWYG editor. It facilitates content addition, deletion, and editing by giving control to the user. However, the editor does just enough in terms of content but does not manage the website design.
New generation editors address this issue by balancing design and content elements. They allow content contributors to mark up headings, add links or images, and send them to the designer or fit into the existing website appearance.
Ecommerce websites have multiple products under several categories, and as you scale, your lists will grow. Therefore, the search function is crucial for improving the customer experience.
Most CMS platforms offer basic search functionality, which may be incompetent in handling the pressure during peak seasons. Therefore, look for a solution that enables customers to locate products swiftly, even if your website is large.
It should allow search engines to crawl through multiple pages and index them regularly. Without this functionality, you will not achieve the amount of online visibility you would like for your eCommerce store. The competition is fierce. The search functionality will set you apart.
Roles and permissions
Multiple user enablement roles may not seem necessary at the time of starting up your eCommerce business. But this feature comes in handy as you scale your business and add new members to your team.
The CMS you select must offer the flexibility to upgrade to this functionality as and when needed. For example, check their enterprise version to ensure you can authorize individuals to perform different actions on the website.
Granting them role-based permissions helps maintain workflow and ascertain the quality of content before publishing.
Plus, you do not have to worry about sensitive data falling into the wrong hands. Through this functionality, you will always have control over your shop.
SaaS or On-Premise
You must also analyze the hosting requirements for your CMS platform. The options are on-premise and Software as a Service (SaaS). On-premise is beneficial if you have your own hosting environment.
You can get the license rights and set up the software on an internal server. Premise-based CMS will need IT infrastructure and software personnel. But if you do not have the required infrastructure and cannot involve your team, SaaS is the option for you.
Under this model, you pay a fixed subscription fee for the hosting environment and software license. IT support is offered by the SaaS service provider. The software is hosted in cloud servers that allow you the flexibility to scale as per requirement.
Ease of use
Again, please take a trial of the CMS solution to analyze whether it fits into your existing setup. This is important so that you can check if all your departments are comfortable using it.
Allow them to test the features they would need the most. After all — purchasing a CMS platform is a collective decision. Your team should be completely sold on the CMS platform.
Calculate hiring, training, implementation, and maintenance timelines and expenses. Again, the CMS, with a lower requirement of changes in your existing IT infrastructure and human resource capabilities, would probably work best for you.
What common errors to avoid while making a decision?
Your CMS is an essential building block of your digital storefront. So much thought goes into finalizing the one that best fits your requirements. Moreover, the process can be overwhelming for you and your team. Therefore, you must not get googly-eyed or take a call in haste.
Make sure to avoid the commonly noticed mistakes while choosing your ideal CMS solution:
Falling for fringe features
Be cautious of “feature bloat” CMS solutions. Analyze your eCommerce requirements before investing in features you may never use. Instead, opt for a “feature-rich” CMS which is loaded with features you need to operate your eCommerce business without friction.
Not seeing the big picture
Buying a CMS based on future needs will cost you double, as your investment would not generate returns at the moment, and complex features will impact work.
Instead, prefer to invest in a simpler solution that offers scalability, addresses your future needs, and evolves as you grow.
Remember, your eCommerce business comprises several individuals with different levels of IT skills. Therefore, using a CMS with a complex interface would reduce the team’s overall productivity. You must, therefore, take the opinion of all members across the team who would be using the CMS. Involving them in the decision-making process ensures ease of use for all.
Sidelining your content management problems
Buying a content management system should not be a knee-jerk decision. Think about why you need one, and will it change anything for your business? If the answers to all these questions are yes, what is the benefit-cost ratio (BCR)?
In case you already use a CMS, you can also consider upgrading it before opting for an alternative. At the end of the day, you have to be honest about the problems you previously encountered with an existing platform and ensure the next one makes your life easier.
Make a decision: Popular CMS platforms to choose
Given that there are so many solutions offering best-in-class functionalities, it can become a little tedious and overhauling to select the most suitable software for your eCommerce business. We do not blame you.
Therefore, to make the selection process a tad easier, we have listed six popular options — all of which will make an excellent addition to your eCommerce business:
BigCommerce is a cloud-hosted eCommerce solution that supports over 60,000 merchants. It has built-in features and CMS capabilities to meet the requirements of online stores of all types and sizes — across industry niches.
It is a SaaS solution with multiple templates, a drag-and-drop page builder, out-of-the-box SEO integration, and headless commerce APIs. BigCommerce is the perfect CMS solution for fast-scaling businesses and even beginners.
The platform is available on a monthly subscription basis, and you get access to its best features as you upgrade. BigCommerce Enterprise version allows quick customer segmentation, advanced product filtering, and unlimited API calls.
WordPress is a feature-rich CMS that you can transform into an eCommerce platform by integrating plugins. These plugins help combine features and functionality of both platforms delivering a robust storefront.
Magento is an open-source eCommerce CMS offered by Adobe.
It is an enterprise-level software popular among fast-scaling and larger businesses as it is highly customizable and agile. Users enjoy a headless architecture supported by around 1,000 high-quality integrations and extensions. Secure cloud deployment offers high-performance storefronts.
Shopify is a SaaS eCommerce platform popular among startup merchants and small businesses. It comes with a variety of features accompanied by a simple interface.
The platform gives users access to easy-to-use tools for all store activities. Affordable pricing and a plethora of intuitive features make Shopify the best platform for new entrants venturing into online selling.
Prestashop is an open-source platform that comes with over 5,000 customizable themes. It offers MySQL data management accompanied by around 600 features to build an excellent storefront.
Startups and small businesses prefer Prestashop as it is low-maintenance yet rich in functionality.
OpenCart is a free-to-use open-source eCommerce CMS platform. It is a self-hosted multifunctional solution with highly customizable templates. Besides being easy to set up, it allows you to create multiple stores and sell unlimited products.
It offers integration with a variety of plugins, payment gateways, and shipping methods. OpenCart is helpful for small businesses with a limited budget.
Are you ready to supercharge your eCommerce business?
Selecting the most suitable CMS platform for your eCommerce store is a crucial decision that decides the future of your online business. It must meet your current needs and evolve as your business grows. Therefore, take your time, involve your team and conduct some research before arriving at a decision.
Asavari is a B2B content strategist and web journalist. She is known for her strategic and authentic marketing initiatives that help SMBs across the globe drive sales and make profits. She is also an advocate of a healthy work-life balance.
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