Ecommerce Platforms Explained!
In the classic movie, The Wizard of Oz, Dorothy and her friends embark on a journey to reach Oz’s fabled Wizard, an all-powerful, all-knowing man, they hope will help them solve their problems. When they eventually find him, they’re dazzled by the apparent extent of his magic but soon learn that he accomplishes everything with the help of a special effects machine, that he operates from behind a curtain. The machine contains all the technology needed to dazzle Dorothy and her friends as they don’t even know it’s there (until they discover it, of course).
Spoiler alert: it turns out the Wizard doesn’t have any special powers. His machine just makes lots of noise and smoke, which obscures the fact that he’s, alas, just an ordinary man.
Unlike the Wizard of Oz’s infamous illusions, there’s real power behind running a successful Ecommerce business — a good Ecommerce Platform. It operates behind the scenes, getting stuff done, almost as if someone is buzzing around, managing inventory, collecting payments, organizing shipping details and solving everyone’s problems. A good wizard, er, platform will accomplish these tasks without shoppers knowing that it’s there.
What Is An Ecommerce Platform?
An Ecommerce Platform is a software equipped with a range of functions to enable retailers to sell goods online. It includes tools to manage marketing, sales and customer service. In the world of online shopping, Ecommerce Platforms exist to handle most of the heavy lifting. They are the technology behind the curtain, if you will.
Ecommerce Platforms simplify the process of creating an online store - from the design of your website to the back-end features needed to conduct online sales.
A retailer might select an Ecommerce Platform over, say, a simple shopping cart tool if they want to centralize their business operations under one virtual roof (while delivering exceptional customer service). There are several types of Ecommerce Platforms available but regardless of your specific store’s goals, if you want to sell goods online, you’ll need an Ecommerce Platform to do it.
The Evolution Of Ecommerce Platforms
The evolution of Ecommerce Platforms can be traced back to the history of online shopping. This goes back farther than you might realize. The seed for Ecommerce was planted in 1969 with the founding of CompuServe, the first major online service provider in the Unites States.
Here’s a timeline of how we got from the earliest form of internet connectivity to where we’re at today, with Ecommerce megaliths like eBay and Amazon fulfilling our every online shopping need.
CompuServe, founded in 1969, was built using dial-up technology and introduced the earliest forms of email and internet connectivity — two ingredients essential for Ecommerce.
An English inventor named Michael Aldrich introduced an early form of electronic shopping. Aldrich connected a modified TV to a transaction-processing computer using a telephone line.
Early/ Mid 1990s
The first online bookstore, Books Unlimited, was introduced in 1992. The Netscape Navigator browser launched two years later, making it easier for people to browse the web and find products. However, buying stuff online wouldn’t start to become easier until 1995, when Jeff Bezos launched Amazon (launched initially as an Ecommerce Platform for books).
The late 1990s/ 2000s
PayPal launched in 1998 as a payment transfer tool, followed by Alibaba, an online marketplace launched in 1999. Ecommerce Platform - Shopify launched in 2004. In 2005, Etsy launched as an online marketplace/ platform created for artists and crafters who wanted to sell their creations.
2009 to Present
BigCommerce, an Ecommerce storefront platform, launched in 2009 and has since processed over $25 billion in sales. Additional payment platforms, including Google Wallet, Stripe and Apple Pay, popped up throughout 2011 and 2014. These platforms made it easier for online stores to collect payments via multiple channels, including mobile devices, computers and in physical stores.
How Does An Ecommerce Platform Work?
Try to visualize an Ecommerce Platform as a person, much like Oz’s great and powerful wizard. This person is a high-performing, task-oriented guru who can juggle many projects and solve multiple problems at once.
An Ecommerce Platform completes complex functions, both in the front and back end of a store’s virtual operations, including managing inventory, fulfilling orders, web design, customer service/ CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and mobile commerce functionalities — all the essential functions that power an online business. It does this by facilitating online transactions of goods and services through the secure exchange of funds over the internet.
A powerful Ecommerce Platform should:
Run-on a single platform that combines Ecommerce, bookkeeping/ financials, inventory/ order management, marketing, promotion, POS (Point of Sale) and customer service functions.
Oversee orders, keep track of stock and unify order management.
Facilitate expansion to multiple channels, markets, countries and business models.
Provide a total 360-degree view of customer interactions across channels (e.g., web, in-store and mobile).
There Are Four Types Of Ecommerce Platforms, As Follows:
like opencart and OSCommerce don’t require license fees. Store owners are responsible for hosting and web development of their stores (the platform is then installed onto their own server).
like Magento are hosted by the store owner, who pays ongoing fees to maintain the license.
platforms like BigCommerce and Shopify are all-in-one solutions that include hosting. They are pay-as-you-go and incur ongoing fees.
is a B2B model that delivers the platform to clients who can then run, manage and develop applications without building and maintaining the infrastructure themselves. Businesses use PaaS to link their Ecommerce Platform to other business systems that their customers use for procurement (e.g., SAP, Ariba, etc.). It basically allows B2B clients to link their purchasing systems directly to your B2B Ecommerce Platform.
Why Do We Need Ecommerce Platforms?
If you want to sell products online, you need Ecommerce Platforms that are customizable and requires little technical knowledge to set up, implement and maintain. They are the backbone of online shopping, with nearly half of all online shops in the US using the top two platforms — WooCommerce and Shopify.
More people are shopping online than ever before. Online sales for apparel, beauty products and department store goods increased by nearly 10% in 2020 alone. Ecommerce Platforms make it easy for retailers to deliver top-notch online shopping experiences by connecting marketing, sales, service and commerce in one unified platform. You might say they’re the heart, brains and courage of your platform but they’re also your storefront’s virtual home (and there’s no place like home!).
The benefits of an Ecommerce Platform includes:
They help retailers deliver top-notch customer service.
They’re easy to set up and maintain.
They make online buying and selling a simple process for you and your customers.
They minimize website downtime, which equals more sales for you.
They prioritize security, minimize data breaches and thus helps you sleep more peacefully at night.
The Future Of Ecommerce Platforms
Retail Ecommerce sales are projected to reach 4.8 trillion dollars by the end of 2021, with the expected number of online shoppers reaching 2.1 billion, up from 1.7 billion in 2020.
Trends will dominate Ecommerce Platforms in 2021 and beyond — Personalization and Customer Engagement, Artificial Intelligence (AI), including AI-driven chatbots and assistants and advances in product visualization technology. Personalized Ecommerce experiences would use signals such as a shopper’s purchase history, browsing history and first-party data to provide a tailored online shopping experience, one that rivals in-store buying experiences. AI-driven technology such as chatbots will instantly address customer questions and issues, learn from past conversations and evolve to deliver personalized service.
Finally, visualization technology that includes, Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), 3D imaging and product videos gives consumers more confidence when buying goods online. We could virtually “try on” clothes and accessories like glasses by uploading images or using our phones to superimpose products within our own environment. We think the great and powerful Wizard of Oz would approve!
Liked what you read? Head to the TechDogs homepage to find the latest tech content infused with drama and entertainment. We've got Articles, White Papers, Case Studies, Reports, Videos and Events - the complete lot to help you Know Your World of Technology.
Disclaimer - Reference to any specific product, software or entity does not constitute an endorsement or recommendation by TechDogs nor should any data or content published be relied upon. The views expressed by TechDogs’ members and guests are their own and their appearance on our site does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by TechDogs’ Authors are those of the Authors and do not necessarily reflect the view of TechDogs or any of its officials. All information / content found on TechDogs’ site may not necessarily be reviewed by individuals with the expertise to validate its completeness, accuracy and reliability.
Join The Discussion