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What is eCommerce Software? Analysis of Features, Benefits and Pricing

What is ecommerce software?

eCommerce 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.

In this article, we’ll go beyond answering what is ecommerce software and examine its many aspects from what it does and how it works to its key features and examples of the leading tools on the market. This way, it’s easier for you to discern how you can use it for your operations.

guide to ecommerce software

Despite the gloom and doom surrounding the pandemic, it has proven to be a mighty catalyst for speeding up digital transformation—59% faster according to IBM’s estimates. The biggest gainers are the ecommerce industry and the underlying fintech industry that supports and enables it.

Numbers vary, but 2020 ecommerce growth rate estimates range from 16.1% (Statista) to 19% (Oberlo) and 27.6% (eMarketer). In the US, Digital Commerce 360 puts the 2020 ecommerce growth rate at an incredible 44% YoY. No matter which figures you might want to favor, it’s clear that ecommerce remains largely unscathed by the pandemic. In fact, the exact reverse is what happened: the pandemic bolstered the credentials of ecommerce going forward.

As of 2020, there were an estimated 2 billion digital purchasers worldwide. More importantly, 93.5% of global internet users have purchased products online. There are around 24 million ecommerce sites across the world. Together, all of them accounted for an estimated global ecommerce sales of $4.2 trillion in 2020. Global ecommerce user penetration will be 50.8% in 2021 and is expected to hit 63.1% by 2025. Meanwhile, ecommerce penetration rate in the US stands at just 21.3%, which means there is still much room for newcomers with compelling products or services to offer.

Source: Statista 2021

Pandemic-proof, colossal growth rate, and with more than ample space for new players, ecommerce is where all the industry action is for a long time coming. If these preposterous numbers are making you itch to get into the ecommerce arena, consider expanding your battle arsenal with the crucial information we’re presenting next.

What are the Types of eCommerce 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 ecommerce 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 eCommerce 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 allows 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 eCommerce 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 ecommerce 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 dashboard

Wix: Powerful ecommerce software and website builder

Take note that for your ecommerce 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 you 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 your online store from end-to-end.

What are the Advantages of eCommerce Software?

Why use ecommerce software? Because it has plenty of benefits for your business. Here are the advantages using of ecommerce 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. eCommerce 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 dashboard

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

What are the Key Features of eCommerce 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. eCommerce 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.
salesforce commerce dashboard example

All the key merchant tools you need in Salesforce Commerce Cloud.

What is the Cost of eCommerce 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. Volusion: Mini – $15/month; Premium – $135/month
  4. 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 eCommerce Software?

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

Salesforce Commerce Cloud

Salesforce Commerce Cloud is an industry-leading ecommerce software that unifies your online and offline channels to one AI-powered platform. This top-rated software helps you sell faster and smarter and deliver a consistent customer journey from various touchpoints. This will help you generate more conversions and thus grow your business.

Salesforce Commerce Cloud caters to business-to-consumer (B2C) and business-to-business (B2B) retailers. Whether you are just starting your online business or aim to digitize your sales process, you’ll find a Salesforce Commerce Cloud plan that’s right for your business size.

NetSuite SuiteCommerce

NetSuite SuiteCommerce is an omnichannel ecommerce management platform that helps users deliver an engaging shopping experience for their customers through site performance optimization and responsive design technology. It also comes with marketing, point-of-sale, and inventory management modules. As such, it enables users to seamlessly handle their ecommerce processes from attracting leads to tracking stock levels. Lastly, it comes with built-in reporting tools to help you assess your online store’s sales performance so you can make data-backed business decisions.

ShipHype

ShipHype is an ecommerce fulfillment solution designed to help international retailers bring their products to and from North America. This 3PL platform seamlessly integrates with online sales channels, such as Amazon, eBay, and Shopify, where your customers can directly purchase your products. The products purchased will then get shipped to ShipHype warehouses in the United States, Canada, and other regions where they will be packed and delivered to your customers. And to make sure that you are aware of your products’ shipping status, you can access ShipHype’s real-time dashboard where you can also change the status of orders depending on the situation.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is a scalable ecommerce solution that comes with enterprise-level functionalities. Its easy page builder features a drag-and-drop interface and multiple templates that can be customized to create a storefront that perfectly represents your brand. BigCommerce also makes adding products and keeping track of inventory a breeze with its smart and convenient inventory management tools. Moreover, the solution integrates with several payment gateway options and various shipping services, allowing for the fulfillment of orders in a single platform. Lastly, it streamlines marketing, sales, and customer service, as it works seamlessly with popular business apps such as Salesforce, MailChimp, and Zendesk.

ShipBob

Shipbob is a cloud-hosted order fulfillment software designed to bring together your ecommerce portal and inventory management system in one hub. It integrates seamlessly with popular ecommerce platforms, online marketplaces, and delivery services so it can easily adapt to your processes no matter which platform you are selling on and which logistics company you frequent. Moreover, it comes with advanced tools for inventory management such as product warehousing, delivery management, and distributed inventory consolidation. This way, you can easily manage stocks even if your products are coming from different warehouses.

Simpl Fulfillment

Simple Fulfillment is a third-party logistics services provider specifically for ecommerce businesses. The platform is equipped with tools for automated order fulfillment, FBA preparation, shipping management, as well as returns and exchanges processing. It can also integrate with over 50 shopping cart software and marketplaces to help you streamline your back-office ecommerce processes.

A2X

A2X is a cloud-hosted ecommerce software that consolidates your transactional data from different sales channels and connects them with your accounting platform. It comes equipped with a general ledger, real-time transaction history, an inventory accounting system, as well as data import/export options. Moreover, it supports multiple currencies, making it great for international companies.  With this, it is easier to reconcile your finances for bookkeeping and accounting purposes.

Wix

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.

Omnisend

Omnisend is an omnichannel marketing automation platform created for ecommerce businesses. It helps you attract and engage customers by helping you optimize marketing campaigns for email, SMS, and social media. Moreover, it helps you boost sales using automated abandoned cart emails, product suggestion pickers, and cross-selling capabilities. Another great thing about this platform is that it also comes with campaign reporting tools and A/B testing solutions so you can ensure that all of your ecommerce marketing efforts are as effective as they can be.

Payability

Payability is a financing solution for marketplace sellers and ecommerce companies. This essentially aims to close cash flow gaps so that online sellers can restock their inventory faster and ensure the continuity of their operations. With this, you can transfer your earnings via same-day automated clearing house (ACH) or wire transfer. This is especially helpful for sellers using Amazon so they can skip the 14-day delays in payments. What’s more, this solution offers fast, risk-free financing as it is based primarily on your Amazon account health rather than credit.

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 businesses, 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 catalogs, automatically recover abandoned carts, get 24/7 customer support, have your own payment gateway, and utilize powerful marketing tools, among other features.

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 e-selling 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 interface designed to help you easily set up your store and get started as quickly as 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.

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 process 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 your 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.

Shaun Baker

By Shaun Baker

With 5 years of experience in digital marketing and retail strategy under his belt, Shaun Baker is the resident eCommerce expert at FinancesOnline. A contributor to Entrepreneur, The Atlantic, and other business portals, he has spoken and written about various eCommerce subjects, from AI and headless commerce to the economics of Black Mirror’s “Fifteen Million Credits”. His (highly) opinionated pieces on the ebbs and flows of eCommerce as an industry remain both a dynamic resource of talking points and entertainment in itself.

2 Comments »
Fiona Manonn says:

The good news is that selling online doesn't have to be hard. With the right eCommerce platform, you'll be able to quickly list your products, take payments, and handle shipping—all without leaving office.
A chart describe the revenue of ecommerce for 2021 the global company. the big giants in ecommerce are Amazon, Alibaba and others has there own software.Every ios or android user can have there apps from the store and easily registration through given platforms.

Reply to this comment »
Fiona Manonn says:

E-commerce software is the engine behind the scenes of an online store, making it possible to easily manage inventory, add or remove products, calculate taxes, and everything else required to manage a website and fulfill orders.

Ecommerce software simplifies intricate processes in a friendly user interface that enables people non-technical backgrounds to oversee an entire ecommerce operation. Despite the ease of use that ecommerce software brings to an online business, it is a multifaceted and complex machine.

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