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eCommerce Software

eCommerce software enables businesses to conduct transactions for goods and services wholly or partially over the Internet. Typical features for eCommerce platforms include: online shopping carts, flexible product category structure and search, customer account and login tools, automatic customer notifications, tax administration, order tracking and print catalogue support. eCommerce solutions often provide integration tools for call centre support, inventory control, customer relationship management, and payment processing. eCommerce software is related to Order Entry software and Order Management software. Find the best eCommerce platform for your organisation in Australia.

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eCommerce Software Buyers Guide

Introduction

eCommerce Software is a category of software that allows businesses to complete transactions for goods or services over the internet. It enables users to establish, operate, and otherwise manage an online retail store, with the core features allowing for the creation of product listings, the processing of payments, the management of stock levels, and more.

Many of the features of the best eCommerce software are intended to automate tasks, such as the calculation of shipping fees, the application of discounts, and the sending of order confirmation, dispatch confirmation, and delivery tracking emails. The software also facilitates the development of a digital storefront, which customers can use to make their purchases.

This creation of an online retail website is often made easier through the provision of templates, meaning that a fully functional, user-friendly storefront can be created even with limited technical knowledge. At the same time, some of the more advanced features that may be present include analytics and reporting features, inventory management, and CRM tools.

The nature of eCommerce website software means it is often categorised alongside solutions like point of sale software, inventory management software, and retail management systems. At the same time, it is important to understand that there are different types of products within this software category, such as B2B eCommerce software solutions and multi-channel eCommerce software, giving businesses different options based on their precise needs.

Generally speaking, the main advantage of using solutions of this type is the ability to create a self-service platform, where customers can browse products or services, make purchases, and otherwise interact with a business and its offerings. In addition, it is worth noting that eCommerce solutions can be broadly separated according to whether they are cloud-based solutions, which are typically delivered by third parties on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis, or on-premises software applications, which are deployed and managed on-site.

While precise options and functions can vary from one program to the next, many eCommerce platforms do share similar features. As a result, they will usually allow users to:

  • Build and manage a digital storefront or online store, complete with self-service functionality
  • Oversee order fulfilment, arrange product deliveries, and respond to refund or return requests
  • Create, organise, and maintain a digital catalogue or library, outlining products and services
  • Manage inventory levels, receive alerts when stock levels decline, and arrange supply

What is eCommerce Software?

eCommerce software is the name given to software applications that allow users to manage and oversee an online store through the creation of a fully functional digital storefront. The online store will generally follow a self-service model, allowing users to browse the available products and services, add items to their digital basket, complete a purchase, request a delivery, organise refunds or returns, and access customer service support.

Using software of this kind, it is possible to manage all aspects related to online retail and eCommerce, such as order fulfilment, deliveries and shipping, customer service, returns and refunds, inventory, and a product catalogue or library, complete with product descriptions. It also allows for sales reporting, payment processing and, in many cases, customer relationship management, meaning the best eCommerce software can serve as a central eCommerce hub.

Some solutions focus on a particular area, such as B2B eCommerce software solutions, which are geared towards business-to-business transactions, or eCommerce marketing software, which places a greater emphasis on marketing rather than sales and customer service. However, even some of the free eCommerce software options on the market provide a more comprehensive range of features, and this can be ideal for any small eCommerce business.

Different options on the market vary in terms of the scope for website or eCommerce platform design. Most will provide templates, allowing for quick and easy creation, with varying levels of customisation available too. Other solutions will offer more advanced options, which can be better suited for larger businesses that may employ specialist web designers.

What are the benefits of eCommerce Software?

The benefits of eCommerce solutions are largely based around their ability to help businesses create and then maintain an eCommerce website. Most of these solutions will provide a wide range of features, allowing almost all major elements of running an online retail site to be carried out from a single, centralised location. Some of the specific benefits that are associated with using eCommerce website software are explained in more detail below:

  • Set up and manage an online retail platform: the main benefit to be aware of when exploring eCommerce solutions is their ability to allow users to not only set up an online retail website or platform but also continually manage that platform. This means adding products or services to the platform, updating product descriptions, providing self-service features for customers, gathering information about customers and their habits, managing aspects like the delivery or shipping of products, and processing any refund requests. Being able to carry out all of these tasks from one place can save companies time and money, and also make it much easier to train employees to make use of the tools at their disposal. This can be especially advantageous to smaller businesses that only trade online.
  • Automate key eCommerce tasks: another significant benefit of using eCommerce applications is the ability to automate some of the recurring, predictable, repetitive, or unnecessarily time-consuming tasks that are linked to online transactions. Examples of this would include the application of discounts to products for particular customers or groups, the calculation of delivery costs, and the sending out of emails to confirm purchases, announce the dispatch of items, or provide tracking information. This can help to provide a more standardised customer experience while also saving employees time and effort that could be better spent on some of the more complex tasks that actually need human ingenuity.
  • Track stock levels and manage inventory: a key part of running an eCommerce website involves managing an inventory and ensuring that items are in stock as much as possible. However, manually carrying this out can be needlessly laborious and may also result in items being overlooked, especially if stock runs low at a time when people are unavailable to act. The best eCommerce software will allow many of the key elements of inventory management to be automated. These solutions will continually track current levels of stock and send alerts when stock levels run low. In many cases, they can automatically order new stock when levels reach a chosen threshold, and the most advanced software will make use of machine learning capabilities to determine when demand is likely to increase and when the best time to order new stock would be, in order to avoid issues caused by sudden demand spikes.
  • Capitalise on marketing features: much of the software in this category also offers marketing functionality that can be beneficial, including options to automatically apply search engine optimisation (SEO) principles to product pages. Furthermore, some software can track users' interactions with the eCommerce website, identify products or services that are most likely to be of interest to them, and either send out targeted marketing emails or provide recommendations when using the website. This is valuable because Gartner research shows that only 12 percent of customers receive customised assistance from brands, despite the customer experience now serving as the main battleground and competitive differentiator.
  • Monitor the performance of a digital storefront: finally, eCommerce solutions allow users to monitor the performance of an online retail website or platform over time, tracking key metrics related to visits, sales, interest in particular products or services, and more. Using this information, it then becomes easier to optimise the website and an organisation's marketing strategy so that the right products and services are being promoted and customers are targeted with the information that is most likely to produce positive outcomes.

What are the features of eCommerce software?

The features of eCommerce solutions are centred around the ability to create, organise and manage an eCommerce platform or website. While it is certainly the case that precise features, options, and tools can differ significantly depending on the software chosen and the primary focus areas of that software, most solutions do tend to share some core features. Many of these are common to the point of being category-defining and include the following:

  • Website management: build, manage, and maintain an eCommerce website, complete with product pages, self-service functionality, and more. Most solutions will provide a variety of templates that can be used for the quick and easy creation of a digital storefront, which can then be customised to ensure it fits with the needs of an individual business. Some options on the market will also provide much more advanced creation tools, allowing for those with the necessary technical skills to implement more complex features and design elements. Ultimately, this ability to create an online store makes eCommerce solutions ideal for businesses that wish to trade entirely online or those that wish to move into the eCommerce sphere.
  • Order management: track, process, and otherwise organise customer orders, all from a single, central location. The ability to store data related to all customer orders can be vital for order fulfilment, customer relationship management, and responding to requests for refunds or returns. Many solutions will also allow users to take data from past orders and use this to make intelligent recommendations to customers about other products or services they may be interested in. As a result, long-term, repeat business becomes more likely. In addition to this being a feature within eCommerce solutions, it is also possible to acquire eCommerce order management software, which is specifically designed to focus on this area.
  • Cataloguing/categorisation: add individual products, services, and other items to an internal catalogue. From there, users are able to categorise these items based on how they relate to other items in the catalogue, what their intended uses or functions are, and which types of customers are likely to buy them. The product and service catalogue can enable businesses to provide each individual item with a description, category, price, some tags that can help users to find the item when searching, and more. New items can be added to the catalogue at any time, while items can also be removed when they are no longer for sale.
  • Shopping cart: allow customers to add items to their online shopping cart and then make adjustments to the cart before placing their final order. The shopping cart component of eCommerce websites enables customers to make multiple purchases at the same time, and it can be used to save items for later on too. The shopping cart also allows customers to remove items, change the quantity of an individual item they would like to order, and calculate the total cost of their order before they proceed to the payment processing phase of the customer journey. Therefore, the shopping cart plays a fundamental role in the self-service portal.
  • Inventory management: view current stock levels, place orders with suppliers for new stock, or speed up the production process to accommodate customer demand. A key part of running a successful eCommerce business involves marrying supply and demand, and the inventory component of the best eCommerce software can help to facilitate this. In many cases, alerts can be set up, notifying employees when either stock or demand reaches a set level. Additionally, it may also be possible to set up automatic orders so that new stock is requested without the need for employees to either intervene in the process or manually place the order.
  • Mobile access: access the eCommerce software through mobile and tablet devices, and allow customers to browse the store via a mobile optimised storefront. The concept of mobile accessibility has grown substantially over recent years, and it is no longer sufficient for employees and customers to be able to make use of eCommerce solutions via desktop or laptop computers. The best solutions on the market will not only provide mobile access to all of the key features but will also make this experience as user-friendly and convenient as possible, so that mobile and tablet users are not disadvantaged in any meaningful way.
  • Multi-channel marketing: make use of a variety of marketing tools, spanning multiple channels. The options here will typically include search engine optimisation and email marketing, such as the automatic application of SEO principles on product pages or the automatic sending of personalised marketing emails based on customer behaviour. Ultimately, this means organisations can use their eCommerce platform to not only manage the website itself but also to make attempts to generate interest and boost sales.

Capterra's software directory for eCommerce applications allows users to sort the available options based on the exact features available. This means businesses can begin searching for the right solution by identifying key features they need and only seeing options that actually include those features. This can save time and effort while also making the final decision-making process easier and more efficient.

What should be considered when purchasing eCommerce software?

Before purchasing an eCommerce solution, there are a number of things that need to be carefully considered so that the best choice is made. After all, businesses need to seek out the best option for their specific needs, and this could differ from the best overall solution. A good way to explore the main considerations is to ask the following questions:

  • What is the eCommerce software for? A very good starting point is to carefully consider what the software is actually going to be used for. Not all eCommerce businesses are going to make use of every feature, so it is worth taking the time to identify the most crucial features and how they are going to be utilised or leveraged. From there, decisions about which software to actually buy become much easier because decision-makers can focus on the solutions that actually offer what is needed and actively avoid the options on the market that do not provide the required tools and options.
  • What are the main regulations and obligations? It is important that eCommerce businesses think carefully about the regulations that govern online retail, as well as their obligations to customers. A good example of this would be the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for businesses in Europe, which covers the processing of personal data. Transparency and compliance are critical in this area, especially with regards to balancing personalisation and respect for privacy. While many customers do like to be treated as individuals and given a level of personalisation, they may also feel that businesses can become overly intrusive when they start to collect and keep too much data. With this in mind, a decision on which software to opt for should give consideration to whether the software itself has been designed to comply with rules and regulations. The issue of regulations is also a good way to explore why the best eCommerce software Australian businesses can buy may be different from the best solutions for businesses in other countries.
  • Is mobile access fully supported? While many solutions on the market do provide mobile access, it can be essential for some businesses to find an option that offers full mobile support. This means all of the main tasks that can be carried out using the software are available to mobile and tablet users. It is equally vital that customers are able to make use of mobile devices to actually access the online store, view products and services, make purchases, manage previous orders, access customer support, and more. Full mobile support is often easier with cloud-based solutions, but some software developers do offer fully functional mobile apps, which include the same core features as their desktop solutions.
  • What is the best deployment method? There are two major options when it comes to deployment, and which of these is best for an eCommerce business can depend on a number of factors. The first option is on-premises deployment, which occurs when the business installs the software on their own systems and stores the data on-site. This will typically have high upfront costs, but it does provide a sense of control and ownership. It is also a deployment option that many businesses are already familiar with and comfortable with. The alternative is cloud-based software, delivered on a Software as a Service (SaaS) basis. Here, a third-party service provider will offer cloud-based access to the software while also storing the relevant data securely in the cloud. This option has lower upfront costs and provides access to data and tools from anywhere in the world, using any compatible internet-enabled device.
  • Can eCommerce solutions integrate with existing tools? Finally, it can be useful to try to find the best solution for providing integration and compatibility with existing tools. When the software is able to be used in combination with other applications, it can allow data to be more easily shared, and it can save businesses money on finding new solutions to bridge the compatibility gap. With eCommerce programs, compatibility with customer relationship management (CRM) software can be especially valuable, as can any integration with marketing tools.

The most relevant eCommerce trends related to software are also worth taking the time to fully explore. Businesses need to know that the software they are investing in has been designed with an underlying awareness of the major trends that are disrupting their industry, and choosing an application that has been developed with an understanding of current and emerging trends can also help to make purchases more future-proof.

  • Artificial intelligence/machine learning: The best eCommerce platform is likely to make use of artificial intelligence, and one of the biggest trends in this area centres on machine learning capabilities. This technology allows the software to interpret data in such a way that it can draw seemingly intelligent conclusions and learn lessons. This could mean that the software is capable of identifying the points in the year where demand peaks and then automatically implements the necessary strategic adjustments to cope with that demand. Alternatively, it could monitor levels of stock, along with sales information, and automatically de-list products that are either unavailable or unpopular with customers.
  • Chatbots and conversational interfaces: A related trend to AI has been the rise of chatbots and conversational interfaces. This trend has been accelerated by advances in speech recognition technology and the wider use of voice assistants in everyday life. As customers and employees become more familiar with conversational interfaces, they are more likely to demand them. It should also be stressed that conversational interfaces can help to improve accessibility for disabled users as well. Businesses may wish to find a solution that offers either chatbot functionality, or voice recognition, as it can provide employees with additional options for using the software while simultaneously making the eCommerce platform more accessible to customers.
  • Privacy and options for customers: Personalisation has been a major goal for retail businesses throughout recent memory, but there is a rebalancing to contend with, as customers become more aware of how much data businesses gather about them, and increasingly concerned about how it may be misused. It is also worth highlighting the fact that privacy demands extend to B2B eCommerce solutions too. The key here is to be as transparent as possible and to provide options. For instance, some software solutions will enable an eCommerce website to track customers' browsing and buying habits, but it may also be possible to offer customers the ability to opt-out of this.
  • Remote and hybrid work via cloud technology: A growing number of businesses are capitalising on the advantages associated with remote work or hybrid work models. However, achieving success with remote working arrangements relies on the right tools being available to those who are working off-site. In terms of how this relates to eCommerce applications, the ability to access and use these tools remotely is essential for any business that allows people to work from home. Even in businesses that have not yet embraced this method of working, it may be a consideration for the future. Cloud-based solutions tend to be ideal for this, as they can be accessed from anywhere in the world, using a variety of devices, as long as they are connected to the internet.