Whether you’re setting up on line – or you’re an established business who’s looking to snare more online business, having the right ecommerce tools in place is going to be a vital part of the plan.
That said, the nature of the marketing used by many ecommerce platforms means there can be incentives for recommending and referring you – so how can you be sure you’re cutting through the marketing and getting the right product for you?
Rather that point you in one direction or another – we’ll give you 7 questions to ask when you’re weighing up your options…
Question #1 – How much do you want to pay?
Virtually all ecommerce platforms require that you pay a monthly fee. Now, there are some differences, a self-hosted package is likely to cost you a little less than a company who offers hosting – it’s fine to go self-hosted if you’ve got a big IT brain in house – but big IT brains can cost money if you’re not so tech savvy.
It’s not just hosting fees that should be considered though, you also need to consider costs such as magento support services, and processing fees are generally where money is made for these companies – and it’s important to consider your business projections against these, especially since they can vary based on volume of transactions.
Cheapest isn’t always best, while getting through the gate for nothing might look attractive, you might find that additional services or fees add up to make the cheap option more costly in the long run.
Question #2 – What do you need to integrate?
There are some amazingly useful plug-ins available for most ecommerce platforms – but like any applications, finding the right one for you often takes a little research.
Think about what it would be useful to have integrated into your package:
- Would a postage/shipping application help with necessary logistics?
- Would it be useful to have a rewards/points system to keep you customers returning?
- Would integrating an email marketing system help promote your brand?
- Could it be useful to have a plug in that automatically populates your book keeping systems?
There are many more questions of course – so don’t be limited by just thinking about these. It’s useful to put together something of a ‘wish-list’ and compare products against that as you research.
Question #3 – What are your SEO requirements?
Ahh, SEO – the topic most business owners get spam email about roughly 10 times a day from ‘experts’ around the world. Well, even if their email marketing leaves a little to be desired, these SEO gurus are likely to be right in principle – that is to say, SEO is a really important part of building your business presence online.
You’re likely to find that the cheapest ecommerce options leave a little to be desired when it comes to SEO – you’ll probably get a free website that carries the branding and some element of the domain name of the company you’ve used to build the site – not offering a great deal of customisation.
If you plan to venture a bit further into making your site look professional, you’ll probably want to use your own domain name, add a content managed blog – or maybe even carry adverts that create a little revenue for you.
When you’re looking at platforms, consider how you’re going to tackle SEO and decide on a system that gives you the flexibility you need.
Question #4 – How important is mobile?
Okay, semi-trick question here. We’re going to answer on your behalf – mobile traffic is very important.
Well, most recent figures show that it represents over 50% of all web traffic as of early 2017, so, if you’re not too fussed about attracting mobile users, you’re cutting your audience and traffic in half. Worse still, you’ll probably be penalised by search engines too.
Luckily, virtually all ecommerce platforms offer simple mobile solutions too – but make sure it fits well with your business model and how you envisage your customer will use your site before you commit.
Question #5 – What level of support will you require?
Customer support is a little like buying an insurance policy – if it’s something that increases the price of the package or service you’re buying, then it’s likely to feel a little painful.
However, it’s a whole different story if you come to need it.
Your store going down is the online equivalent of your shop door getting stuck shut while you post your days taking takings to the competitor store next door. Sound like an over exaggeration? I’m sorry to tell you that it’s not, shoppers that have bought into your great products, attractive copy and smart images will click back and find the product elsewhere if there’s a technical issue standing in their way.
Hence, having good support is vitally important.
Of course, how much traffic you lose depends on your business. For some shops, 48 hours down would mean a few hundred pounds lost – but if you’re used to seeing massive traffic hitting your site, that same 48 hours could be a lot more financially painful.
Compare options to see who’s quickly contactable and what level of service guarantees are promised.
Question #6 – What level of security do you require?
Now, while security is vital whether you take one or one million card transactions – the level of scrutiny your site will come under is affected by the number and value of payments you process.
The snappily titled ‘Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard’ is a global organisation that works with card issuers to reduce card fraud – and compliance is mandatory if you’re not using a hosted ecommerce solution.
The levels of security required depend on the numbers of transactions you make on an annual basis – and range from ‘less than 20,000’ to ‘over 6 million’. Make sure you know some rough figures and are using a platform that keeps you compliant.
Question #7 – Are you likely to grow?
We’ll finish up with a fairly simple question – what does your growth strategy look like over the coming months and years?
While you don’t want to be paying for a monster sized platform or package to begin with – you equally don’t want to be left needing more should you increase unexpectedly in size. Ask the scalability questions of your short-listed platforms and relax when the growth comes…