There are many important issues that you have to consider when evaluating an online store provider and specially for the first time. Reality is that online store packages can be really low cost and even free. If you intend to develop and grow your business then you need to find a provider that fits both you and your business.
Most online store systems to day have very similar features and capabilities. Some solutions will rely on 3rd party add-ons or plugins to provide some functionality. Doing a technical and business evaluation is important, make a list of the main features that you want to have available and then check each system that your review against that list.
The main differentiators will by the personal and emotional issues like support and usability. How these compare will vary from person to person based on your own capabilities and knowledge.
Unlike Open Source solutions when you use a Hosted eCommerce Store from eCorner everything is included. Open Source refers to products that you can get and then host yourself or through a provider. The problem is you never know all of the costs. Our solution is managed, maintained and upgraded regularly by eCorner. You hear a lot about how cheap open source may be but be aware there are hidden costs which are often not made very clear. Read an independent view of Open Source from the eCommerce-Guide.com.
When you are considering starting to sell online you also have to look at what your competitors are doing online. You should never copy what your competitors are doing but you can use it as a guide and then even improve on what they offer.
So getting started means doing some research so that you are best informed and ready to move forward.
You can get more information about how to start and online business - click here.
There are many to choose from and a quick Google search will find many companies that offer a package. Our tip is that if you are based in Australia or New Zealand make sure that the hosted solution is here and not in the USA or Europe. The hosted solutions in general are based on some proprietary software but the setup and maintenance is much easier. These systems are in general also upgraded in features and functions free which is included in the package. At eCorner updates, upgrades and maintenance are all included along with secure hosting.
What we find is that many people and businesses that are starting online focus on the monthly fee or package price. But that can be very misleading when the package fee is only part of what you pay and other fees can double or triple the monthly cost. The same is true of free solutions or open source solutions. FREE is not all it appears to be and someone always pays.
In the case of open source software such as Magento Community or Wordpress the software is free but that is where the cost get started. In order to successfully deploy an online shop with open source you need some development and technical skills and most business operators would rather run their business.
So the Total Cost of Ownership is important and understanding what that means will help you be more cost effective long term.
Open Source is just what the name implies - the source code of the software is open for anyone to access it. That means it is a haven for hackers who regularly exploit vulnerabilities in the source code of open source software. So if you are running an online business with open source then maintenance and vulnerability protection is a day to day job. Typically you need a developer to do that maintenance and as a rule of thumb the annual maintenance will be around 50% of the initial build costs. Failure to do maintenance means that the business is at risk. Open source software also is not supported by the original developers so if you find a bug or have a technical problem typically you have to fix it yourself or pay someone to fix it for you.
Proprietary Software is closed source code meaning that no one can access the code except the original developers. Security is still an issue with proprietary software however the effort and cost to maintain it is the responsibility of the original software developers who own the software. Support for the software is normally included in the monthly cost or the licence fee. For some proprietary software that is licenced on a perpetual basis you may need to pay an annual maintenance fee to get access to support, typically it will be 20% of the initial software licence.
Total Cost of Ownership should normally be calculated over a 12 month (or longer) time period.
It will be made up of - monthly package and / or hosting costs + initial development cost + cost of add-ons and templates + cost of maintenance + cost of support + other related costs = total cost of ownership.
NOTE: It is important that you attribute a cost to your own time.
The monthly cost to get you started can very dramatically from vendor to vendor. Many present low package costs but they may not be the only costs. So do not be afraid of shopping around and trying out different solutions and suppliers. The most important thing to do is to ensure that you are comparing similar packages and that those packages will support your business growth.
eCorner provide a number of different levels of packages that vary in price and capability. Packages are scalable up to 10,000's of products online. The four most popular packages key difference is the number of products that are for sale on the website although the packages will vary in functionality. These are perfect for small to medium sized businesses. Our online store packages include hosting and data as part of the package. That is not the same with all providers so you should always make sure of the total cost of hosting, data and website.
Every eCommerce Solution that you review will have similarities and differences. So it is a good idea to compare solutions around the key elements that are necessary for a successful online business. eCorner has created this quick comparison chart to compare a range of hosted solutions providers from around the world.
NOTE: The costs that are referenced above where derived from the providers website and were accurate at the time that the content was created.
Designing your website can be the most expensive part of the process of getting online. With a Hosted eCommerce Solution like eCorner there are free design themes that you can use through the built-in Design Manager. You can have multiple themes setup for your online store for sales or holiday periods. If you have something special in mind for a custom logo or banner then it might need to be designed by a professional graphics designer. In general we would recommend that you get started with the design themes that are free from eCorner. These are very flexible and you can change colours, add logos and banners.
If you want a special design then we can help by working with you to refine your requirements but take a look at what is available from eCorner for free first. A custom design can cost as little as $600 - $1,200 to produce and add to the online shop.
Design is important but more important is the user experience and the overall structure and accessibility of your online store. So make sure that you have flexibility in the way that categories, sub-categories and content are created and that they can easily be changed.
Over 50% of all the people looking for products and services are now browsing the web with mobile devices. So it is important that your website works on any device and eCorner's solutions support any browser and any device. Google now also looks at mobile friendly websites and will rank them higher for search engine optimisation and therefore in search results.
The packages that eCorner provide come with just about anything you will ever need to run an eCommerce store. If you are starting a new eCommerce business we would recommend that you use as much of the out-of-the-box or standard functionality as possible and our stores have it all. Your online business will start to make money for you then you can look at expanding and adding new functionality.
At eCorner we provide all the functionality that you need. We do not have a large range of Add-on modules instead the packages will have different levels of functionlaity that suit certain businesses models. The main add-ons are often Payment Gateways and Shipping Calculators at eCorner these are free features in the packages. The other important features that is often an Add-on in other suppliers packages is support for eBay, Amazon and Price Comparison Portals.
If you want to accept credit cards online we recommend that you use a Payment Service Provider and process the credit cards via a Payment Gateway. There are strict regulations around the use and storage of credit card information which are regulated by the Payment Card Industry via their Data Security Standards you can find more information at their website www.pcisecuritystandards.org or through your bank.
All eCorner Stores are PCI DSS compliant. Payment Gateways have to be integrated into your website. eCorner has already integrated a number of leading Payment Gateways including PayPal (Standard, Express and Payflow Pro), eWAY, Dialect Solutions, Payment Express, SecurePay and Worldpay. These are made available as part of the package from eCorner. You will need to setup an account with the Payment Service Provider (and maybe also and online merchant account with your bank) to take online payments. Setup costs vary dramatically from nothing at PayPal up to $500 for some providers. Some Payment Providers will also charge an annual fee between $200 - $500. You will pay transaction fees for each payment that you accept again these vary greatly but expect from 1.1% + 30 cents up to 4.5% or more depending on the Payment Service Provider.
So check this out carefully. Your bank will also charge you some fees to setup you Online Merchant Account these do not vary greatly from bank to bank but shop around and ask questions. eCorner does not charge any separate transactions fees.
NOTE: If you use a payment gateway where the credit card data is entered on your website then it must be PCI DSS compliant and will need to use an SSL Certificate. These are security and encryption certificates that are installed on the server hosting your online store. Some providers do not allow a private SSL Certicate based on your domain name and so your website URL will change in secure pages like the checkout. At eCorner we aallow you to use your own domain name and SSL certificate.
eCorner provide a wide variety of shipping methods built in which you can setup on your website. These handle just about any possibility. We also provide integration to Australia Post for calculating shipping cost in the shopping basket. The actual shipping cost to send your packages is not part of the eCommerce package and you need to make sure that you calculate and add shipping cost correctly.
As a tip - free shipping is a great incentive for buyers so we would recommend that your pricing absorb the shipping cost when possible and you offer free shipping. You can tie that to the value in the shopping basket which is always a good idea.
If you have done some eBay selling or maybe have some experience in the web then you can get the most from a hosted eCommerce solution. There are many advanced features in the eCorner Stores Packages that you can utilise with a bit of confidence and experience. One of those is our advanced eBay connector. It allows you to list and manage sales from your store directly onto eBay. It supports all the eBay features as well as eBay stores. Getting the design just right may need some assistance but once that is done then adding content and building the store is straight forward for an experienced person. eCorner is there with free phone and email support and there are lots of tips in our Selling On eBay Frequently Asked Questions . Want to sign-up for eBay now?
HOT TIP: - If you support multiple channels to market like an online store, eBay and other shopping portals or even a bricks and mortar store you can improve your results by as much as 300%.
Search Engine Optimisation and Search Engine Marketing can cost a lot of money. Luckily if you have decided on eCorner you will find that the websites have SEO capabilities built in. You really just need to follow the guidelines and advice in our FAQs and your website will be search engine friendly. Search Engine Marketing is a cost you need to consider carefully. We have seen good web businesses fail because they spent too much on Cost Per Click programs which were not targeted. Again we have some good advice in our FAQs.
eCorner is Australian based and is secure and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standards (PCI DSS V3.1) compliant.
There are many other important features that you will need to consider. The features and tools that you need to grow your business will depend somewhat on what you are selling and who you are selling to. If you are selling fashion then showing garment variations based on size and colour is essential. Or for a business to business website having the ability to have multiple different prices for a product based on the customers credentials. Website product search is essential and being able to predict what the customer is searching for and showing results that can be easily filtered. Getting the right capabilitiescan be the difference between success and failure.
eCorner's online store and eCommerce website software has many features and capabilities to help make your online business successful. You can find more information about the features that can help you most on the Features Information or in our Frequently Asked Questions or just give us a call we love showing people what our solution can do for them.
The best way to see all the features in action is to start a 30 day free trial store.
eCorner can create your free trial store and add a design and some products that represent your business. Just let us know after you start the trial and we will update the design and the content free of charge. If you like it you can keep it.
eCommerce Software trusted by over 140,000 businesses worldwide
Check your email for your online shop access after registering
Your 30-day trial can convert into your live store at anytime. It's like getting 30 days to setup and get trained for free.