How to select an eCommerce Solution

How to select an eCommerce Solution


Our recommendation is to try out a few solutions and see what you are comfortable with. There are many levels of non-technical and often you find that some people will find even the simplest solutions difficult to manage and managing what is delivered is critical. Most of the providers will allow free trials for their ecommerce solutions so start a few and make a list of what you like and don't like.

There are some popular forums on the internet that can offer practical, real-world examples of eCommerce systems and suppliers such as:

Most of the hosted solutions will come with some pre-built templates where you can easily change banners, colours, navigation areas and items. So you might want to consider starting with a basic design and see how you go first. Your view on site look and feel will change in the first few months.

Getting a professionally done design and graphics are important but just leave it for a few months. Design should always follow function. Functionality is really important and payment and shipping are the 2 key areas that need to fit your business processes. We often hear customers tell us they want to sell worldwide but end up getting 99% of the orders locally so planning is really important.

Decisions on payment and shipping should be business decisions and not a technical ones as cost depends on the average value of the order and expected number of orders and your established margin.

The other big issue is what are you selling because that will have an influence on what style of online store you need and functionality (like digital product downloads) and wine as two examples. When looking at functionality also think about:

  • Support for multiple languages (including Asian - UTF8)
  • Support for multiple countries and currencies
  • Newsletters and coupons
  • Cross sell and upsell (manual and auto)
  • Product comparison
  • Portals – eBay, Getprice,
  • How variations are handled (e.g. size, colour etc)
  • Define resources and sell services
  • Image processing – auto resizing and multiple images
  • Handling analytics like Google Analytics
  • User account capability (ie login for customers)
  • Price lists and discounts (and by customer groups)
  • Ability to add attributes to customers, products etc
  • Ability to bundle products
  • Search
  • Import / export for orders, customers, content etc
  • SEO capabilities – Titles, Meta tag, Image alt tags etc
  • SEM integration – like Google conversion tracking code
  • Social networking integration and gadgets
  • Shopping cart and functions like gift wrapping
  • Security – SSL and PCI
  • SLA and support costs – should be 99.5%+ availability
  • ability to easily add html, CSS, Flash and JS
  • Upgrade path to grow with your business and roadmap features (i.e. new releases etc)
  • Cross browser capability IE, Safari, FF, Chrome etc

A plan and budget are essential. Always ask for a complete quote or statement of work, and try to get a fixed price and timeframe for delivery. You have a choice between Hosted Solutions like eCorner's, Open Source or Custom Built.

When looking for a service provider or supplier it is always good to ask for references. If you can talk to a few other customers similar to yourself it can be very reassuring. So what should you look for in a service provider or development campany:

  • Reference customer base
  • Financially stable
  • Professional Indemnity Insurance
  • Service Level Guarantee
  • Ease of communicate
  • Track record
  • Accessible
  • Accreditation or membership to relevant industry association
  • Fix price quotes and clear statement of work and terms of trade
  • Physical address for an office

If they are providing data centre services then:

  • Phyisical data centre address
  • Data center acceditation (ISO and PCI)
  • Redundant resources (data, power and water)
  • Service level guarantee
  • Australian location

Many web developers and companies push Open Source as free but according to an article at eCommerce-guide it is not and may end up being more expensive than proprietary hosted solutions. If you are technically capable Open Source can work for you but remember the focus should be on your business not becoming a web developer.