Selecting the Right eCommerce Software for Your Business

Setting up an eCommerce website requires business owners to make a number of different decisions. Degree of control, SEO-friendliness, layout options and ease of use considerations permeate the entire process, leaving little recourse to business owners but to either blindly choose the first solution that seems to fit their needs or to spend countless hours in research.

Make no mistake; there are numerous eCommerce solutions available, and each one has its strengths and weaknesses. In order to begin the decision making process, a business owner should understand the core differences between solutions so that they are making proper comparisons between products. As a starting point, the array of solutions available on the marketplace today could be reduced to the following broad categories: custom solutions, self-hosted solutions, and hosted solutions.

Custom Solutions

Most often, those seeking software solutions to eCommerce are looking for a product which will save some time and money on development. Custom solutions are not for such business owners, but belong in a conversation about non-hosted and hosted solutions because they represent the best solution for those who would sacrifice time and money to ensure that the solution they have is perfect for their needs and fully customizable.

This option is perfect for those who wish to maintain full creative control over the layout of their eCommerce website. However, factoring in the time your development team or contractors spend building the website out, this option is more expensive than self-hosted and hosted package solutions.

Self-Hosted Solutions

Self-hosted solutions plug directly into your existing website. Most of the most popular branded software packages, such as Magento and Shopify, fall into this category. These packages are designed to help busy business owners set up an online store quickly. However, they vary in terms of user-friendliness and customization options. The wide range of options available, however, means that you should be able to find a platform that suits your needs almost as perfectly as a custom solution would.

Hosted Solutions

Hosted solutions are the easiest of all three types of eCommerce solution to implement. However, they are also the lightest in terms of customizability options. Hosted solutions generally offer a few preset templates to choose from, and the result is often a sense of “sameness” with other online stores using the same platform.

Questions to Ask When Shopping for eCommerce Software

eCommerce software is popular because it can offer a fair amount of flexibility for a much lower cost than a full custom solution. Though some are more flexible than others, there are many important questions to consider to ensure that a given eCommerce software suits the needs of a specific business. Each consideration is not by itself a deal breaker, but is intended to help business owners weigh the pros and cons of each software. These can be roughly broken up into features considerations and business-side considerations.

Features considerations would include:
1. Is it compatible with existing resources?
It’s unusual for a business to start from scratch when it comes to adding an eCommerce platform. There is a high likelihood that there is an existing website. As such, selecting an eCommerce platform that is compatible with the web platform will keep the business from having to also go through a lengthy website migration to a new platform.

2. Is it possible to import existing data to the new platform?
Many platforms offer the option to import existing sales data into any reports generated by the software. This keeps business owners form having to pull up multiple programs, spreadsheets, and reports in order to figure out sales growth over time periods that include the transition period.

3. Can it accept a full range of payment methods used by the business’s usual clients?
Many platforms run on PayPal. This is handy because PayPal accepts a wide variety of credit cards on top of PayPal to PayPal transfers.

4. Does it include detailed reporting?
An eCommerce platform should do more than just process orders. It should keep track of them and offer various reports on how different parts of the business’s online store are faring.

5. How does one access the administrative panel for this platform?
Many eCommerce platforms enable administrative panel access from any browser. This enables business owners to make tweaks to the platform from anywhere with an internet connection.

Business-side considerations would include:
1. What stock does the business carry?
Different eCommerce platforms fare better with different types of products. Comparing the business’s product to the templates offered is a good place to start when determining a fit.

2. Is the business’s product digital or physical?
Digital products do not “ship” so do not need certain elements of the traditional eCommerce platform. Instead, there needs to be a secure way to protect download access.

3. How comfortable is the business with standard PayPal transactions?
Those businesses that would prefer to process payments another way are likely to need a third party processor as well as the standard eCommerce software.

4. What is the business’s budget?
All eCommerce software platforms carry a monthly fee, so a business’s budget is going to be a limiting factor in the discussion.

These are just a few ways a business owner can start to evaluate whether a given software platform is right for them.

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SMB Reviews
SMB Reviews 473 posts

SMBReviews is committed to providing small and mid-sized business owners with the information and resources they need to select the best service or product for their company.

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