One of the primary reasons for any business to have a website is to earn money. Sometimes this act of earning money is indirect, such as generating a lead or building a brand presence. However, the other case is far more direct indeed – you want to sell products and/or services of some kind. In the latter, you will need some kind of e-commerce solution to manage transactions, products, promotions, and more.
The following tips are geared towards helping you make the right decision the first time you embark upon choosing your e-commerce solution. You might already be in another solution and already know this, but once you deploy your site with an e-commerce solution, it will be quite expensive and time consuming to move to another one.
1 – DOES IT MEET YOUR BASIC REQUIREMENTS?
Every e-commerce solution will appear to give you some kind of laundry list of features or capabilities. For most, this list ends up becoming a generic checklist of matching terms. Most often, you will need to dig deeper, but you need to at least compare your requirements list against the list of available features.
Don’t leave it there though. Basic requirements rarely covers the actual needs that the site will have. For instance, it’s not enough to know that you can create a promotion to entice customers with sales and coupons. What kind of other promotions can you create? What kind of qualifications can you apply to an offer or sale? Can you apply promotions to something very specific, such as a role, user, group of users, cart conditions, or more?
Dig deeper into your own requirements before you dig into the requirements in the cart.
2 – CONTACT THE VENDOR
Support is a word that gets thrown around like candy. Everyone touts their support, so how do you know if the support is actually worth paying for?
Contact the vendor at some point during you evaluation or selection process. See how long it takes for them to respond. Pay special attention to their responses and whether they answered your questions. Did the answer really meet your need? Perhaps even ask the same question to multiple vendors and compare the responses.
Another thing to think about is community-based support. You cannot always afford the price tag for an official support channel. Are you able to get support from a community? Are there other people contributing to it? Does this area look active? The popularity of the free support could be an indication of how much the product is being used by others like you.
3 – CAN IT BE CUSTOMIZED AND UPGRADED?
There is no such thing in any industry as software that works perfectly for your scenario out of the box. It simply doesn’t exist. You will always have a need to do something more specific with a payment provider, connect at very key moments with a CRM or ERP system, or need to talk directly to the e-commerce solution from another platform. These are incredibly common scenarios, but e-commerce solutions rarely make these kind of features accessible or easy to use.
Make sure your solution includes things like an API and other extension points to make sure that you not only can write code, but that you can also change as much of the customer views as possible. Ideally, you should be able to change everything about how the e-commerce solution works with a minimal amount of code and effort.
This shouldn’t take you off of the upgrade path either. All too often, an e-commerce solution will allow you to have the source code or make customizations to the code for you. However, once this happens, you can no longer upgrade to take advantage of bug fixes, security updates, or new features.
4 – CAN YOUR CLIENT USE IT?
You may end up finding something that checks all of the checkboxes in one way or another. This isn’t always enough. Probably the biggest checkbox of all is to determine whether or not your client or other users can use the solution as well.
Many e-commerce solutions are built by developers and involving a designer to help make the various features usable is an after-thought at best. Doing something as simple as creating a product, category, or promotion should be easy and you shouldn’t require a user manual to do it. The views that are used for managing your cart such as products, orders, and reports should be intuitive.
Remember… You are probably going to hand this off to another group of users to maintain. How many phone calls do you want afterwards? How much is your time worth?
5 – TRY IT OUT!
At the end of the day, no other tip will ever be as valuable as asking you to grab a trial (there better be one) and trying it out yourself. It should install easily, get you up and running quickly, and you should literally be able to begin managing your products in minutes. Any other result should be unacceptable. If it takes you longer to do this much, imagine how much longer it will be to manage other aspects of the store over time.
Grab yourself a copy of the e-commerce solution and take it on a test spin. Not just yourself, but your other users, developers, and designers. Get their input. Find out which solution is going to give you the best total cost of ownership and the best return on investment.
6 – BONUS TIP
Save yourself some money! This blog post comes at a very convenient time for us. For this month only, you can save yourself $200 on the purchase of Hotcakes Commerce to help your spring-time budget. There is no better time to get your e-commerce project up and running in time for the fall shopping season. Don’t put it off and miss the sale. Get your Hotcakes license today!
We at Hotcakes Commerce certainly hope that these tips help you while you begin to put your plans into action for your next e-commerce project. Our awesome customers remind us of these things every day, so we couldn’t be more passionate about helping you out as well. No matter which solution you choose, make sure it’s the right one.
This blog entry is cross-posted from the Hotcakes Commerce blog.