When you decide to have an e-shop, one of the most important things you should consider is the platform you’ll use for it. Online shopping activities need to be managed correctly and efficiently, and after you choose an e-commerce solution, you most likely won’t change it in the future. Luckily, there are a lot of shopping carts out there, coming with a variety of functionality and prices. Take your time to go through different solutions and choose the one that best suits your needs, capabilities and budget.
There are several key factors that you should consider before making your final decision. First of all, think about your level of expertise – can you do the design yourself, or do you understand something about programming? Will you be the administrator of your e-shop or do you not have a clue about administrating web pages? When deciding which part of your e-shop you can do yourself and which part you’ll have to rely on other people to do, knowing the answers to these questions will make your choice easier. The next step is to determine your budget. The budget amount and your skills will help you decide which group of e-commerce solutions to look through. In general you can choose between three groups of solutions: hosted, open-source and premium shopping carts. Each one of them has its advantages and disadvantages. Which group you choose a solution from depends on your specific needs; there is no right or wrong choice.
Usually these e-commerce solutions are provided in the same way as hosting services – users have predefined packages to choose from. The plans differ by number of products, features, monthly bandwidth, etc.
Hosted shopping carts are preferred by e-store owners who want a solution that’s easy to set up and administer, without requiring technical skills. Choosing a hosted solution will give you more time to develop your business instead of developing your e-shop.
Usually, these solutions are free and they come with all the pros and cons of open-source software.
Premium shopping carts have mainly the same pros as hosted solutions – they’re secure, require no technical skills of you, and by using them, you can focus on the actual business. Differences are that they are paid at the beginning – a one-time fee for a lifetime license. You’ll get a software package, which should be installed on a compatible server. Usually you’ll get access to the source code, which can be modified according to your needs. If you have the required budget, premium shopping carts are the best decision for you – at the beginning the investment is big, but thereafter the costs are lower. You’ll have the freedom to own your e-shop, more control over it, and the possibility to customize it the way that you want – and all with technical support from the shopping cart producer at the same time.
Regardless which option for an e-commerce solution you choose, there are a couple of other factors that you should consider. You’ll need to be sure that the shopping cart can be used with your merchant account. Check if third-party vendors offer modules or services related to the solution you want – this will give you a choice of extra solutions. Consider the integration options with external systems. Not every operation can be done in your e-shop; external services are used for real-time shipping rates, payment and order processing, affiliate and statistics software.
Read more about the most popular and commonly used hosted, open-source and premium shopping carts in the next series of posts.