The out and out competition between the large opencart sites, Amazon, ebay etc, the internet hosting providers such as 1and1 and iPage, and now providers majoring on the provision of online shops such as ekmpowershop leaves the ecommerce newcomer with a bewildering choice of suppliers.
As ever choice is the enemy of simplicity so we try to sort the wheat from the chaff.
Sine Qua Non
The sine qua non, the irreducible minimum service, you can demand involves:
Your package must provide all of these to be in the game and:
Is easy to use and requires no programming or design skills or experience.
Should not involve you in downloading or buying special software
Produces instant results, or at least the beginnings of a commercial site within a day.
Can be used with other (existing) websites
Can process your payments securely and
Be a complete solution, nothing else being required
It should also provide shortcuts to ensure that you can get a good-looking site up and running
100+ different templates controlling the appearance of your site so that you can choose one that matches your products and approach
The possibility of departments and categories so that your customers can find what they want – preferably with no more than three mouse clicks
Simple addition of products – including alternatives (eg different product colours)
Simple mechanisms for importing, scaling and positioning your own images and artwork/
Then, once online, your site needs to be visible to your clients, most of whom will use search engines to find you and that requires:
The site to be search engine friendly (ie containing everything the search engines like to see and nothing they hate) with
active site promotion at no extra cost.
A Commercial Deal
with no contract or minimum lease time and
free extensions and upgrades added all the time
Any package that doesn’t provide all of these without extra charges should not even be considered.
Nice to Haves
Our ‘nice to haves’ are in reality ‘need to haves’ but it is possible to create systems for them away from your basic shop site. Mostly they relate to ‘back office’ functions and include:
Order Processing. Your choice should either do this for you or produce reports that can be read directly into another package that allows you to see what is going on behind the scenes
Accounting. Again you should either have it as part of the package or be able to link the reports created by the package that can be read by your accounting package – eg Sage
Marketing. It will save you a huge amount of work if the package allows you run promotions without needing to re-enter all your products before and afterwards.
A huge number of issues need to be considered when choosing an e-Commerce package but it is clearly a case where cheapest is always the lowest cost solution in the end.