how do i choose an ecommerce storeSo you’re thinking of having an online store.  Choosing an eCommerce package can be a daunting decision as there are so many packages out there to choose from.

But which one will suit you best?  It would be wise to do a little research before jumping in head first!

By choosing the appropriate software that is right for you, you will be able to minimize your costs and have an eCommerce store that works great for your business now and into the future.

There are a few things to keep in mind when filtering through the process.  Below, I’ve outlined 5 things to consider when choosing an eCommerce package.

1. Is your package supported?

Is the package continuously updated? Are there regular updates? You don’t want to invest your time using a program that is old and outdated.  Or worse still, has bugs that are not being fixed.  Search the internet and see what others are saying about the package.  Whether it is a free or paid ecommerce package, you want to make sure that the designers are still actively engaged in their package.  Do they have a supportive community in the form of a forum or blog of satisfied customers?

2. Analytics & Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)

It is rare to find packages that will have built in analytic tools.  So you need to make sure that your chosen package can easily integrate with a third party application, like Google Analytics.  You need to be able to track the statistics of your site as this information is essential to the success of your online store.  Your online business cannot grow if you have no understanding of where your customers are coming from or what they are looking at within your store.  Analytics is a must.

Is your package optimised for SEO? You need to ensure that your ecommerce solution can be optimised for Search Engines so people can find you. Not optimised for SEO, would be like opening up bricks & mortar and keeping the doors shut.

3. Mobile store

Smart phones are the norm for so many people and many use them to do their shopping.  Smart phones continue to outpace expected growth and more and more of your customers will be looking to make a purchase using their phone.  It would be wise to see if your eCommerce solution offers the ability to activate a “Mobile Version” of your store.  Or at the very least, check what their demo’s look like on your mobile phone.

4. Options

How flexible is your package? You want your package to have options to make your customers shopping experience satisfying.  Look at sites that have used the same package and study their checkout processes.  Is the checkout process easy to follow?  You want to be able to have several payment options and shipping methods that are easy to follow.

Is there an option to where the ‘shopping cart’ is displayed?  Customers don’t want to search for a shopping cart button, or encounter a confusing checkout page. Checking out of your store is the last impression that your customers get before leaving your site; you need to make sure it’s a good one.  Coupons and other promotions can be key conversion tools, so make sure your eCommerce package has this kind of marketing capability.

Are images easily loaded?  What do the images look like once loaded?  Images are a critical part of any website.  Poor images can make people turn away from your site after all the hard work of getting them there.  You want to make sure that your images look clear and inviting.  Check out demo versions to see how the images look and if there are options for zooming in.

Also, do you need to pay additional costs for any ad-ons?  Or are they included in the initial core cost.

5. Ease of Maintenance

Be sure to select a software package that makes maintenance easy.  You will have ongoing administration to take care of, such as price changing, adding new products, removing products, updating images and retrieving customer order information.  You need an eCommerce solution that you can easily take care of.  It is very costly to pay someone each time you want to make a change to your website. 

Remember that no solution is perfect and there will always be a little bit of work required to get your site the way you exactly want.  Spend your time researching.  Some packages allow you to start a free trial such as Pinnacle Cart or download a demo version to use before you pay up.  I have spent a couple of years working with ecommerce packages and one thing you must remember is to always keep the needs of your company in mind when searching and be clear about what you want to achieve.

My name is Julie Allen and I am the person behind Biz Yourself. I also have a couple of other businesses that I run which are MOOPS and Hoops plus Collective Chaos. I’m certainly no biz expert or guru although I have had my finger in a few biz pies over the years! I have had various roles as a Treasury Manager, Mortgage finance owner, Financial accounting and now managing my current biz’s.

Other things I enjoy: gardening, reading, (I was a Twilight book nut…yes I know, very sad!) painting, love making old chairs come back to life, writing and I absolutely love going to the movies.  Oh, and Red Rock chilli chips!