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ECommerce 101 - Choosing an ECommerce Solution

Published on 6/23/2010 by

How to Choose the Right E-commerce Solution for me?

To implement an ecommerce solution, you can consider buying a model, building a model, hosted building model or SaaS model (Software as a Service). For small, medium and non-profit organizations, often the open source hosted model or a fits-all SaaS solution is suggested. Here are your choices:

  • Model Number 1: You buy the model with ecommerce software and the licensed software that goes with it. Features are rich, robust, well-tested and have prebuilt integration tools available. On the downside, it is difficult to choose the right products, and you can end up with software that you don’t need or ever use, but you have to pay for the entire application. There is also a continuous investment by the vendor for new features.
  • Model Number 2: You are building your own ecommerce application and integrating it with existing ERM, CRM and other applications. IT competence is needed, but you can build what you need and take advantage of internal systems. The down side is that it takes a long time to build, is highly risky, very expensive and a highly skilled staff is imperative to success.
  • Model Number 3: You have a mix between buying a software license and building your own platform, which can be designed and enhanced by an internal IT team. You do need to have IT skill sets, but you will have the flexibility of prepared volumes that can easily be adapted to your own needs. The problem is it takes a lot of time to implement.
  • Model Number 4: The SaaS model sells the application as a service. There is no hardware investment. The software is provided as a one size-fits-all, and there is no customization needed with a standard browser Internet connection. It only takes a few days to get the application going as opposed to weeks or months. There are no upfront costs; updates and upgrades are part of the contract and included in the monthly or annual fee. The IT staff is there to run your ecommerce application, and you do not have to worry about technical issues. Unfortunately, innovative features are not available or don’t fit. Security could be a problem because you are sharing a platform.

What Do Customers Expect?

A good ecommerce website has more than just a home page, product page and shopping cart. It should also provide information sheets, product descriptions, service addresses and contact information for the products in a PDF format. If a customer has questions about a product, there should be a pre-sales email support system, and customers who do not receive answers within 24 hours do not normally purchase from that particular website. Live-chat software is another successful method to communicate with customers, and is highly effective in the development of good customer service. Clients want easy access to ordering; links need to be easy to locate. Here are some additional standard functions ecommerce customers expect:

  • Product catalog which tells what you are offering. Now 3D models to examine products are popular. Amazon, for example, allows you to browse excerpts of books.
  • Shopping carts should remember items while the customer is browsing.
  • Checkout should be easy and convenient; delivery should be confirmed.
  • Payment options need to be available.
  • Back orders, dispatch notifications, and new products offered on sale should be displayed.
  • An advanced inventory with price changes and the ability to suggest related products are a plus. For instance, if an item needs batteries, the appropriate type can be offered.