Choosing the correct ecommerce platform for your online business is key on your start-up.
Feel free to print out this checklist or refer to it as you go shopping for an ecommerce platform:
- Security – the shopping cart platform you choose must be PCI Certified. This is the standard for any online store taking credit card transactions. Failing to run your online store on a PCI Certified platform may translate into fines by your Merchant Account.
- Stability – Time is money and if your store is down often it will cost you on lost sales and visits. Request redundant architecture which indicates to multiple servers backing up your store in case one of them fails.
- Scalability – You may want to start small but as your online business grows you will need to have access to the source code for customization and added flexibility. The shopping cart you choose should give you access to at least the HTML and CSS source code for editing.
- Support – Look for a platform that can provide several support access points. These can be phone support, live chat, email, forum, or support ticket systems.
- SEO Tools – Now a days the most basic shopping carts come pre-integrated with Search Engine Optimization tools. Look for the easiest to use tools with access to deeper customization.
- Third Party Integration – As you continue to grow you will face the need to integrate other software into the equation. Examples of other software can be email marketing, tracking, social networking, etc. Request information and examples of live stores integrated with these kind of products before making a decision.
Choosing Between a Hosted Shopping Cart, a Licensed Version, or an Open Source Platform
Most people tend to go for the cheaper option (Open Source Platform) and there is nothing wrong with that if you have the time and resources to launch an online store without much support. Open Source shopping carts are "as-is" download. You really have no support and you are on your own when it comes to installing to your server and running the software.
Licensed version shopping carts are usually the most expensive option since they require you to make a lump sum investment upfront (somewhere around $ 1,700 USD). These platforms do include support and updates for a limited time. This is a good option if you have already tested their software on a different environment and found it to be exactly what you need to run your online business. Going this route will save you money in the long run.
The Hosted Shopping Cart option is your safest bet. These shopping carts come at a monthly cost BUT you receive lifetime updates and upgrades, unlimited support, self-hosting with robust architecture, and more. A hosted shopping cart must have passed a PCI Certification process which will keep you and your customers running safe transactions over an encrypted connection.
The above checklist should be applied to any platform you may be considering for running your online business. If your current option passes these 6 points then you will be well on your way to running a solid ecommerce website.