It is increasingly easy to set up an online business. However, the ease of operating a great online storefront can be greatly hindered or helped by the software that you choose to set up and maintain your website. Bad ecommerce software makes it difficult for users to navigate your site and causes headaches on your end when trying to track the orders taken online. On the other hand, good ecommerce software will encourage customers to use your simple interface to place orders for your products and service. The best ecommerce software will also allow you to simplify your tracking and purchase management through features implemented on the administration side of the site.
Defining the Best Ecommerce Software
Defining the best ecommerce software requires that you take a look at the specific features which you desire from your website service. For some people, the best ecommerce software is going to be defined as that which is easiest to set up. For others, it’s going to mean that the software is the most affordable.
Features of the Best Ecommerce Software
Here are some of the features to consider when determining which is the best software for your business:
Cost. The best ecommerce software will come with either no set-up fee and a low monthly fee or with a low set-up fee and no monthly fee. For example, some companies provide services that never requires a monthly fee so you’ll know what you’re paying for right upfront.
Scalability. You need to find ecommerce software that is going to be able to grow your business. You don’t want to be locked into the limited features that you may need when you first launch the site.
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Easy to set up and maintain. Some ecommerce software will use wizard-based programs that make it simple to set up the site. (Merchandiser Pro is a good example of a wizard-based software solution.) Others will be set up by the professionals working with your vendor. Determine how much help you need in this area.
The diversity of user-based and admin-based features. You really want a software solution that is going to create a great interface and shopping experience for your online customers. However, you don’t want that to come at the expense of having a messy site on your end of things. Make sure that your software solution will be beneficial on both ends.
Target audience. Some ecommerce software is primarily geared towards website developers whereas other software is designed to meet the needs of merchants who may not be so familiar with website design.
SEO Friendliness. You want your website to be pleasing to search engines so that your site can be found by new customers. Make sure that you look for the best ecommerce software that incorporates SEO friendly services.
Advanced features. Different website owners will want different advanced features. Make a list of the ones that you need (for example, you may seek multi-lingual support on the site) so that you can double-check that the ecommerce software you like will offer those features.
Choosing a Vendor Based on these Features
Once you have reviewed the above features, you should make a list ranking them in order of their importance to you. You can then move forward with looking at vendors with an eye towards the features that are of highest priority on your site. Create a spreadsheet that lists each of these features along the rows and each of the vendors you’re looking at in the columns. By rating the services of each of the vendors that you’re reviewing, you can determine which one is right for you.
An Example of Rating Vendors
To better understand how this works, let’s take a look at what a rating sheet would look like for each ecommerce software vendor. Starting with the top of the list, you would note that the cost of this service is affordable and that there is no monthly fee required. You would move on to look at scalability and would note that they rank mid-to-high in this category. To determine whether their system is easy to set up, you could read testimonials on forums about the product and rank it accordingly. You would proceed down the list to the advanced features, making sure that everything you brainstormed was listed as a feature provided by this vendor. This would then give you a total “score” or overall picture of the vendor. You could then do this with other companies to rank them against each other.
Working with your Ecommerce Software Vendor
After choosing the vendor that best suits your needs, you are ready to begin working with that company. Following are some additional tips that should make the process of setting up your online storefront go smoothly:
Run through the set-up process when you actually have time to focus on what you are doing. Many businesses make the mistake of jumping into this project when they’re busy and assuming that they can come back to it later if need be. The site will look a lot more streamlined if you stick with the set-up from the get-go after you’ve gotten started.
Take a look at the site that you’ve set up and write down any concerns that you have. Go back through the software and see if you can address the concerns yourself. For example, let’s say that you forgot to include an area for buyers to purchase eBook downloads on the site. You can now go back and put that in. Anything that you can’t address yourself should be written down on a piece of paper to discuss with the vendor’s customer service team.
Make sure that you understand any rules and limitations on the site. A good example is when you are using software that comes with a free trial. Make sure that the free trial is for a full set of features on the site. Also make sure that you work out any kinks and address any questions with customer service before that trial period is up.
Have peers and associates review the site. One of the main reasons that you’re setting up an ecommerce site is to get others to purchase items from you online. This means that you need feedback from others about the design and features that you’ve chosen to implement with your software. Incorporate that feedback into the site, relying on assistance from your vendor as needed.
Run a contest or promotion seeking additional feedback from actual customers. You really aren’t going to know how your software is working unless you get information about it from the people who are buying from you. The best ecommerce software will even have methods for your customers to leave you this type of feedback on an ongoing basis.
Be firm in addressing problems. Like with any other business, your ecommerce software vendor may not be quick to assist you with issues. However, taking a professional approach to confronting the company with any problems should insure that you keep the drawbacks to a minimum and allow your business to work for you.
Take advantage of all tutorials and educational tools offered by your ecommerce vendor. A good vendor is going to provide you with the tools that you need to be able to make optimum use of the software. However, those tools don’t benefit you if you fail to use them.
Final Thoughts on Choosing the Best Ecommerce Software
What you need to realize as you set up your ecommerce website is that it’s going to save you a lot of time and money if you invest up front in getting great software. You need to carefully think through the process, review the features that you require from your software and select a vendor based on a rating system that addresses their ability to provide the service you need. Doing this will let you create a site which improves the online shopping experience for both your customers and yourself.