Choosing the right eCommerce solution

Finding the right eCommerce software is not easy these days. The problem is that there are so many solutions out there to choose from. How does one make the right decision? One would think that having more options should make the whole choosing process a lot easier, but unfortunately, that is not the case. In fact, having more options mean that you have to consider so much more as each software package might have something which the other one doesn't have and vice versa.

However, the must-haves of any eCommerce solution are:

  • Security
  • User-Friendliness
  • Customization
  • Flexibility for Growth
  • Integration Capabilities
  • Support

We will discuss each one of these points in more detail as there is a lot that each point covers. That said,  of course, there are many more things to consider e.g. SEO, Marketing, Sale Channels etc, and over the coming weeks, I will write about them as well.

1. Security

 There are many aspects to consider with regard to security, but all of it should orbit around one common factor - the client. Regardless of all the fantastic and innovative functionality the software offers, if customers are not going to be convinced that their transactions are safe, you might just give up now already.

Things to consider are:

  • SSL (on all pages) - we all agree that having secured checkout page is vital, but having your customers' entire browsing session encrypted is a good security practice. Sometimes, customers will be asked for personal details while visiting pages like promotions, interactions, signups etc. Having all pages encrypted eliminates all clear text exposure between their browser and your store.
  • Multi-Layer security - just having a login functionality as security is not good enough these days. Make sure that your software also supports things like Honey Pots,  Form Captcha's, XSS or CSRF, URL Rewriting.
  • PCI compliant - payment safety is of utmost importance to customers, make sure that the software is PCI DSS compliant and that the compliance is updated regularly.
  • IP Tracking - Know as much about your visitors as possible and where they are coming from. Even though hackers are clever and will never expose their origin, tracking activity on your site could give you some upper-hand when needed. E.g. DDoS attacks are a common activity and will most likely be managed by your service provider, however, knowing at a software level of some obscured behaviour can make you manage your security a lot better.
  • Private Key Configuration - all sensitive data should be encrypted by using a secured key. Having access to periodic change gives you that extra level of comfort.

 2. User-Friendliness

User experience (UX) has always been important, and due to the fact that users are not necessarily going to visit your store via a PC or Mac these days, makes it just that tiny bit more difficult to keep them happy. Users also want consistency regardless of the device they are using, so redirecting users to a device specific web page will not make them happy if everything looks a lot different when using different devices. Thanks to responsive or mobile agnostic development platforms most websites will take care of screen sizes. So things to consider when choosing an eCommerce software solution are:

  • Support for Responsive Design - screen agnostic should be out-of-the-box.
  • Editable Themes - don't tie yourself to one design forever. Make sure that changing the design of your site will not be dependent on the platform.
  • Navigation control and management - navigation of your side should be experiential. Make sure you monitor and listen to your clients and adapt accordingly.

3. Customizable

You will never find the perfect fit for what you are looking for. Sometimes you will find yourself in a situation where your entire business model is dependant on a very specific functionality. This might require some coding. Your first thought would probably be that you might as well then start your coding your eCommerce store from scratch and build-in the lacking functionality. This is not always true, nor is it ever recommended. There is a lot that goes into an eCommerce solution, and it will most likely be more cost effective to find an eCommerce solution that is customizable. This is where it gets interesting. You have two types of eCommerce platforms - proprietary and open-source.

  • Proprietary solutions are cloud service offerings which you rent monthly. You have no access to the underlying platform code. Any missing functionality, however, could be coded as an app or plugin and be added to your store using the API stack, which most cloud services offer. The API stack is usually quite rich full and most lacking functionality can be coded eventually. To name a few of such SaaS service offerings:
    • Shopify
    • Weebly
    • Wix
  • Open-Source solutions provide you with solid platforms which you can extend to your fullest needs. Instead of starting everything from scratch, you build and extend what already exists. Depending on the popularity of the platform, it will be very easy to find a developer to assist you with your specific requirement.
    • Magento
    • Drupal
    • NopCommerce

Both types of platforms have pros and cons to consider, but as a software developer myself, having access to the actual underlying source code provides some type of insurance in case I ever need it in the future.  When using a cloud service with a proprietary platform, the source code will never belong to you. You will never be able to change your store to another SaaS provider without starting all over. And if you have customized apps built, you would need to re-develop them. But, when you choose an open-source solution, that scenario would never be an issue as your hosting provider will be more than glad to give you your site.

4. Flexibility for Growth

Business growth is something we all hope for when starting a business. Some businesses grow quickly and some more systematically, but regardless of the period, when it becomes time to scale you need to be ready or be able to react quickly. When looking for an eCommerce solution, make sure that you take into consideration the flexibility of growth. Growth could mean many things - more visitors, more products, more sales, international expansion etc. Whatever comes first, make sure that your eCommerce store is scalable and that it does not jeopardize your growth opportunities.

5. Integration Capabilities

Integration is a must have for any eCommerce platform. May it be to your internal ERP or external mailing provider, it depends on your requirement. A well-architected platform will provide you with an open API stack which will allow you to integrate into any back office system. This might be a quick solution, but partnering with the right developers will make the integration a very simple process. It is important that integration considerations are an upfront item part of your selection process.

6. Support

There is no specific order of priority for these considerations I have listed, and just because this point is at the bottom of the list, doesn't give it less value than the aforementioned ones. What can break or help you succeed is the right partner you choose to take care of your eCommerce store. You need somebody who is available when you need them and who will listen when you ask questions. So, choose carefully and ask around. Make sure the team looking after your business in the background has your interest at heart.

In Summary:

I briefly laid out some important considerations when it comes to choosing the right eCommerce solution for your brand new store. As mentioned before, there are many more functionalities and considerations that one can add to the list, but the items I have mentioned here are very relative and extremely important for any software selection.

 

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