Ecommerce - Starting an Ecommerce Business

What is the Best E-commerce System?

By defining what is the best e-commerce system for you is all part of  planning your e-commerce website with your web development professional.

There are basically 4 types of website e-commerce, 1) Custom designed shopping carts, 2) Prepackaged Shopping Carts, 3) Off-the-shelf e-commerce plugins or modules, and 3) 3rd party e-commerce hosting services.
No matter which ecommerce solution you choose, be sure you are planning a successful ecommerce website.

Custom designed online shopping carts

Advantages in having an open source eCommerce shopping cart
• Easily customized for any custom functionality you require
• You own the cart!
• Can be easily moved to another web hosting company
• Can be highly optimized for search engines. (SEO – Search engine optimization)
• Can easily integrate custom tools and 3rd party software applications
• Your online store has a stronger chance of becoming a success
• Can be modified to keep up with new web browsers and operating systems.
• Allows for the integration of interactive customer tools to help insure online success; Newsletters, Forums, Customer Comments, Coupons, Custom Product Views, Custom Data Feeds to other websites and much more.

Disadvantages in having an open source ecommerce shopping cart
• The cost is prohibited for small business startups
* If you were processing 20 or 30 orders a week bearing the cost an entry level custom cart is justified.

Prepackaged Shopping Carts
When a web designer or web design company quotes you a cost for a custom cart be sure to ask if they are using an off-the-shelf custom cart. These are pre-developed cart applications that can be purchased from 3rd party developer websites. ‘Off-the-shelf’ means that the ‘source code’ or ‘under-the-hood programming components may not be easily customized for your purposes.

Case in point.

Let’s say you ask your web designer(s) to implement any new functionality or change; Add a function, Style a page, Change a color or Display a custom message. If they say; ‘sorry your ecommerce shopping cart cannot be modified to do that’, then chances are they used an off-the-shelf cart and have no idea how or if the programming code can be modified.

Most pre-packaged carts costs range from $299.00 to $2200.00

Advantages in having a pre-packaged shopping cart
• You own the cart
• Is cost effective for e-commerce start-ups with little financial resources

Disadvantages in having a pre-packaged shopping cart
• Is a 3rd party application. Support is poor or non-existent
• Is difficult to expand, scale or customize
• May or may not display correctly across different browsers over MACs and PCs.
• Usually not search engine friendly.

Off-The-Shelf Shopping Carts
Many web hosting companies offer so type of integrated e-commerce shopping solution, a.k.a. ( One size fits all)
They are closed proprietary e-commerce shopping cart systems built for beginners and allow only limited modifications such as adding your logo and choosing an over all color.

These shopping cart system templates are fine for dipping you toe in the shallow end of the ecommerce pool.

Advantages in having a template system shopping cart
• Inexpensive Costs range from 15.00 to 40.00 per month as an additional cost to your hosting package.
• Easy to use depending on your computer skill level
• They provide a ‘testing ground’ for you to test your online sales skills.
• Online and live support is usually pretty good for 3rd party carts.
• A great place for ecommerce beginners having a limited budget.

Disadvantages in having an open source shopping cart
• Cannot be customized for any custom functionality
• You do not own the cart.
• Cannot be easily moved to another web hosting company and in most cases these carts cannot be moved at all.
• Some template base carts can be optimized for search engines, but this requires an intermediate knowledge of HTML.

3rd party e-commerce hosting services

Disadvantages in 3rd party services
• Cannot be customized for any custom functionality
• You do not own the cart.
• Cannot be moved to another web hosting company
• There are many restrictions for what you can and cannot do.

If you decide to test the online waters with a ‘template shopping cart solution’ you will want to build a powerful supplemental website presence to help drive traffic to your online products or services.

Finally… create a ecommerce website priority list

a. COMMUNICATION – When someone hits your home page, your site had better instantly communicate your message or brand. Your homepage needs to generate enough interest that your visitors want to dig deeper for more information.

b. USABILITY/ NAVIGATION – Your website MUST be easy to use and navigate. Display all the most important information above the fold. Don’t mix your bread-n-butter links with your administrative links. For example separate administrative links for ‘Home’, ‘About Us’, and ‘Our Mission ’away from ‘Shop Online’, ‘View Products’ and ‘Shipping Information’

c. SEARCH ENGINE PRESENCE – Your website MUST be visible to search engines and be built to be ‘search engine friendly’. A custom ecommerce web site optimized for search engines has optimized product pages to increase your web presence over search engines.

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