How To Choose the Right Ecommerce Provider for Your Business

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1 How To Choose the Right Ecommerce Provider for Your Business

2 How To Choose the Right Ecommerce Provider for Your Business 2 As a small business owner, taking the leap from a brick-and-mortar store to a fully functioning online ecommerce site can be exciting and daunting at the same time. Creating a Website for the purpose of selling products or services online entails a large amount of research and planning. Ecommerce encompasses many aspects of an online store, including setting up inventory, managing orders from customers, delivery of products, and customer service. When planning your ecommerce site, you will need more than the online store and more than a traditional web hosting provider. This guide will focus on choosing the right ecommerce solution that is, choosing an ecommerce solution to fit your business, instead of adjusting your business to fit a solution. Hundreds of ecommerce shopping carts exist, so where do you begin? You can start by determining whether you want to purchase a license, or go with a hosted solution. Licensed vs. Hosted Solution: Which Is Right For Your Business? Both licensed and hosted solutions have benefits and disadvantages, which we will outline in this paper. It s vital to remember that choosing between these two solutions begins with reviewing your business model. You do not want to leave this decision up to your Web developer. We ll cover both types of solutions, and help you decide which to use for your business. The Licensed Solution: A Flexible Choice that Grows with Your Company When you purchase shopping cart software, install it on your Web server, and keep it for your business, you ve acquired a licensed solution. Therefore, as the business owner, you now own the code to the shopping cart software and can modify and change it accordingly. If there s a new feature your customers desire, you can add it, which makes this option more flexible than a hosted solution. A licensed solution allows you to change the cart as your business model or marketing plan changes. Another important benefit to remember is that a licensed solution is your code; you can choose to host it anywhere, and move it from hosting provider to hosting provider if you so choose. The obvious disadvantage to licensed solutions: you must maintain it yourself. Similar to when you build and maintain your own Website, once you purchase a license, you must find a place to host your website, install the software, and maintain any updates on your own. This often requires a development team of IT experts to ensure important measures are being followed such as PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance and to implement new functionality as needed. Furthermore, if the system encounters a problem with security or features it s up to you, the business owner, to fix it. The Hosted Solution: A Maintenance-Free Choice If you would rather focus on your business and not deal with the time investment required with a licensed solution a hosted solution may be for you. The hosting company handles everything affecting the shopping cart. The benefits of a hosted solution include set up and maintenance of your shopping cart, security for your checkout process, 24/7 monitoring of your site, no investment in infrastructure, technical support, and free software upgrades. Hosted solutions are desirable because they encompass an entire infrastructure for the business owner. Additionally, the hosting company handles any security issues, bug fixes, and emergency situations that might occur.

3 How To Choose the Right Ecommerce Provider for Your Business 3 The Bottom Line on Cost: Buying vs. Renting For many companies, costs play the most important role in deciding between hosted and licensed solutions. So, which is cheaper? That s a tricky question to answer. A license costs a lot of money up front, but less of a monthly fee, while hosted carts are higher per month. Liken this to buying or renting a home: Buying a home, like licensing, means you may pay more for the down payment at first, but the house is yours to change, fix, etc. and eventually you ll own it. But buyers beware: when the faucets break or painting needs to be redone, it s up to you to do it. Renting or paying per month for a hosted solution allows you to stay focused on your business, knowing that maintenance issues will be handled by your host (landlord) with no additional cost or time to you. Bottom line? For the entrepreneur just starting out with ecommerce, hosting may be the best option for allowing you to focus on marketing and growing your business, rather than managing the technical aspects of your new shopping cart. Essentials for Ecommerce Websites Must Have Features: 1. PCI Compliant 2. Secure Check Out 3. Reputable Host 4. Support Today, every single ecommerce site must be PCI compliant or your business will be charged fees. PCI is the standard put in place by the large credit card companies, such as Visa and MasterCard, and it is critical that you become compliant if you accept these types of credit cards online. A secure checkout is vital to the reputation of your company and is the life-blood of online commerce if consumers have a negative experience buying products online from your ecommerce site, it can ruin your business reputation and bottom line. Making your checkout secure by adding an SSL Certificate will show your customers the locked padlock, along with other signs of security. An additional fee may exist for a secure checkout, but it s essential to make your shoppers experience safe and secure. In fact, many customers won t even purchase from an unsecured site. Along these same lines, ensure your hosting provider is reputable and reliable. Read reviews from others with experience with the company, along with third party reviews. Call the support line for your company. Call at hours convenient for you, and hours you would probably be working on your site. Call in the middle of the night (to prepare for those unavoidable emergencies that will crop up). Make sure it s a real person that answers the phone, and you can understand them. Getting poor service from your hosting provider makes it difficult for you to provide an exceptional experience for your customers. Features Beyond the Basics Some Other Important Features to Consider: 1. E-Products 2. Product Reviews 3. Integration with POS Software 4. Exporting Product Information 5. Merchant Accounts

4 How To Choose the Right Ecommerce Provider for Your Business 4 Electronic products (e-products) are a great feature if you are selling software online (not applicable if you are only selling physical products). E-products allow the customer to download the software from your site, instead of having the products physically shipped. Small businesses can build rapport with customers by offering product reviews. Customers feel more confident about purchasing a product if they can read reviews by other customers that have already gone through the experience. In fact, according to Foresee Results, reviews drive 21% higher purchase satisfaction and 18% higher loyalty. 63% of consumers indicate they are more likely to purchase from a site if it has product ratings and reviews. Product reviews can be a very important as a selling tool for your company. Customer reviews can help ensure purchase satisfaction, increase repeat business, and make your business stand apart from its competitors. If your company has an online store and a brick-and-mortar store, Point of Sale (POS) software might be a good choice. POS software is a great tool to integrate your inventory from all sources for your business, and keep the inventory in sync. It also allows you to run reports against all your orders and products in one easy-to-use interface. You also need to think about how to get your products into product comparison feeds so customers can easily find your products outside of search engines. The ability to export your product information to CSV or XML format allows you to easily post your product information to product comparison shopping sites. Finally, in order to sell online, you must have a way to accept credit cards. Merchant accounts allow you to sign up for an online gateway, which in turn allows you to accept and charge credit cards in real time with your online shopping cart. Automating the credit card processing allows you to process more orders in less time, and creates fewer errors when accepting payments. If this is something your business requires, make sure your provider includes this feature. Conclusion Knowing your business model is the most important detail in understanding how to choose the right solution for your business. For example, some businesses need electronic products for their site, while others rely heavier on keeping inventory in sync across multiple platforms. Remember: don t let a laundry list of features drive your decision, but rather let the needs of your company determine your choice for an ecommerce solution. With your business and marketing plan in place, and with the right ecommerce solution, you can create a strong and exciting presence in your industry. If you have questions, please call our specialists at

5 How To Choose the Right Ecommerce Provider for Your Business 5 About Network Solutions Network Solutions, a leading provider of Web solutions and the pioneer of the domain name registration service, draws on decades of experience to make it quick and affordable for customers to build and manage an online presence. Our full range of Web-related services includes: Web hosting Web design E-commerce software Search Engine Marketing SSL Certificates services Domain name registration For more information, please visit or call

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