Most business owners grapple with the question of what e-commerce solution will work best for them. From shopping carts to ePOS systems and everything in between, here are some factors to look at, questions to ask, and business solutions you should consider.
Have A Plan
The simple act of formulating a plan will make the difference between staying in business and going out of business. You don’t need 100 pages of “how to” to be successful, but you do need to know what you’re selling and the market for your product or service. You also need to know who your ideal customer is, what their problems are, and how your solution fits in there somewhere.
Who are your competitors? According to Ian Mills, Co-Founder and CEO of Magicdust, this is one of the most important things to think about early on and it can dramatically impact the future of your company.
Mills also suggests understanding what your strengths and weaknesses are as well as your competitors’ weaknesses. If you can capitalize on them, you’ll carve out a niche for yourself.
Finally, make sure your plan includes a differentiator. If all of your competitors have great pricing, or are competitive in distribution and infrastructure, what can you do differently to stand out?
How Much Will This Cost Me?
Knowing how much your ecommerce solution costs is an obvious thing to consider. But, many small businesses don’t think beyond the immediate costs. What are the long-term costs of maintaining a merchant account, payment gateway, and other charges associated with that route?
And, within the realm of POS systems, how many features to you need and which ones can you forget about? More features, higher price tag.
According to David Waring, editor-in-chief of Fit Small Business, you can get an ecommerce solution for between $20-$30 per month. Premium plans should cost you between $70 and $150.
What Features You Need, Which Ones You Don’t
Features, features, features. The more of them you want, the more expensive the solution becomes. Some features that almost everyone needs include Compatibility with gateways from different providers, great customer support, and easy setup processes. Unless you’re using a done-for-you solution like PayPal, Braintree, or Stripe, you need a solution that supports multiple gateways so that you can pick and choose whom you want to do business with.
You may also want advanced hosting solutions, like IBM AS400.
Great customer support minimizes the headaches when problems do occur, and an easy setup makes getting started less frustrating.
How Will You Market Your Business?
Marketing. It’s a “four-letter-word” in many organizations. But, it’s also something that needs to be done. At the same time, you don’t want to come off as being spammy or scammy. Put yourself into the shoes of your prospects. What are they thinking and feeling?
What do they want to know? What kinds of solutions have they tried? What haven’t they tried? What are they willing to try?
If you use high-resolution photos, engaging product information, and educate rather than peddle products, you’ll find that marketing your ecommerce business integrates perfectly with your overall business strategy and doesn’t feel jarring or awkward at all.
Sean Perry has been involved in e-commerce all his working life, starting out with his own small business site before becoming a website consultant. He enjoys helping small business owners take control of their business online and shares his tips and ideas on a range of business blogs.