Choosing an E-commerce Platform, Five Tips from Hara Partners
So, you wanna be an e-commerce superstar?
Opening an e-tail operation is no easy feat, with so many variables to consider it’s no wonder so many online retail businesses never get off the ground. The first step, and perhaps the most daunting, in starting your online business is choosing an e-commerce platform. Check out Hara Partner’s 10 factors to consider when choosing the platform that’s right for you.
Choosing an e-Commerce Platform:
1: Thinking big, or starting small?
At the most basic level e-commerce platforms can be broken into two categories: non-scalable and scalable. Scalability refers to a program’s capability to expand to meet growing demand. In plain English, will you platform be able to accommodate the increased needs as your business grows.
Often, when choosing an e-commerce platform e-tailers will opt for the non-scalable platform simply because it is cheaper only to find themselves at a crossroads later. And migrating a business from one e-commerce platform to another has the potential for disaster. For example, bugs or errors can crop up during the migration process causing downtime. And in some cases migration has led to a precipitous drop in search engine ranking.
The flip side of the coin is that choosing a scalable e-commerce platform can be costly. And research has shown that one of the largest contributors to e-tail failure is overspending at startup.
2: Open Source vs Closed Source
Thousands of pages have been written extolling the virtues of one model over the other, but here’s a look at a couple of basic points as they pertain to each.
Closed Source – The general belief is that software vendor will invest the time and money needed to extensively test the code before its release to find and fix all possible security breaches. Of course, since no one can “see” the code there is only the vendor’s word that this has been done, not to mention that all the time and money spent on testing done will factor into the price of the software.
Open Source – Though OS products are not tested as rigorously as their CS counterparts, the fact that so many users have access to the code means that breaches, once found, will have an army of engineers tackling them and quickly, patches will become readily available.
Closed Source – The logic here is much the same as for security – a commercial vendor “should” have the resources to respond rapidly to and permanently fix any issues that crop up. However, bear in mind that with most CS programs you will be limited to using their in-house tech support.
Open Source – Again, the thinking here mirrors the above. Should an issue arise, there will be many attempting to fix it, and often a solution will be available in only a matter of hours.
Two corollaries: With a OS platform finding the solution to an issue can take a significant amount of searching through forums, not something every business owner has time for. And when a solution can’t be located it would fall upon the owner to hire an outside expert to fix the issue. Neither of these possibilities exist for CS platforms.
For some businesses their chosen e-commerce platform will be good right out of the box. But for most this isn’t the case. When choosing an e-commerce platform you’ll want to consider the possibility that you’ll need to make modifications.
All programs can be modified the difference lies in the difficulty and thus, cost of doing so. This is another benefit of open source software. Platforms like Magento have their own community stores, where users can purchase (though many are free) extensions, add-ons and themes pre-made to work with the program.
4. Features and Pricing
Pricing for various ecommerce platforms may seem competitive, but you have to really have to examine the features different price ranges include. For example, you may be comparing one platform that starts at $29 per month, and another that starts at $19. The $19 one on the surface may seem like a good deal, but it may only include the ability to sell 10 products whereas the $29 per month platform may include the ability to sell 100. One platform may allow you to offer discount codes at a certain price point, while another won’t. One may offer support, while another sells that separately. Thoroughly comparing features vs. pricing can help you choose a platform that fits your needs at the best price possible.
5. To the Cloud!
Many e-commerce platforms are offered as a SaaS (Software as a Service) which means they are hosted by the provider. Choosing a cloud-based platform means you’ll be able to access your data at any time, from anywhere. The other option is self-hosted, which means you need to choose a host for the program. Be sure to take great care when finding a hosting partner as any server issue will lead to downtime on the site.
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