Before choosing an ecommerce solution, you have to know what you need from one. 

Retail Ecommerce – Which is the right platform for you?

There are literally hundreds of ecommerce platforms and options available. Making a choice can seem daunting, and making the wrong choice can cost you more than money. Before finding the ecommerce solution that’s right for you, it helps to know what you need an ecommerce solution for.

  • What are you selling? Is it items, a service, or both?
  • Are your products digital or physical?
  • What’s in your inventory?
  • Do you already have a website?
  • Do you need to set up a new one
  • Is your site centered on your shopping cart?

Answering these and other questions will help you to narrow your choices. There are ecommerce solutions that,

  • Favor one type of selling platform over others
  • Only allow for specific forms of payments
  • Work well as software or plugins to existing platforms
  • Exist as their own full-service platforms

So look out for the ones that promise to do what you need them to do.

The Size of Your Business

The size of your business has a lot to do with the kinds and brands of platforms your company should consider. For example, an enterprise solution like the WebSphere Commerce Suite (WCS) is ideal for retail businesses that routinely spend several millions in operating costs.

Such solutions come with high costs for testing and implementation. At the same time, such an expensive solution comes with far more by way of features, flexibility, and complexity.

By contrast, a small business, startup, or single owner business can benefit from smaller options such as Zen Cart, Opencart, and various “eshops,” like Shopify. These solutions are easy to set up, and can cost as little as nothing to only a few dollars to implement. However, they lack features, and aren’t built for handling large volume business.

Examples of high cost, high-end ecommerce solutions:

  • IBM WebSphere Commerce Suite (WCS)
  • Oracle (ATG)
  • Intershop
  • Demandware
  • SAP Hybris
  • Netsuite

Larger businesses should look to these as examples of what they’re looking for.

Examples of low cost ecommerce solutions:

  • Magento
  • Virtuemart
  • Drupal
  • Prestashop
  • Opencart
  • ZenCart
  • WooCommerce

New business and businesses with low volume sales should see what these lower tier options offer.

How Much Control Do You Want?

Some ecommerce solutions will allow you to create a storefront from which you can sell your products or services. These hosted solutions are ideal if you don’t want to handle all the minutiae of site upkeep and backend manipulation.

Examples of hosted ecommerce solutions:

  • Shopify
  • Volusion
  • BigCommerce

Businesses that don’t mind hosting on third party services and at times giving away pat of earnings should see these options.

These services also offer self-hosted and unbranded services. So they’re nice for those with a business that has potential for further growth. However, when your shopping platform is hosted on another’s service, it’s subject to another’s rules.

Hosting your own

On the other hand, if you host your ecommerce site yourself, you have absolute control over it. What you may not realize is that control comes with a tremendous amount of responsibility. It’s on you to keep the site updated, keep the content fresh, source images, and deal with any technical problems.

This isn’t such a big deal when you’re working with a handful of SKUs and a narrowly defined business. It becomes a large endeavor if you’re trying to move hundreds of items.

More importantly, you’re in charge of your own security. If you’re not familiar with how to secure a site, or you’re not familiar with things like PCI security standards, then you definitely shouldn’t go it alone.

Managed services

You can outsource the server and data requirements to a cloud provider, dedicated retail IT services, and IT consulting firms that offer ecommerce options. You can maintain full control of the design and function, while a third party deals with bandwidth, servers, and technical resources. These managed solutions offer you more freedom, and typically more support than commercial hosted sites.

You can look into many ecommerce comparisons, but no matter the platform, it’s all about what you need and what you can afford. It’s about who offers quality and delivers on promises. It’s not about which service gets the highest star rating on a website.