The Risky Business of Mobile Security and Holiday Shopping

Secure credit card processing

E-Commerce has seen continuous growth for over a decade now and 2013 worldwide business to customer sales amounted to more than $1 trillion. Same as regular shopping, e-commerce sales record a huge increase during holiday season. Other than holidays that boost brick and mortar retail stores’ sales, like Christmas, Valentine’s Day and Black Friday, bigger e-commerce stores also create special offers for a few unique online shopping holidays. These include:

  • Cyber Monday– this is the first Monday after Black Friday and it’s coming with the same shopping fuss all around the internet. Some retail chains continue offering discounts, even after this day and extend their offers to the whole week (Cyber Week).
  • Single’s Day – last year we witnessed new shopping phenomenon when one of the biggest Chinese online stores decided to turn minor Chinese holiday into the biggest shopping day in the world.

E-commerce entrepreneurs have a lot of work during these holidays, mainly due to increased traffic on their websites. Since smartphones are becoming more popular than ever, holiday sales growth is the most visible in mobile shopping statistics. Comparing to last year, number of mobile purchases doubled, while purchases from tablet devices quadrupled during this year. Some predictions even say that in the end of 2015, number of mobile and tablet purchases will reach 18 million. High holiday traffic means more security risks. In this article we presented several effective ways for e-commerce website administrators to protect their and their customer’s sensitive data from cyber criminals.

Identify Fraudulent Visitors

E-commerce administrators should take precaution measures before the holiday season starts. They should:

  • Spoofers – They should search for visitors who are trying to spoof mobile devices. These are more likely to have malicious intent
  • Jail broken iOS devices – these phones are either stolen or hacked so they can download paid AppStore apps. Users with jail-broken iOS, are also much more likely to commit acts of cyber crime
  • Android users with mini browser alternative – these are often used by the hackers to show a US based IP address, while communicating from elsewhere
  • Track consumers – Use advanced tracking and keep all data, in order to recognize and block users who try to apply malware software, like: man-in-the-browser and man-in-the-mobile Trojans

Apply Security Measures

Security should be tightened while waiting for the holiday season. These are some of the measures e-commerce administrators should apply:

  • Mobile app security testing – security should be the highest priority during all app building cycles. Apps should be customized to come with security strategies that are able to answer the latest mobile security challenges, rather than having generic and outdated solutions
  • SSL and PCI compliancy– admins should use strong Secure Socket Layer authentication and run frequent PCI scans
  • Don’t store sensitive data – customers’ credit card and personal data shouldn’t be stored on company servers. Data breach doesn’t happen when there’s no data
  • Address and Card verification systems – these systems should be applied in order to reduce fraudulent attempts
  • Set up alerts– alerts should turn on in case several suspicious transactions or data breach attempts are coming from the same IP address. These alerts should be connected with admin’s smartphone
  • Introduce remote software systems– when cyber-attack occurs, website and app administrators need to react fast, which is why remote server monitoring systems are very useful
  • Patch regularly– security systems should be patched, the moment new versions are released

Educate Customers and Employees

Both customers and employees should be educated about safety measures and precaution. This education should include:

  • Employee’s security training – all company employees should be introduced to cyber security, especially if the company is working on BYOD bases. They should know about safe use of e mail, text messengers and social media accounts
  • Require strong passwords from customers – strong passwords, especially passphrases are harder to break
  • Customer education– add mobile shopping security articles to company’s blog, send them over newsletter and provide links to them on product pages.

With e-commerce being such a competitive niche, only companies that enable customers to shop freely and without fear can stay competitive, especially during those shop-till-you-drop holidays.

 

Guest Author: Nate M. Vickery

Nate M. Vickery is a business consultant from Sydney, Australia. He is mostly engaged in providing entrepreneurs and small business owners with management and marketing advice. He is also the editor in chief on Bizzmarkblog.com.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this post. Please do leave a comment.

 

* Secure credit card image sourced from Perspecsys Photos licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0) https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

 

 

11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts

11 Tactics to Improve Checkout Conversions and Reduce Abandoned Carts
What’s worse than not getting enough users to your e-commerce site? Losing out the ones that do visit your site thanks to a slew of abandoned shopping carts.

Abandoned shopping carts cost e-commerce companies trillions in lost sales every single year. The fact remains that nearly 69% of all shopping carts are abandoned by would be shoppers. While the reasons for shopping cart abandonment are many and varied, the solution is simple. Think like a customer when building your checkout process. The lower the easier it is to shop on your site, the lower will be the likelihood of vanishing would-be customers. Here are a few tips on getting those users to stick around longer and buy more.

1. Shorter, Quicker Checkout

Going by the attention span figures we saw earlier, another key takeaway is that your checkout process needs to be short and snappy. Research shows that the average number of steps in the checkout process of the top 100 e-commerce sites came in at 5.08 steps. Try and stay under that number – the shorter, the better.

Data proves this. Online travel giant Expedia grew their profits by an incremental $12 million in 2011 by simply deleting one single field in their checkout process. Sounds tempting now, doesn’t it?

2. Allow Guest Checkouts

Among the many reasons that make me such an Amazon junkie, is how much I hate creating a new profile on new e-commerce sites and remember the new username and password for each new site. It’s just easier to stick with the first profile I ever made – my Amazon one. I’m confident there are definitely tons of people like me out there who do not bother shopping on new e-commerce sites for identical reasons.

Don’t let your shoppers’ inherent laziness prevent you from bagging more conversions. Allow users to check out as guests on your site and save them the torture of compulsory registration. You can always email your users an auto-generated password to go with their email ID after they complete the transaction, if you must have a registered account for every user.

3. Collect Only Necessary Data Via Forms

Collect Only Necessary Data Via FormsSome businesses need more user data than others as a matter of fact. Buying an insurance policy online will obviously entail giving a lot more information regarding your health as compared to buying a digital camera. However, many e-commerce businesses do not realize how cumbersome it is for users to provide answers to endless questions on their forms and go ahead with monster sized online forms anyway.

Avoid this fundamental mistake. Ask only for information that is absolutely essential for you to process the transaction. Asking users to part with unnecessary data only makes them part with your site at double speed.

4. Autofill in Forms

Steve Krug’s iconic tome on usability ‘Don’t Make Me Think’, talks about reducing the effort a user needs to put in to complete any task on your website. The lesser the effort needed, the higher are the resulting conversion rates.

Apply Mr. Krug’s advice to your checkout forms. Autofill content wherever possible to make the process quicker and smoother for the user. If the user is signed in, autofill his name, address, phone number, even credit card details if you have them on record. That is not to say that you do not allow users to modify these details for each transaction if they choose so.

5. Checkout Completion Bar

Have you noticed that it is easier to complete tasks when you have the end in sight than those where you have no clue how much more time or effort you’ll need to put in? Yes, the anticipation of a result makes us move quicker and distances seem shorter.

Incorporate a task completion bar near the top of your checkout process indicating the user’s progress. As the user gets closer to completing the purchase, the progress bar lights up accordingly showing the user that the destination is just a step or two away.

6. No Hidden Costs

The single biggest reason why online shoppers abandon their shopping carts is when they are faced with sudden unexpected costs at the payment stage. This could be shipping fees, taxes, services charges or the like that make a user stop short in their tracks.

Avoid unpleasant surprises by displaying clearly all the involved costs upfront within the shopping cart at the very beginning. Leaving a user feeling cheated is the worst thing you can do for your brand.

7. Product Reviews and Ratings

Research by Nielsen has shown that word of mouth advice stands out as the biggest factor that convinces a user to buy a product or service. Buyers tend to believe the words of other buyers like themselves instead of believing the marketing spiel from the brand itself, as they see through the vested interests involved there. Factor in this insight when you design your product pages on your e-commerce site.

Users don’t have the luxury of touch and feel when they buy a product online. All they have to go on are product descriptions from the manufacturer (which they would normally discount) and reviews by other users. A product that has multiple reviews from existing users has a far higher chance of being bought than one that has none. Actively solicit product reviews and ratings from past customers. They will help you reel in new ones in the future.

8. Free Shipping

Free Shipping
E-commerce has a huge edge over brick and mortar stores in that they save on rent, utilities, overheads, warehousing and more, thanks to the absence of a real storefront. Conversely, the absence of a storefront means, users have no choice but to pay extra for shipping the products they buy online to their doorsteps. As a shopper yourself, you obviously know how much any shopper hates paying extra for anything in their purchase process. In fact, expensive shipping is among the biggest reasons for shoppers abandoning their carts before completing a purchase.

Get over this bump by offering your users free shipping wherever you can. Amazon has recently started offering free shipping for small, lightweight items with no minimum purchase requirement. This is a smart step to fend off competition from the online versions of Walmart and Target, which allow users to pick up items bought online from their physical locations for no fee at all. You may not be Amazon, but working out at least a free shipping option above a certain minimum purchase amount will not only benefit users; it will also push your average order value higher as users try and qualify for the free shipping offer.

9. Editable Shopping Cart

How many times have you gone back to the rack where you picked up an item in a store and exchanged it for another one before heading to the cash register? If you’re an indecisive shopper like me, multiple times would be my bet.

Not every shopper knows exactly what they want. Sometimes they’re just browsing and might change their minds halfway through the shopping process. Recognize this fickle nature of the average shopper and allow them to go back and edit the contents of their cart without having to redo the entire purchase from the beginning. A shopping cart that allows edits till right before the payments stage is one that loses much fewer shoppers than one that does not. Opt for the sticky version for your online shopping cart.

10. Multiple Payment Options

Multiple Payment Options
Imagine going into a candy store, picking out your favorite bits of candy, handing over your cash to the nice lady at the register, only to be told that your cash is no good. You need to pay for your candy in cowrie shells.

That’s kind of what happens to a shopper when your online store does not support the payment option that your user would like to use. In spite of wanting to complete the purchase, the user has no choice but to leave their shopping incomplete thanks to restrictive payment conditions. Stop frustrating potential shoppers and extend your payment options to include the most popular payment methods. Not only will your customers thank you for it, your bottom line will too. A shopping cart like ShopIntegrator allows you to offer users a variety of payment options ranging from debit card, credit card, bank transfers to PayPal and offline payments.

11. Security Labels

It is not enough to merely accept a variety of payment options on your website to convince users to buy from you. It’s equally important to assure them of the security of your site and the fact that their payment details and personal information are a 100% safe with you. This has become even more critical in the last few years thanks to all the cases of data theft that have come to light with large retailers like Target and eBay.

Besides displaying your returns and refund policy prominently in your checkout process, also make it a point to display security labels like VeriSign or McAfee Secure on your payments page. Familiar and trusted security symbols reassure users that they are shopping on a safe site and there’s no danger to their financial information. Making sure that your checkout process is hosted on an HTTPS protocol is another important step in this direction.

Conclusion

Improving checkout conversions is not a quick fix that you implement in one go. It’s a process that evolves with your website and changes based on your audience’s preferences. From helping users with live chat to displaying customer care numbers prominently, to even rewarding users for a completed purchase, there are multiple steps that you can take based on your reading of your users’ behavior on your site.

Remember, reducing cart abandonment is no one-size-fits-all formula. Once you get the basics described here in place on your site, incremental growth comes from understanding your users and modifying your approach accordingly.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4)

How small online businesses can improve conversions with increased customer choice

online customer choiceToday’s consumers have high expectations of the type of customer experience they believe they are entitled to receive online. Customers are increasingly online savvy, confident and like choice and control. Enabling your customers to have the convenience of choice and flexibility enhances their overall online experience with your business , in turn increasing the likelihood of  conversion and repeat visits.

Increase choice to reduce the barriers to purchase

However, I’m not suggesting that you overwhelm your customers with a smorgasbord of choices – too many options can actually deter customers. Rather, focus on offering customers increased choice in a few strategic places along the purchasing journey to help reduce some of the barriers to purchase.

Shopping cart abandonment is part and parcel of any online businesses. The current rate averages at 67.4% so any changes you can make to help reduce your shopping cart abandonment rate can only be a good thing. We take a look at how offering customers choice in some key online areas can help you increase those all important conversions.

Simple ways to implement more customer choice

Online card paymentsPayment Choice

Offering your customers a choice of payment options at checkout can have a significant impact on conversions and help reduce shopping card abandonment. Figures show:

  • 59% of respondents would abandon a transaction if their preferred payment method was not in place.
  • 40%  of respondents would have more confidence in an online shop that had more than one payment method.

It is important to be able to offer customers both online and offline payment options as it means you are more likely to be able to provide the customer with their preferred payment choice. Being able to take payments by credit or debit card is becoming increasingly important. According to the UK Card Association the majority of online purchase are now made using cards.  In the UK during 2013;

When initially setting up in business, many small businesses begin selling online using the basic shopping carts provided by their existing website platform. It is a quick and simple way to get up and running. However it can mean that as your business grows you are limited to a single payment system such as PayPal. A simple, cost-effective way to improve your shopping cart capabilities without changing your existing website platform is to use a hosted third-party shopping cart solution that is quick to integrate and can offer your business a wide range of pre-integrated payment processors and offline payment options.

online shipping and deliveryIncreased delivery options

Underestimating the importance customers place on shipping and delivery options is a potential disaster for your conversion rates. Customers take online delivery very seriously, with 42.5% of customers looking at delivery pages first.  Research also show that 50% of customers have abandoned an online purchase due to unsatisfactory delivery options.

It is important that customers fare able to plan for delivery. I’m sure we have all experienced the frustration of not being at home when a package requiring a signature turns up. Offering more delivery choices makes the customer feel in control and goes along way towards providing an all-round positive customer experience. Research shows that in terms of e-commerce delivery,

  • 31% of customers would like the option of a fixed delivery date
  • 24% of customers would like the option of collecting from their local stores
  • 24% of customers would like the option of next day delivery
  • 13% would like the option of a two-hour delivery slot.

So think about introducing some flexible delivery choices such as:

  • Next day delivery
  • Nominated day delivery
  • Pick up from a local store (such as Click and Collect)
  • ‘If out please leave…” options such as : leave with neighbour, behind bins, in garage and so on.

smartphone online shoppingBe multi-device friendly

Your customers should have the choice of being able to view your website equally well on their preferred device – be it desk top, smart phone or tablet. By limiting your customers access to a standard desk-top version of your website, you may lose out on potential sales. M-commerce such as tablets and smart-phones play an increasingly important part in your customers purchasing journey.

“With over half of all e-retail traffic coming via smartphones and tablet devices the latest results reveal a huge landmark in the growth of mobile commerce” Guardian.com

Significantly, online shopping on mobile devices has overtaken desktop traffic for the first time in the UK with 52% of online visits made via a mobile and an impressive 36% of UK online sales completed on a smartphone or tablet device. So let your customer choose how he or she wishes to view your site in the most convenient way to them, at any particular point in time, by making sure your site is multi-device friendly.

social media small businessChoice of communication channels

“The attention of modern individuals is fragmented and in this hectic communication reality they want to decide for themselves how and when and with whom they speak, both in private and with business communication” Social Marketing Forum

There is no doubt that the last ten years have seen a huge change in how we choose to communicate.  The whole social landscape has changed and as a business this needs to be reflected in the way you communicate to your customers. By offering a choice of ways for your customers to interact with your business you are more likely to be able to provide the preferred channel communication to a wider range of customers. This communication choice can be applied across the board from customer services to marketing. Simple ways to do this is to think about using an integrated both offline and online. For example:

Customer services: let customers choose how they wish to interact with you – whether it is by email, phone, or via social media.

Marketing: Market your product or services in a variety of ways, communicating traditionally through direct mail and advertising and digitally through email, social networks, PPC and SEO. In integrated approach reinforces the message and gives customers a choice in how they chose to respond.

Purchasing: Make sure customers have an options to make the final sale in the way that suits them – this could be over the phone, through your website’s online checkout or even via your social media.  For example if you have a large majority of customers who interact with your business on Facebook, then think about how you can better use that to your advantage. Try offering them the choice of purchasing your products directly through a Facebook Store.

So to reiterate, it isn’t about overwhelming customers with an overabundance of options but rather implementing customer choice strategically to give customers more control and an improved customer experience. This can help remove some of the barriers to purchase and help you increase your conversions.

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences on this topic, so do please leave a comment.

 Online shopping concept image courtesy of Naypong/FreeDigitalPhotos

 

 

 

 

Shopping cart security: How small online businesses can build customer confidence

data security Large scale data security breaches are becoming increasingly common. No matter how technically sophisticated we become it seems hackers are always hot on our tails.

Indeed just recently eBay suffered a massive cyber attack on its 145 million users. And of course it is only natural that as data breaches grow so to will consumer concerns over how their personal and payment information is stored and managed online.

It’s not just large corporations like eBay that experience security breaches, an increasing number of SME’s are also vulnerable.

“The total number of data breaches increased 62 percent during the last 12 months, amounting to more than 627 million sensitive records exposed…We all know that large corporations continue to be the targets of these attacks, but what we have seen in the last 12 months is that small and medium-sized businesses are experiencing the largest number of breaches.” Internet Security Threat Snapshot Summary — 2014: Data Breaches Grow Significantly

So in addition to implementing adequate security measures, what can you as  a small online business owner do to build consumer confidence and reassure customers about the  security of your online store?

30% of consumers are increasingly concerned about the loss of personal data

New research by Software Advice* into the impact data breaches have on consumer confidence found that nearly one-third of consumers are increasing concerned about their personal information being stolen. The study found that:

  • 30% of consumers are increasingly concerned about data loss
  • 35% of consumers would stop shopping at a company where their personal data had been stolen
  • 53% of consumers would be somewhat more or much more likely to shop at a store where they were confident their personal data was secure.

In summary, the Software Advice research highlights that consumers are increasingly concerned about data security, would avoid shopping in stores from which their personal data was stolen and would look to shop somewhere where they felt confident their personal data was secure.

How to build customer confidence online

In all likelihood the majority of us are probably unfamiliar and uninterested in the highly technical aspects of data security.  Although implementing solid security measures is an absolute essential, in isolation it is not enough. You also need to work on building brand trust so that your customers feel secure and confident imparting personal and payment information when they shop at your store. We look at some best practice tips for a safe and secure online presence that will help foster trust amongst your customers.

1. Secure, PCI compliant e-commerce

The first thing is to make sure is that the e-commerce software solution that you choose offers secure data storage and is PCI / DSS compliant ( this is the payment card industry’s security standard).  Your shopping cart solution should be protected by  a PCI approved scanning vendor such as McAfee , VeriSign or PayPal and it should protect you against credit and debit card fraud and other threats such as identity theft and spyware.  So it is really important you spend time doing your research to make sure the e-commerce software you choose helps protects you and your customers against data security breaches.

2. Implement appropriate data-protection legislation

When you are storing and managing a customer’s database make sure you are familiar with and keep to relevant data-protection legislation. In the UK this would be the Data Protection Act 1998 and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation Act. Following best practice and appropriate  legislation will ensure  less risks to the data you are managing and build customer confidence.

3. Build trust signposts

There are other ways to help build trust amongst your customers. Research indicates that simply announcing all your great security credentials is not enough. You also need to implement  ‘trust signposts’ to help build customers confidence in the safety of your online store. Large and established brands like John Lewis have ingrained such a sense of brand trust over the years that customers are rarely concerned about parting with their money or personal information. However, small businesses and start-ups don’t have this luxury so you have to work harder to build trust.

Website. Ensure your website is professional looking, up-to-date and easy to navigate. Customers won’t feel comfortable parting with payment or personal details on a site that is confusing to navigate around, has errors or is full of out of date content.

Customer service. Good customer service can only reflect positively on your brand image. Customers will be reassured with helpful, flexible and polite customer service. Make sure that all your contact and company details are clearly visible and easy for a customer to find.

Trustmarks.  Trustmark security logos can help reassure customers that the website they are on has the appropriate security protection. So whoever your security vendor is make sure you display their trustmark somewhere visible.

Customer testimonials. Client and customer testimonials, independent reviews, membership to industry organisations and links to relevant associations can all add kudos and  help reassure customers that your site is trustworthy.

4. Communicate to your customers

It won’t do any harm to remind your customers about how they can protect themselves against online fraud, such as by regularly checking their credit and bank account statements and properly managing their passwords. It can help show that you take the security of their personal information seriously. For example remind them that good password practice includes:

  • Not using the same email password for every site they register on.
  • Mix up letters, cases, numbers and special characters when creating a password.

So in an era of increased data breaches and sophisticated cyber-attacks, don’t assume that as a small online business or start-up you won’t be effected. Don’t underestimate the importance of secure e-commerce and follow good practice to ensure you are keeping you and your customers’ personal and payment information as safe as possible.

 

*New research on how data breaches can hurt retailers courtesy of Software Advice:

Software Advice helps buyers choose the right software. As a trusted resource, our website offers detailed reviews, comparisons and research to assist organizations in finding products that best fit their current and future needs. We have a team of software experts who conduct free telephone consultations with each buyer to shortlist systems best suited to their company’s specific requirements. Having a real conversation with our buyers allows us to fully understand their needs so we can match them with the right software vendors—eliminating weeks from the research process. Our software experts have advised more than 160,000 software buyers to date across various and niche software markets. Headquartered in Austin, Texas, Software Advice employs a team of 100, as well as an engineering team in Cordoba, Argentina.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear you thoughts and experiences on this topic, so please do leave a comment

 

How smartphones have brought credit card acceptance within your reach

 

Guest Post: First Data Merchant Solutions

First Data Merchant Solutions LogoNew smartphone and Bluetooth technology has enabled very small businesses, such as mobile hairstylists, gardeners, plumbers or electricians to accept credit and debit cards easily and affordably.

Richard Simon from First Data Merchant Solutions, which provides special rates for card services to ShopIntegrator members, explains how small businesses can use the new technology to ensure they no longer have to turn away customers not carrying enough cash.

He said: “Traders can now buy a pocket sized card reader that can be easily attached via Bluetooth to their smartphone. Once you’ve downloaded an app to your phone, you are ready to start accepting card payments.

“These mobile card systems are more cost effective for very small businesses as they require less up-front investment than traditional card terminals like the ones used in shops.”

“First Data is a global expert in card acceptance,” explained Richard, “and we have recently recent launched Pogo> which enables you to accept mobile card payments with your iPhone®, iPad®, iPod touch® or Android™ device. It’s fast, secure and easy to use with no contracts, fixed fees or minimum usage agreements.

“In the UK it’s still early days for mobile POS. Research suggests of Britain’s 4.9 million[1] small businesses less than a half accept card payments[2] and could be losing more than £800m[3] of sales a year as a result.

“This could be about to change as strong demand for mobile POS is predicted from both micro merchants and large merchants driven by growth in online trade, a rise in smartphone usage and card penetration. [4]

“Consumers increasingly expect to be able to use their cards whenever they wish. For the trader, mobile POS can mean never having to lose a sale because the customer doesn’t have the right amount of cash and less chasing of unpaid invoices.”

For more information about Pogo> please visit First Data Merchant Solutions

 

First Data Europe Limited is authorised by the UK Financial Conduct Authority under the Payment Service Regulations 2009 for the provision of payment services (FCA register No. 582703).

[1] http://www.fsb.org.uk/stats

[2]http://forum.vendorcom.com/media/RBTE2013/120313%20Worldpay%20Retail%20Presentation.pdf

[3] https://www.paypal.co.uk/blog/do-you-accept-cards-the-ps800-million-question-for-smes/

[4]http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/mobile-pos-technology-market-and-social-commerce-impact-on-consumer-goods-industries-analyzed-in-new-research-reports-204335361.html

 

How to change your online shop without changing your website platform

online hopping cart iconsWhen first starting out many small businesses utilise the basic online store provided by their website platform as it can offer a simple simple way to start selling online. But, what happens when your business grows and its needs change? You may well come to the point when your current shopping cart no longer provides you with the ecommerce features you need in order for your business to move forward.

Don’t let your business stall due to the limitations of your online store

For example, perhaps you require better product and order management capabilities, you’d like to offer multiple currencies as your customer base becomes more global, you require more advanced shipping calculators, you are thinking about starting to sell digital content, you’d like to offer your customers a wider range of payment options  or introduce special offers using discount codes and e-vouchers.

However, surprisingly often small businesses end up remaining with the initial online store that came with their website platform for far longer than needed, simply because they’re not quite sure where to start, are worried about how much technical know-how is involved or are concerned that if they change their online shop they’ll have to change their website platform.

The upshot is you can end up feeling tied to your existing online store putting limits on what your business can achieve.  But actually, changing your online store to a shopping cart with more advanced features doesn’t have to be difficult or costly if you consider a hosted, third party ecommerce solution.

shopping cart selling digtal downloadsBenefits of moving to a hosted, shopping cart solution

There are some excellent third party shopping cart solutions available that are quick and easy to integrate, don’t cost the earth and require very little (if any) technical knowledge but, have the benefit of being able to offer a wide range of advanced ecommerce features.  Lets begin with dealing with a couple of common concerns that can make a small business reluctant to upgrade their current online store.

Q: I want to stay with my existing website platform but need more advanced ecommerce features

Changing your online shop doesn’t mean you need to change your current website platform or  remain tied-in to your website builders own online store. You can choose a hosted, third party ecommerce solution that can offer easy integration with your existing website builder. Look for a shopping cart that can integrate with any website, whether it is HTML , a CMS (Content Management System) such as Drupal, WordPress or DotNetNuke(DNN) or DIY site builder such as Weebly, Moonfruit, Yola, Webs, SiteJam, 1&1 MyWebsite, Vistaprint, Webnode and 123Reg.

Q: I’m concerned that changing my online store will be technically complicated and time consuming.

Many small online business put-off changing to a more appropriate shopping cart solution because they are concerned about the level technical knowledge that might be required and the potential disruption it may cause. This needn’t be the case if you opt for a straightforward point and click system where you can simply copy and paste ecommerce buttons and widgets into your website to create an online store.

Or even easier choose a third party solution like ShopIntegrator that has the capability to drop a complete, fully functioning online store into your website within a few quick and easy clicks. This enables even complete novices to be set up a fully functioning online store quickly and easily – requiring little, if any technical knowledge.

Key things to consider when choosing ecommerce solution

So what are the key things to consider when looking to replace your existing online store? Thinking about each of the elements below will help get you on the road to choosing the solution that is most suited to your online business.

Features: It is important to think about your current and future business requirements. What are your existing business needs? What might they be in three or five years time? Choose an ecommerce solution that is flexible enough to adapt and change with your business. There are some fantastic ecommerce features out there, which you may not be able to take advantage of with your current shopping cart. For example, advanced features may include more sophisticated product and customer order management, high-capacity cloud storage for selling digital downloads, the ability to take donations and ‘pay what you want’ sales, advanced shipping plan creators, international tax such as VAT and regional tax such as US State sales taxes, and shopping cart design customisation. Take some time to think about what features could help you free up valuable time and move your business forward.

Pricing:  Higher costs don’t automatically reflect a better product. Once you’ve got an idea of the kind of features you are looking for then hunt around for competitive prices. And, don’t rule out smaller providers as they can often offer exactly the same features and capabilities as the bigger guys – but at better prices. Consider different pricing packages as this will give you the flexibility to grow your online store and take advantage of features only as you need them – rather than paying for features your business doesn’t yet require.

Ease of Integration:  Look for straightforward, easy to use solutions that take the headache out of changing your online store. Choose a solution that is compatible with any HTML website, CMS or DIY site builder. Tutorials and platform specific integration guides can be a real help when you integrate, as they can walk you through the process step-by-step – so it is worth checking out if these are available.

Payment Processing. Offering a range of payment options to your customers makes good business sense, since limiting payment choice could potentially mean the loss of a sale at the checkout.  Look for a shopping cart that includes a good  choice of pre-integrated payment processors and offline options such as ‘pay by cheque, ‘pay on delivery’ ‘pay by phone’ or ‘pay by bank transfer’.

Support: It is really important to choose a provider that you feel can offer you good customer support. Don’t forget it is in your providers best interest to ensure that your business is a success. Take a look at their support page to make sure they offer a comprehensive support system.

So you’ve done your research, you know the main features you are looking, so how then do you narrow down your choice?

Check out reviews and feedback:  – Take a look at independent reviews  and feedback from other users. An easy way to do this is to visit the business Facebook page and take a look at the comments.  It’s a good way to get a feel for what other users think.

Take advantage of a free trial. This is a great way to test drive your online store. You get a good feel for the product and its services before committing.

Contact the service provider.  Contact the service provider and discuss through any concerns about suitability you may have – a good provider will be happy to help. This is also a good way to get a taste of their customer services and the support you are likely to get once you are signed up.

Good luck. And remember, moving from your existing shopping cart provider needn’t be a headache and can really help you move your business forward in the way you need in order for it grow.

Shopping carts image courtesy of Luigi Diamanti / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

We’d love to hear your thoughts on this post, so please do leave us a comment.