When 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.
Benefits 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
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