Make Informed Decisions About e-Commerce Solutions
You want to extend the reach of your products and/or services by selling online, but don’t know where to start? Choosing an e-commerce solution that is right for your business can be overwhelming. Most importantly, you will need to identify any cost limitations and scalability needs, but to get started, you’ll need to look into the following:
- Merchant account – a type of bank account that allows businesses to accept payments from debit and credit cards
- Payment gateway – an e-commerce application service provider that authorizes payments for online retailers
- Secure socket layer (SSL) certificate – this ensures secure transactions between Web servers and browsers
- e-commerce platform – a software application that allows businesses to provide e-commerce to online customers
If you’re a startup, you may want to keep it simple and save the customized and more complicated shopping cart for a phase two endeavor. A simple solution to quickly joining the online commerce fray is to utilize Google’s Get Your Business Online tools—they offer a free Intuit website and easy-to-install shopping carts for less than $40 a month. Similar to the Google solution is GoDaddy’s Website Tonight tool. Neither is stellar or flawless, but both are designed to be fast, simple solutions to enable you to provide goods and services to your online customers.
Pre-Hosted and Paid Solutions
Beyond the shopping cart-in-a-box is a more scalable and robust solution, but it typically involves more behind-the-scenes coding and compatibility knowledge (basic CSS and HTML knowledge will suffice) from a developer. Some big names you will encounter are Shopify and Volusion, both of which allow for seamless integration into your website and boast simple user interfaces, PCI compliance, and excellent security features. Most of these solutions offer bulk uploads via CVS or spreadsheets, which reduces the legwork of adding your products one by one. And even though you might need some basic design or development work, the overall cost associated with these solutions is pretty low. Shopify has a pricing edge over some of the other options you’ll come across, as most you’ll find charge based on traffic to your store, while Shopify has a modest charge per transaction, considering increased traffic doesn’t always mean increased sales. This tool also makes the headache of getting shipping info and labels from USPS, FedEx, and UPS simple and easy.
Who is using Shopify?
Open-source and “Free” Solutions
When looking for a free, open-source shopping cart, the name Magento will appear over and over, as it is a powerful, well-established tool that allows for as much customization as you need. Other big names you’ll see in this category are OScommerce and Zen Cart, and while each have great attributes, Magento is more rich with capabilities in the long run and also offers bulk uploads. There are some cons associated with going the Magento route, such as, you’ll need a more savvy developer (which is more costly), and since it’s a resource hog, special considerations will need to be taken for its hosting environment. Your best bet, if you choose this type of solution, is to hire an individual or agency with experience, which will ultimately streamline the process by not involving a learning curve.
Who is using Magento?
Both examples have nice customization of design and functionality and also make use of Magento’s ability to have multiple stores, so instances can be set up in other languages.
The great thing about using platforms like WordPress, Joomla and Drupal is the gratuitous amount of plug-ins and tools that enable you to scale your shopping cart to fit your needs, involving a less labor-intensive affair than complete custom shops. WordPress also has the WP e-commerce plug-in, which is the most widely used and trusted e-commerce solution for this platform.
Who is using WP e-commerce?
Drupal has the renowned Ubercart, which is hailed by the large Drupal community for a deeper integration capability with the ability to meet your more simple needs, now without sacrificing compatibility with increased traffic down the road. Drupal is also known for a strong search engine optimization standard and easy long-term maintenance.
Who is using Ubercart?
Joomla’s e-commerce solution is called Virtuemart, which is known to be slightly easier to implement than Ubercart.
Who is using Virtuemart?
There are many e-commerce products available, but the main things you have to consider are cost and scalability needs down the road. Starting with the solutions mentioned above should help narrow your choices to some of the strongest players on the field, which will help keep your e-commerce site performing optimally now as well as into the future.
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