Choosing the correct ecommmerce platform is essential to the running of your store.
How secure is the product ?
Products that are opensource all have a security a security flaw. This is the code they are written in is viewable by criminals.
However this is a plus because these opensource products have to be extra secure to get over this issue.
All products should be insisting on all customer only parts of the site including all parts of the checkout are in a SSL layer ( that is where the address of the site changes from https: to https: )
No product should be able to store credit card numbers in any form. If they do, then we would say the product is going to be the target of hacks and we would not recommend it at all. There are products that store 50% of the credit card number on the site and send the other 50% in an email.
Some versions of virtuemart allow for the storing of credit cards online. We do not recommend this product for clients.
Customer security is your top priority. Make it a regular task to archive off customer data to a secure location and of the main website. This way if there is a breach it is limited to only the customers of the last month.
How easy is it to extend the base product ?
Because no two ecommerce stores are the same you will have to get additional features added onto the base product you select.
The cost of adding these extra features depends on the architecture of the ecommerce platform.
Some platforms come with a market place of ready made extensions and maybe your requirements are available as a ready built addon.
However if you are looking for a bespoke addon you need to be careful of the product selected.
Some products like oscommerce do not come with a graphic template system native in them and addons will need custom graphics too.
Other products like magento have huge code sets and addons coded in – incorrectly can break the site for future upgrades.
Some products have been developed as an ecommerce framework and come with exceptionally light and well coded addons like opencart and prestashop.
How fast is the store when fully loaded ?
Site speed is essential to all ecommerce stores. Faster sites rack up more sales. We have seen sites that have moved from slow servers to fast servers getting a 33% sales boost.
Your site demo may be fast out of the box. Load in 10,000 customers and 5000 products with 40 size attributes and 5 metal types per product you may now have a crawling website. This is the scenario of a jewellery store. Big hosting may not save you as the issues may just be a bad database architecture in the first place. Google Magento Slow sites for fun. You will see there is a small industry on this issue. The root of the problem is complex. It is vital your provider knows about these issues and we would recommend the site load time being high on the list of performance deliverables.
Some products are fast out of the box and given a few months under a moderate load start to crawl and swallow resources on the website.
How opensource is the product ?
Lots of products claim to be opensource. As a store owner you need a store that is 100% yours. Stores that are part of Saas models we would not recommend. They might save you capital expenditure at the start. But they will cost you in SEO and independence in the end of the day when your business matures. No serious online company is running its store on a Saas product that they do not have 100% control of all the code.
What kind of support is there for the product ?
Are there many developers supporting your chosen product. You may not stay with your starting developer for the rest of your days so you need to see if there are other providers out there. See what prices the competition are charging in case you need to change supplier.
If you are using a project desk like elance or odesk proceed with caution. Lots of developers may say they can do the task but the real proof is in the deliverables. They may deliver but they may break the installation in the format that it is not upgradable in the future. You will not find this out until you look for an upgrade. We have gained lots of clients running from cheap low cost developers that were recruited on elance and odesk. If the rate is too good to be true then it is best avoided.
Has the product some serious issues in the past ?
Search google and look about product forums for : “bad versions of “<product>, “how to speed up “<product>, “how to repair hacked “<product>, “my <product> site is slow”, “checkout errors on <product>.
In these searches you are looking for known issues with the selected <product>. You need to know if there are issues that there are quick fixes and updates available.
Some products have good and bad versions and it is important to know which ones to avoid.
Products mature and develop all the time and new entrants might have a rocky start but then flourish into great products. Other products might stgart as opensource and then be taken over by a large corporation once they have a serious number of sites on board.
Look for the track record and the penetration in the market place.
For the record osCommerce would be the oldest opensource ecommerce product in the market.
What is the checkout process like ?
So your customer has selected the product and they are in the checkout, you are going to have to have a very slick checkout that has the minimal steps to checkout. We have seen checkouts with up to 10 steps and frankly how anyone actually gets to the end of them is a miracle.
The ideal is a 1 screen checkout with reveal sections. Nice easy ways to select the billing address as the delivery address. Options to enter in discount codes and promos early on.
A checkout that works on mobile and is finger friendly as apposed to toothpick friendly is an excellent idea.
Most impulse purchases are made on mobiles and made at speed.
Test all the checkouts and make a spreadsheet comparison of the best ones.
Remember it is not the checkout you like, it is the one your customers like so get testing on your friends.
Does the product plug into multichannel ?
If you are serious about selling online your online store will be only part of the selling channel, you will be selling on eBay, Amazon, Alibaba etc .
To do this effectively you are going to have to be able to link and push your stock easily and quickly across these platforms. It is essential that your chosen product can export to these vendors in a format that they require. There are many pc based tools for managing multichannel selling so you will require an ecommerce platform that these tools can read and write to.
Does the product plug into your back office accounts ?
Entering in data is a time expensive task. Entering in the same data 2 and 3 times is a complete waste of time. In the ecommerce business this is referred to as re-keying. If you can get your ecommerce to updates prices and stock items from your main accounts system then you are well on the way to becoming a cost effective organisation. Typically you will want to push stock levels and prices many times a day, and you will want to pull orders too. Linking with erp systems is vital, sageline 50 and 200, epicore, Sap Business One and many other systems.
Does the product offer B2B and B2C solutions ?
Here you are looking for key phrases in the features list for the word “group pricing” “customer only pricing” . This is an excellent alternative for those running wholesale and retail off the one site. It allows you to replicate online what you are doing in-house. This is important to consider as you may move from being a B2C to being a B2B if you are a manufacturer and your product has taken off.
What shipping options are available ?
There are as many shipping options as there are shippers x stores ! Determining your shipping rates etc is one of the first steps in seeing if selling your product online is feasible at all.
The product you select has to have all the standard shipping options but it must also have a non complex shipping code area in the checkout where developers can take base shipping modules and use these to create new shipping modules based on your requirements.