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Choosing the Right Ecommerce Platform for Your Business… (part 1)

Searching for a suitable ecommerce platform can sometimes be a daunting, perplexing, and downright overwhelming experience. There are many things to consider when deciding which approach and platform is best for your business. We are often asked many questions regarding this issue and we’ve noticed several recurring themes. In this two part blog series, we’ve put together a few of our thoughts concerning ecommerce integration options.

Determining Your Company’s Online Business Model

It is imperative that you identify your company’s unique online positioning and strategy prior to searching for an applicable ecommerce platform. There are a wide array of solutions, each possessing different capabilities and features. We recommend focusing on processing bite-sized pieces of information and consulting with an online strategist at a professional web development firm. With this being said however, there are some things you can do in the interim to gather information and develop a preliminary strategy, namely researching through the Internet. The research will assist you in developing a preliminary approach and understanding of how ecommerce works in a very general sense. The research will also assist you in determining the type of functionally that you will ultimately need. Here are few key questions to consider. Is your company’s target position going to be that of a first tier retailer such as Amazon, J.C. Penney, or Zappos? Are you somewhere in between? Are you a small or mid-level retailer with a substantial inventory that you’d like to finally bring online or perhaps even take mobile? Are you looking to upgrade an existing system?

Once you’ve determined your preliminary market placement and online business model, you will be better able to examine the various ecommerce options and platforms available.

Below are a few of the most common ecommerce business sectors and platforms:

Types of Ecommerce Models, Ecommerce Platforms, and Recommendations

Small Business Solution/New Entry Level – These solutions would ideally fit very small businesses or small startups with smaller inventories and very little need for platform customization or customized management tools.  These ecommerce systems often require low levels of technical integration and offer very short deployment times. Typical solutions are available from companies such as Web.com, Intuit, and Yahoo!. These platforms often include non-exclusive website theming options along with a standard backend ecommerce management system that’s restricted in terms of customization. Additional options include 3rd party developed systems that can be installed on your own server and can be customized to specification. With this approach, it’s advisable to be mindful of your long-term ecommerce goals as the ongoing costs of customization could add up very quickly, and it may be smarter to explore less restrictive options which we cover in the remaining sections of this article. Popular 3rd party systems tailored for this ecommerce level include Magento (Community Edition), ZenCart, OsCommerce, and more.

Mid-sized Companies to Enterprise Level – In this area, there are many larger-scale ecommerce options available. Typically these solutions are best for companies that have unique and varied business processes as well as massive product assortments and additional customized business needs. Companies that fit this category often times employ a dedicated IT staff (see section in part 2) to carry out the technical requirements involved with such ecommerce solutions. Other companies seek the service of an independent website development firm for their technical deployment needs and to customize the ecommerce solution. We will focus on the latter in part 2 of this blog posting.

Continue to read part 2

If you need help planning and determining which ecommerce solution is right for your company, we’d love to help.

photo credit: jeroenvanderschenk via photopin cc