So you have managed to solve your E- commerce ownership dilemma and you have also successfully identified and finalized on an economically viable niche for your e commerce website. Now at least you are pretty sure what you are going to sell online! [This is our 3rd article in the series of E-Commerce Guide, please read the previous two articles in order to fully grasp the concept.]
That’s great! Now the million dollar question is “How are you going to build your e- commerce store?”
There are several viable options you can choose from, in order to build your e-commerce store:
First One: – Choose a professional E-Commerce service company
With a swarm of e-commerce service providers proclaiming high-sounding promises of their brilliance, price and timely delivery as well as the pushy suggestions of “holier-than-thou” salespersons, you are bound to get confused about how to make the right choice. However, the process is not as complicated as it seems. You need to take a look at following perspectives before choosing an e-commerce company:-
- Previous e-commerce portfolio:
What projects have they handled so far?
Do they understand your specific e-commerce platform requirements?
Try to get in touch with their clients and get the real picture about their services.
- Time of delivery: Be firm about your deadlines from the very outset, else you might end up with a lot of time wasted.
- Cost Effectiveness: Not all good e-commerce companies are overpriced. Doing a little cost-survey will enable you to understand better.
- Ability to integrate payment gateway and SSL certificates: Third party applications are extremely critical to any e-commerce platforms. Ensure that the company is capable of integrating efficient and secure payment gateways, along with SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) Certification as a mandate for Server Security.
- Security prospect: There are two points of view here:
First, the e-commerce platform owner’s (your) point of view that the website should be secure from any type of reports getting breached or information getting misused.
The second point of view is that of the customer, whose main concern is the security of his confidential details such as credit card number, passwords etc
Get a thorough understanding of these two aspects from the company before availing any service whatsoever.
- Backend processes to manage your shopping cart, technically known as Content Management System or Business User Control or Admin Panel: This is perhaps the most important aspect you must check on because this is where most companies are lacking. The back-end or admin panel of your e-commerce website needs to be user friendly and effectively manageable, because once your e-commerce website is live and your business starts off in full force, you will require to modify the product offerings, prices, incorporate new deals, vouchers, discounts etc quite frequently as well as extract a lot of data for marketing purpose. Good e-commerce companies mostly provide a few free training sessions to enable your staff to get accustomed to handling the Admin Panel on their own.
- Support Services: All right, your e-commerce platform has been effectively designed, developed and hosted. What if you have a technical problem post that? Are support services included in your service agreement? If yes, are the tech-support personnel available when you have a dire need? These are a few questions you need to ponder on, and ask your prospective provider before you give them the green signal.
- Scalability: This is probably the most commonly used term in e-commerce. The simplest way to explain it is that when you start a business, you obviously don’t want to stagnate or retain the same status lifelong. When your business will be in a position to grow, diversify etc, the total number of your orders per day, your total page views and website traffic are bound to increase. Set realistic targets for your business and see if the e-commerce company can design a website aligned with your business vision, else two years down the line, you will have to unnecessarily invest in a new website.
- Shopping Cart Features: Compare the product catalog features that are being provided to you vis-à-vis the prices, and comprehensively survey the prospective companies that you have in mind on this aspect.
- Monitoring: When you start off with full- fledged marketing strategies for your e-commerce venture, you will need a lot of data pertaining to user behavior to improve yourself. Check if the company provides you with effective means of doing so.The best thing to do would be to contact a few companies in your vicinity, which gives you the ease of having a detailed conversation or meeting with them. Gather data on all the above perspectives (each one is important, so make sure you don’t leave out anything), and then decide which one to opt for. The cost of building your e-commerce site can vary from Rs 15,000 to Rs 150,000 depending upon the number of your products and the feature that you require.
Pros of choosing an e-commerce company
- Good resources and man power, thereby ensuring timely delivery
- High degree of customization
- Design, Development and Third Party Integration, all under one roof.
- High level of scalability
- After delivery maintenance.
- Training your employees about back-end.
- Most of all, you get a website that is totally your own (unlike hosted shopping carts that will always belong to the parent company, that we’ll elaborate upon later)
Cons of choosing an e-commerce company
- Initial investment could be higher
- Since the website is developed from scratch, you need to get into a lot of detailing and think from multiple perspectives.
Second: – Hire a freelancer
What if you do not have the budget to hire a professional e commerce company? Well, then the best option for you would be to hire a freelancer to build your e-commerce platform. The considerations that you need to look into while hiring a freelancer to build an e-commerce platform for you, are exactly the same as the perspectives mentioned above in case of an e-commerce company.
Pros of hiring a freelancer
- The prime advantage is that you save on a lot of money.
- Creative and experienced freelancers could provide you with the latest and unique platforms.
Cons of hiring a freelancer
- Freelancers have their own forte; some might be good at developing and coding, while some might be good at designing. It is hard to find an “all-in-one” package.
- The reliability factor is diminished since you are dealing with an individual here, and not a company.
- Support services and maintenance is questionable.
- Third party integration and SSL certification might not be offered.
- Website security, which is of prime importance, may not be up to the mark.
- You might need to make an advance payment of half the amount, which is not the case with a company.
Third: – Get a hosted shopping cart
Getting a hosted shopping cart is something like renting a flat in a multi-storey apartment, the only catch being that you will always remain the tenant; you can never be the owner. For those wanting to take a plunge into e-commerce right away without giving much thought into the long term implications of running an e-commerce business, these “ready-made” hosted options are almost a dream come true! There are not many perspectives to look into and you just need to browse through the different packages or trial versions and choose one that best suits your requirements. But if you have a well-grounded futuristic vision for your business, then these hosted options should not be the apt choice for you.
Let us have a fair look at the pros and cons involved here:
- Low initial investment
- Your platform will ideally be quite user-friendly
- Back-end panel is generally convenient to handle.
- Support services are generally good if you opt for a reputed host.
- As mentioned above, you can never be the owner of your platform. It will always belong to the host.
- Scalability will be an issue when your business grows, say two years down the line.
- You will forever be required to pay monthly charges plus transaction charges to your provider, as long as you keep using the site.
- Degree of customization will be extremely low.
- Limited features, restricted number of products etc
Well, we have tried our best to give you a fair picture about the available options that you have in order to build your e-commerce platform. The final call of course, needs to be taken by YOU. Meanwhile, we end with some further food for thought with this quote from Grant Fairley:
“E-commerce businesses, even e-commerce specialists, have yet to realize that the WWW is first and foremost an emotional experience. Few websites reflect this important priority.”