With the shift in shopping habits over the past few years from the standard brick and mortar stores (which still retain much of their popularity) to online shopping from the convenience of your home (or office), eCommerce solutions have become more and more an essential part of doing business online. Today, I'm going to take share some simple rules for choosing the best solution.
To put things in perspective, according to MarketWatch, leading eCommerce retailer, Amazon Inc. saw a 19.5% increase in net income for 2014 with a total sales of 88.99 billion dollars. These figures don't lie, eCommerce is a booming market. But you already knew that. So now it's time to figure out what you can do to get your business into the fray. Let's look at how to get started.
First there are a few rules that I think are important to stick to:
Rule #1: Don't try to build it yourself.
When it comes to eCommerce, my personal opinion is that custom coded solutions are the wrong way to go. It's much more intelligent and cost effective to implement a proven solution rather than to attempt to create your own from scratch. More often than not, you are simply duplicating effort and spending precious dollars attempting to overcome hurdles and red tape that have already been taken care of by a qualified eCommerce vendor.
Rule #2: Create a needs and wants list.
I'm all about saving money but when it comes to implementing an eCommerce solution for your business, you want to do it right the first time. With the huge number of competing vendors (in most marketplaces anyway), there's always someone else they can go to so be sure not to give them a reason to go elsewhere. Do it right the first time. You don't want to implement something that cannot handle the anticipated volume or does not offer the features you need from the beginning. Don't cheap out and go with a solution that offers only part of what your customers need, find one that fits as many of your needs as possible. One way I do things is to create a list with my clients where we break down expectations into two categories; Needs and Wants. Do your best to find a solution that fits as many of your needs as possible. These are items that you absolutely must have in order to be operational and competitive. Only then would you start to check off the Wants that are offered by the vendors you are considering. These are considered bonuses.
Rule #3: Involve all Stakeholders in the Decision Making Process
Once you are ready to start exploring solutions, make sure you involve all of the stakeholders in your business. I find that businesses that task one department (IT or Marketing for instance) to choose a solution more often than not miss out on picking the right product. The reason is simple, the needs differ for each department and as such, your marketing department may not be as concerned with the overall scalability of the product and could choose something based on features as opposed to worrying about whether it can scale properly to your needs. This is why involving all those who will be using or interacting with the solution of choice is critical. This may mean involving distribution, marketing, sales, management and IT, but in the end, you'll have a much more rounded solution than relying on one department to be the brain for all of the others.
Rule #4: Choose a Proven and Scalable Solution
Be careful when choosing a solution to go with. You'll want to make sure that it's a proven solution that is both scalable and well supported. Don't go with a solution that can't show solid, well performing customers running their platform. My personal solution of choice for enterprise solutions would be . While there certainly are other solutions on the market like 3dcart and Magento, I personally have seen much smoother and more successful implementations when choosing Bigcommerce. They have proven themselves to be competent and successful vendor in this arena and when it comes to your business, that's exactly what you want.
A commenter below mentioned that he thinks that my recommending these systems is a mistake given that there are other large enterprise solutions like Oracle Commerce, IBM Websphere and SAP Hybris and that enterprise eCommerce means connecting to an ERP solution etc. Allow me to clarify here. I've had real world experience with these solutions and I'll say this simply. Show me a person who has not found any of these a headache and a massive money sink and I'll be pleasantly surprised. I've worked beside Websphere admins who've spent 95% of their time on the phone with support trying to fix broken B2B and B2C transactions over stupid config file issues more than you can imagine. Oracle solutions are a massive money pit driven to collectively get you to buy in to the full Oracle package (ERP, eCommerce, Database Licensing and so on) or pay through the nose to connect them with non-Oracle solutions. None of these are what I'd call "good recommendations". Do they work? Yes. Do they do a better job than any of the cheaper ones out there? Not in my opinion.
Bigcommerce Enterprise does have ERP connectors that can integrate with your solution of choice and offers just as broad a feature set as some of the bigger players but don't let me make the decision for you, explore your options and do your research before choosing your provider of choice. I simply want to make sure you don't get trapped buying in to the concept of "price tag = capability" because it's a complete misnomer.
Now that you know how I do it, it's time to get out there and start the selection process. You may want to start by exploring some of my recommendations but in the end, it relies on following the rules I've laid out above first and foremost. Good luck in your search and of course, if you need assistance, I offer consulting services as well.