How to choose the right e-commerce solution

Questions you need to ask yourself to evaluate shopping cart software

The right e-commerce solution is absolutely critical to your online business success. Whether you're looking for an online hosted shopping cart, or standalone shopping cart software, there are dozens (if not more!) of options available to you. It can all be a bit overwhelming – until you focus on what you really need for your best chance at true e-commerce success.

Here are three big questions you need to consider as you're researching the best shopping cart software:

Do you want a hosted or standalone e-commerce solution?

A hosted e-commerce plan will likely include a domain, website, and shopping cart in one package. These are generally sold for an ongoing subscription fee – you may have to sign up for one to three years – and give you access to ongoing software updates and advances. Hosted e-commerce solutions mean you can access your store files from anywhere, any time – as long as you can connect to the Internet.

On the other hand, standalone e-commerce solutions may be more traditional shopping cart software: you pay a licensing fee, and you download (or receive on a disc) and install the software onto your computer. A standalone cart may give you more flexibility and control over your store, particularly the higher-end versions. You will have to purchase web hosting services separately.

What kind of products are you selling? Who are you selling to?

Many of today's top e-commerce solutions will let you sell and ship physical products, downloadable digital products, as well as services. You need to be sure that your chosen shopping cart software offers the options you need for your particular business.

If you are using multiple warehouses or vendors, check if the e-commerce solution offers drop-shipping as an option. Of course, managing your inventory is key – be sure your e-commerce solution tracks your inventory with every sale, and will notify you when stocks are running low.

As a business owner, you probably already know who your target market will be. Are you reaching out to an international audience? If so, make sure your shopping cart software will let you deal in multiple currencies and ship globally. Give your customers the confidence to know that when they order from you, they are given an accurate price and realistic shipping times.

What is your marketing strategy?

Like any retail business, e-commerce is more than just offering products for purchase. You need to promote your business and your products and services – and the right e-commerce solution will help you do just that.

As you evaluate your top shopping cart options, think about your marketing strategy. Do you want to offer coupons, discounts, points, or gift cards? How about regular email newsletters, contests, storewide sales or pricing based on quantity? Facebook and twitter campaigns? The list goes on – and a top e-commerce solution can help you with any or all of these. Face it; the online marketplace is only going to get more crowded. You need the best shopping cart to help you stand out!

Read more about our Top 10 Shopping Cart solutions!

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