Choosing an eCommerce Platform
Lately at SlicenPress we’ve been developing a lot of eCommerce sites – everything from simple donation forms to robust online stores. eCommerce development is a lot of fun, but it can also be a very daunting task to determine the best option for software to power an online store for yourself or your client. That’s why I’ve put together a list of our key factors we evaluate when helping a client choose an eCommerce platform for their site.
Factors to consider when choosing an eCommerce platform for your client
When you’re choosing an eCommerce platform for your client’s site, there are a few critical factors you’ll want to consider. Those are:
Does the software have the features you need? Do their products come in various sizes or colors? Do they sell subscriptions or digital products? Do they need live UPS or FedEx rates for shipping? These are all features you’ll want to make sure your platform supports. Often it’s helpful to test a demo for a platform you’re considering – try adding a few test products, and look over the options. You can even have your client review the software as well, just to make sure it supports everything they need.
Self-hosted vs. Hosted
There are benefits to both self-hosted and hosted (SAAS) eCommerce platforms. Generally a self-hosted platform is more expensive to setup and maintain, but it provides a much greater degree of freedom when developing a site – which can be critical when trying to differentiate a business from its competitors. A hosted platform is generally much quicker and less expensive to setup, but you’re limited to the feature set of the platform and available add-ons.
The initial costs involved in setting up an eCommerce site can vary greatly, depending what type of site you need to create. Often a self-hosted site costs more to setup than a hosted option, but again that depends on your client’s needs. If you select a self-hosted option, you can generally get the core software free and then expect to pay a few hundred dollars in a few add-ons. If you want a more deluxe feature set, then you could easily spend $1,000+ in add-ons alone. That sounds like a lot, but the other factor to consider are on-going costs. Those can add up quickly, especially for hosted platforms, which can definitely be a concern to clients.
An eCommerce site isn’t the type of site you can just setup and forget about. There are always ongoing costs, even with free software. For a self-hosted site, your client will have hosting, probably an SSL certificate, and you’ll need to either pay a developer or apply updates/patches yourself when security patches or updates are released. For a hosted solution, there are monthly fees and there can sometimes be per sale fees as well.
With an online store, security is absolutely essential. Most reputable eCommerce platforms have excellent security, but it’s important to make sure the platform you choose is secure and that you’re following the necessary steps to secure it properly. For a self-hosted platform, you’ll want SSL and you may need PCI Compliance, depending upon your software and payment platform setup.
The goal of any online store is to grow and sell more products, so you’ll want to make sure your platform can grow with your client. One great way of adding features is through ‘add-ons.’ These generally come in the form of paid plugins or modules that you can purchase to add additional functionality to their site. Most eCommerce platforms have add-ons available for purchase. Typically these range from $50-$200 per add-on, though some are sold as a SAAS so they come with a monthly fee.
At SlicenPress, we start an eCommerce project with our eCommerce Questionnaire which asks a bunch of questions to help us narrow down the best fit for a project. You can download our eCommerce Questionnaire in pdf form here.
As you can see, there’s a long list of factors that go in to choosing an eCommerce platform. Next time, I’ll talk about some typical client projects and the solution we’d choose for each. Stay tuned!