Starting an online business can be both exciting and overwhelming, especially as you design your website and navigate the many specific tools needed to promote your store via the internet. eCommerce software makes opening and running an online store as fast and trouble-free as possible. With marketing, shopping and administrative features, these applications have the tools you need to set up and run a successful online store.
The best eCommerce software will walk you through every step of creating and stocking your online store. Even if you are unfamiliar with HTML and don’t know how to put top-notch security measures into place, eCommerce software solutions will do it for you. This type of application should help you design your website, upload and manage your inventory, connect to a shopping cart and provide secure payment options to your customers. You just need the inventory, a little bit of time and a few creative ideas, and you will have an online business up and running.
Here you will find articles about eCommerce software and tips for creating and managing a successful online business. Also, don’t forget to check out the reviews of our top three products: Volusion, Shopify and Shopping Cart Elite.
When choosing the best eCommerce platform, seek out those that offer a variety of features, plenty of storage and bandwidth, and flexibility to grow with your business. You'll find most of the products we reviewed offer strong basic programs suitable for most online stores. However, everyone’s business is different, so in order to make the best decision, know your specific needs as far as reports you want, where you want to sell and what customer benefits you want to offer.
Below are the criteria we used to evaluate these applications.
Hosting & Website Tools
The best eCommerce solutions offer tools that assist with hosting, web design and SEO (search engine optimization) integration. We focused our research on applications that encompass all aspects of creating and maintaining your website. Also, if you are unfamiliar or not completely comfortable with HTML, you’ll want an eCommerce software solution that offers a large number of website design templates and customization tools to ensure that the design of your website is unique to your business.
Storage space and bandwidth offerings vary by product. Storage space, as the name implies, is how much information you can store on the product's servers. This includes not only your inventory, but also photos, video, downloadable products, blog posts, press releases and anything else you put on your website. Bandwidth refers to the traffic your site gets, from people clicking around your site to your employees uploading new inventory. eCommerce companies that offer large amounts of online storage space, bandwidth, eCommerce hosting and a website builder are ideal. If you have a large inventory, you'll want to look for bulk upload and bulk editing features that will save you time.
Finally, keep in mind that not all eCommerce software allows you to sell downloadable items like music, eBooks or programs, so if you have downloads in your stock, look for that feature.
Managing your business can be time consuming, but with the right tools and features, eCommerce platforms will save you a lot of time and frustration. Look for low inventory alerts, the ability to handle back orders, in-house credit card processing and merchant gateways for payments. If you want to use the same software to run your physical store, look for eCommerce solutions that provide point-of-sale systems, as well.
Marketing analysis can help your business grow, especially online. If you do a lot of marketing analysis, seek out a product that allows you to create a wide variety of custom reports. Obviously, you'll want reports that show your sales daily or over a period of time, but most eCommerce software can go further, by tracking the most popular items, which items are looked at the most but not bought, even what keywords customers are using to search for your products. Many eCommerce software packages integrate with Google Analytics, which provides easily understandable statistics on the traffic coming to your site. Most also offer accounting reports, but if you prefer QuickBooks, look for eCommerce solutions that integrate with it.
A pleasant online shopping experience keeps your customers coming back, so look for features that help people feel good about the purchases they’ll make at your store. Things like image zoom, customer reviews and product comparisons help shoppers make decisions with confidence, while coupons, discounts and loyalty programs bring them back.
Some eCommerce software automatically simplifies your storefront to make it easier to view and navigate on cell phones or tablets. Such mobile-friendly stores are becoming vital, as more and more people are making their purchases using their phone, even after visiting a physical store.
Your website will do you no good if customers don’t find your store online. Many of the best eCommerce solutions offer marketing tools to attract customers and keep them coming back for more. Popular marketing tools for eCommerce software are affiliate programs, which let third-parties advertise your store or sell your products for you; search engine optimization abilities such as product tags and individual page URLs that are more likely to show up on Google or other search engines; and strong social networking tools, including options that make it easy for customers to like or share your products with others via Facebook or other social media.
Upsell and cross-sell capabilities increase sales by suggesting additional products. Daily deals and promotional emails bring customers back to your store, and abandoned cart notifications can help you to close a sale when a customer backs out before they actually pay.
Many eCommerce software packages go a step further by allowing you to sell your products directly on Amazon, eBay or Facebook.
When you're working with online payment options, you need strong online security. All the sites we reviewed are PCI compliant, meaning they meet the Payment Card Industry's standard for secure transactions. Find applications that offer fraud protection and Secure Socket Layer protection. SSL is a special encryption for secure transactions, a must for credit-card transactions, but some eCommerce software companies expect you to purchase this feature separately.
Many services include a feature requiring customers to enter the CVV2 code from the back of their credit cards. Some eCommerce solutions provide fraud scores, which alert you to potential fraud risks before the sale is completed, while others expect you to rely on your credit card company for this protection.
Help & Support
Questions and concerns will likely arise while you're running an online business. The best manufacturers provide several options for reaching a customer service representative via telephone, email and live chat. Look for manufacturers who also provide a variety of additional resources, such as extensive FAQs, user guides and a knowledgebase. As bonus for entrepreneurs, especially those new to eCommerce, some services provide community forums for sharing ideas and even education centers with webinars and articles on the latest aspects of online business.
With the right eCommerce software, you can get your online business up and running in no time. This software will eliminate much of the frustration you might experience with the complex process of setting up and running an online store, and it will give you the tools you need to make your online business a success. Knowing what to look for and what you need for your business can help you make the best choice in eCommerce software.
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