The answer actually lies in answering 2 main questions
1 – What eCommerce software best fits your needs?
2 – How will you collect payment?
1 – What eCommerce software best fits your needs?
The software you ultimately pick to support your online store will depend on what features you need. It will also be impacted greatly by what platform you have chosen to support your website.
There are a number of eCommerce platforms that are designed specifically to plug into existing CMS software. For example if your have built your website on the WordPress platform then the WooCommerce open source solution can seamlessly integrate a shopping experience into your website. WooCommerce was first developed by WordPress theme developer WooThemes and then in May 2015 WooThemes and WooCommerce were acquired by Automattic, operator of WordPress.com and core contributor to the WordPress software. It is is free and open source but offers a number of “paid” extensions that can make it scalable to more complex ecommerce requirements. If you are using WordPress we also recommend that you look at Jigoshop. Jigoshop is an open-source content management system for eCommerce websites developed on WordPress and was developed as a free eCommerce software solution for small and medium enterprises.
It is recommended that you look for an open source solution that is compatible with the CMS platform you are using for your site. Here are a couple of examples –
There are also a number of e commerce solutions that are open source and free. These shopping carts are basically standalone programs that require you to install them into your own host. So you will have to set up, configure and manage your own hosting service to power your online store. These allow you to develop a self-hosted online store website with little or no cost but vary in terms of complexity. Check out some of the most popular open source solutions –
These solutions should be researched so that you can consider the level of programming expertise is required to implement. Before you commit to any solution you should consider that open source is not for everyone. If you don’t have the time or the expertise you could also consider hiring someone who can develop a self hosted ecommerce site. This provides you with a customized open source CMS solution that you can manage ongoing.
However if you are not committed To the idea of open source solution, you should consider a hosted online store solution. Hosted shopping carts enable you to build a store with little or no technical experience and to manage them yourself. Here are some to consider –
The key is to research all your options. First, work out the features you need and then prioritize them before you research the software.. The complexity of your online store will determine whether an out of the box solution can work for you. If you require too many specific features, you may need to start talking with a developer about how they can be built into a custom solution. And don’t just determine what you need now, but also look to the future. The last thing you want is for your business to experience significant growth, only to be held back by a limited e-commerce solution. Find a program that can grow with you and handle more business than you might think possible.
2 – How will I collect payment from customers?
The answer to this question a few short years ago would have been very different. Today there are a number of online payment providers that make it much easier to collect payments from customers through your website. Probably one the best known providers is also one of the oldest – PayPal. They hold a significant share in the online payment industry, and is the preferred payment mode for millions of people all around the world. However a downside with PayPal can be high fees especially if you are dealing with high sales volumes. There are a growing number of other options as well. When comparing options here are some of the key questions you need to answer –
Is the payment gateway supported on your ecommerce platform?
Whichever platform you’ve chosen, there will be a range of off-the-shelf plugins or extensions to help you integrate with major payment gateways. Where possible, choose a payment gateway that already has a plugin for your platform. For example Shopify is an e-commerce platform and Moneris is a payment gateway. Shopify supports the Moneris payment gateway, which makes it simple for customers to integrate their new or existing Moneris account with their Shopify store.
Do you want customers to enter their payment details directly on your site?
The smoothest checkout experience for customers is usually for them to enter their payment details into a normal form on your site. Unfortunately, this is the least secure way of doing things. An alternative is to redirect customers to a hosted payment page. It can be harder to get the payment form to match the rest of your website with this approaches, but it can be a more secure way of doing things.
What are the transaction fees?
These services are not free. Payment gateways and merchant accounts charge various different fees that can include monthly fees, fixed fees per transaction, variable fees based on a percentage of transaction amounts, and extra fees for things like chargebacks, payments from international cards, and more. Make sure you understand the fee structure before you open your online store. Also be aware of any term contracts that might be required to lock in a favorable rate.
Does the provider have a good reputation?
More than just about anything else you will do online your payment processing is critical to the reputation of your business. You will want to work with a proven provider who has a solid track record. Do your homework and do some solid research on possible providers before you sign anything.
Do you want to offer PayPal?
Given its popularity many consumers have PayPal accounts and many of them prefer to pay by PayPal rather than enter credit card details into yet another website. You don’t necessarily have to limit yourself to one payment gateway. Even if you don’t use PayPal as your main payment gateway, consider offering PayPal as an alternative way for customers to pay. It can also be a good backup in case of any problems with your primary payment gateway or merchant account.
Does the payment gateway support the payment methods your target market uses?
There are many online payment methods in use around the world including the major credit cards such as Visa and MasterCard. Make sure you understand which payment methods people in your target market like to use and choose a payment gateway that best supports those methods. If your website doesn’t accept your customer’s preferred payment method you risk losing sales.