A key decision in developing an online sales presence is the choice between using existing shopping cart software packages, a subscribed e-commerce service or a bespoke system developed from scratch. Each choice affects initial and ongoing costs, features and presentation, and the flexibility and future expansion options for your online business.
There are a range of popular open source (free) software and commercially available software for a nominal fee that will provide an ‘out of the box’ solution when you require an online shopping cart. The cost in implementation of these is in setup, configuration and customisation of the design of the site. While you get a lot of ‘bang for the buck’ these systems are designed to be generic to suit a multitude of product types and sales scenarios so the customer and administration experience can be more complicated than it needs to be. The layout and operational flow of such solutions can be limited in how far they can be customised beyond their existing features, although often they have a range of available modular addons that provide additional functionality.
In this scenario you pay a monthly or annual fee to a provider that hosts your site. The features are as provided so no additional customisation can typically be added, although the design of the site can be tailored to your brand. These services typically impose a transaction fee where a small amount of each sale is retained by the service provider. This is usually proportional to the service level subscribed to, with higher monthly fees attracting lower fees per transaction. The initial investment required is low but ongoing costs are constant.
While the most expensive solution when it comes to initial investment, a bespoke solution means that any feature required can be implemented, and any design or layout can be created for the shop without compromise. The best customer shopping experience, product presentation and user interface can be tailored exactly for the product range while a more efficient administration backend can be created with respect to the operational scenario. The flexibility and enhanced user experience will usually pay benefits in the longer term and generate a better return on investment.
Whichever type of online solution suits your business best, East Coast Interactive can help advise, plan, design and develop your project. If you’re looking for a quick solution you can find anyone to install a piece of software. If you are serious about ecommerce, you need a partner that really understands the wider picture – design and programming but also customer behaviour, site analytics, user interface, and consumer marketing to really make it successful.