It’s predicted that over the next ten years cloud computing will be core to all businesses in most industries. In online retail the wheels have been in motion awhile. The evidence of its success is clear in major companies such as Amazon and eBay, and not just for buyers but also for businesses.
Today cloud-based ecommerce platforms offer a wide range of features from inbuilt accounting to one-stop-shop marketplace managers. For a start-up or small business owner, one question that crops up is how to choose the right solution for the business?
Get a fix on features
One of the first things to think about are the features. Many of the current online ecommerce solutions offer plenty of them; some may be ‘add ons’ which you pay for and some will be included as part of a package. What is important to you of course comes down to your own business needs.
Look out for functionality that would help your company grow sales, such as built-in integration for selling on an Amazon or eBay marketplace, trading from Facebook or easy maintenance of product entries on comparative shopping sites.
How much to spend?
The great thing about cloud computing in general is the low initial costs involved. With web-hosted ecommerce you will probably be purchasing a package for a monthly fee. An important part of that cost, which is common to all cloud-based products, is it includes hosting and security, which is an advantage and a saving over desktop ecommerce apps. However, it’s not just a matter of finding the cheapest provider. Can that £5 monthly charge with Mr Flogitonline guarantee no downtime and full backups? What extra does Ms Moneypenny offer for £19 a month? Ask detailed questions, get a trial, check forums and review sites, post on Twitter to find customers – after all the supplier you chose will be the heart of your online store.
Watch out for hidden costs
If you own a desktop licence for a shopping cart, or perhaps you use some freeware to run your store, then the overheads may appear minimal. But add hosting, SSL certificates, technical support contracts, networking technology and software and hardware upgrades to keep up with performance, you’ll see that perhaps there are some hidden costs involved which can be better spent by ‘going to the cloud’.
One area that many overlook when they start off is can the ecommerce platform scale. Make sure there are upgrade options and that you can freely move between packages as your business grows. And what about emigrating to alternative suppliers – how easy is that? Check the contract to make sure you understand the limits. And most importantly, make sure you are able to get the support needed to make either setup or transition as smooth as possible.
If you have any questions or comments I’m happy to talk.