Although I have built and sold over 100 online stores, the first store I ever operated was a brick and mortar store. I took over the reigns when my dad retired and my family still runs that little sports shoe store.
When I decided to expand the business, I wanted to do it in a way which would not require the business to take a loan even though it would have no problem securing financing for such a venture.
The only way to I could think of was to expand through the internet via a virtual store. But there were so many ecommerce solutions for small business available. Here is how I made my choice.
Free Or Paid Solution
Naturally, I looked at the free solutions first. That would be the obvious move. Why pay for something which you can get for free?
I joined a few forums and looked at the pros and cons of free ecommerce solutions. I found out that free ecommerce software would be more suited to those who have a bit of programming knowledge and have more time to spend tweaking the software to suit their needs.
Unfortunately, I did not fit that bracket so I had to choose from a number of paid solutions. Of course, if you are more tech savvy, give free ecommerce solutions a try. If it works for you, you would end up saving about $ 60 a month in subscription fees.
Value For Money
Most of the top ecommerce companies offer about the same features to their merchants. Since I was starting out small, I was more interested in what I could get from their plans for beginners. There are a few ecommerce solutions providers which offer quite a lot of the features even with their entry-level plans. You would be surprised at what you can get for around $ 40 to $ 60 a month.
For the price you pay, you not only get fantastic features like a Facebook app which would allow you to sell on Facebook, you also get free updates. Take note that some ecommerce solutions charge for updates after a year so read the fine print before you subscribe.
Be sure to also test their support system. Most offer email, live chat, phone call and support tickets. I prefer the support ticket system because everything is documented and my messages will never end up in the spam folder. Also, tickets are usually answered within 24 hours of a normal business day.
Ease Of Use
This one is down to the individual. One solution might be the bees knees to one person but a thorn in the side to another. I would highly recommend that you shortlist and try out the solution which interests you. After all, that is what the Free Trial period is for.
Most ecommerce solutions offer a 30-day free trial period which was more than sufficient time for me to fiddle with the vast amount of tools and features on offer. I spent about an hour a day for a week and a half before I made my decision.
I found out that if you need an extension, they would be more than happy to add-on a week for you. After all, it is of no lost to them if you end up subscribing to their solution.