When selecting an e-commerce solution, we recommend that you ask the following questions:

1) Why can’t I just use an application and figure out the hosting and build and maintain this myself?
A) If you have the ability, time and inclination to do this, then you don’t need us.   However we suggest that you seriously think about the real cost and value of your own time.  If you have just got to do it, then regardless of claims by many ‘cheap’ hosting providers, do make sure that you use premium dedicated Hosting with plenty of resources.

2) How easy is the solution to setup and maintain?

A) Is the setup DIY with “Setup assistants/wizards” If so are these really user friendly? Or will they turn out to be more challenging and painful than expected.   Ask who does all the initial required setup.

3) Do I need an expensive fancy bespoke website to sell products?

A) This is very much ‘Horses for courses’ and Fancy Bespoke websites are more for companies trying to make an impact in the market, or for enthusiast designers and coders.   If style, branding and individuality is objectively part of your business plan (Rather than your preference) then it’s important.

There are many different opinions  on this topic, however in our experience, we often find that simple, tidy, easy, functional and updated websites are often efficient high performance Sales machines.

Remember that there are people out there making a living from designing and selling websites.

4) What about Hosting?

A) Make sure that hosting is robust and at least in the same continent as your Customers.  e.g.  Running a Standard USA shared hosting Account running Magento for UK buyer will be slow and any attempts to scale up may well breech so called  ‘Fair Usage’ policies.  Also if are asked to pay high monthly ‘Hosting’ or ‘Domain’ charges get it confirmed that you are getting Local dedicated Servers .   Remember that ‘Demo’ sites are rarely highly loaded up.

5) How easy is the shipping setup?

A) Is this cumbersome involving the Setting up of shipping configuration modules and inputting of PHP scripts?   Ask who does all the initial required setup.

6) Can the solution import spreadsheets for bulk product building and changes? How easy is Product maintenance? E.g. if your supplier changes prices, how easy is it to change all you prices?

A) There should be a simple way of balk updating Product prices, stock quantities and product details by importing a simple spreadsheet.   If not then you will need to factor in much time to do initial and ongoing manual changes.

7) Will the help be Helpful? – can you actually speak to someone both during and after the initial setup?

A) Many of the major Hosting Companies offer DIY e-commerce solutions with DIY help with ‘Robust’documentation to wade through and a series of annoying and sometimes confusing popup windows which rarely cover configuration changes.   Ask if you will be able to get ongoing telephone help from someone in the same continent who understands your business aims.

8) Does the Solution support the main multiple Channels with one Database?   In particular, If items are sold on the website, will the eBay inventory automatically be adjusted?

A) We think that this should all be standard.   If not then you will need to factor in much time to deal with the initial and ongoing manual changes.

9) How is stock Inventory levels managed? How do I allocate low stock levels across my online sites without risking over-selling?

A) Many Solutions require you to allocate available inventory between sites and build in ‘Safety buffers’, meaning that you then have to keep track of stock levels and sales on each site. We think that this is a pain and just adds to the admin burden and increases the risk of overselling in error. We believe in simple Stock management systems that automatically Pushes 100% Product to every required site, synchronising sales across channels and then automatically stopping selling when all Inventory has been sold.

10) Is there automated eBay synchronization of Orders, stock levels, pricing, product details and automated feedback?

A) We think that this should be standard to eliminate many of the usual eBay headaches.   If not then you will need to factor in much time to deal with ongoing manual changes.

11) Are there Professional Standardised Selling Templates for all online channels?

A) We think that this should be standard.   If not then you will need to factor in much time to deal with ongoing manual changes.

12) What If I don’t understand some of these questions?

A) Use a Solution that does all the setup for you, offers useful ongoing help and value and genuinely wants your on-line business to succeed.

13) What about SEO?

A) Google have recently moved the Goal Posts and many of Yesterday’s SEO Tricks and techniques that worked previously to improve SEO such as; anchor-tag and keyword matching, keyword stuffing, link building, and link buying are a thing of the past and now HURT retailers today.  The changes that Google has made now hinge on content quality, relevance, and interaction.  Online material needs to be original & dynamic. Links to complementary websites, products, partners, or blogs make your site increasingly more relevant, and positive customer interaction is another heavyweight. In essence Google have made their crawlers more human. People can quickly decipher a good site from a not so good site, and now Google can too.

Ask any SEO ‘Specialists’ what exactly they propose to actually do and also how they are adapting their strategies for The ‘Penguin’ algorithm change.

14) Do you need to sign up to a minimal time period? Can you leave for any reason at any time without penalty?

A)  This is an incredibly competitive industry and we think that anyone offering solutions should stand behind the value of the service that we offer to your business.   If you are not getting that value then if you are not free to just walk away. Without penalty, then what incentive is there to help resolve your issues?