2014 Chinese New Year Lion Dance

Lion Dance performance in NetBuilder office on 10th February 2014 (11th day of Chinese Lunar Calendar).


Things to Consider When Choosing an E-Commerce Provider

If you’re relatively new to the E-commerce scene, chances are you’re going to need some professional help in setting up your very first E-commerce Website. This is particularly true for those without the requisite technical know-how. Therefore, it only seem practical to engage a reliable E-commerce provider to help you with setting up your very first E-commerce Website.

Often times, when choosing an E-commerce provider, one of the most common criteria most people will be looking into would be the price factor. Put simply, the cost of engaging an E-commerce provider for their services. An obvious no-brainer.

While this can indeed be taken as one of factors when choosing your preferred E-commerce provider, especially if you’re on a tight budget, it should not, however, be the sole determining or overriding factor in assessing the suitability of an E-commerce provider for your business needs. There are other factor that come into play

In this regard, we seek to outline and examine, in this article, some of the other non-monetary factors that should also to be taken into consideration when choosing an appropriate E-commerce solution provider.

End-To-End Solution Provider

There are many parts involved in setting up a E-commerce Website.

  • You’ll need to register a domain name for your website (eg. www.yourdomain.com) ;
  • A user-friendly Shopping Cart System with a good built in Content Management System (CMS) behind it for easier maintenance;
  • A reputable and reliable Payment Gateway Provider to capture and process all online payment received from your buyers;
  • There’s also the Web Design aspect of it (whether you prefer template base web design or custom-made web design is another matter);
  • And you’ll need to have your website reside on a physical server (Hosting)

Sounds like a lot of work you say ? Well as a matter of fact, having to go around looking for a E-commerce provider for each of these components will indeed be a daunting task and proved time consuming. Therefore, it will be ideal for one to engage with an E-commerce provider that provides the aforementioned services, all in one convenient package.

Another added advantage is that, in the event your E-commerce website is not
running the way it should, for whatever reasons unknown, you’ll just need to get in touch with that one provider, instead of sifting through the problem to determine the root cause, just so you can forward the issue to the correct service provider.

After Sales Support

This is a very important factor to consider if you’re really serious about your online business especially when you are about to invest time and money into a solution to fuel the growth of your online business.

You need to make sure that there is someone you can get in touch with in case you need help with your E-commerce website, be it the technical aspect of it or otherwise. For example, what if your website is inaccessible ? or perhaps you’ve just done some changes to the contents of the website but somehow it just didn’t turn out the way it should ? or if somehow, you just can’t receive online payment from your buyers ? or maybe there is a bug or some coding errors ? Is there anyone that can assist you with such matters ?

Most corporately backed E-commerce solution, with their in-house built Shopping Cart System, should be able to provide such after sales support

However, there are still some E-commerce provider who choose to adopt other Open Source Shopping Cart System as their preferred platform instead of developing their own, just like the majority of those individual “freelance” E-commerce website developers.

For these developers, after sales support, particular those related to the Shopping Cart System, are typically not included, if at all. The reason being that most of these developers are not the actual Shopping Cart developers themselves. They are merely installing a particular version of an Open Source Shopping Cart for you as it stands (in it’s present condition), complete with all bugs and security issues still intact. So unless you have some prior written agreement with these developers that mandates them to provide you with support or fix these bugs for you, they are not obliged to do so. You’ll just have to wait for the open source community for that particular Shopping Cart to provide the support you require (typically in the form of forum posting) and to issue any bug fixes, some of which could take years.

Keep in mind that having a good after sales support team assisting you in your E-commerce venture goes a long way in ensuring the continued success of your online business

Therefore, it is vitally important for you to make sure that your E-commerce provider have an internal and dedicated technical support team that remains committed to help you fix any coding error or bugs in a timely manner and answer any queries you might have in your day to day running of your E-commerce Website.

Scalability & Flexibility

There’s no such thing as one size fits all. Every business is unique and different in it’s own way. In the same vein, you shouldn’t be content with just a simple “out of the box” solution. While this is a good way to start off your E-commerce business, your E-commerce provider should still provide you with the option and added flexibility to customize your E-commerce website catering towards your unique business requirements.

As your online business grows, ideally whatever E-commerce platform you choose should also be able to accommodate that growth, supporting the increase in the number products, orders and traffic volume. However, this is not always the case because some E-commerce platform, are by design, not meant for large scale expansion, due to the limitation of their framework. These type of solutions may initially be cheaper but one must always account for the effects for choosing such a solution in the long run. So what if your online business grows beyond the supporting capability of your E-commerce platform, what would you do ?

The logical solution would be to switch to another different E-commerce provider that offers a much more robust E-commerce system or platform capable of supporting that expansion.

While that sounds easy enough in theory, but in reality, this can be a hassle and extremely difficult if not impossible because this entails a complete “migration” of the whole contents of your E-commerce website (in some cases even your website’s database) from one E-commerce platform to another totally different E-commerce platform. Such transition can hardly be seemless due to the differences in framework and structure of two differing E-commerce platform.

Thus, you should always strive to look for an E-commerce provider that can provide you with a long term solution not just the short term.

Proven Track Record

When sourcing for the right E-commerce Provider, you should always strive to look for a reliable and reputable company that have a good and proven track record at successfully implementing the exact same E-commerce solution they seek to propose to you.

You need to delve deeper into the E-commerce Provider’s past history. How many year of experience they have in providing the said E-commerce solution ? Any successful case study ? Look into their previous clientele and their client’s respective websites for references. When considering their offerings, be sure that the provider you are dealing with is credible, with a solid reputation to back up their claims.

A good and reliable E-commerce provider will always try to understand your business first such as what type of products you’re selling, how your current business works, your target market .etc and work out a solution on how to translate all of that into an E-commerce environment. They should not be just a “yes man”, appeasing to every request even if it makes no sense from an E-commerce standpoint but instead they should be professional enough to gives you insightful alternative suggestions, ideas and solution to meet your online business requirement and goal.

Another point which you can also consider is whether or not the E-commerce provider you’re engaging with have any prior experience running an actual E-commerce business themselves. Those E-commerce providers who have embarked on their very own E-commerce venture will be able to give you some pointers and share their findings, from their years of experience running an E-commerce business, with you. This will benefit you tremendously especially if they also subscribe to the notion dogfooding and abides by it.

Dogfooding (A.K.A Eating your own dog food) is a term used to describe a scenario in which a software company uses its own product that they are trying to sell. It stems from the idea that if a company expects their clients to use it’s product and if the product is as good as claimed or advertised then that company should be willing and confident enough to use their own product. For E-commerce providers, dogfooding allows a company to test out it’s own solution in a real world environment, dealing with real online customers and iron out any kinks in their system. Hence, those E-commerce providers that runs their own E-commerce business and have no qualms about using their own solution to do so on a regular basis will be in a position to better understand the problems their client’s face when using their system.

The above-mentioned factors are not meant to be an exhaustive list but it should serve as some of the underlying guiding principles for consideration to get you started in the right direction.