Helping SMBs find ecommerce partners
Ecommerce stores are intricate businesses involving many interlinking processes and functions, and managing them is not easy. All aspects of the business must be carefully integrated – including IT, marketing, accounting, inventory management, fulfillment and customer service – so the entire operation runs smoothly from the moment of first contact with a customer.
Many business owners make the common mistake of assuming their relationship with ecommerce partners begins and ends with the creation of a website, but building the platform is only the first stage in a long succession of improvements and fortifications that will make your website a success.
Rather than trying to find the best ecommerce partner to build your website, it’s best to focus on finding the best fit for your business needs in the long term.
Nothing kills an ecommerce business faster than unstable hosting. Make sure your ecommerce platform has a strong record of hosting support and minimal downtime.
Customer data protection
Security is critical to any ecommerce operation. Maintaining the technical infrastructure to stay PCI compliant at all times is challenging even for a business with full-time IT personnel, so selecting an ecommerce partner that places a high priority on data security solutions is key.
The out-of-pocket cost is always an important detail, but you should be wary of packages that sound too good to be true. Ecommerce partners and solutions requiring a low upfront cost will often include burdensome fees later on.
Compare your needs with competitors in the marketplace. Identify the partners they’ve chosen and the functionalities they provide, then look for customer reviews on other sites. Are people generally happy with the service your competitor provides, or are there problems customers are complaining about?
Inventory and fulfillment
When assessing an ecommerce platform, most reviewers focus on how easy the checkout process is, how quickly items arrive and the overall quality of the products themselves. Strong backend integration with your inventory management system is crucial for providing a satisfying customer experience.
Many people resent having to create and save login info to make a purchase, so you should consider offering either guest check out or allow people to log in using one of their social media accounts, like Facebook or Twitter.
Research the potential partner’s track record in terms of communication with their clients. An ecommerce partner should be transparent and open about its business practices, and always keep customers informed about changes that impact them.
Substance before style
After researching the functionality your business needs, you should assess every prospective partner based on that criterion. Lots of ecommerce platforms offer stylish designs and flashy visuals that captivate the eye, but your first priority is to create a website that works well. Worry about design later on.
Begin by evaluating your business
Start with an honest assessment of your business, evaluating your strengths and weaknesses. Think about the core competencies of your team, and identify areas where a third party might help. Write down the resources you have available – including time, money and staff – and measure the scope of work your website will require against the resources you are willing to commit.
Next it’s time to sort through the options and find an ecommerce partner that will best complement your needs and goals. Assess each of them on communication, security measures, technical offerings, cost and reliability.
Selecting an ecommerce partner is an important decision. You’ll want to invest in a platform that will help your business grow for years to come. Taking the time to research your options will help ensure your ecommerce partner is the right one for you.