Shopping Cart Web Sites: 13 Ways to Evaluate an E-Commerce Provider

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There are hundreds of vendors that provide eCommerce and shopping cart solutions on the internet.

Trying to figure out which one offers what you need can seem more like a roll of the dice than an

educated decision.

If you’re like most people, when looking for an eCommerce solution, you’ll go to your favorite search engine

and enter terms like: “ecommerce website”, “ecommerce web site developer” or “shopping cart web site”.

You’ll find a long list of providers that make plenty of claims indicating their solution is the best one

for you. But how can you really tell? You’ll find 13 techniques to help you make a decision in this article.

 

Evaluate Real Web Sites

 

1.Look at sample sites that use the solution you are considering.

Visit actual sites that use the software, not just demo sites. If you can’t find any real sites, move on.

How can you trust a provider who won’t show you the product in action? Don’t just look at the visual design,

but visit the site and click around. I recommend adding items to your cart and starting the checkout process.

In many cases you will find shopping is cumbersome, the checkout process is tedious,

or there are actually errors on the site.

2.Pay attention to the visual design of the sites. Do the sites look good?

Do they use a template that is the same from one site to the next?

If you like what you see, add this provider to your ‘hot list’, but you’ll need to ask the provider about

web site design costs and who provided the designs you like before you sign up.

3.Do not use a shopping cart that requires the shopper to sign up for an account before they can buy.

Requiring a shopper to sign up for an account is a barrier that will reduce your conversion rates.

Do not use a cart that doesn’t show shipping charges until the end of the checkout process.

Shoppers want to know how much shipping will add to the cost of their order and many will abandon their

cart if they need to enter personal information just to find out.

 

Evaluate Search Engine Placement

4.Check the google page rank on some of the sites in the providers portfolio.

You can find out by visiting this web site: Google Page Rank Checker. Enter the home page url

(for example: http://www.thesite.com) of the site you want to check.

If the page rank of the home page is not at least 3 or 4, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.

Sites with a pagerank of 0 are new and have not been ranked by Google yet.

5.Pick a few sites that use the software you are considering and try to find them in Google, Yahoo, and MSN.

If you can’t find them, it’s not a good sign. I recommend clicking to a product page on the site.

Choose a 3 word phrase that you think represents what is found on the page. Your phrase should include words

that are on the page you are viewing. Enter that phrase in a search engine and see if you can find the site.

Try this several times with a few sites- if you can’t find any results, chances are no one will find your

site either.

 

Evaluate Features Offered and Costs

6.Look carefully at what features will cost more. Most ecommerce providers offer a base set of features

for a low setup cost. In some cases, that is all you will need. You should look carefully at what

features will increase the price in order to avoid sticker shock after you get started.

7.Find out what’s included in the setup cost. For many providers, you do most of the work of creating your

web site. Consider how much you will have to do yourself and how much will be ready to go.

Try to place a dollar value on your time.

8.Are merchandising tools available or included? Are features such as free shipping offers, featured products,

sale items, customer testimonials, email newsletter signup, and email this page to a friend available?

All of these tools increase the selling power of your site.

9.Try out the administration tool. There are a world of solutions out there, from simple ‘buy now’

buttons you add to your existing site which require a moderate level of technical knowledge,

to complete site management tools that let you control just about everything on your web site with

little technical knowledge. The solution that is right for you depends on your needs, your time, your budget,

and your expertise. If you don’t understand the steps required to use the software, you should continue

your search.

10.Does the solution allow you to easily create additional pages? Does the solution allow/provide that

each of your products has it’s own web page? This key feature will pay big dividends in the long run.

More pages means the search engines will index more pages and that means more chances for shoppers to land

on your pages when they are searching for your products.

 

Evaluate Customer Service

11.Some solutions are ‘hosted’, some you install on your computer and host anywhere.

In general, a hosted solution will require less technical knowledge and you’ll get the benefit of

“one stop service”. If you have a problem or question, you’ll contact the provider.

A hosted solution may involve a higher monthly fee. If the solution requires you to install software

on your computer and find your own host, you’ll need more technical knowledge. When you encounter a problem,

you may have some difficulty in pinning down whether the problem is with your computer, the software,

or your hosting company.

12.Get references. Contact a few current customers and ask if they are happy. Be specific.

Do they get good service? Do they feel they are getting a good value? Do they get sales?

You can’t lay all the blame for a site with low sales on the ecommerce provider, but hearing from

current customers that they do get sales is a positive indicator.

13.Pick up the phone and call the provider. Are you connected with a knowledgeable sales rep?

If you end up in a phone queue, try choosing the selection for existing customer tech support.

Are you connected to a tech support person? How long do you have to hold? Use this guide to develop a

list of questions for the provider.

 

Making an informed decision when choosing a solution for your ecommerce web site can make or

break your online success. Evaluating the options will take some time, but the investment in reviewing

your options carefully will be well worth it as your online business develops.

This is an original article written by Staci Schipporeit of Datahost. Datahost is the maker of the

MightyMerchant eCommerce Solution. Copyright 2005 Datahost, Inc.,