So you have decided to start selling online. The first thing you will need is some sort of E-Commerce package so you can look like eBay, Amazon or David Jones. So how do you choose the best package? Perhaps you should compare E-Commerce packages based on features? After all, the software with the most features is going to be the best for your online business – right?
Selecting E-Commerce software based on features is like buying a car based on features before defining what you actually need the car to do. Imagine buying a Ferrari becuase it can go from 0 to 100 in 3 seconds, change direction in the tightest of turning circles and is loaded with shmultzy bling that turns heads but unfortuantely it can't shift your family of five from A to B. Perhaps it’s better to work out what you need the car to do first before you go shopping?
The same goes for E-Commerce software. First, work out the features you need then select the software. Unfortunately, these features are not so apparent when it comes to E-Commerce. The features you need are going to depend on the business processes you have. Sometimes these will be malleable but in an established business they will often be set in stone. Let’s look at some of them.
- The most important feature of any E-Commerce software is that selling via the software should add no more processes to your business than selling through your regular sales channels. Online orders should enter the processing system of your current order management system effortlessly. Will the E-Commerce software you choose be able to do this?
- An online store may need to reflect stock data accurately. Sometimes it is critical that online data is precisely the same as your point of sales data and sometimes it isn’t. Can you be sure the stock levels on your website will reflect your actual stock on hand accurately without messy manual updates?
- Many companies like to discount their products for VIP customers, on sellers or bulk buyers. The discounts you apply may be so complicated that the E-Commerce packages can’t deliver them. How can you be sure the pricing systems of the E-Commerce software you choose will accurately reflect how you currently discount products?
- When users add products to their shopping basket they often go through a series of steps. Sometimes these steps can get complicated. First they select a product, then maybe a colour, then perhaps that reveals further customisations and so on. During this process what the user sees - product information, images, specifications and so on may change. After four to five selections the user finally has something specific they can add to their cart. Can you be sure the E-Commerce software you chose will allow this level of customisation?
- Sales through E-Commerce shouldn’t affect your warehousing or shipping systems unduly. Can you be certain your actual shipping costs will be accurately modelled by the E-Commerce software you choose?
E-Commerce software systems market themselves by listing many unclear but seemingly wonderful features. Beware, the death is in the detail with these features - they may not do exactly what you want!
As a rule of thumb, start-up businesses without existing point of sales systems can get away with standard E-Commerce software. This is because they can modify their business to work the way the software does. If you are in a position to do this, it is by far the cheapest way to implement E-Commerce.
On the other hand, businesses with reliance on Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software generally find integration with standard E-Commerce software difficult. Often E-Commerce implementations are abandoned when it is found the software can never be made to work the way the ERP system does. You may need to build custom software instead that talks to your ERP directly so your precise business processes can be modelled exactly the way they need to be.