The current market environment has tipped the scales in favor of e-commerce. Sales rose 129 percent, even as traditional retail sales tapered off.

If you’re thinking about a start-up, then you might be thinking about the e-commerce route. Setting up an online store can be faster and easier than trying to get brick-and-mortar operations running.

To be successful, though, you need to pick the right tools. That’s why you want to know what the best e-commerce software is.

This guide will help you compare various software solutions. With it, you’ll be able to make the best choice for your store.

Online Store Design Options

There are billions of websites out there. Plenty of them are your e-commerce competitors. You know you need a look that’s going to let you stand out from the crowd.

You also know design is key to helping your customers. Good design is not only attractive, it makes it easy to get around the site. It may even help them find what they’re looking for.

You’re also not a web developer, and you’re working with a limited budget. You need something beautiful and functional, but you also need it for the right price.

That’s why you need to think about the design options any e-commerce software solution offers. One of the best in this department is Squarespace, which offers you beautiful designs.

WooCommerce works with WordPress sites, which gives you more flexibility. You can buy any number of beautiful WordPress themes.

Other solutions may give you even more freedom in designing your online storefront. Some are restrictive though, so be sure to assess your options.

Ease of Use

Next, you’ll want to think about how easy it is to use any of the e-commerce software solutions out there. OpenCart scores big points on this front.

Other solutions can be more or less difficult to use. Often, the level of complexity rises with the number of features available.

A complex solution may not be the wrong choice if you want access to more features or need to manage a larger store. It could also be the right choice if you have a background in coding.

An easy-to-use solution will generally save you time and effort. It’s also helpful if you need to bring in more team members. Training is simplified.

Customer service and support can also be factored in to ease of use. Shopify provides a support program that helps get you up to speed. It’s like having a mentor.

This makes the system easier to use. Once you’ve mastered it, you may not need as much help. Until then, though, you have the assistance you need.

Compare the level of support and customer service across platforms, as well as their interfaces. A “difficult” interface might be balanced out by outstanding support.

Think About Features

You’ll want to spend some time comparing the features offered by any e-commerce software. These fall into two categories:

  • Website features
  • Sales features

Website features might include an SSL certificate, which improves security. Sales features include abandoned shopping cart recovery. This lets you follow up on abandoned shopping carts, converting more leads more often.

It’s important to consider what features are necessities and which ones are nice-to-have. With Google dinging websites in page ranks for not using SSL, having SSL security is a necessity.

Abandoned shopping cart recovery could be considered a necessity for some businesses. If you’re running a very small shop, though, it might be less important.

A good plan is to make a list of features you consider “must-haves” for your online business. Then compare which solutions include these features. If a solution doesn’t offer a must-have, you may want to take it out of the running.

Online Store Software Value

Now you’ll want to give some thought to pricing and value. Online store software solutions range from free to quite expensive.

You might be tempted to go with a free solution, especially if you have a tight budget. The lowest price isn’t always the right choice, though.

It’s often more helpful to think about the value the software provides. What are you getting for your money?

A free solution is the lowest priced, but it could end up costing you a lot more than you know. If it’s difficult to use and there’s not a lot of support, you might find yourself putting in tons of hours. That time could have been spent on other, revenue-generating tasks.

If the low-cost solution you’re considering doesn’t have the right features, you may also lose out on sales. It might be worth paying a little more to get abandoned cart recovery so you can make more sales. Getting the SSL certificate could help your SEO, which could translate to more sales.

Even customer support could justify a higher price. Always think about what your business needs and how that weighs against price.

Integration With Other Programs

Finally, don’t forget that your e-commerce software solution will need to integrate with other systems you’re using. That’s why you should always check what’s supported by any potential solution.

Some solutions support third-party payments and shopping carts. Often, you’ll want to connect your site to PIM solutions or CRM software. You may even need to connect to your shipping solution.

If the solution you choose doesn’t integrate with the other solutions you’re using, you’re creating more work for yourself. You’ll end up spending more time transferring information between systems and correcting errors.

Selecting a system that integrates with the other solutions you’re already using is just good business!

Choosing the Best E-Commerce Software for Your Business

Choosing the best e-commerce software depends a lot on what your business needs. There are many different solutions with different features and functionality. Some are great for small business, while others support bigger online stores.

Using the tips in this guide will help you pick the best one for your business.

Once you’ve picked your online store software, it’s time to get down to business. Check-in with us often for all the latest tips and tricks for e-commerce success.

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getting started in the cloud
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5 Simple Steps to Getting Started in The Cloud

All start-ups and small businesses have heard that the cloud is everywhere and can transform your business. But what is it and what can it do? Cloud-IT specialists Principal have the answers.

Confusingly, the cloud is used by providers, software sellers and businesses who want your money as a catch-all term for a variety of things. It can become quite complicated, but it doesn’t need to be.

The cloud is basically an on-demand storage or software resource that you can access immediately through the internet.

Tech giant IBM offers a handy definition of the various different types of cloud applications which is a good place to start. It’s likely that after reading that you’ll have more questions than you started with. To help, here are 5 simple steps to getting started in the cloud.

1. Pick your cloud

The first thing to clarify is, like the sky above, there isn’t one cloud – there are infinite numbers of potential clouds. As a business, you need to configure one that works for you.

As a small business you will want to focus on how the cloud can benefit you. For most, that’s likely to be moving certain data and applications to the cloud.

The first step is to analyse your data centre usage. This audit can identify your current software and storage requirements, enabling you to identify areas that could be better served in the cloud.

It’s important to recognise that to work any proposed move needs to improve efficiency and be cost-effective.

The bottom line is, if it won’t save you time or money, then think again.

2. Solid security

The cloud is as secure – if not more secure – than your own proprietary network, but you still need to be cautious.

Once you’ve identified the information and software you’d like to be hosted by the cloud then take the time to assess what this means for security.

The Data Protection Act and European Data Protection Regulation all have implications for how you manage and store data, and how you select your partners too – more on that below.

3. Simple strategy

Once you’ve done the groundwork, you can begin straight away. Microsoft, Adobe, SAP are just a couple of the huge names who have moved to providing software via the cloud. Dropbox is a leading name in cloud storage, but isn’t the only one.  All you need to do to get started in the cloud is get your credit card out and sign up.

If you do though, you could be making a mistake. According to tech bible ZDNet, what most cloud projects miss is a strategy – and we agree.

A solid cloud computing solution needs structure. This will help create a system that works for the organisation and your customer. It is also built with the future in mind, growing and developing as your business does.

4. Cloud culture

Your implementation strategy is important. Equally important is how your organisation embraces the cloud. It’s all about culture.

The cloud offers freedom to access information, work collaboratively, remotely and at all times of the day. But it comes with some new risks. These are particularly important to recognise as employees increasingly use their own devices for work.

Businesses need to develop working practices and approaches that are fit for the new world of the cloud. You’ll need to introduce new staff guidelines for document sharing and storage to help you and your employees work in a new way.

5. Provider or partner

If you’re tech minded it’s relatively easy to set-up a personal cloud, but you need to explore whether it’s the right approach for you.

Focusing solely on individual providers can leave you with a fragmented cloud system, with complex and inefficient interdependencies between different pieces of software from different providers.

In the end, you could end up paying for a system that far more complicated than the one it replaced.

One way of avoiding this is working with a partner who can help you configure a cloud solution that works for you. They can also take care of some of the security and access issues, helping you devise a strategy for success.

A successful transition to the cloud needs some thought and some planning, but genuinely does have the power to transform the way you work – increasing productivity, efficiency and profit.

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