With the ever-increasing demand for E-Commerce solutions, there seem to be new options for business owners every day. That presents both options and challenges, as you have to figure out which online solution is right for you. It requires a good bit of research, and at least a strong beginner's understanding of basic industry terms such as bandwidth, SEO, PPC Marketing, disk space, etc. Worse yet, make the wrong decision and you can be locked in a contract with a service provider that isn't right for you and wasting thousands of dollars.
Don't let that scare you. There is also a lot of upsides in this quest. First and foremost, your e-commerce store will be (or at least should be) your best employee. It will work 24/7, 365 days per year. It won't get sick, won't file a lawsuit against you, won't go on strike, and won't mess up its duties! Not to mention that it will cost a fraction of what your other employees will cost you, and it will never require health benefits! With that being said, let's review some of the main options that you have to consider and see if we can save you a ton of money, time, and frustration.
First things first, we have to consider your skill level, time frame, and budget. During this phase we will use the analogy of buying a car. Do you want to own the car, or lease the car? How nice of a car do you want? Can you drive a stick-shift? Do you need a racecar or a more economical solution to just get you from one place to the next? We'll take these questions one at a time.
Do you want to own or lease your e-commerce solution?
Much like buying a car, one of your first business decisions that you'll need to make is whether you'd like to own or lease your e-commerce solution. While leasing a car has some very attractive incentives (mainly the lower cost), it also has some drawbacks (it's not actually yours). There are some wonderful e-commerce solutions that offer you an out of the box solution with little or no start up costs. Instead they will have a monthly fee which will most likely also come with a contract for any given time period. Some of these options that you may be familiar with are companies such as Shopfiy and 1ShoppingCart. We will compare these in greater detail below, but both offer low start-up costs and industry leading software solutions for your online store. The downside? You're stuck with them. You may or may not be okay with that, but you need to at least be aware of that. When you stop paying them, your e-commerce store is gone. Since it was operated by their proprietary software, you can't take it with you if you decide that another option is right for you. Furthermore, you are inevitably going to find yourself in a contract that is less than easy to get out of. This is why we say it is like leasing a car.
Alternatively, you can go the route of owning your e-commerce solution. This will involve an outside web developer (like System X Designs) to build you a solution that is yours forever. It is hosted in your hosting package and owned 100% by you. Should you choose that you no longer need our services, you are free to take 100% of your online store with you to another web developer. In fact, you don't actually have to take anything anywhere, you simply have another web developer login to your control panel. It is completely your property that you control. Why is this important? Well, if you want to minimize the amount of ongoing costs that you'll be left with or if you'd like the flexibility to own and control your content regardless of who you choose as a provider then the option of owning your "car" is far more attractive. Furthermore, instead of having to pick from a set up "out of the box" options, you can tailor make your e-commerce solution for exactly what you want your store to be able to do. You're not stuck with a pre-made solution (that additionally wasn't "pre-made" for you). The downside? While you won't have the lengthy contracts and ongoing monthly costs, you will have a higher startup cost since your project is being built from the ground up to suit your needs.
So which route is better? No one can answer that for you, as your business strategy is different from anyone else's. We can certainly make recommendations and encourage you to check out Shopfiy and 1ShoppingCart versus our custom e-commerce solutions, but at the end of the day it is your business decision to make. You must consider your budget, your goals, your long term strategies, and many other aspects of your needs and expectations for your online store.
What is your budget for your Online Store?
Obviously one of the first decisions you'll need to make is regarding the amount of money that you want to allocate for your e-commerce solution. You'll need to consider both your upfront costs as well as your ongoing costs. Your "out of the box, lease options" such as Shopfiy and 1ShoppingCart will offer you virtually no start up costs on the front-end, but will recoup their money in the longer contracts and ongoing monthly fees. Our custom e-commerce solutions will inevitably have a higher up-front costs as we build your online store, but will have no recurring fees or long-term contracts. Also worth noting, just because you are "buying" a solution instead of "leasing" a solution does not mean that you won't be able to finance it. For instance, let's assume you have a project that will cost you $15,000 for a truly customized site and online store, but you aren't able to make a one-time payment of the full amount. We are fully willing to spread out that costs and work out a plan that is right for you. For instance, you might be able to pay $5,000 each month for the next three months and have your project completed now. After your payment is made in full, you are under no ongoing obligation to use System X Designs for any additional services.
With that being said, if your budget for your online store is very modest, there's no reason that you shouldn't consider the leasing options. Companies such as Shopfiy and 1ShoppingCart provide an outstanding e-commerce solution that will allow more novice users to have their online store up very quickly. You can choose from one of their themes, insert some of your information and products, and have an online precense in short order! So of these two lease options, which do we prefer? Let's take a look and see.
If you have decided to try and get your store up and running without the assistance of an online developer, then the two industry leaders that we suggest are Shopfiy and 1ShoppingCart. Both have a very impressive portfolio of clients that they have worked with, and both offer similar features and advantages. However, while subtle- the differences can make all the difference! Let's take a closer look at these two options.
For the purpose of this comparison, we are going to be comparing both company's "Standard" plan. It's not their cheapest plan, but also not their most expensive. Both companies offer three "out of the box" plans, and we will be comparing their "middle of the road" offers.
Right out of the gate there is a difference in the services offered. Shopfiy does offer an in person solution for collecting payments. If your company is looking to be able to accept credit cards in person, Shopfiy will allow you to use their system coupled with an iPad or iPhone and swipe your customer's credit card while standing in your store. While 1ShoppingCart does not offer this feature directly, PayPal does offer it for free. Not necessarily better or worse, but for now, we'll mark that up as a point for Shopfiy. For a list of the features, we're going to show you a table of what comes with their respective solutions so you can see a more direct comparison.