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What to Look for in an Online Store

what to look for in an online store

With eCommerce responsible for $231 billion of US sales in 2012, it’s not surprising the market for online stores is massive.

With companies like Shopify, Goodsie and Yola populating online store search results, your options may be seemingly endless. Although choosing from such an expansive selection may seem to be a difficult feat, sifting through your options is less challenging than you may think.

The key to finding the right online store service for you is whittling down your options. In order to the find the store that best suits you, take the important aspects of your business and pair them with the necessary online store features. Once you have decided which features your business requires, eliminate the online stores that don’t match your vision. Thus, the whittling begins.

The hard part is figuring out which features to consider. Here are a few initial questions to ask yourself to get pointed in the right direction.

How many products will they support?

When it comes to selecting an online store, choose an eCommerce solution that benefits your products. If you’re a business owner who necessitates a 1,000-product catalog, you don’t want to get stuck with a solution facilitating a mere 500. Even if you don’t have that many products left, you’ll want to leave some room for growth. While perusing the features lists of each company in comparison, be sure to note how many products each are able to support.

At this point, if you’re racking your brain in an attempt to visualize a 100-product catalog, let alone 1,000, keep in mind that products sold online are not bound to the tangible. Selling digital items, such as eBooks, photography or graphic designs, can add a lot of value to your offerings and expand your reach to a wider audience.

What do they charge?

Picture this – you diligently do your research hopping from one company’s pricing page to another, noticing a variety of online stores all ranging around the same price. You continue to search until you stumble across a company charging nearly half the price of its alternatives. Excited to start an online business with such a small startup fee, you sign up and start selling, only to find that you missed the fine print; your new online store is charging you huge fees per transaction.

You can easily avoid this scenario by comparing the costs that go beyond the initial rates and fees. Although a small startup fee may be enticing when you’re just getting your business up and running, extraneous fees could leave you paying significantly more in the long run. A lot of online stores will charge a small percentage per transaction. These fees are in addition to the standard fees from whichever payment gateway you choose (discussed in the section below). You may want to budget for this or determine if fees will be a significant impact on your profits.

In most cases, if an online store does not charge transaction fees, they will advertise it as such. If you can’t find the answer to this imperative question during your research, don’t be afraid to ask the company’s customer support team – your wallet will thank you in the long run.

What are their payment options?

When it comes to payment gateways, preferences vary from business to business. Before comparing payment options between online stores, it’s important to first establish your business’s needs, regarding currencies accepted, types of payments and location.

Payment options are broken into two categories – online and offline.  Online payment options transfer funds from the customer immediately, whereas offline options complete payments following the transaction.

Online examples include:

  • Payment processors (such as PayPal and Google Wallet)
  • Debit/credit cards

Offline examples include:

  • Personal/business checks
  • Wire transfers
  • Cash on delivery
  • Phone/fax ordering
  • Money ordering

Once you’ve established which payment option your business demands, you can whittle down your choices based on your business’s needs, as well as the amount each company’s payment gateways are charging for them.

If I get stuck is there help available?

The process of building an online store can be quick and painless, but it’s completely normal to have questions. Before deciding on an eCommerce solution, be sure the company you’re considering has an accessible support platform to help you with any inquiry along the way.

When scoping out a company’s customer support, it’s important to note their hours of operation. If the only time their specialists are available are during hours you aren’t, the best support team in the world couldn’t give you the guidance you need.

In addition, more companies are rolling out live chat features. When it comes to step-by-step procedures, live chat is far superior to email. If this is something you feel would be a benefit to you, be sure to keep an eye out for this in your hunt for your online store.

Choosing the right online store platform can be the deciding point in your business’s success. We know that if you do the proper research, your educated decision will help your business with its first step in getting off the ground.

We hope these tips have helped you piece together the puzzle in finding an online store platform. Are there other tips you have come across in your hunt for platforms to run your online store?

Alyse Speyer

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