Running an online store can seem like a daunting task to most, but it can be even more arduous if your ecommerce solution is not meeting your performance expectations.
There are dozens of different ecommerce software options for a merchant to use--maybe even a hundred or more--but many small businesses prefer SaaS-based options, as they afford extra time to focus on growing an online store. However, even some of the SaaS-based options are not cutting it for savvy merchants who have high expectations for what they want in an ecommerce solution.
Merchants just got past the madness of Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but still have a few crazy weeks left in the holiday shopping season to help push them into the black. Once the chaos has settled down at the end of the year, merchants typically like to evaluate how effective their ecommerce solution was in helping them achieve success in the previous year.
Below are 5 key areas for merchants to focus on in order to properly evaluate whether they should continue using their current solution or switch to something new in 2012.
Regardless of whether an online store is under a million dollars or over ten million dollars in revenue per year, store owners are concerned with how much they have to pay for their ecommerce software.
Some solutions charge clients a flat fee per month, some charge purely based on revenue, and others have a hybrid pricing model. In addition there can sometimes be extra fees for those solutions that do not provide unlimited bandwidth.
Therefore merchants need to take a step back and fully understand all of the fees they have to paid in 2011, then compare that to what other comparable and better solutions offer.
However, merchants might find that the old adage "you get what you pay for" is true, and that they cannot cut costs too much without compromising the performance of their online store.
2. Customer Service
Ecommerce merchants are not always extremely tech-savvy, and consequently value customer service very highly. Merchants want to feel confident that whenever they have an issue, they can get it resolved in a timely manner.
Additionally, they want the customer service staff to be friendly and eager to tackle their issues. Another chief concern is that they don't want to pay extra money to interact with customer service.
In order to evaluate customer service, merchants need to review all of the issues they had in the past year, analyze how they were treated and take note of how quickly things were resolved.
An ecommerce solution may technically be the most popular in the market, but if the company does not have stellar customer service to back it up, they will end up losing business to the company who does.
3. Actionable Reporting
All ecommerce solutions provide merchants with reporting to get insight into how well their online store is performing. However, this reporting is not always presented in a way in which the merchant can take action.
Merchants want to be able to continually optimize their online store in order to increase the number of people making purchases, and ideally push up the average amount each customer spends. Without actionable reporting, this is not really possible to accomplish, because the merchant would be guessing as to what needs to be optimized to improve their performance metrics.
Luckily, other companies, like Sumall, are entering the space to help merchants boost reporting that they can use to better monetize their online store. Merchants should review all of the reporting options they have in their current ecommerce solution and see how they stack up against the competition.
4. Feature Set
Ecommerce solution companies are constantly battling to keep up with merchant demand and offer the most robust set of features on the market. Some companies do a better job at this, pushing out multiple releases each year to update their software and please their merchants.
Not all merchants care about the same features, so it is important to analyze if the features you currently have are enough to allow you to run your online store in an optimal fashion. If your current solution is not providing you with the features you need (and is not planning on adding them soon) then it might be time to consider something new.
For the most part, ecommerce software companies know how vital it is for their merchants' online stores to be up 99.9% of the time, but this does not mean that all of them will actually follow through with that level of service.
Many merchants have complained about the hosting situation with some SaaS ecommerce providers, and it has been the main reason why they made the switch to a new solution. Merchants should evaluate any server issues they had over the last year and the impact those issues had on their business.
If there were more than a few issues over the course of 2011, then it is probably time to seriously consider other SaaS options so that you have the best chance to be successful in your ecommerce endeavors in 2012.
Nick Grant is the co-founder of ZippyCart.com, a website dedicated to providing honest, non-bias, and up-to-date reviews of the best ecommerce software solutions on the web. Visit ZippyCart to learn about the world of ecommerce, read expert shopping cart reviews, compare top ecommerce solutions side by side, read daily ecommerce news, and much more.