Moving online? Tips on choosing the right retail eCommerce provider
We’ll take an in-depth look at the questions you should ask any prospective eCommerce provider.
eCommerce isn’t new, in fact it has been a feature of the retail landscape since the mid-1990s. In the early days of online retail the technology was relatively primitive yet very costly, allowing only those with the deepest pockets to take their businesses online. However this is no longer the case and retailers can now get online quickly and without requiring detailed technical knowledge. That said, and with all the options now available, it’s still pretty confusing if you’re not entirely sure what you’re looking for in an eCommerce solution. Here are our top tips which will help you ensure you are choosing a solution that will meet your unique business’ needs.
Before considering a provider, the first thing you should look for is credibility. You wouldn’t buy a car from someone you didn’t trust and it’s the same (and even more important!) when it comes to making a business-critical decision such as this. Do a bit of research and find out who they really are, how long they have been in business and what credentials they have. Don’t be afraid to ask for references, case studies and examples of their work; if they are a credible vendor then they should be more than happy to share this information with you.
Reviews are also crucial. Capterra is the world’s leading source of reviews for business software so it goes without saying, if they don’t have good reviews on Capterra then they’re probably not worth considering.
While this may sound obvious, it’s important that technical support is included with your chosen solution and that it’s available when you need it. If you choose a vendor which offers support during office hours only and your system goes down on a Saturday morning, you won’t be able to get back up and running until they reopen on Monday meaning you miss a full 48 hours of trading!
You should also ask for a copy of their Service Level Agreement (SLA), that is where they will detail their approach to support, including response times.
Before approaching potential suppliers, try to come up with a complete list of the features you require – even if you won’t need them from day 1. If you’re going to go to the effort and expense of moving your business online for the first time (or changing your existing eCommerce solution) then you need to be sure it’s future-proof and has all the features you are likely to need over the next few years. If it doesn’t, make sure that they have a clear roadmap for feature development and a feature request protocol at the very least.
That said, it’s always best to choose a provider who can tick as many feature boxes for you as possible, right from the start. You should ask any potential supplier for a full list of features and ask them what’s in the development pipeline – if they can’t answer either of these questions then they’re unlikely to meet your requirements now or in the future.
When it comes to integrations, beware! Some vendors claim to be able to integrate with all sorts of other applications. What they don’t always tell you is there is often a fee for each integration you need, and if it’s not a common request then they may charge you more for developing the API required to make your chosen programmes speak to each other. Before you get down to discussing the details, always check that there is an integration available for whatever you require, whether that be your existing accounting solution, your payment solution provider or your marketplaces.
Any potential supplier should be able to provide you with a comprehensive list of all available integrations and be upfront about any relevant charges. A true all-in-one solution is always your best bet as it eliminates the need to contract with multiple providers and means technical support is all under one roof.
The price and payment models differ for many eCommerce providers. Some charge several thousand of pounds upfront with ongoing hosting costs, and others charge a small amount with large monthly subscription fees over a 3-5 year contract.
Saledock opted for an in-between, developing quality bespoke eCommerce built to best practices from £1495 plus a monthly subscription fee for hosting, support and access to the Saledock system to manage eCommerce content, fulfil orders, view reports and so on. The subscription fee approach is known as Software as a Service, or SaaS. It’s the most common software model and has many benefits, including payment by affordable monthly subscription.
Software subscriptions are flexible and most providers will allow you to upgrade or downgrade your subscription as needed and add features and functionality as your business grows. The flexibility offered by this model means the retailer can access the most up-to-date software for an affordable monthly fee. Opting for an omni-channel provider means your ePOS, eCommerce and inventory management needs are under one roof, eliminating the need for multiple systems, fees and support teams.
SaaS models are cloud-based which means that you don’t have to store software, data and related files on your hardware. This offers better security as your data is stored on your provider’s servers and also means you benefit from instant updates as the provider makes improvements or adds features and remote support should you need help. It also means that you can access your business data from any internet-enabled device so whether you are in-store, at home or even on a beach in the Caribbean, you can keep tabs on how your business is performing.
Free trials are a great way to get a hands-on understanding of how the software works and to make a true assessment of whether it is the right solution for you. It’s a great way to try out ePOS, inventory management and analytics functionality, and get a taste for how you’d manage your eCommerce site and fulfil orders once your bespoke eCommerce site was developed. While many suppliers offer a live demo in order to show you the ins and outs of their solution, it’s no match for the real-life experience of a free trial which gives you the time and freedom to really see how it works.
If your prospective supplier doesn’t offer a free trial you should ask them why. Going back to our car analogy, you wouldn’t buy a car without test driving it would you?
While features and functionality play an enormous part in the selection of the right eCommerce solution provider, it’s equally important that the supplier themselves is up to scratch. Any credible supplier should be able to say yes to every question we have posed and, if they can’t then you should seriously reconsider your selection.
Saledock’s retail software solution incorporates everything you need into one unified system. Our clients range from small independents to large multi-store retailers which sell online, in a traditional store, or both. Not only can we provide a bespoke eCommerce website, but our solution is also suitable for in-store retail and integrates with leading marketplaces, payment providers and accounts package, Xero. If you sell in-store, we can also supply the ePOS hardware you need so you can get everything in one place.
At Saledock we understand that you want to see the solution in action and in your own time, that’s why we offer free and unlimited access to our Pro Plan for 14 days. Sign up here!
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