Everyone agrees it has been a tough economy, but most people also realize there are bright spots in any bad economy. One of the bright spots over the past year and a half has been ecommerce. According to Forrester Research In 2010 ecommerce grew at 12.6%, to a total of $176.2 billion. Current projections have ecommerce hitting $278.9 billion by 2015. It is projected 5.5 million consumers shopped online for the first time last year.
Research shows shoppers have started purchasing big ticket items like furniture and appliances online more frequently as people become more comfortable with buying online. Furthermore, Forrester shows that online commerce now makes up approximately 11% of all retail sales.
Do you own a brick and mortar retail store? How long will it be before your competitors start selling online and begin building their online business? Or maybe they’re doing it already. Building a solid online presence isn’t something that can be done overnight, so you should start planning now.
If you’re going to start selling online, there are some important things to consider before you buy a shopping cart and start developing your website:
1) Are you purchasing a ‘Hosted’ or ‘Portable’ shopping cart? Hosted means you basically “rent” your shopping cart from the provider. However if you ever become dissatisfied with your provider you cannot move your shopping cart and website to another hosting company. Portable means you own the license to the shopping cart and you can move your entire website and shopping cart to another provider if desired. This provides you with the most flexibility and control, which is what we recommend.
2) Do you have other software your shopping cart needs to communicate with? If you are going to use inventory management software, Point of Sale software or accounting software, you need to make sure your shopping cart will communicate with those programs. Otherwise you will be managing two sets of inventory and accounting which harms productivity and profitability.
3) Is your shopping cart PCI Compliant? If your shopping cart is not PCI Compliant and your shopping cart is not properly configured and protected, you are opening yourself to significant risk. Credit card companies can levy tens of thousands of dollars worth of fines if your customers’ credit card data is stolen.
4) What features does your shopping cart need? If you want to offer gift wrapping and the ability for customers to provide a personalized message, and your shopping cart does not offer that feature, it is probable that feature cannot be added in the future. That means you will need to have an entirely new shopping cart developed.
Ecommerce can be a profitable venture for your company, and can help position your company for future growth as more consumers purchase online (and now also through mobile devices.) But if customers don’t trust making purchases on your website because it looks amateurish or they do not feel safe submitting their credit card information on your website you won’t get your return on investment!