Choosing the Right Small Business E-Commerce Solution

May 16th, 2016


Should you integrate an out-of-the-box hosted platform with your website? Or is a customized on-premise solution a better option?

Your website is a contemporary extension of your business but with more important details about you, your employees, and how your products and services help solve your customers’ problems. In a hyperconnected world fuelled by e-commerce, the onus is on business owners and leaders to determine what the best e-commerce solution is to build into their sites.

Whether your company focuses on the business-to-consumer (B2C) or business-to-business (B2B) market (or both), the questions you need to answer are the same: Should you pick a hosted, out-of-the-box software-as-a-service (SaaS) solution? Or go for a more customizable on-premise platform?

Whichever way you choose to go, the solution should be a unified, user-friendly platform that is scalable and which integrates an online store with accounting, point-of-sale, inventory and subscription management tools, and other finance-related functions.

There are, of course, a number of elements you will need to consider, including:

  • If taxes are based on the location of the shipping warehouse or the shipment’s destination
  • Are shipping charges determined by a package’s weight, size, or destination? Or do you charge a flat fee?
  • Inventory control and management
  • Do you need to connect point-of-sale systems from bricks-and-mortar locations?
  • Cross-border customs clearance
  • Fluctuating currency exchange rates
  • Product discounts or seasonal specials
  • Overall reporting and metrics

“Here is a simple but powerful rule: Always give people more than they expect to get.”

Which E-Commerce Platform Is Best for Your Business?

When it comes to picking an e-commerce solution, the good news is there are options aplenty.

For most small businesses on tight budgets, Shopify has emerged as one of the most popular. Treefrog has integrated Shopify’s and other platforms with many of our clients’ sites, but we also provide custom-built e-commerce solutions.

Although Treefrog can integrate your site with any e-commerce platform you want, most of our clients that have selected a hosted solution have chosen one of the following platforms:

  • Shopify. Possibly the most popular and widely used e-commerce and shopping cart platform used by small- and medium-sized businesses today, this Canadian company’s solution features a broad range of options. It is easy to set up, has an intuitive user interface, add-on apps, 24/7 support, and its API integrates seamlessly with enterprise resource planning (ERP), customer relationship management (CRM), and other software.
  • Volusion. This platform features a comprehensive set of shopping tools, round-the-clock support, a user-friendly interface, extensive security features, and a mobile-responsive storefront. Volusion integrates seamlessly with Amazon and eBay, and through its social store builder tool, you can list your products on Facebook. It’s scalable, but the basic version sets a limit on the number of monthly transactions by restricting bandwidth, meaning service charges may apply if you exceed it.
  • Bigcommerce. This feature-rich solution includes many customizable templates, is easy to use and has an intuitive user interface, 24/7 support, no transaction fees, and has smooth integration with several e-newsletter services and Alibaba. It too is mobile-responsive and provides in-depth metrics and reporting.
  • Magento CE. An open source e-commerce platform that is available in four variations, the Magento Community Edition is an out-of-the-box solution that you must host on your server, or with its partnering company, Zoey. It includes bundled features including smooth integration with Google Analytics, in-depth sales reporting, and many third-party integration options but it is not PCI-compliant. Existing small business users provide community-based support.

Additional Things to Consider for Your Website

Once you’ve determined which e-commerce solution suits your business best, and taking a 360-degree view of your company and its online presence, there are other considerations to weigh:

  • A payment gateway. If you’re going to establish an online e-commerce platform, you will also need a payment gateway to facilitate online credit and debit card transactions. A payment gateway is an e-commerce enabler. It’s vital, and it provides a secure link between your site and the banking system. In essence, it provides a merchant-centric, single, automated portal to manage online financial transactions cost-effectively, quickly, and easily. It also makes it easy and flexible for your customers to buy from you online.
  • Readable, compelling content. If “content is king” then context must be queen. The importance of producing content online regularly cannot be denied, but to be regarded as a thought leader in your industry, your content needs to be persuasive, well-written, and it must provide value to your intended audience, or they will pay it no mind.
  • Search engine optimization (SEO). A widely used methodology to drive website traffic organically through the use of high-quality content, SEO maximizes your site’s content to rank well in search engines like Google, Bing, and Yahoo!.
  • High-quality images and design. There is no shortage of cheap, do-it-yourself (DIY) website builders available online promising anyone can create a professional-looking site in mere minutes for free or for only a few bucks. Lest we forget, you most often get what you pay for in this world. A well-designed website with high-quality images lends credibility to your business. A less-than-stellar online presence will hurt your business, not help it.
  • Using social media tools. More than 2 billion people use social media networks like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn on a daily basis. Since sales success requires cultivating relationships, your website should incorporate the use of social media tools, and social media marketing should be a part of your overall marketing efforts. Social tools will also help drive traffic to your website.

Do you have questions about e-commerce platforms and which one is best for your business?  Let’s talk. We can help you determine whether or not you need a custom-built solution or an off-the-shelf platform. Our expert programming team have experience customizing and integrating several e-commerce solutions with our clients’ websites.