The E-Commerce Column

5 Tips for Choosing the Right E-Commerce Module

One of the primary reasons for any business to have awebsite is to earn money. Sometimes thisact of earning money is indirect, such as generating a lead or building a brandpresence. However, the other case is farmore direct indeed – you want to sell products and/or services of somekind. In the latter, you will need somekind of e-commerce solution to manage transactions, products, promotions, andmore.

The following tips are geared towards helping you make theright decision the first time you embark upon choosing your e-commercesolution. You might already be inanother solution and already know this, but once you deploy your site with ane-commerce solution, it will be quite expensive and time consuming to move to another one.

1 – Does it Meet Your Basic Requirements?

Every e-commerce solution will appear to give you some kindof laundry list of features or capabilities. For most, this list ends up becoming a generic checklist of matchingterms. Most often, you will need to digdeeper, but you need to at least compare your requirements list against thelist of available features.

Don’t leave it there though. Basic requirements rarely covers the actual needs that the site willhave. For instance, it’s not enough to know that you can create a promotion to entice customers with sales andcoupons. What kind of other promotionscan you create? What kind ofqualifications can you apply to an offer or sale? Can you apply promotions to something veryspecific, such as a role, user, group of users, cart conditions, or more?

Dig deeper into your own requirements before you dig into the requirements in the cart.

2 – Contact the Vendor

Support is a word that gets thrown around like candy. Everyone touts their support, so how do youknow if the support is actually worth paying for?

Contact the vendor at some point during you evaluation orselection process. See how long it takesfor them to respond. Pay specialattention to their responses and whether they answered your questions. Did the answer really meet your need? Perhaps even ask the same question to multiple vendors and compare the responses.

Another thing to think about is community-basedsupport. You cannot always afford theprice tag for an official support channel. Are you able to get support from a community? Are there other people contributing to it? Does this area look active? The popularity of the free support could bean indication of how much the product is being used by others like you.

3 – Can it be Customized and Upgraded?

There is no such thing in any industry as software that works perfectly for your scenario out of the box. It simply doesn’t exist. You will always have a need to do something morespecific with a payment provider, connect at very key moments with a CRM or ERPsystem, or need to talk directly to the e-commerce solution from anotherplatform. These are incredibly commonscenarios, but e-commerce solutions rarely make these kind of features accessibleor easy to use.

Make sure your solution includes things like an API andother extension points to make sure that you not only can write code, but that you can also change as much of the customer views as possible. Ideally, you should be able to changeeverything about how the e-commerce solution works with a minimal amount ofcode and effort.

This shouldn’t take you off of the upgrade path either. All too often, an e-commerce solution willallow you to have the source code or make customizations to the code foryou. However, once this happens, you canno longer upgrade to take advantage of bug fixes, security updates, or newfeatures.

4 – Can Your Client Use It?

You may end up finding something that checks all of thecheckboxes in one way or another. Thisisn’t always enough. Probably thebiggest checkbox of all is to determine whether or not your client or otherusers can use the solution as well.

Many e-commerce solutions are built by developers andinvolving a designer to help make the various features usable is anafter-thought at best. Doing somethingas simple as creating a product, category, or promotion should be easy and youshouldn’t require a user manual to do it. The views that are used for managing your cart such as products, orders, and reports should be intuitive.

Remember… You areprobably going to hand this off to another group of users to maintain. How many phone calls do you want afterwards? How much is your time worth?

5 – Try it Out!

At the end of the day, no other tip will ever be as valuableas asking you to grab a trial (there better be one) and trying it out yourself. It should install easily, get you up and running quickly, and you should literally be able to begin managingyour products in minutes. Any otherresult should be unacceptable. If it takes you longer to do this much, imagine how much longer it will be to manageother aspects of the store over time.

Grab yourself a copy of the e-commerce solution and take it on a test spin. Not just yourself, but your other users, developers, and designers. Get their input. Find out whichsolution is going to give you the best total cost of ownership and the best return on investment.


Save yourself some money! This blog post comes at a very convenient time for us. For this month only, you can save yourself $200 on the purchase of Hotcakes Commerce to help your spring-time budget. There is no better time to get youre-commerce project up and running in time for the fall shopping season. Don’t put it off and miss the sale. Get your Hotcakes license today!

We at Hotcakes Commerce certainly hope that these tips helpyou while you begin to put your plans into action for your next e-commerceproject. Our awesome customers remind usof these things every day, so we couldn’t be more passionate about helping you out as well. No matter which solution youchoose, make sure it’s the right one.

About the Author

Will StrohlWill Strohl

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