Special Resource Section: 10 Best Practices for Choosing the Right E-Commerce Platform Provider
In today's cross-channel retail environment, a holistic approach to making any investment decisions — especially when it comes to choosing an e-commerce provider — is the name of the game. The process of choosing the right partner for your business can be a daunting one. Here are 10 best practices to help make that process easier:
1. Check the provider's clients' websites. Pay attention to the visual design of the sites. Do they look good? Is it the same template from one site to the next? Don't focus entirely on the visual design, however. Click around. Try adding items to your cart and start the checkout process. In many cases you'll find shopping is cumbersome, the checkout process is tedious or there are actual errors on the site. If you like what you see, add this provider to your "hot list."
2. Make sure your provider offers support for search engine optimization initiatives. Let's face it, most of today's shoppers use search engines to quickly find the sites that sell the products they need. With this in mind, quiz the providers you're interested in about their SEO strategy. You're likely to hear that your brand will shoot to the top of the organic rankings. But don't just take their word for it. Check Google's PageRank on some of their clients' sites. If the ranking isn't at least a three or four, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. Another helpful exercise is to pick a few customers of the providers you're considering and search for them on Google and Yahoo. Take note of where those customers show up.
3. Be sure the provider offers advertising and affiliate program support. Online advertising and cross-promotion are vital to generating new business, as both drive additional traffic to your site. Many retailers work closely with affiliates to promote their offerings. Banner ads, skyscraper ads and other announcements are placed on a variety of related websites at a fixed rate or in exchange for promotional space on the retailer's site, making it visible to an even broader base of prospects. To optimize the effectiveness of affiliate networks, select an e-commerce provider that will allow you to monitor and track the success of each ad you place.