Special Resource Section: 10 Best Practices for Choosing the Right E-Commerce Platform Provider
4. Find a provider that knows how to exploit social media. With more than 600 million active Facebook users and almost 200 million Twitter subscribers, social networking is no longer a fad. If you're not actively using these sites to market your brand and products, you're missing out on enormous opportunities. In addition to the fact that these sites are likely where your customers and prospects are to begin with, social networking sites are increasingly acting as points of entry to e-commerce sites and vice versa. More and more online retailers are building loyalty, rating and referral systems tied to social media. Make sure the provider you're considering can help you interact with social networking sites — e.g., how to use social media to engage in immediate and meaningful interactions with consumers; how to use Twitter and Facebook to offer discounts and promotions; how to integrate one-click access to Facebook and Twitter from your own website.
5. Be sure the provider offers fully integrated inventory management. Sometimes the products consumers want are unavailable, particularly during busy shopping seasons. However, if your e-commerce system links directly to your inventory management system, shoppers will receive out-of-stock messages before placing their orders. Dynamically omit out-of-stock products from search results and product catalogs.
6. Look for a provider that can help you seamlessly integrate your online data with your other databases. Providers you're considering should know how critical it is to access your data across all channels. Find the one that provides the easiest way to integrate and access your data in real time. Any e-commerce provider looking at your data from a strictly online perspective is doing you and your business a disservice.
7. Make sure the provider can help with international transactions. The web broadens your reach, allowing you to sell into markets around the globe that would be left untapped through a traditional brick-and-mortar model. That's why it's so important that the e-commerce provider you ultimately choose includes full support for international transactions. With features such as automatic translation of product descriptions into foreign languages, dynamic currency conversions and calculations, and integration with the systems of third-party international freight and shipping carriers, e-commerce providers can enable you to take advantage of every sales opportunity, regardless of where the consumer resides.