When you start googling to find an online shopping solution to suit your business, the good news is there’s a sea of choice out there: CS-Cart, Shopify, Big Commerce, 3D Cart, PrestaShop, Spiffy Stores, Shopping Cart Elite, Magento and many more.

The bad news is that the sea of choice can be hard to navigate. Review sites listing the pros and cons of e-commerce offerings can be helpful – both for what they say about the sites reviewed and the criteria they use to evaluate sites. But, as usual, buyer beware. Review sites can have agendas. They can be dated. They can also be the subject of furious online arguments as viewers contest the reviews. While these can be informative it takes time to sift through it all.

Start by thinking about whether you want a hosted or a self-hosted online shopping site.

Hosted: The provider will host your store (also known as SaaS or software as a service). Examples include Shopify, Big Commerce, Spiffy Stores

Self-Hosted: Provides you with the software, but you have to secure your own Web hosting (a whole other google). Examples include Magento, Zencart

Never lose sight of your business as the priority: what you have to sell, your budget, the scale of your business now and your growth plans.

Hosted or Self-Hosted SItes: The Ups and Downs

12 Questions to Ask Before You Select an E-Commerce Provider

  • Is it mobile friendly?
  • What are the speeds like?
  • What’s it like for storage and bandwidth?
  • What are the security features and does it offer encryption?
  • How does it handle search engine optimisation?
  • How does it handle discounts, coupons and specials?
  • How does it integrate with my CRM, shipping and inventory control systems? If the product is integrated with others, how tightly – is it a two-way integration? How can I fix the rare integration failures?
  • Is the reporting detailed enough for my needs and easy to use? Will the reports be available not only with the information I want, but in the correct format?
  • Do I want to offer shoppers a unique online experience or would a more standard (but less customisable) hosted site meet my needs just as well?
  • If I’m already thinking I might start small with a hosted site then jump to something more flexible as I grow my business, am I locked-in or can I migrate to another platform?
  • New systems mean we change how we do things. The team needs training and we need to execute well. Do I have the appetite to make the change now?
  • How much money do I need to keep this going and how does this compare to expected revenue?