Selling while you sleep is a common slogan with much appeal to anyone who has worked a 40 hour plus work week for any amount of time.
Once you decide an online store is the perfect business for you then it is time to find the perfect ecommerce software; commonly called shopping cart software.
Here are some items to check before making any purchase on your shopping cart software.
In-house or Hosted One of the first things you want to determine is if you want your online store hosted by a third party or on its own dedicated server.
Usually a hosted solution will be cheaper in the beginning but the cost can rise dramatically as your business grows.
The downside to a hosted solution is you usually do not have as much control or flexibility on store settings and server settings.
While some hosted or managed ecommerce software allows you to have a dedicated server; most do not without an expensive "enterprise" plan which is often too expensive for a new store owner.
Of course there are always exceptions so if you want a dedicated server with hosted shopping cart software you will need to do your research.
On the other hand a dedicated server for your online store will usually give you the greatest flexibility along with an advantage in terms of SEO when it is time to promote your ecommerce store.
It is best to move to a dedicated server as soon as it is fiscally possible for both control and marketing.
Customization Most shopping cart software will allow you to customize most settings to your liking but how easy it is will vary with each software option.
It is worth mentioning that you likely will have the most flexibility with shopping cart software you install on your dedicated server.
The web host you use for your online store may offer some ecommerce software to be installed easily or installed for free upon purchase of a hosting plan.
One big area to check about on customization is the checkout process pages.
Many hosted solutions will give you limited control over pages for the checkout process.
This is one of the most important areas to customize so if you cannot edit your cart & checkout pages you may want to consider another option.
Ease of Use Next you want to make sure that the process for customizing your online store is easy to do.
This is especially important if you are not technical or have limited experience with HTML and other web languages.
Many shopping cart solutions will allow you to change the look and feel, add products, add categories and other content through an easy to use content management interface.
These are great for non technical people who need to be able to customize the store without knowledge of HTML.
Another important factor is the ability to import and export data such as products or categories.
This will allow you to make bulk edits easily.
It is common when you first add products or categories to use an import option to minimize the amount of time it takes to fill the store with products.
This is also important if you want to migrate to a new web host, server or different shopping cart software.
QuickBooks Integration Accounting is often near the bottom of the list for new business owners but can be one of the biggest challenges without proper planning.
QuickBooks is the leading accounting software used by small businesses including online store owners.
If you plan on using QuickBooks or any other accounting software I highly recommend making sure you can integrate it with your shopping cart software.
This will help eliminate duplicate work along with saving hours of time.
You will likely have customer orders, invoices and purchase orders to track.
Accounting software will make this much easier to accomplish.
There are many more features that ecommerce software companies will tout as being the best thing ever but ease of use, integration and customization are the most important when starting out.
You should make a list of features you eventually want your store to offer and then group the features into three buckets: must have, like to have and bonus features.
This will help you pick the perfect shopping cart software for your upcoming online store.