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Contact South West Web Marketing E Commerce Business Plan

There are a plethora of ecommerce shopping cart options from free, open source to ones that cost thousands of pounds. All the options can be overwhelming for someone evaluating what is best for their online store. First you need to determine your requirements and lay them out in three groups; must have features, nice to have features, bonus features. To help get you started here are some common features to consider.

Scalability
Each shopping cart option has a different number of products and options it can support based on its design. You need to make sure the software you choose can handle your online store. Start by determining a rough estimate of how many products you will have immediately and then think about how many products you will have in 1-3 years. You need to make sure the shopping cart software is able to handle the number of products you plan to sell for at least the next year. Designing and building an online store is a lot of work so you do not want to be redoing this work in the first year or hopefully first 2-3 years.

Integration
Next you want to think about what other software and systems you will be using in your business. The most common is probably QuickBooks to handle the accounting aspects of your ecommerce business. If you plan on using QuickBooks I highly recommend you pick a shopping cart provider that is directly integrated with QuickBooks. Entering the data by hand or exporting & importing will get monotonous very quickly.

SEO
Search Engine Optimization (SEO) is getting your site to show up in the search engines such as Google, Yahoo, Live (MSN), AOL, Ask and many others. You want to make sure your shopping cart plays nice with the search engines and has advanced options to tweak important SEO factors. The top things you should look for are title tags, Meta keywords, Meta descriptions and SEO friendly URLs. If you don't know what any of this is then learn about this at least a little prior to making a buying decision.

Analytics
Web analytics lets you track what people do on your website such as what pages they see, what links they click on, how long they stay on the site, how they got to the site and where they left from the site. You need to be able to add analytics code such as Google Analytics in order to measure this data. Remember if you don't measure it you can't improve it.

Design Control
Another important aspect of your online store will be how much customization control you have over the look & feel. Some are completely customizable letting you change everything while others let you use templates to change most things but keep their general layout. The checkout pages are some of the most important to be able to rearrange elements of the page to see what is optimal for the most sales. Make sure you find out if you can customize the required pages in checkout beyond basic CSS styling.

Interface Ease of Use
Depending on your level of sophistication and past experience will determine how technical the interface is to utilize. There are several online store options that have a graphical WYSIWYG editor eliminating the need to know html, JavaScript and other web technologies. Some are easier to use then others and this usually comes down to preference; I recommend trying to give the software a test run or at least see screenshots of the administration interface so you have a good idea whether or not you understand the interface.

Extendibility
As your store grows you will likely want to add features that you did not start with or may not come with the base ecommerce software. Make sure you can add on functionality or that all the functionality you think you will need in the first 2 years is covered. Some common things you may want to expand as your store grows are coupons, payment options, product options, shipping options and many more. It is probably best to walk away from a shopping cart solution that cannot handle what you've already planned for in the future.

Customer Data
Building a customer base is a key cornerstone of any successful business whether it is an online store or a retail brick and mortar location. One of the best ways to boost your revenues is to market to previous customers via email or direct mail promotions. You will need to be able to easily store and access customer information to make this happen. Also you want to be able to easily pull up all records for a specific customer in case there are any support issues from returns to special offers. At the very least you should try to capture an e-mail address to send product specials or sales to in the future.

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