Web hosting makes it possible for websites to be viewed on the internet for everyone to see. Web hosts supply space on a server leased by its customers. Mostly this is where your website “lives”. As part of your web hosting requirements, any site that is consumer-facing will require a core set of features. These features, including a shopping cart, payment processing and inventory management, together form an integrated cyber-shopping platform. An e-commerce platform is a software technology solution that allows you to build a customer-facing storefront so that you can sell your products directly to the consumer. Hosted shopping solutions are often the best fit for many businesses looking to create a web presence. They provide a one-stop solution, providing everything you need from start to finish. The business owner is then free to focus exclusively on the product, and business know-how.
Things to Consider When Deciding What e-Commerce Platform to Use?
When setting up a website for your business, deciding what e-commerce platform to use is a crucial decision. Here are some of the factors you should consider:
Ensure that you have a budget in place that you want to spend month to month on your online store, a part from you budget for product management and advertising. Consider the cost of the e-commerce platform, design and development costs, maintenance fees, transaction fees and web hosting costs. We’ll touch a bit more on costs a bit later.
Ease of Use
Before you sign up for a platform, consider what members of your team will be using it. Ask for their input regarding the type of user interface they prefer. Remember, they are going to spend lots of time working on the platform so if the interface is awkward and confusing it will produce problems and inefficiency. Don’t be afraid to ask questions of the different providers. Make sure there is a match-up between the needs of your business and the functionality of the user interface.
Choose the Right Website Hosting Provider
Choosing the right hosting company is just as important as choosing the right online e-Commerce platform. There is no point in working hard to determine the right cyber-commerce solution only to be let down by your servers. Moreover, a poor web hosting platform will impact negatively on your search ranking as it will slow your site-loading times and in worst case scenarios cause site downtimes. Your hosting platform should have an uptime of close to 100%. Anything less and you could lose out on vital sales opportunities.
How to Choose the Right Hosting Company
There are a few questions you should ask when signing up with a web hosting provider:
- What technical support do they provide? Is it available 24/7 and is it of high quality?
- Does your site have a shared server and if so how many sites will share at one time?
- Is your site backed up regularly and reliably?
- What security precautions should you take when sharing a server with other providers?
Make sure to ask these questions of prospective web hosting companies. When you consider all the time and effort involved in converting consumer traffic into sales, it is essential that your site be up and running all the time.
Different Types of Web Hosting Products
There are a few common web hosting plans out there. Here are a few options to consider:
Shared Web Hosting
Shared hosting means that your site is hosted with potentially thousands of other sites on the same server. The big advantage of shared hosting is the reduced cost. For a low monthly fee, you can host your online business on a super server. The downside of this approach is that your site is at the mercy of the other sites with whom you share the server. If another site that you share space with is very popular for example, it may well slow down your site.
Essentially, reseller hosting packages are like shared web hosting but with extra perks. Added benefits include things like website templates, billing software to help you invoice clients and additional technical support, whereby the hosting company handles your clients’ technical support issues.
Virtual Private Servers
A Virtual Private Server (VPS) acts as a stepping stone between shared hosting and having your server. A VPS can share one physical server but acts like multiple separate servers. Thereby you avoid the possibility of your website being brought down by one of the other websites with whom you share space.
Cloud-Based Website Hosting
This technology allows multiple individual servers to work together in a way that mirrors one giant server. The idea is that as need grows, the hosting company can create an ever-larger cloud. The cloud benefits your site’s uptime as if you get a surge of web traffic; the server will be able to adapt and cope.
Dedicated Website Hosting
When you have dedicated web hosting, you are renting one physical server exclusively for your use. It gives a business the benefit of full control of the platform. The costs of a dedicated server are of course significantly higher than shared hosting. It is generally the highest level of server required, should your business expand to a point where you are getting a high volume of web traffic.
No matter the size of your site, security is of the utmost importance. A lack of security creates many possible problems, from identity theft to fraud. When considering which web hosting platform to choose, there are several things you should consider:
STFP stands for Secure File Transfer Protocol. It provides an additional layer of security when uploading files to your hosting platform.
SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it provides an encrypted path between the browser and the web server.
Website backup means creating a duplicate of all information on your site. Backups should be performed regularly in case of a problem, by both the web host and the site owner.
Tips to help you Select the Best Platform
Before you start to panic, hang on, we’ve done a bit of the work for you choose the best e-Commerce Platforms for your business. So, how do you choose the best one to fit your business? Here are 3 steps to help you make the right choice.
Step 1: Determine Your e-Commerce Needs
Before you choose an e-commerce platform, it is important for you to decide what features you need to run your online business effectively. How customisable do you need your templates to be? Do you need a platform that offers unlimited images for products? What sort of features will be best to brand and sell your products? We can’t stress how vital it is to ask yourself these questions. Then, write a list of all the features that will suit your e-commerce needs. Other things to think about are:
- Front End Needs: Aim to have an optimised design for both desktop and mobile. To put another way, your design should be easy to use for your shoppers but also be aesthetically pleasing. Consider navigation, search, the way your images are displayed for products and the way your information is laid out for your customers. The overall design in your online store front must be functional and beautiful.
- Back Office and Integrations: Your e-commerce site’s smooth operation depends on how well things work in the back office. As mentioned ease of use is a crucial element, so do not forget to select one where your end-users can easily navigate to make a successful purchase. Also, ensure that your platform offers everything you need, from shipping, to managing orders – this is ties in with our third point, research.
- Customer Management: Make sure that your e-commerce platform offers ways to organise and store customer information easily.
- Catalogue management: Specify the catalogue management features you need. How many SKUs (Stock keeping Units) do you have? How many variants?
Step 2: Set a Budget
So, let’s elaborate a bit on the subject of finances and upkeep. Integrated shopping solutions are increasingly cost-effective. However, from the beginning, it is advisable not to scrimp too heavily on price. A reliable and effective platform is essential to the success of your business. Consider what features you may require both now and into the future as your business grows. See examples of flat fee packages here. Ask yourself whether you should expect to pay more for bandwidth, server storage, transactions, plug-ins and apps down the road. Whatever you decide, ensure that the solution you choose can grow alongside your business.
Step 3: Research E-Commerce Solutions
It is important to work with modern e-Commerce tools. There is e-commerce with web hosting and e-Commerce platforms that specialise in managing every aspect of your business. In fact, they send automatic maintenance messages to your customers and even help with stock keeping. So, ensure you allocate adequate time to research the best solutions that match what you need. We’ve done some of that work for you.
If you decide to host your website’s store on a monthly basis (or annually), and you can, in the process gain access to powerful web tools and customisation platforms like Cubecart, Zen Cart, Magento, Presta Shop, AgroCart and OS Commerce, just to name a few. Look for a hosting provider who offers perks like building your e-commerce store with some of these key features:
- Ability to sell from 100 to unlimited products
- Accept payments via PayPal, Braintree, Stripe, Apple Pay, Pay with Amazon etc.
- Provide extensive selection of shopping art scripts
- Manage unlimited amounts of website traffic
- Include an SSL Certificate with package (or for an extra fee)
- Free account transfers from other cPanel providers
- Provide 1-click easy install software (to customise the shopping experience)
- Has a CRM
- Omni-Channel selling
There are many e-Commerce Platforms on the market today. Of course, not all are created equal. Therefore, before you decide which one is best for you be sure to do extensive research. Try not to be overwhelmed by all the choice out there. Take time to consider the pros and cons of various web hosting and e-commerce platforms. Most importantly, look to build flexibility into your choice so that you can seamlessly adapt as your business grows.