Expanding your Ecommerce Business: Choosing an Online Auction Platform
When you are looking into software to help manage your online sales and enable your ecommerce business to prosper, there are seven key factors you should consider before agreeing to any terms. Remember, choosing the best company to meet your needs involves much more than just pricing. You are not just choosing software; you are choosing a solution that needs to be as flexible and scalable as your goals.
Find Key Players in the Industry
There are many ways to find the leaders in the ecommerce software solutions industry. One of them is to visit an eBay University event and see which providers are present. A second option is to do some online research of the top sellers in your particular category to find out what your competition is successfully using. Once you have compiled a list of at least 2 to 3 providers, you can move on to the next step.
Check Online Discussion Boards for Impartial Reviews
A useful place to start your research is the eBay community site. Alternatively, find another appropriate community discussion board such as: http://www.auctionsoftwarereview.com and search for the name of the providers you are interested in. This will allow you to learn what other people have recently said about these companies It is wise to use these forums to add questions and comments of your own, as the feedback you will receive will be unedited and straight from current users.
Demonstration of Software
An important factor to the decision making process is requesting a software demonstration. The software provider you are considering should be able to give you a personal explanation of how your business can benefit from their tool. Remember, good software should provide more than just automation. It should enable the integration of the various systems that make up your ecommerce business, such as your website, inventory management and accounting, so that your business runs more efficiently and your costs are reduced.
Also be sure to check that the software under consideration is easy to use so that you don’t spend hours a day on the phone to technical support. Finally, look at the reporting capabilities of the software. Once you are operating more efficiently you’ll have more time to concentrate on strategy, so having an accurate picture of the current state of your business becomes ever more important.
Pursue References from Existing Clients
Contact each company from your research list and ask for references you can contact. It is always good to hear positive and negative experiences directly from a current subscriber. How to contact a reference check-list included below.
- The reference you’re contacting is usually busy running an ecommerce business like yourself, so being prepared and accommodating is important. This list will allow you to check-off important questions you will need to ask.
- What made you choose this service provider and stay with this provider?
- How responsive is the software support team? How long is the average response time for your questions to be answered?
- How is the reliability of software, and how many times in the past six months has the provider been down without service?
- Does the service provider allow your business to be scalable, and grow without any boundaries?
- Which service providers have you used in the past?
- Does your service provide you with a dedicated account manager?
- Are you allowed to utilise every function of the software without pay additional fees?
- Is the fee structure easy to understand and does it allow you to sell in all markets at the same fees
Compare What you Expect to What You Actually Get
Once you have narrowed your list of potential companies down to one or two, you can decide which company meets your expectations best. Certain providers have developed software that offers an array of tools but do not offer customer account support. Others will allow you limited access to features and charge extra fees to use the full functionality of the product. Look at what features are important to your e-commerce company before you make a decision and most importantly, make sure you will have dedicated support during the transitional period when you start using the product.
Compare Dynamic Pricing Schemes
Ultimately, no software is free of charge and all companies have different pricing structures. Ensure you read the fine print before you sign any agreement. Look for companies that have a transactional-based pricing model, rather than a flat monthly fee. By taking a small slice of every sale you make, transactional pricing models give the provider the perfect incentive to help you grow your sales revenue, both by constantly developing their software and providing ongoing strategic advice.
Another thing to ask is whether the pricing you have been quoted applies across all sales channels. For example, some companies will charge a different rate for sales through your ecommerce website than they will for sales on eBay. Also look out for pricing caps. At first they may seem like a good thing, but upon closer inspection they often mean that the provider has no incentive to help you increase your average sale price (ASP) for each item. Ultimately with pricing, as in all aspects of life, you get what you pay for. So do your research, make sure you’re comparing apples with apples, and always negotiate to find a pricing model that suits your business.
Define Your Final Online Goals
No matter which company you choose as your PSP solution, ensure the company of your choice is able to guide you towards your long-term goals. Make sure you look at the functionality it provides – both in terms of features and in terms of the sales channels it will enable you to sell through. Most companies start selling on eBay but then start to expand into other channels as their business grows. The last thing you need to worry about is changing software in a year’s time because your provider doesn’t support the channels you want to sell through.
Another important consideration is scalability, reliability and availability. Will the software be able to meet your needs if your sales increase ten-fold in the next 6 months? What is the provider’s record on reliability? Do the features advertised actually work as they’re supposed to? How many times has the software been unavailable over the past 6 months due to technical issues? Remember, only a few hours downtime on a busy trading day can make your business lose hundreds, if not thousands of pounds worth of business. Therefore it is vital to take this into consideration also when considering any pricing differences between providers.
At the end of the day, the solution you select should be a one that can grow with you and your business over the coming months and years to give you the best possible chance of achieving online success.