What risks do I need to be aware of when choosing ecommerce software?
As we mentioned in the previous section, the most important questions to answer when choosing e-commerce software are: Does it fit your budget? Are you comfortable using it? Does it contain all the features you need?
With that in mind, there are other factors you need to consider before you make a final choice regarding a platform:
- The reliability of the provider
- Hidden costs
- Solvency of the provider
1. The Reliability of the Provider
The worst thing that can happen to an online store is for its website to be unreachable for visitors. This will immediately cause you to lose sales and your reputation will be damaged.
“Uptime” refers to the amount of time that your website is accessible for visitors. This is generally shown in a percentage. Ideally, a provider would guarantee an uptime of 100%. Unfortunately, that is virtually impossible to achieve in reality and therefore, you will probably never find such a promise.
Uptime guarantees of 99% look reliable, but they are not really valuable if no consequences are attached in case of downtime. Moreover, most e-commerce software providers outsource the hosting to a hosting provider and have no direct influence on the uptime.
In practice, security protocols are usually used as a means to determine a provider’s reliability. ISO 27001 is the standard for data security. Although this certificate does not guarantee uptime, it shows that the provider has met all the required security standards.
Do you want to be sure that your online store will have good, reliable hosting? Then find out which hosting provider your prospective software provider subcontracts. Make certain they have an ISO 27001 certificate.
2. Hidden Costs
As you have read in some of the previous sections, the range of e-commerce software providers is very diverse and their prices vary considerably.
No matter which solution you choose, make sure that you have not overlooked any hidden complications. Sometimes SaaS providers impose limits. Such limits could include data limits, storage limits or product limitations. You will have to pay extra any time you exceed the limits of your plan.
In addition to having (data) limits, providers are not always clear regarding the features of their software. Features are often split up and offered separately in different plans. The general rule of thumb is: the more features you want, the more you will pay. Some providers have additional charges, on top of the price of your plan, for specific features (or modules) that you want to use. These charges can add up quickly.
Finally, it is important to know upfront whether their support service is included in the price or whether you will have to pay for it separately. SaaS providers usually include support in their plans. With Open Source and custom solutions you will usually have to pay extra for this (at an hourly rate).
3. Solvency of the Provider
Luckily this is something that does not happen very often. However, it may occur. The provider you have chosen for your e-commerce software goes bankrupt or ceases to provide services. You are left high and dry. Changing online store systems is a huge hassle and it costs a lot of time and money. You have to move all your website content, your products client information, you have to design the site again, become familiar with a new system, etc.
In order to hopefully prevent this, it is important to do research about the provider thoroughly before you sign up. Inform how long the provider has been in business, what kind of reputation it has, how many clients they have, how large the company is, etc.
In the end, you, the online merchant, are always responsible for the security of your online store. Therefore, it is important to ensure that information regarding customers and payment details is well protected. You are dependent on your online store provider for this. Look at the websites of the online store provider, the hosting provider and other online stores that use their systems to determine whether:
- The ordering process goes through a secure (SSL) connection
- Contact information is sent through a secure (SSL) connection
- The provider is regularly the target of DDoS attacks (and whether those are solved quickly)
For more detailed information about security, read this section.