The Performance of Your Online Business - dummies

By Shannon Belew, Joel Elad

Unfortunately, performance is the area of a storefront that you don’t always think about until something goes wrong or isn’t what you expected, but it is truly the backbone of your operations. Paying special attention to these performance-related issues when selecting your storefront is ultimately worth your time:

  • Speed: A lot of factors contribute to the speed of a storefront, and determining how the site’s functionality will fare isn’t always easy. The best way to find out is to visit some of your storefront’s featured sites and see for yourself whether a lag in processing time occurs.

    You can also sort through a storefront’s community forum section to see whether other storeowners have complained about the storefront’s processing speed, or the load time for pages.

  • Storage: You want adequate disk space and bandwidth transfer available for your site. Even if your storefront starts small, you need room to grow without being immediately penalized with a higher rate. At a minimum, you should start with 1GB or 5GB capacity. Increasingly, the leading e-commerce solutions are offering unlimited storage and bandwidth in some or all pricing plans.

  • Security: Proper security is an essential part of e-commerce. Before purchasing your storefront, understand what type of services or protections are offered to guard your store, and check for issues related to PCI (Payment Card Industry) compliance.

  • Product quantity: Many storefronts place limits on the number of products you can sell. Which storefront you choose often turns into a price-based issue. The good news is that even with limitations on quantity, your monthly fee typically supports a substantial number of product listings. The lowest support level at most reputable storefronts is at least 100 products.

    As with trends in storage and bandwidth, some providers support an unlimited number of products across all plan options — the difference in price pertains to the features and support options available.

  • E-product delivery: If your storefront supports electronic products (e-books, for example), they can be delivered by way of customer-initiated downloads. You can also sell membership (a service with recurring fees) electronically.

    The capability to download some products in digital format (such as PDF files or music files) or access digital services is growing, and you should definitely consider offering these kinds of products because they require no warehouse space and can offer substantial profit margins.

  • Import and export tools: This feature lets you transfer large numbers of products into or out of the storefront. Storefronts with this feature commonly let you dump products into the storefront from an Excel spreadsheet, for example. This feature can be a timesaver if you have a lot of inventory.

  • Third-party integration: Your online business will most likely use a number of different tools or software, from accounting to customer relationship management (CRM) solutions. Ideally, you want many of these tools to integrate, or work with one another, to maximize results. In particular, your storefront should work with as many of your other business tools as possible.

    In addition, many APIs (application programming interfaces) can provide access and integration to even more features and tools. When choosing an e-commerce solution, be sure to check which third-party solutions it supports as well as the diversity or expansiveness of its library of APIs.

  • Support: Having access to the storefront’s technical support team can be your only lifeline at times. In the best possible situation, full tech support is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. As we mentioned previously, some pricing plans vary based on the level of support you want or need.

    Paying an additional $20 or $30 per month to get increased support may be worthwhile, especially if you’re a small-business owner with limited tech support knowledge or resources.

  • Templates: One benefit of turning to a storefront is that you have access to templates. If you aren’t a savvy web developer, predesigned web page templates are supposed to make it easy to open your store. To truly be of value, the storefront needs an extensive array of template styles to choose from and should also allow for some level of customization.

    You may find templates set up by categories or industries, such as sports or clothing store themes. This approach takes into consideration current design and color trends specific to that business type, so getting started is even easier.

  • Wizards: The storefront solution should offer a setup wizard to guide you through the process of building and customizing your storefront. Ideally, the wizard takes your store setup from start to finish without any major headaches. A nonintuitive wizard or one that is difficult to work with negates one of the biggest advantages of using a storefront — simplicity!

    Spend time on the storefront’s demo section and tinker with the wizard before making your final decision. If the demo isn’t fully functioning, contact a sales representative. Ask the person to give you live access to the store-building tools for a week or so. This access gives you a chance to test-drive the real wizard.