7 Questions Before You Purchase Software or Services

Ecommerce entrepreneurs and managers have several choices for applications, marketing toolkits, and numerous retail- and – marketing-related services, each of which promises to enhance business operations and earnings. While every company will have its own criteria for selecting software and service vendors, there are a few basic questions to ask prior to making a buying decision.

Ecommerce platforms, accounting suites, product inspection systems, live chat solutions, email marketing providers, search engine optimisation services, fulfillment and logistics experts, and contract customer support centers are simply a couple of examples of the services or software that an online retail company can rent, license, purchase, or otherwise obtain. This is what to ask yourself , possibly, even ask the man attempting to sell you something.

Can It Make You Money?

There are lots of amazing new software solutions and services available, but anything that a merchant invests in should have an expected yield.

Frequently, ecommerce businesses are going to want to improve sales or conversion rates, but even a service that reduces the cost of doing business can make you more money.

Here’s a geeky example. Several online merchants pay monthly hosting charges which are, in part, dependent on the amount of storage and memory allocated to the server. If you use an ecommerce platform such as Magento that is based on InnoDB database tables and a server that’s using a version of MySQL before 5.6, you might be using more storage than required, since the only InnoDB data file can grow but not shrink with the size of your information. Paying to have a programmer to upgrade MySQL and place InnoDB tables to create 1 file per table instead of 1 file for all tables can save money long term on hosting, possibly making a company more money in general.

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Always understand how new services or software will ultimately make you more money.

Is It Best of Breed or Fully Integrated?

Best of breed applications or services typically focus on a single task, aiming to do that one thing very well. Fully integrated applications or services attempt to offer a package of tools or offerings which allow a merchant to find everything required in one solution.

As a real world example, consider AdSerts, a Wisconson-based design agency which specializes in creating retail sales circulars. The company does not do everything, but what it does, it does really well. It’s a best of breed approach.

Likewise, NetSuite provides an integrated internet business software package. It can offer a business with an ecommerce solution, back-office applications, and an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system that’s proven to work together and work nicely enterprise wide. It’s a good example of a fully integrated approach.

When choosing a service provider, consider what approach they are taking to address a problem or increase profit, and inquire whether this approach makes the most sense for your circumstance.

How Can It Interact with Current Systems?

It’s possible to have the best payment processing system on earth and the best shopping cart software in the world, and have difficulty getting them to work together.

Most retail businesses are constructed brick-on-brick, so to speak, with a single new system added on top of and integrated with existing solutions.

Before contracting for a new software solution, make sure it can be integrated with the system you use.

How Can You Pay?

Software and services can have any number of payment models which range from utility-like pay-per usage to flat yearly prices or one-time payments.

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Advertising agencies, as an instance, will sometimes take”agency commission,” which may indicate that you won’t pay anything extra, rather they could be given a commission from the books whose advertising you purchase.

Knowing how you pay for services or software can allow you to figure out how it impacts cash flow and company success.

Can It Be Guaranteed?

Software, surprisingly, does not always include warranties. At times, you may just be out of luck.

For instance, imagine a company that sells pricing program. The corporation’s solution monitors aggressive pricing and makes sure that you always have the lowest price online within some parameters. But if the software does not work for your organization, the firm might argue that you did not offer proper product info, did not correctly specify competitors, or something similar.

As another example, Mike Monteiro, who’s the co-founder of an superb agency, Mule Design, famously delivered a presentation at the March 25, 2011 Typekit Creative Morning in San Francisco named,”F*ck You. Pay Me.” The demonstration was aimed at encouraging creative design bureaus to not get pushed around. Nonetheless, it’s worth noting that some service providers might wish to be paid whether you’re happy with the end result of the job.

Be sure you know what is guaranteed and what’s not.

What Happens When it Breaks?

A related question has to do with up time. Even if a provider is willing guarantee some applications or service, it’s necessary to see how that supplier will respond when something breaks and your website is down or you suddenly can’t process orders.

Firehost, which is a protected hosting firm, offers 24-hour, seven days per week service. If your website goes down on a Saturday, there’ll be someone willing and able to assist you get it up and running, provided Firehost itself isn’t down.

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Know how the provider will manage business emergencies.

How Can You Update It?

Software is often updated. Perhaps there’s a security patch that has to be added or a new feature to be dispersed. Although this sounds easy, an upgrade can be a system devastating change that will grind an ecommerce company to a halt.

For instance, the United States Postal Service recently made a change to its application programming interface (API) that would effectively split systems using the older version of the API. Software manufacturers using the Postal Service API needed to roll out upgrades to their system. But what if you had a custom module included? Can the applications or API changes affect it? If you are not certain, you’d want to make the software upgrade in a text environment, making sure that it functioned properly before it was dispersed to your production systems.

Prior to getting new applications, understand how upgrades and updates will work.