E-commerce: Dream Big, Plan Smart

Many of our E-commerce customers are dreamers. Some of them are BIG dreamers. It sort of goes with the territory. There are plenty of examples of successful E-commerce websites out there on the Internet, but for every success there are at least two or three (or more) complete fizzles. It takes a lot of small business grit — and a strong vision of success — to enter the world of online retail sales.

A number of our customers have tried a hosted E-commerce solution in the past and haven’t been satisfied with the results. Restrictions on site design and product presentation rank as their most frequent complaints. They want a website that doesn’t look or work like a thousand others — something specifically customized to their business — and the limitations enforced by hosted solutions just don’t get the job done.

We build custom E-commerce websites based on the ProductCart engine from EarlyImpact. But there’s custom, and then there’s crazy. “Custom” usually involves some modifications to how the E-commerce engine displays items, calculates prices or handles shipping. Everybody does something a little differently; that’s why they want a custom E-commerce storefront in the first place.

“Crazy,” on the other hand, always involves modifications to the engine’s core business logic. Expensive modifications, I might add. Cracking into the deep innards of an E-commerce application gets complicated, and making sure everything works right after the modifications are in place is a time-consuming process. If it’s something that’s central to the website’s business function, then it has to be done. But many times the same processes can be performed at less expense by integrating the E-commerce system with another application that does the same job.

Major modifications to an E-commerce engine aren’t just a one-time expense. Just like your desktop productivity software or your web browser, E-commerce programs are patched or upgraded to newer versions from time to time. The more heavily the core programming is modified, the more time-consuming the upgrade or patch process becomes. Substantial version upgrades can sometimes require re-building a complex modification from scratch.

There’s nothing wrong with big dreams of E-commerce. Just keep in mind that, usually, the bigger the dream, the more planning — and money — that’s required.

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