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A Fair Review of the Top .NET eCommerce Solutions

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Selling products online is the fastest way to kick-start revenues for any business, so it stands to reason that an eCommerce platform is the digital straw that stirs the sales revenue drink. With that being said, why are so many eCommerce solutions failing to perform up to expectations… Or is it more complex than simply blaming the selected software platform?

The most successful online stores are run by organizations that have mastered the complex dance of business strategy, software technology, integration, digital marketing and performance analytics. At the foundation of their success is the selection of an eCommerce platform that is not only best-suited for their specific needs, but also provides the highest potential ROI with the lowest identifiable risk.

Whether you’re a small to medium business or a large corporate enterprise, there are a number of platforms available on the market that can best match your specific requirements. So what’s the first step in selecting an eCommerce platform solution?

Who’s driving the bus – your content management system or a standalone eCommerce platform?”

You begin by addressing a few key decisions that need to be considered before you begin kicking the tires, such as the long and hard debate over who’s driving the bus – your content management system or a standalone eCommerce platform. Then you’ll want to make a detailed plan for your eCommerce solution such as:

Budget—factor in a consultant to help guide you through the initial process along with the total cost of purchasing an eCommerce platform, including backend integration with other software and digital community systems.

Timetable—how quickly do you need your store up and running? Some hosted solutions can be up and running in a matter of weeks by relying heavily on the out-of-box feature sets, while other more complex solutions that require a lot more customization work will take months.

Team—do you have the in-house expertise to deploy an eCommerce solution or will you need to contract an integration firm to build, update and maintain the platform? 

Add-ons—every platform comes with a host of its own add-on features and modules such as SEO, marketing, analytics, multilingual globalization, mobile and social capabilities and varying degrees of technical support.

Security—SSL certificates, for example, are required for all online businesses to protect sensitive information like credit card numbers and customer’s passwords. Some platforms have these built in, some require you to set them up on your own.

Once you’ve laid out a strategic plan, it’s time to start looking at eCommerce solutions… or is it?

You still need to decide on the level of control you desire and the trade-offs between maximum convenience and maximum control. The trade-off between convenience and control is common in eCommerce software. Software becomes “easier” to use when it allows less control and reversely, the more control a user has, the less convenient the software becomes. For example…

These vendors offer more convenience, less control:

These vendors offer less convenience, more control:

After you make a decision on the level of control you desire, and what your fundamental needs are, you need to define important issues such as payment gateways, consumer safety and fraud protocols, etc.

Once that’s done, you can finally begin the arduous journey of reviewing a focused selection of eCommerce platform vendors. Make no mistake, this will take a considerable amount of time and money before you get to the “best-fit” vendor selection stage. My recommendation is to seek out a qualified and experienced eCommerce integration consultant to help guide you through this process, which may cause a slight increase in budget, but far less than the long-term cost of supporting an underperforming eCommerce store.

In this report, we’ll look at a few of the most popular .NET eCommerce solutions on the market to give you an idea of what features are out there, how much developer support you’ll need for each, and which is best suited for your organization. Obviously, there is no 'one-size-fits-all' eCommerce platform that can delivery on all your requirements, but when you get it right, you end up providing your online customer with an ultra-convenient shopping experience.

Review Criteria

I have selected 9-vendors that have all met the following base criteria:

  • ASP.NET technology based
  • Well-established reputation
  • Good balance of convenience and control
  • Mid-market budget
  • Clientele in the North American marketplace

ECOMMERCE SOLUTIONS

An eCommerce platform only is a widely used approach, well-understood and suitable for a large majority of online and multi-channel retailers. By selecting an appropriate eCommerce platform with basic CMS functions, it can deliver a rich and engaging customer experience.

commercetools
nopCommerce
znode
virto
uCommerce

Click on the vendor logos above to link to their individual review

 

WEB CMS WITH ECOMMERCE SOLUTIONS

Although a CMS platform with a robust eCommerce module is not common in a high volume mainstream retail environments, this approach has the potential to offer a very strong combination of customer experience and eCommerce transactional function.

epi
sitecore
iAPPS
kentico

Click on the vendor logos above to link to their individual review

A Few High-level Questions to Address in the Evaluation Stage

How Much Will it Cost Pillar-to-Post?
Make sure to account for not only the initial development and deployment costs, but the post project charges, platform renewal and related expenses like hosting fees, payment card fees, or transaction fees.

Will It Look Sharp & Function Well?
A successful online store functions fluidly for the customer with minimal clicks to buy and is visually appealing. First-time shoppers need to trust your store, and site aesthetics and functionality are a key indicator of trust.

How Flexible Is the Product Catalog?
Flexibility is somewhat related to site aesthetics and functionality. Can the eCommerce platform adequately manage the breadth of products your store will sell?

Will It Work with Other Software?
Your eCommerce platform cannot work alone. You will need to integrate it with other software such as ERP, CRM, DAM and digital marketing solutions to get a strong ROI. Look for app stores, extensions, and integrations for the eCommerce platforms you’re considering.

How Will It Be Hosted?
eCommerce stores need to be hosted somewhere. Software-as-a-service solutions will typically do this for you. So if your business doesn’t have a lot of technical resources, SaaS platforms can be a good choice. They can also be hosted on servers at firms that specialize in website hosting.

How Intuitive is it to Update?
This is critical in the selection process and why trial versions and user training courses are vital. To be candid, vendor controlled demos are simply not enough. If the vendor does not allow you to test their software or provide you with a proof-of-concept, consider that a red flag.

My Final Thoughts

All the vendors in this review are viable eCommerce options and the similarities between them are far greater than their differences and although I did add a “star” rating for each vendor, I recommend using it as a loose guide only. Unless I have details of your business and technical capabilities, and can conduct a proper evaluation of your short and long-term eCommerce strategy, a scoring chart (or blue dots on a quadrant), in my opinion, is highly subjective.

The only sure-fire way to select a best-fit eCommerce solution after you have narrowed down your options is to request a personalized demo or download a trial version and start exploring. It’s also important that you make sure you put as much debate and planning into selecting a best-fit integration partner as you would in selecting the eCommerce platform, or any software platform for that matter. A good integration team can work with sub-standard software, but hire an ineffective integrator and the software quickly becomes a non-factor in your ill-fated eCommerce project.

WCM Advisory & Support Services

For more information on maximizing your existing eCommerce or Web CMS system, or for assistance in selecting a new eCommerce solution, visit our Advisory & Support Services page. Let us help you to prevent problems and maximize a return on investment by guiding you through all the project phases, from analysis and requirements, through to implementation, deployment, and ongoing maintenance.  

If you enjoyed this article, you might also enjoy my Fair Review of the Top .NET CMS Platforms.


 

About the Author

Gary Eisenstein

Gary Eisenstein

Gary has been working in the IT industry for over 23-years and is a Principle Analyst at CMS-Connected. If you would like to receive additional advice or consultation on selecting a “best-fit” Web Content Management solution, Gary can be reached at gary.eisenstein@cms-connected.com.