In this third and final installment of our series on B2B eCommerce, we learn of the power of hosted services
You already mastered the basics of launching an ecommerce B2B operation in “The Promise of the Shopping Cart” and the price you should can expect to pay in “The Key to an Overflowing Chest.” Now, like the mythic pirate Bretheren Court, you will have to choose your captain to host your financial endeavor.
I know you want me to just tell you the best shopping cart to pick, but there is no one universal “best” shopping cart. Like the pirate lords, each business has different needs. Let your end-goals be your compass and you’ll soon discover your ideal destination.
I will give you this piece of hard-won advice: seek results-based B2B marketing, not technology-driven marketing. In other words, choose based on what will enrich your treasure chest the most, not what looks like the coolest cutlass in the armory.
Shopping cart & web site costs
Hosted eCommerce web site services like Yahoo Merchant Services, Shopify, Volusion, and Big Commerce all deserve a closer look.
- The upside: They offer an ‘SaaS’, or Software as a Service, which means you don’t have to worry about maintaining the shopping cart software, including security updates and upgrades. This can give you peace-of-mind in a stormy transaction environment because you don’t have to worry about the technical issues. Plus, you have a support network available to help you 24/7.
- The downside: You don’t get the full control of a self-serve hosted server account.
Beware hidden fees
Hidden fees can add up and hurt your business. Actually, “hidden” is not an accurate term because the costs are shown on your contract, but it’s up to you, the captain, to choose and stay on top of store charges. You will pay a premium for premium service. In addition to a monthly service charge, you could be charged as much as 2% more per-transaction. That is no small coin.
Self-serve hosted server account: A custom site, while it may include “free” shopping carts, can require a great deal of skill to configure, upgrade and maintain. That means that the developer brought on board to design the site becomes trapped in an endless loop of maintenance, upgrades and fixes. For the captain, this can result in a financial leak due to hidden costs and endless problems, especially if you try to build the site quickly “on the cheap.”
On the Upside: Self-serve hosted server accounts provide an enormous amount of flexibility. A well-researched business plan and eCommerce strategy is a prerequisite to succeeding.
Brand prominence plays a pivotal role in the eCommerce battle for market domination. Ultimately, you want the message to be about you and not another business entity like Google or PayPal. It’s easy to fall into the “free” trap, but remember you’re selling a brand at that point (witnessed by the fact of low penetration of alternative payment methods). In fact you’re already selling a brand: your business. If you want to simply accept credit cards, would you rather accept credit cards, or, accept credit cards through PayPal?
It sounds (and is) so much ”easier” on the client side to simply accept credit cards and not require signing up for various other brands who then market to your clients without even paying the courtesy of a finder’s fee for your trouble.
As a general rule, a smart sailor protects the brand and develops a strategy outside of PayPal and Google Checkout. It may cost more in the short-run, but it puts you in control of your clients and client lists by going with a gateway and merchant account. This gives a company a virtual payment terminal right out of the box and puts you on course for a successful shopping cart web site application.
Are you launching your B2B company on the ecommerce seas? Want some guidance from seasoned veterans? Drop us a line with your burning questions before you weigh anchor.