CosmicCoder Solutions has been engaged quite a few times through the years to consult on online sales and to develop full blown inventory management systems.
In the online shopping arena there are two main ways to move forward. To make this decision, you need to define what you want. You also need to define what you need and where you want to be 5 to 10 years.
The simplest way to get started with online shopping and an online store is implementing WordPress. WordPress is an easy to use content management application that is widely used by companies world wide. You can get an online store that accepts payments up and running very quickly. For most smaller companies this is the way to go. The downside of WordPress is it is a black box. There are literally thousands of add-on features that are programmed by people throughout the entire world. For every great feature in WordPress there is a matching bad feature. The biggest and most important bad feature for you to beware of is vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities are generally programming errors but some are not. If not patched, hackers will take over your site and your payment system. Beyond WordPress, there are several other applications that do the same thing. All of them black box apps. With a black box you may or may not be able to keep your existing corporate colors and look. All of them also have their own set of issues.
When your business grows beyond what one of these prepackaged (black box) applications can do for you is when your answers to the questions are at the enterprise level. Basically, when you need your sales force to be able to enter their orders, or you need to track shipping, or track customer invoices and you need your store to work without fail at lightning speed a black box is not a good choice for you.
A Tale of two companies.
Both companies sell the same products. Company A has been in business over 20 years in the same location. They did not have a web site. They relied on word of mouth for marketing which for the most part worked well. Company B has also been in business over 20 year. They have locations in 3 states. They had sales and delivery represtitives throughout these states. Their business model is the sales reps take orders over phone, email or in person.
Company A wanted a web site, they thought it would be nice to be able to promote or even sell of their products online. They looked at the web as unexplored and were hopeful that a web site would help them with marketing and possibily growth.
Company B had a web site with all of their products. the site clearly explained what they did and how they serviced their customers. Sadly their web site was unusable. Searching for products would take over a minute. Attempting to open and read about a product would take up to 2 minutes. The sales reps all wanted to make their own orders and maintain their own inventory on the site, instead they were forced to use spreadsheets and phone in their orders to main warehouse.
For Company A we set up a WordPress site, taught them how to use it and still to this day maintain and clean things up they enter wrongly. They now have web presence. They decided not to sell their products but to promote them on the site.
Company B on the other hand was already All-In. Their business was suffering because of their poorly developed web site. Their new web site took on a whole new life. The backend application became their supply chain management system. Customers new and old could now order online, sale reps could manage their own inventory and deliveries. The warehouse track shipping to the reps, upper management gained insights on the business they never had before. They could tell what product types sold best and in what areas.