Forrester Research has just published a new guide to roughly 30 e-commerce platforms that are relevant for small and midsize businesses.
The services and software considered as part of its report, "SMB E-commerce Solutions 2012, are explicitly focused on businesses with $1 million to $10 million in revenue that are selling direct to consumer online and that are primarily serving North America and Europe (although some of the vendors have a global twist).
As I was combing through the report, three themes popped out:
- Many of the larger providers, in particular, are seeking to provide an end-to-end solution that includes catalog features, marketing tools, payment solutions and fulfillment mechanisms. Traditionally, SMB e-commerce solutions have been a conglomeration of different services. While opting for an integrated approach is probably easier from a setup and ongoing operations standpoint, it does carry the possibility for lock-in.
- Open source technology ecosystems are flourishing. Forrester points in particular to Magento, Zen Cart and OXID as e-commerce solution providers that have grown substantially over the past several years.
- Hosted solutions predominate, another testament to the allure of cloud services for small businesses.
One big consideration that small businesses will need to weigh carefully as they choose an e-commerce platform is how they will pay for it. The list provided by Forrester illustrates that there are a broad range of options including a straight monthly service fee or subscription, revenue sharing models, or fees based on per-order transaction costs.
Forrester suggests that an e-commerce platform choice should be a two- to three-year one, so what you pay at the beginning for your service might not be what you'll pay at that end. That will affect your margins. Based on the information provided, here are platforms that look like they offer relatively fixed licensing, monthly subscription or annual service fees. (I'm not listing those that require transaction fees or revenue shares, nor those that are really broader Web development services with an e-commerce adjunct.)