From quilters to cigar makers to big-time retailers, almost every merchant can find new customers on the Internet. PC Magazine, the nation’s largest computer magazine, includes a special e-shopping feature in their upcoming November 18th issue that evaluates all the tools cyber-shopkeepers need as well as the magazine’s top 30 retail web sites for both good examples and good bargains.
In order to test the major packages for creating Web stores, PC Magazine testers created a dozen clothing stores to see how easy it was to create, as well as how robust they are for supporting and maintaining the site.
“For small and mid-sized businesses, setting up an electronic storefront has been an expensive proposition,” said Michael Miller, editor-in-chief. “Now though, there are a number of software solutions for every sized business and we put each to the PC Labs’ test,” he added.
In “Open for Business,” PC Magazine reviews twelve web storefront creation software packages from those designed for small businesses to packages designed for larger retailers with more inventory. Some of the newest storefront creation packages are geared for small to mid-sized retail businesses and many are hosted by the vendor or an Internet service provider (ISP) for easy management.
“Most of the major retail sites on the Web today cost $100,000 or more to create,” said Diane Jecker, project editor for the feature. “With these packages, small businesses can build sophisticated sites for a fraction of that cost,” she added.
For small businesses thinking about reaching cyber-shoppers this holiday season — its not too late, noted Miller. PC Magazine gave its coveted Editors’ Choice Award to Viaweb Store 3.0 which lets users build a Web store in less than 10 minutes. Because Viaweb is solely vendor-hosted, merchants need only an Internet connection and a browser to develop their store. The editors also cite Viaweb’s strong editing, publishing and reporting features as well as affordable pricing as important factors in making it an Editors’ Choice.
For larger stores, PC Magazine recommends Electronic Commerce 3.0, Professional Edition from iCat and gave it the Editors’ Choice. The editors cited the programs great selection of storefront templates as well as strong database support and the ability to administer the site remotely via a browser. More full-scale packages like Electronic Commerce offer transaction and security features that let users take all types of payments as well as calculate charges; and administration and sales management features, allowing users to analyze data such as visitor tracking and generate sales reports.
PC Magazine’s Tips For Would-be Cyber Merchants
— Look for Web storefront creation software that integrate the various components of a storefront together: web server, store administrator, database server, shopping carts, order processing, site analysis/reporting and links to old legacy systems if needed.
— Visit the thirty top retail Web sites chosen by PC Magazine for ideas on design and implementation
— Creating a customized store takes some work, regardless of the tools. Don’t try to do it from scratch — start with the sample stores provided.
— Don’t overlook the entry-level storefront packages even if you are a bigger operation. Many are capable of producing pretty slick sites with far less aggravation.
— Small shop owners should look at the offerings of online services such as America Online. They host your site so you don’t need your own servers, and provide templates to help you build your store. They also provide grocery cart and credit card transaction processing features.
— Larger businesses should also look to the major ISPs that provide shared server services as well as secure transaction processing and good site development tools.Details