Criteria for the Internet Shop System

Criteria for the Internet Shop System

E-commerce with the help of an Internet store system is one of the most dynamic segments of the Internet economy, with annual double-digit growth rates in sales figures representing a profound structural change that has gripped the retail sector. It is therefore becoming increasingly important for every company to generate competitive advantages. One of the most strategically important elements of an e-commerce business concept is the store system. For many companies in the e-commerce sector, however, it is a considerable challenge to keep track of the range of store systems on offer and to select the right store system.

If you have any questions or suggestions on the subject of Internet store systems, or if you would like to assign a student project or thesis, we would be delighted to hear from you at info@ecommerceinstitut.de.

Leading store systems for the Internet store often differ only in a few details that cannot be determined without in-depth knowledge. The range of diverse features makes it difficult for companies to filter out the most important individual functions. Store systems can therefore appear very similar at first glance, but are more complex to install and maintain, or the prices for support and enhancements can be extremely high. Furthermore, it is important to pay attention to how widespread the store system is; otherwise, high installation costs or customization costs can arise.

To help companies select a store system, students at the Fresenius University of Applied Sciences, together with Prof. Dr. Dominik Große Holtforth of the E-commerce Institute, conducted a study in which store operators were asked about the most important criteria for selecting a store system. The non-representative study was primarily concerned with checking general criteria and not naming the best store system. The dynamics of the systems on offer and the individuality of the companies make a general statement on a ranking of the systems impossible anyway. With a catalogue of criteria of longer-lasting relevance, on the other hand, companies can review existing or even new store systems.

The students first obtained an overview of the literature and the existing range of store systems. Then, in qualitative interviews, e-commerce companies were asked which criteria were and are decisive in the decision for or against a store system. Finally, these criteria were applied to existing store systems to check the validity of the criteria catalogue.

What is an Internet Shop System?

A store system is a software package for the creation and operation of an Internet store. There are various vendors that provide different software solutions. These are either free (open-source) or can be found in various price segments (buy-shop, individual software). The sales success of the e-commerce company depends largely on the right store system. The most important selection criteria include, in particular, search engine suitability, merchandise presentation and design options, payment methods, and user-friendliness.[1]

Success factors in the selection of an Internet store system

Research in the market and in the literature – including a study by the ibi research Institute of the University of Regensburg – has shown that for many store operators the following criteria are decisive for the selection of a store system.

  1. Handling; CMS (Content Management System)
  2. Search engine optimization
  3. Service functions
  4. CRM (Customer Relationship Management)
  5. Frequency of updates
  6. Unique selling points of the store system
  7. Integration of sub-service providers
  8. Qualification level of the administrator
  9. Cost effectiveness and costs (license fees, training, installation)

The fulfilment of or attention to these topics and success factors represent, to a certain extent, the minimum standard for a store system. The individual points can also be used as a test catalogue for the initial evaluation of a store.

High willingness to switch store systems

In e-commerce practice, however, the path dependency of the store system selection also becomes apparent. The initial selection of a store system for the Internet store is essentially made according to cost aspects. However, this decision, which is understandable for small and medium-sized companies, can result in a lock-in effect of an unsuitable system. Better access to financing options for the investment in a system would reduce errors in the initial investment and thus expensive adaptation processes.

The relevance of the problem can also be demonstrated by a comparatively high number of system changes. 41% of store operators have already changed system providers, and 26% plan to do so in the future [2].

The potential for improvement in the store system is seen in better connectivity with existing (merchandise management) systems and an improved ability to promote sales in the named.[3] This trend was also confirmed in the non-representative survey of online store operators.

Selection of a store system

The examination of possible criteria for the selection of a store system and the application to the four most common open-source solutions (Magento, XT-Commerce, Shopware, Prestashop) has essentially shown that all solutions meet the minimum standards of the criteria mentioned. Thus, the focus is on the criteria of low cost, operating complexity, compatibility with downstream systems, reliability, and the ease with which the software can be expanded. These criteria are indispensable when it comes to finding the “right” store system.

It became clear during the research that Shopware and XT-Commerce, in particular, are preferred as entry-level software for smaller stores with niche products. Particularly with Shopware, the costs are quite low at the beginning due to the diverse open-source offer and the time expenditure is manageable. However, the offer is put into perspective when additional (important) features are used due to additional costs. This is the case with almost every product and must therefore be included in the decision. Some operators surveyed also use individual shop systems that are customized according to the company’s individual specifications. However, a closer look reveals that such individual solutions are often associated with very high costs, time expenditure and a high degree of dependence on developers.

Magento is a clear favourite for use in the fashion industry, as this store system can be used to create individual designs that improve the display options in the store. The possibility of creating subshops is also a clear strength of this system. Especially for international fashion retailers, this is an excellent opportunity to set up a customer- and country-specific stores and thus open up new markets cost-effectively. Prestashop is again well suited for companies with a wide range of products (e.g. mail order companies or retailers of customized goods, such as sports shoes) because on the one hand extensive design options can be integrated into the store. On the other hand, Prestashop offers the possibility of creating many categories and subcategories, which seems very useful in this case.

Store systems as individual as companies

Despite clear tendencies of individual systems, it is still not possible to make a general recommendation, because every company /operator has individual ideas about the structure and operation of its e-shop. The choice of a suitable store system depends on individual factors such as the products offered, the target group to be addressed, the company’s budget and its business strategy, and should therefore be compared with the features of the systems offered. For companies that do not have the experience or capacity to thoroughly test a store system, it is advisable to work with independent consultants who can help link strategy development, business model development and store system selection.

Do you need further information on the selection of store systems? The E-commerce Institute looks forward to hearing from you.

Authors:

  • Prof. Dr. Dominik Große Holtforth
  • Leonie Gatermann
  • Stefan Kluth
  • Andreas Löhr
  • Stefan Plank
  • Sarah Schulte-Bachem
  • Rouven Schulze
  • Ann-Christin Werner

[1] Vgl. Symweb [2012]

[2] Vgl. Wittmann, Stahl, Weinfurtner, Weisheit, Pur [2011], p. 67.

[3] Vgl. Wittmann, Stahl, Weinfurtner, Weisheit, Pur [2011], p. 78.

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