There are hundreds of vendors that provide eCommerce and shopping cart solutions on the internet. Trying to figure out which one offers what you need can seem more like a roll of the dice than an educated decision.
Evaluate Real Web Sites
1. Look at sample sites that use the solution you are considering. Visit actual sites that use the software, not just demo sites. If you can't find any real sites, move on. How can you trust a provider who won't show you the product in action? Don't just look at the visual design, but visit the site and click around. I recommend adding items to your cart and starting the checkout process. In many cases you will find shopping is cumbersome, the checkout process is tedious, or there are actually errors on the site.
2. Pay attention to the visual design of the sites. Do the sites look good? Do they use a template that is the same from one site to the next? If you like what you see, add this provider to your 'hot list', but you'll need to ask the provider about web site design costs and who provided the designs you like before you sign up.
3. Do not use a shopping cart that requires the shopper to sign up for an account before they can buy. Requiring a shopper to sign up for an account is a barrier that will reduce your conversion rates. Do not use a cart that doesn't show shipping charges until the end of the checkout process. Shoppers want to know how much shipping will add to the cost of their order and many will abandon their cart if they need to enter personal information just to find out.
Evaluate Search Engine Placement
4. Check the google
page rank on some of the sites in the providers portfolio. You can find out by
visiting Google Page Rank Checker. Enter the home page url (for example: http://www.thesite.com) of the site you want to check. If the page rank of the home page is not at least 3 or 4, you'll probably want to look elsewhere. Sites with a pagerank of 0 are new and have not been ranked by Google yet.
5. Pick a few sites that use the software you are considering and try
to find them in Google, Yahoo, and MSN. If you can't find them, it's not a good
sign. I recommend clicking to a product page on the site. Choose a 3 word phrase
that you think represents what is found on the page. Your phrase should include
words that are on the page you are viewing. Enter that phrase in a search engine
and see if you can find the site. Try this several times with a few sites- if
you can't find any results, chances are no one will find your site either.