Whether you plan the re-launch of an existing online store or being a newcomer in the topic of e-commerce, at the beginning of planning an e-shop you are confronted with the task of finding an adequate system as a basis for its implementation. Especially because of the close integration and interaction of an e-shop project with a company’s very own process chains for order and payment handling, a whole range of stakeholders have to take here to be taken into account, from marketing and IT departments to product planning, logistics and accounting.

The following intends to provide support in selecting the best suited e-shop system.

Selection Process

To enable a highly structured and objective selection of an e-shop system, the approach should follow an in advance defined process that will allow keeping the decision-making process verifiable and easier to revise. Keep a critical eye on the time needed in comparison to any improvement of decision making as well to be efficient. Only then make the decision whether the process should be carried out in-house or be supported by an external agency. This can either be in the run up of a concrete project implementation or a separate project. Due to the high need for coordination, you frequently come across a mixture of both variants, in which certain tasks are outsourced, while others can be performed in-house or at least prepared there.


At the beginning there is the systematic collection of the requirements for the new system, which often starts with a vague idea of the necessary electronic shop system. Due to the huge diversity of products on the market, these requirements should, however, be fragmented again into individual components. Keep in mind that with the diligent preparation of a catalogue of requirements stands or falls by the overall quality of the selection process. This represents the core of any system selection.

In general, the compilation of a tabular structure makes sense, in which each requirement criteria is presented in conjunction with a brief explanation. In addition, each criterion should be evaluated and there should be a division into must, can, and shall criteria which has so far, stood the tests well.

When determining the priorities, make sure to mark as must-criteria only really absolutely essential functionalities, otherwise it is most probably impossible to find a system that truly meets each precondition. For shall-have criteria, innovative alternatives can be found often as well, which can then be implemented with a system that cannot directly fulfill the expectations.

In the process of defining requirements all parties should, if possible, be involved in the planned system, to further support a subsequent acceptance of the chosen system.

The collection of the requirements can be done either in groups or through individually conducted interviews. In the latter case, the results are then converted into a single document and presented to all stakeholders for acceptance.

And for sure it’s useful to take a look at comparable store offers when defining the requirements, as the expectations of users from different industries can diverge enormously with regards to the availability of certain functions in the front end.

Shopping cart systems

Simple systems allow the offline administration of products and categories and are usually generated as HTML files and graphics that can be uploaded to a web space and don’t use an online database.
A high end solution can be bought or rented as a standalone program or as an addition to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) program. It is generally installed on the company's own webserver and integrated into the existing supply chain so that ordering, payment, delivery, accounting and warehousing can be automated to a large extent.

Other solutions allow the user to register and create an online shop on a portal that hosts multiple shops at the same time. Open source shopping cart packages include advanced platforms such as Interchange, and off the shelf solutions such as PrestaShop (www.prestashop.com/), Avactis (www.avactis.com), Satchmo (www.satchmoproject.com/), osCommerce (www.oscommerce.com/), Magento (www.magentocommerce.com/), or VirtueMart (http://virtuemart.net/).

These commercial systems can also be tailored to ones needs so that the shop does not have to be created from scratch. By using such an already existing framework, software modules for different functionalities, required by a web shop, can be easily adapted and combined.

By Daniela La Marca