November 25th, 2014
That’s what can happen when you opt to run your business website and online sales through an Internet Service Provider. ISPs have lots full of bright, shiny new convertibles that a company can jump right into and drive. Their features are so easy to use that even if you have no experience in ISP website designs, you can set up a professional-looking page in hours. However, you’ll soon find that you have lost control over something essential: the way in which many of your customers get to know you.
We’ve all noticed similarities between the online catalogues and checkout systems of very different companies. That’s because those businesses subscribe to the same ISP and have set up their sales features using its Web template. The system they’re using is proprietary, a term that, as you might guess, has the same root as “property.” The physical merchandise, and the words and pictures their sellers use to describe it, belong to their respective stores. But the method their customers use to learn about and pay for those things belongs to the ISP.
By entrusting your business to a proprietary system, you’ll have limited options.You must use the ISP’s own features, which may be “buggy” or simply not meet your needs. You’ll see your monthly fees creep upward as your business grows, and at the end of each subscription period, and as the ISP adds new features to their websites, some of which you will never use. You’ll have the option, of course, to sign on with a less expensive provider and cancel the original “lease.” However, when you move, you’ll have to leave all of that proprietary content behind — the page design you created so carefully using the old ISP website designs’ backgrounds and fonts, the ordering and sales system, those hundreds or many thousands of separate files describing individual products that could be taken on or off the old site with the press of a button.
If you’ve thought about this from the start, you’ve saved up-to-date electronic files with the details of each of your products. If not, you will have to start again from scratch with the new provider, possibly even typing in the information one field at a time. For a small-scale store like a bakery, this would be a time-consuming and annoying but not impossible task. For something like a bookstore chain, it could be fatal.
Your other option may seem more expensive but will prove to be far cheaper in the long run: to purchase your own website and systems rather than lease them. After the initial payment you will own and control every aspect of your business’s online presence. You’ll have the option to change your site’s look or features as often as you like. You can purchase add-ons from your own choice of supplier or even design them yourself. The monthly maintenance costs will be minor — and if you’re not satisfied with the mechanic who’s been keeping your “convertible” in tune, you may hire another.
The smart choice is obvious. When Honest Ed approaches waving that tempting-looking contract, walk away and start constructing a vehicle of your own. The cost will be lower in the end. It will look exactly as you want it to and will respond to your slightest touch. And you’ll never have to be afraid to check under the hood.
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