There are basically three types of e-commerce software: an out-of-the box program, a custom-coded program and a program provided by an e-commerce hosting company. These options can be further divided into more specific types of e-commerce software. The use of a relational database, access to accounting applications from within the software and the presence or absence of a shopping cart are among the features that determine different types of e-commerce software.
The term "e-commerce" refers electronic commerce, or the ability to sell and buy merchandise and services using the technologies of the Internet. The type and size of the business helps determine what type of e-commerce software it will need. For example, a commercial website selling only a few items might not need software that includes a shopping cart if it is rare for customers to purchase more than one item or service at a time. Large companies that offer many different products, on the other hand, might find it absolutely essential to have software in which there is a shopping cart. Customers often want to purchase multiple items or services with one transaction.
The presence of a relational database also tends to be very important when selling many items and services. This is especially true when items are available in various sizes, colors and quantities. Relational databases in e-commerce software might be thought of as an inventory system that can be updated on the fly, preventing customers from ordering items that are out of stock or no longer available. Small businesses might be interested in e-commerce software that has an accounting program integrated.
All of these types of e-commerce software must be studied carefully to consider advantages and disadvantages. Out-of-the box software generally is preferred by individuals or very small companies that have no knowledge of web development. Advantages include the freedom to code the software to meet the specific needs and demands of the business. Programming knowledge, however, and a solid understanding of hypertext mark-up language (HTML) is required unless the services of a web developer can be purchased. This type of software can be obtained free of charge or for a fee.
Software that is not coded from scratch has to be configured or "tweaked" by each individual or company that plans to use it. Depending on the size and features of the software, it might suffice, but it might be "bulky" for a small business. E-commerce programs that are hosted might require that a regular fee be paid, and there might be restrictions on the use of the application.