How to Choose the Best E-Commerce Platform for Your Business

How to Choose the Best E-Commerce Platform for Your Business 1024 538 Olena Narodzonek

The truth is, there’s no better time to sell products on the internet than now. More and more users go online for almost everything they need, and they expect to find it there. According to statistics, e-commerce is growing 23% year after year and this trend will only continue in the years to come. If we look into generational trends, it gets even better. 67% of millennials shop online and spend on average 6h a week doing so. That is a lot of time browsing online ready to spend money. As time passes and this generation grows wealthier, this trend will keep going up. And this is only one of the reasons why you should consider having your shop online if you haven’t already done so.

Factors to help you choose an e-commerce platform for your brand

The specific tone of your brand and the KPIs you aim to reach are to be taken in consideration when choosing the most suitable e-commerce platform for your business. We enlisted five important factors to help make that choice.

1. Type of product you’re selling

Every business will stand or fall depending on the product you want to sell. Selling your product online is very similar to selling it in a physical shop – the platform you use should be home to your product. This is why thinking about the future of your e-shop and making a long-term plan is key in choosing the right platform – it should not only match your product and branding in style but should also be able to accommodate any product variations/diversification you might have in the future.

2. Your budget

This one is self-explanatory, right? If you were to set up a physical store, you would need to think about the many expenses that come with opening a store – rent, utilities, inventories, staff, maintenance, marketing, etc. Planning a budget for an online store is very similar – you will have expenses for platform services, inventories, graphic design, hosting, shipping and so on. Moreover, you will need to have these outlined before you choose a platform for your online store and this decision will be largely based on how much you can afford to spend on your e-store platform.

3. Type of platform – SaaS or Open Source

Essentially, there are two types of e-commerce platforms – SaaS (Software as a Service) and open source platforms. The type of platform you choose will then determine a lot of things when running your business. Below are the main features and differences:

a. SaaS

To put it simply, SaaS is like a shopping mall and your online store is like a shop in this mall. This means that you will not need to have any technical knowledge or coding skills to set up your shop – it will all be taken care for you by the platform. But just like with a physical shop in a mall, you won’t have a lot of room for personalization. When it comes to costs, you will have monthly running fees, but the good thing about it is that you will know exactly how much you need to pay, and this will do wonders to your budget.

b. Open source

Open source software is like having your own store, independent from the mall. To set up a webshop, you will be assigned a developer who will do it for you (unless you know how to do it yourself). And this will come at a price. On the upside, you will have as much room for personalization as your creativity can manage and you can have the store of your dreams created for you. On the downside, it can take 1 to 6 months to have your shop designed and set up.

4. Marketing opportunities the platform offers

Internet space is great when it comes to marketing and offers a lot of marketing opportunities. Different platforms offer different possibilities, and you should keep it in mind when selecting your e-commerce platform.

5. Hosting service or self-hosted

Once you tackle the question of SaaS or open source platform, you will need to dig deeper and decide whether you want to get a hosting service or host yourself. Both have pros and cons and will be suitable for you (or not) depending on such factors as the size of your business, data security, handling, easiness of use, etc.

6. Look and feel for the end user

In the end, it all boils down to this – how the end user will perceive your online store. Customer experience is very important nowadays and users want to have a great one. The ease with which the end user can find the product, change it (if necessary) and check out will determine the success or failure of your enterprise. Keep the points above in mind when shopping for your e-commerce platform. In the end, it’s your creativity and how solid your technology is that define your company’s growth. It goes without saying that your e-commerce should be followed by an e-commerce platform. Websites and apps together can do wonders to your business.

E-commerce platforms breakdown – which platform is right for you

Each e-commerce platform comes with pros and cons. One platform can be great for one store and completely ill-suited for another one. We compared the top 5 e-commerce platforms to help you decide which one will suit you best.

1. Shopify

Shopify is a cloud-based platform developed in Canada over 13 years ago by an entrepreneur who wanted to sell snowboards online. While developing this solution for himself, he realized that he was not the only one who wanted to sell things online. Fast forward 13 years and here we have Shopify – a one-stop-shop that allows you to set-up your shop from scratch and manage everything from one and the same platform without having any prior knowledge in coding or web design.

Pros

• Very easy to set up. This is one of the main advantages as it allows you to set up shop in a very short amount of time and there are plenty of available guides and documentation – from beginner to advanced
• A wide range of responsive designs in the free section. If you are not happy with what these have to offer, there’s an option to buy additional ones or even to create your own with their Liquid Template Engine
• 14-day free trial to help you decide whether this platform is for you
• Unlimited storage, social media integration, unlimited number of products, blog module, reporting and much more
• Superior customer service that is fast in finding solutions
• Can use it online and offline
• Various payments methods capability (PayPal, Stripe, bank deposits and cash on delivery)

Cons

• Price. If you are a beginner and are just starting, the price can be a deterring factor as the base solution does not give you a possibility to create a fully featured online store.
• If you don’t use Shopify Payments, you get charged an additional transaction fee for each sale.
• Shopify controls your e-commerce store and your data instead of you
• Customization comes with additional costs

2. Woocommerce

Woocommerce is an open-source platform and was designed as a plug-in to your WordPress site. If implemented correctly, it can enable your website to have a very powerful online sales ability. Woocommerce is created for people who want full control over their e-commerce business.

Pros

• Open-source – you have full control over the files and can customize your shop as much as you want
• Built on WordPress, meaning it runs on one of the most popular web CMS systems
• Allows for both Customer and Admin accounts, meaning you can set up different rights for each. There’s also a possibility for a Guest checkout without needing to create an account
• Many advanced features make it a good choice for small and big stores alike – there’s a myriad of extensions and plugins available to make the most of your store and make it even more powerful
• You can sell anything. This means your shop is not only limited to selling physical products, but you can sell subscriptions, digital downloads or even use it as an appointment system
• There are many themes, both paid and free, allowing you to create a professional looking store quite easily

Cons

• Initial set-up is not easy for users without experience
• Despite having a lot of available themes, you might need more web design and coding knowledge to use some of them
• There’s no central support, but rather support based on different areas – theme support, hosting support, etc.

3. Magento

Magento is another open-source platform and many in the industry consider it to be the best. It was acquired by Adobe in 2018 and as you would expect from an Adobe company, they strive for creativity and success.

Pros

• Flexibility is one of the strongest points of Magento as it allows for a lot of third-party integrations with a wide range of plug-ins that cover , more or less, everything imaginable for an eCommerce store
• The out-of-the-box option is robust enough to get you selling quite easily
• It’s very scalable and the platform can grow together with your business. Some of the largest stores are built on Magento as it can easily handle both a handful of products or thousands of them
• Quite a few SEO features within the platform that many others are lacking.
• There’s a large community of users and developers, meaning that if you run into trouble there will always be someone who could provide a solution

Cons

• Hosting is expensive due to its system size and it is recommended to host it on a separate server
• Developing on Premium and Enterprise levels can become not only expensive, but it might be difficult to find good developers
• Not suitable for beginners as Magento is a rather complex system and requires advanced development skills

4. OpenCart

OpenCart is a relatively new e-commerce platform (est. in 2012) but it has soon become one of the most popular choices on the market due to its simplicity, functionality and speed. It was designed to make it easy for entrepreneurs to open shops and for customers to interact with them.

Pros

• Easy to manage and to run your store with thousands of available themes and add-ons
• Cost effective even for small businesses
• Compatible with most of the widely used payment methods, even though their main one is PayPal
• Easy to create a multi-language store if you’re aiming for an international market
• An easy to use and customizable reporting module to suit your business needs
• Easy to integrate with the most common shipping methods

Cons

• The system might be too light for some users, leading to limited scalability should your business grow
• Not easy to customize which might be constricting to some businesses
• Just like with WordPress, although its modules and extensions are easy to integrate, they don’t always easily fit together and can cause issues and conflicts
• Lags in performance and features unless a relevant plug-in is installed.

5. Bigcommerce

Bigcommerce is in many ways similar to Shopify and is also a SaaS (Software as a Service) product. As such, it is also a hosted and paid for a solution that allows anyone to set up an online store and start selling. It comes with a great range of customizable features and is well suited for users without extensive web development skills as well for the more tech-savvy ones by allowing them access to the HTML and CSS files of their store.

Pros

• BigCommerce is an all-in-one solution and comes with everything you need to set up your store without the need to hire a developer.
• Easy to manage platform
• No transaction fees
• Very SEO-friendly
• Provides multiple built-in features
• Offers unlimited products, bandwidth and staff accounts
• Can easily integrate with social media platforms as well as multiple sales channels like Amazon, eBay, etc.
• Quick and easy shipping set-up with real-time rates from major shipping companies
• Good customer support through phone, email, live chat or forum

Cons

• The platform will up your running fees when your sales increase, meaning the more you earn the more you will pay. This is done through an annual limit on sales volumes for each plan.
• Many of the available themes come with extra cost
• The themes editor looks a little outdated until you are used to it
• No mobile app

The closing of the Facebook & Ecommerce Mastery Live, organized by iStack Training, in Barcelona, 10-11 July 2019.

Our take on it

The truth is, there’s no platform that would cater to everyone’s business needs to the fullest and this is a good thing. Having a variety of platforms to choose from makes you ask the right questions for your business and then steer you to the right direction. Our advice would be to look around, sign up to a free trial on a few platforms and try them out to see whether they work for you. If you have ambitious growth plans for your business, choose a platform that can scale up easily and is future-proof. We wish you the best of luck with your business!

To discover Get-Clicked and the digital marketing services we offer, visit our website and get-in-touch!

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