Which eCommerce Platform is Right for My Business?
One of the most critical decisions that you’ll need to consider as you develop your eCommerce site involves which eCommerce platform is best suited for you and your business. An eCommerce platform has many functions: it’s not only similar to a brick-and-mortar company’s storefront, but it also provides the software necessary for your customers to purchase your products and services, and for you, the owner, to manage the operations of your online store.
There are literally hundreds of eCommerce platforms, and each of them offers different features and functions that may or may not be right for your business. Here are some of the most popular eCommerce platforms available:
WooCommerce is the world’s most popular e-commerce platform among its competitors. It’s written in PHP, free to use and known as the most customizable platform for eCommerce out on the market today. Because WooCommerce is built on the WordPress engine which is the world’s most used content management system, security should be your #1 priority.
Squarespace is a Software as a Service (SaaS) eCommerce platform. If you’re looking for a basic site and have only a couple of products to sell, you may want to consider Squarespace. If you're looking to sell across multiple channels like Amazon or eBay, with robust marketing and functionality, you should look elsewhere.
Shopify is another SaaS that’s written in a unique template language called liquid. If you want to make major customizations over time, you’ll have to hire a web developer with liquid programming skills. Even with a liquid developer, the source code is proprietary. However, it is designed to allow anyone to sell products online with ease.
WixStores is a cloud-based SaaS that features drag-and-drop template editing that makes setting up your eCommerce store easy. But note that once you’ve chosen your template you can’t change it later. This means that you’ll have to rebuild all your content if you’d like to start with another template. Multi-channel selling is also limited.
Magento has 2 unique platforms: Magento Open Sources is a free open-source eCommerce platform. Magento Commerce has an on-premises version or a platform-as-a-service version that’s not free, but has much more flexibility and support than the free version. What’s impressive about Magento is that it can support up to 500,000 products and thousands of transactions in an hour. However, the license fee starts at $18,000 per year to get performance updates, additional flexibility, and support.
MonsterCommerce was acquired by Network Solutions in 2006. Among Network Solutions eCommerce plans, only the premium version at $19.95 per month offers bulk management. However, there is a special note regarding the company’s current plans: “Limited time offer of $7.95 on Starter, $9.95 on Standard, and $19.95 on Premium packages. Promotional pricing applies only to the first billing cycle, after which current retail price would be applied. The current retail rate for the Starter is $29.95 per billing cycle, Standard is $54.95 per billing cycle, and Premium is $99.95 per billing cycle. Customers on a monthly billing cycle are billed every 4 weeks. Transaction fees and set up fees may apply. Offer is good for new purchases only with any monthly term. Cannot be combined with any other offer. Discount applied in shopping cart.”
PrestaShop is another free open-source eCommerce platform written in PHP that can support companies that offer a couple thousand products. SEO optimization has been noted as an issue though and unlike WooCommerce, the number of templates and plug-ins are limited.
Weebly eCommerce is an all-inclusive drag-n-drop builder marketed towards creatives and small businesses with zero experience or interest in web development. The platform is good for businesses that are focused on lead-generation or are informational but interested in selling just a few products. It’s important to note that there is no ability for a customer to login, their marketing tools are basic, and migrating your URL and content is difficult, to say the least.
OpenCart is yet another open-source eCommerce platform written in PHP. At the time of this writing, their website states that the OpenCart marketplace offers over 13,000 themes and modules to start and scale one’s business. Updating to a newer version of the platform can be challenging without a developer documentation and community support is also limited compared to WooCommerce.
VirtueMart is an open-source eCommerce technology written in PHP, and developed as an extension of the CMS Joomla! so you must have Joomla! to use VirtueMart. Joomla! has lost its popularity recently to WordPress and so VirtueMart has experienced an equal drop in popularity as well.
BigCommerce is an all-inclusive SaaS eCommerce platform marketed towards established and growing online companies looking for a user-friendly solution. At first glance, the pricing seems fair, especially since there are no transaction fees for any plans. However, if your online website earns more than $50k per year in sales, you must choose the Plus Plan at $50 per month. Also, if you're looking for advanced options such as priority support, advanced filtering options and the ability to host a sagging environment for development, you could easily be spending up to $500 a month.
So What’s the Secret to a Successful eCommerce Website?
Ultimately, the secret to creating a profitable eCommerce website is to build enough trust in your brand over time that customers are automatically driven to purchase from your brand’s website.