How to Choose the Right eCommerce Platform » Small Business Bonfire5 min read
Whether you’re starting a new eCommerce business or revamping an existing one, the platform you use is one of the most important factors. You want to choose a platform that’s user-friendly and meets your technical needs. You also want an option that’s going to integrate with other solutions like fulfillment and shipping software so you can automate the processes.
Not only are you and your employees going to interact with your platform, but so are your customers.
Some of the primary options for eCommerce platforms include Shopify and WooCommerce, but there are others as well.
Below, we delve into some of the considerations you should keep in mind as you’re making a choice.
What is an eCommerce Platform?
An eCommerce platform gives you an online store that’s fully functional so that customers can go there and buy products or services.
Ecommerce platforms are available as website builder formats, which saves time. With these, you can do everything on your own using drag-and-drop features, even without a lot of technical expertise.
The three primary categories of eCommerce platforms are subscription-based, open-source, and something called headless.
A subscription-based eCommerce option offers many features to help you run your business, including options for payment gateways, tax handling, and scalability.
An open-source eCommerce platform is one that’s free, and you can install it easily. There are a lot of customizable features, but they don’t come with the customer support you get with a more expensive subscription-based solution.
Headless platforms are hosted, and they give you full control over your online store and its data. A lot of headless platforms also have features like A/B testing, so you can figure out the best ways to increase conversions. The downside of this third option is that they can be more complicated to install, and you don’t have a high level of customer support.
When you’re choosing an eCommerce platform, you want to first think about whether it’s going to be compatible with your existing site design and layout, if relevant. If not, you can use an option with website design features so that you can keep them cohesive.
The next big consideration is your level of technical know-how versus what will be needed to get a store up and running.
A third thing to think about is how much customer support you want and need, and then you also want to consider how often the platform is updated with new capabilities and features.
You should consider scalability because the goal of your business is, of course, to grow.
Other things that might become part of your decision-making include:
- Be aware of whether or not a platform limits what you can sell simultaneously. If you’re trying to test products, limiting the number of products you can offer is going to be problematic.
- There are some eCommerce platforms that charge fees on every item you sell. Others take a percentage of a sale.
- Platforms like Shopify tend to be well-suited for new and smaller businesses, while Shopify Plus and BigCommerce enterprises are more suited to larger organizations.
Shopify is one of the major platforms that started in 2004. Shopify supports hundreds of thousands of businesses today, including Google and Tesla. Technically, Shopify is a CMS similar to WordPress but designed for the creation of online stores.
The biggest upside of Shopify is that it’s user-friendly. Even if you have no programming experience, you can likely manage it.
You can have an eCommerce store live and operating in around 15 minutes with Shopify, and customizing your store is incredibly simple.
There are a lot of apps you can choose from with thousands of products, so you can import them to your store with a single click.
Shopify can integrate with social media sites, and there’s 24/7 support. Plus, it’s good in terms of SEO.
Magento CMS is available in two main options. The first is Magento Open Source, which is a free CMS software for self-hosted stores online. You need your own domain name and also web hosting to use this.
The second is Magento Commerce, which includes Magento Open Source and Platform as a Service Hosting (PaaS).
The built-in functions are the primary strength of Magneto. The SEO tools are one of the built-in sets of features that excel with Magento. These allow users to create XML maps with the links to all the pages in their online store.
There are also different extensions and templates, and you can create more than one online store with management in a single admin panel.
Some people feel Magento is the ideal solution for mid-sized organizations, and it is well-suited to users that have at least some coding knowledge.
WooCommerce is an e-commerce plugin that’s designed for WordPress, so it’s not an actual CMS, but it still tends to be pretty powerful.
WooCommerce is one of the largest platforms, and around 30% of all online stores use the plugin. If you have a WordPress blog and you’d like to use it to sell products, you’re likely going to opt for WooCommerce.
You can sell physical and digital products, as well as affiliate products and it integrates with Google Analytics.
There are paid plugins for advanced features available, and you can list WooCommerce products on Amazon. You also have the option to add the Shopify Buy Now button so you can use features of both platforms.
Since WooCommerce is so widely used, it has a big community of supporters.
The primary downside of WooCommerce is that it can take some coding to get things to look the way you want them to, but a business of any size can use it.
Finally, another main option is BigCommerce. BigCommerce is somewhat new, relatively speaking. BigCommerce is a subscription-based platform as well as a CMS. It has all the features you would need for an online store, and you don’t have to maintain it or update it as you do with WooCommerce.
SEO performance is strong, but there’s a relatively small selection of free themes, and compared to the competitors listed above, there aren’t many apps.