Which eCommerce Platform is best for you?
Right from the outset of your eCommerce business’ journey, you must have a system in place that will align with your business needs and goals. During this phase, you’re in an excellent position to start considering the specifics of building your eCommerce store.
Luckily, there are many eCommerce platforms available out there, which can make this process easier for you. We’re going to discuss what an eCommerce platform is, and compare some e-commerce platform providers.
What is an eCommerce Platform?
An eCommerce platform is a kind of software that makes it easier for business to create, launch and update an online store. These platforms include many tools that simplify day-to-day processes, and many of them do not require expert knowledge.
At present, many different software providers are available, all of which offer a different set of features that assist in helping business owners set up a comprehensive eCommerce store.
Before choosing an eCommerce platform to work with, you should set up a list of your business needs, including relevant channels and marketplaces, compulsory tools and features that you absolutely can’t leave out, support for business scaling and growth and available budget.
Now that you know what your business requirements are, you’ll be able to consider which platform might work best for you!
Shopify is one of the most popular eCommerce platforms for a reason, and we’ve even written a guide about how to set up your Shopify store. One of the main reasons for its global popularity is that it is relatively simple to set up.
Knowledge Required: None, with contactable Shopify experts, should you need help.
- An extensive Shopify App Store, which includes popular apps and integrations that can simplify your business operations. Shopify’s free apps have everything from accounting and invoicing to email marketing, inventory management and customer service.
- Shopify has its payment platform in select countries.
- The well-designed user interface, allowing businesses to launch quickly
We think the base Shopify package is excellent for smaller businesses, as Shopify can have limited product options. Prices can range from $29 – $299 per month. However, one advantage of Shopify is that many different plans are available to suit individual business needs.
Shopify has launched Shopify Plus for bigger businesses, which includes more advanced features including a dedicated account manager and more detailed customization options than the base version. Please note that Shopify Plus comes at a high price point that is quoted on an individual basis on their website.
There’s also Shopify Lite on the other side of the spectrum, which allows Facebook selling, customer support and supports integration with an existing website for only $9 per month.
If you’re interested, ind out more about setting up on Shopify with our guide!
Magento is open-source software that can be downloaded on to private servers. It has a great analytics module and integrates some additional features from other platforms as part of their core offering.
Knowledge Required: Some PHP knowledge is needed; you’ll have to change things manually as it’s a self-hosted option. The advantage of this is that you’ll have more control over your website. You might need to spend more time optimizing the website and attending security procedures, as there is nothing built-in to do this for you.
However, Magento has also released a cloud-based version that is similar to a website like WordPress. We recommend the base version of Magento if you’re interested in learning how to manage your entire eCommerce building process, as this might be an excellent solution for you that will allow you to host independently.
- More creative freedom due to its open-source nature
- Strong support for multilingual websites
- Strong community available for help, troubleshooting and new ideas
- An extensive list of extensions and plugins are available to support business growth and operations
It would help if you decided which version of Magento works best for you. One of the most significant advantages to using the open-sourced version of Magento is that it’s one of the first free eCommerce platforms available. However, you’ll also incur hosting costs.
The cloud-based version of Magento has been designed for enterprises, and as such, is pricey as it costs $18,000 per year for licensing.
Another burgeoning open-source platform, PrestaShop has cloud hosting capabilities, on par with some other platforms out there. It’s currently in use by over 300,000 eCommerce business owners globally.
Knowledge required: Some. As with some of the other platforms that we’ve mentioned, you’ll need your server to host PrestaShop. PrestaShop is based on the Symfony framework and includes tons of extra features that you can manually add to your website.
Knowledge required: Some, especially if you need to install PrestaShop on your existing website. There’s an option to select a package with Ionos, which includes installation and hosting, making it a bit easier to get started. Like with Shopify, PrestaShop has listed agencies and experts available for consultation if you find yourself getting stuck at any point with its service. With that said, PrestaShop boasts itself on its flexibility and accessibility for developers, meaning that it can easily be moulded to suit your business objectives.
- Support for over 75 languages
- Official PrestaShop Marketplace boasts Immense customization for its users, with over 600 parts and thousands of themes to choose from, many of which are free
- There’s a training program available to quickly get you up to speed on how to operate PrestaShop
- Integration with existing platforms, such as MailChimp and Google Ads
- Easily scalable and accessible for developer upgrades
OpenCart is a popular eCommerce platform that is open source and available to download and install on a private server, with support for multiple currencies.
Knowledge Required: Some. OpenCart works for a self-hosted website, which means you’ll need to install it on your existing site. Like Magento, OpenCart has a cloud version available that is easier to navigate.
- Comprehensive dashboard screen allows you to set up your online store quickly
- Highly customizable, with access to a large number of themes and payment portals
- Dedicated community and support for troubleshooting
- Option to set up unlimited products and product categories very quickly
- Free SSL certificate with the purchase
The limitations of OpenCart include limited native marketing functionality, difficulty in scaling rapidly and the usual workload that one would face when taking care of a website, including security and maintenance.
OpenCart is available for free, but some themes may cost up to $100. You’ll still need to host your website, which is not included in this cost. OpenCart’s cloud version is very reasonable, and ranges from $30-$200 per month, depending on the chosen plan.
WooCommerce isn’t technically a standalone service, as it was developed as a plugin for WordPress. Simply speaking, it allows you to turn your WordPress site into an eCommerce store and is one of the most popular WordPress eCommerce resources at present.
Knowledge Required: You’ll need some WordPress knowledge, as you’ll have to install and activate the WooCommerce plugin for your existing site. While WooCommerce is user-friendly, some WordPress themes may be more tricky to navigate for a new user.
- Easy set-up, which can be done in one day
- Integrates with existing site themes, and does not require any design changes to work properly
- Comprehensive set-up guide is available after it’s installed, allowing you to capture important store information
- Support multiple payment methods
- Access to new themes that have integrated WooCommerce into the design, if you haven’t got an existing theme set up yet
- Many free extensions are available for WooCommerce, allowing for assistance with subscriptions, tax, payment and shipping
You should use WooCommerce if you’re looking for a way to start using WordPress as an eCommerce channel. You might already have a website or blog up and running on WordPress, so it would be relatively simple to install.
The advantage of WooCommerce is that it’s free and open-source, with no licensing required. Some of the extensions available for WooCommerce might incur additional costs.
The takeaway is that it’s worth examining exactly what you want from a platform to see which option best aligns with these same business goals.
Specific platforms such as the Shopify as mentioned above and similar drag-and-drop platforms may require only a little technical knowledge. These are great for businesses to get their eCommerce ventures started. However, this does come with other limitations, including higher subscription prices and limited design options.
Other eCommerce platforms, such as Magento, OpenCart, PrestaShop and WooCommerce require detailed technical knowledge to get started and might be difficult for those who are just beginning but offer greater creativity and freedom a relatively low price point. There are generally more customization options to choose from when selecting an open-source eCommerce platform, and you’ll have greater control over which add-ons you want.
Remember that you can always consult a professional that can assist you in all stages of your eCommerce journey, such as ShoppingFeeder. ShoppingFeeder simplifies the process for eCommerce store owners to advertise and sell on 3rd party channels.