Ecommerce platforms seem to be springing up left, right and center, each one boasting about its excellent service, instant delivery and better search engine optimization.
Online stores can be a feasible business model for anyone who doesn’t want to deal with the initial investment and limited market of a brick-and-mortar store.
I’ve put together a list of some of the top ecommerce platforms to look at their core features, the types of users they cater to and their pros and cons.
It’s relatively easy to get your store started on Shopify. Once you create an account, you can use the built-in features to customize your store. A menu opens up on the left side and you can add products and their details through that.
Shopify is available nearly anywhere in the world and the interface can be used in many different languages.
Shopify offers a 14-day free trial after which you can select the pricing plan that fits your requirements. They range between $29-179/ month depending on how advanced the plan is.
- 100+ professional themes segmented into categories,such as trending, based on the industry, for small inventories,
- Products may be sold online, through mobile apps and even in brick-and-mortar stores.
- Ability to edit your HTML and CSS directly.
- Inbuilt website construction.
- Option of accessing the blogging platform.
- SEO Optimization available for product integration, discounts and social media integration.
- Unlimited bandwidth.
Drop shipping is part of the business model where the owner will list but not actually be responsible for owning, keeping and shipping inventory. The store contacts a third-party retailer who directly ships the product to the customer. Shopify offers the option of a free drop shipping trial before you get started on a proper payment plan.
With its easy to use interface and range of price plans, Shopify caters to all types of clients, from newbies to ecommerce professionals. Beginners can get acquainted with the basics of owning an online store and can choose trending website designs to start off. Professionals can make use of Shopify’s advanced features such as access to many staff accounts and detailed reports on their overall performance.
- Free trial to see if the platform suits what you’re looking for.
- SEO and social link options for increased business promotion.
- Simple interface, suitable even for beginners.
- You can’t add more than 3 default product attributes. You can fit any necessary details into the 3 categories available: size, color and material, but you can’t make any categories of your own.
The settings and basic features of BigCommerce are a little more complex than those of Shopify. That being said, the interface is modern and friendly. Like with any Shopify theme, setting up your store and getting started is relatively straightforward.
BigCommerce offers a free 15-day trial before you need to choose a pricing plan. Pricing plans range between $29-249/ month based on the number of additional features you receive.
- Stores are compatible with desktops and mobile phones.
- Inbuilt features for marketing.
- Plenty of design options to choose from including different themes, tools and customizable CSS and HTML so that your website can have its own, unique look.
- Option to integrate with countless management systems for accounting, marketing and inventory purposes.
- Ability to set up your own domain name.
- Built-in gateways for payment and reporting purposes.
BigCommerce is suitable for larger scale businesses and professionals with previous experience in the world of ecommerce since the platform works well for big installs.
- User-friendly admin to guide you if you’re stuck.
- Drag and drop builder for easy website construction.
- Free hosting with a variety of free and paid themes.
- Ability to create personalized themes if you’re familiar with the basics of coding.
- Data base with details on your clientele so you can give your audience exactly what they want.
- There aren’t any cheap entry level business plans.
- Not easy to use if you’re a beginner with no prior digital experience.
WooCommerce is a plug-in you can install to start selling through your WordPress website. It provides you with the option to customize everything from your dashboard, you can test and play around with different options till you’re happy with the end result. If you have basic WorPress knowledge and experience, you should be fine.
Given that you can easily install the plug-in within your WordPress, many businesses, especially small-scale ones, see this as a better option over other ecommerce platforms like Shopify.
The plug-in itself is free. However, in order to host WordPress with WooCommerce, you need to choose a pricing plan which may start out as low as $6.95 and may go up to $12.95.
- The plug-in bundles with other payment gateways,such as PayPal and COD (Cash on Delivery).
- You can opt for free shipping or flat rate shipping based on your individual business plan.
- Option of reporting tools that provide information on sales, customer reviews, inventory and overall performance.
- Tax settings may be configured with the local tax rates.
- Promotions through marketing campaigns such as discount options.
- Available through the WP-admin of your WordPress site.
Those who are already WordPress users can greatly benefit from the WooCommerce plug-in. If you already have your own hosting, the job is even easier since you just need to install WordPress and you’re ready to get started.
If you’re not an existing user, you’ll have to start from scratch in which case even Shopify’s easy-to-use interface can work for your business.
- Option to gauge performance based on customer reviews and ratings.
- Well organized reports providing detailed information on sales, etc.
- Free plug-in so you can start adding items to your dashboard immediately after installing it.
- If you don’t have WorPress hosting, you will have to pay for it separately so in such cases, technically the plug-in is not free.
- If you don’t have a WordPress site, the process of setting everything up can be fussy and time-consuming.
Magento is designed in a somewhat older style and may take some time to get accustomed to. Getting access to the Magento admin page can take a while if you haven’t used it before. If you compare it to other user-friendly interfaces like Shopify, Magento is more complex and not as easy to figure out. It does offer certain additional features that are suitable for larger, growing features, which set it apart from other sites.
Different price plans can be obtained through a consultation with a Magento representative. The software itself is free to download, but payment plans may cost up to $18,000 or more annually.
- Compatibility with most electronic devices such as phones, iPads, Android and HTML.
- Countless templates to choose from to make your own custom website.
- Promotions may be targeted to customer segments to make them relevant and useful.
- Email marketing reminders may be automated.
- Option to make certain provides available only to the selected catalog of customers.
- Ability to create multiple wish lists.
- Content management system included.
- Polls and the option to create customer groups to observe the businesses sales and progress.
- Ability to add limitless product attributes (not available in the previously discussed platforms).
Magento offers a range of complex and advanced features suitable for large-scale businesses. It is ideal for bigger business and upscale enterprises. Beginners may struggle to get the hang of the site and may also be paying for additional features that they don’t really need to begin with (or at all if they wish to maintain a small business).
- Professional appeal- information is well-organized and categorized.
- Provides detailed content.
- Lots of options to create the perfect website for any category.
- Complex and difficult to understand layout.
- Customizing settings requires too many steps.
- The premium plan is way too expensive for most businesses.
And the #1 top ecommerce platform is…
The overall preferred choice of all top ecommerce platforms appears to be BigCommerce for a number of reasons: there are numerous payment plans that offer many features for a small price.
In some cases, the payment plan for BigCommerce and Shopify may be the same but the number of features accessible will be vastly different.
With the free trial, it is possible to experiment with different features and settings to create the ideal website. The easy-to-use interface makes it suitable for any type of business and enterprise. Smaller businesses may start out with basic payment plans and advance as their business grows and flourishes. It does require a level of prior digital experience, but after the initial adjustment stage, the site is easy to figure out.
There is a small niche of WordPress users who find WooCommerce to be the best since all you have to do is download the WooCommerce plug-in. However, for a regular user, this process is much longer since it involves having to create a WordPress site, paying for a hosting plan and then downloading the plug-in. Such users find it better to opt for ecommerce platforms where they can immediately get started on setting up their store. If you are already a WordPress user, this is the best option for you.
Shopify is also a solid option if you need something that is easy to figure out and set up. It is particularly suitable if you’re a novice in the world of online retailing.
Pros generally opt for Magento, despite the expensive pricing plan since the range of features it offers helps them attain and retain more customer traffic. In-depth information about their clients helps them target their promotions to the relevant audience.
Overall, different platforms may work for different users who want to grow their sales fast, based on their prior knowledge and experience in the world of online retailing.