Okay, so you’ve decided to take the plunge and build your own e-commerce shop.
But with so many options at your disposal it can be daunting to decide which is the right platform to start your business with.
Hopefully this blog will highlight some of the key differences and make it clear which platform will meet your needs.
E-commerce platforms tend to fall into two categories, open source and closed source. Open source is created for people with lots of development experience and closed source is designed for people with no coding experience at all.
It’s also important to realise that there are two major categories with e-commerce platforms: hosted and self-hosted. Hosted simply means that the company will host your store, while self-hosted means they will provide you with software, but you have to get your own Web hosting.
I’ve decided to take a cross section of three of the most popular platforms.
Magneto falls into the self-hosted open source category. Widely regarded as the most popular platform on the market, it definitely comes with the most customisation options. However, you’ll need considerable development experience if you’re going to make the most of its full flexibility. Magento’s lack of limitations means it is used mainly by big organisations with extensive development resources.
From a digital marketing perspective Magento is a great platform to use, as you get all the tools you need to get your business ranking. Email and on site SEO are all configured but Magento still leaves you with the ability to change things for yourself, if required.
Magento is an enterprise level product that is completely customisable, if you’re looking to start an ecommerce platform using your last “ten bob note” then this is not the platform for you. Maybe look at an “all in the box” product like Shopify
Shopify is at the other end of the spectrum to Magento. It’s a closed source, which means you’re essentially tied into their HTML and CSS templates with limited options to change the layout of your shop. This is fantastic if you have limited web design and coding experience, as all the development work is done for you. To add to the convenience, Shopify will also host the website for you. Meaning you don’t need to find hosting or install software on servers. The idea with this product is that everything is there to get you going without any difficult obstructions in your way.
Shopify uses varying monthly price plans depending on the support you need, and varying features depending on your sales strategy. The interface is clean and straightforward and adding products is very easy, a task which can be erroneous with some platforms.
Another advantage of Shopify is that the customer service and support is exceptionally strong and helpful. You can contact them 24/7. They do a live chat, phone call or email. This is better than most of their competitors.
Shopify is a really strong hosted product. If you want to start a project under you own steam then this could be the platform for you. It’s competitively priced and has a rapidly growing user base which certainly helps the appeal of the platform. You might not have access to full customisation options of your site, as you would do with Magento, but you’ll be up and running with less financial input and resource time invested.
Woocommerce is an open source plugin that works exclusively with WordPress. It’s free to download, however any custom templates you would like to use for your website and additional plugins can be bought from Theme Forest. These can be fairly expensive when purchasing so it’s worth baring this in mind when planning your setup budget. In addition Woocommerce is self-hosted so you’ll need to find your own hosting company. Some people like the flexibility of being able to choose their own hosting with site speeds being a big deciding factor.
Woocommerce is great for small start-up businesses and also larger organisations. You won’t need to be a skilled developer to get yourself up and running. However, you may need assistance when trying to use some of the customisation features, adding products is easy and if in doubt there are lots of Woocommerce help videos out there that will certainly help when you run into difficulty.
If an open source project sounds right up your street and you want to eradicate some of the coding work away by using templates then Woocommerce could be the platform for you, the functionality is comprehensive and expansive and it’s a platform that will never be outgrown by your businesses goals.
Spend hours doing your research when looking for the correct e-commerce platform, it’s worth it! You’ll know which products you want to sell, how many and how you want the products portrayed through your shop. Some platforms offer a free trial that can be used for up to a month, this a great way of getting a feel for the different services before you take the plunge and part with your hard earned cash.
It’s also important to take into consideration whether you’re going to pay someone to do all the development work for you or if you intend to spend hours plugging away and creating the website yourself.
Personally my pick of the bunch is Woocommerce, I find it offers a fantastic balance between flexibility, cost and design.