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While the high street is fast becoming a ghost town, ecommerce is booming. More people are buying online than ever before. It’s also never been easier to start selling online. Whereas the #1 question for small businesses used to be “how the hell can I afford to get into ecommerce?” now it’s “which ecom platform would work best for me?” You just need to choose one and away you go, sometimes in as little as a few hours. But how do you decide which one to choose? Which platform can help you take your business to the next level?
If you’re struggling with these questions, fear not. We’ve put together this article to help you “figure it out.” How? Well, we talked to the people that really know about this stuff. We reached out and spoke to 78 ecommerce experts, asking each one a very simple yet crucial question: “In your professional experience, what have you found to be the best ecommerce platform for small business?” We let each expert put forward their top 3, and we’ve posted the results below, as well as what each expert had to say. Warning: Some real knowledge bombs were dropped in the making of this article.
So whether you’re just getting into the world of ecommerce or you run an established small business that is looking to increase its revenues by reaching more customers online, this article should help you to hone in one or two options that are worthy of further investigation.
***Who knew that definitions for “small business” vary so wildly?! For the purpose of this article we defined a small business as “any business that has an annual turnover of $0 – $1.5 million and 1-25 employees.”
Top Ecommerce Solutions for Small Business: How Our Experts Voted
|Platform||# of Votes|
|#1. Shopify||69 Votes|
|#2. Magento||37 Votes|
|#3. WooCommerce||33 Votes|
|#4. BigCommerce||19 Votes|
|#5. Wix||10 Votes|
|#=6. PrestaShop||4 Votes|
|#=6. Miva||4 Votes|
|#7. Squarespace||3 Votes|
|#=8. EKM||2 Votes|
|#=8. Volusion||2 Votes|
|#=9. Shopware||1 Vote|
|#=9. SAP||1 Vote|
|#=9. SuiteSommerce||1 Vote|
|#=9. Adrecom eSuite||1 Vote|
|#=9. ShopyGen||1 Vote|
|#=9. iPage||1 Vote|
|#=9. blueCommerce||1 Vote|
|#=9. Weebly||1 Vote|
|#=9. Bespoke||1 Vote|
|#=9. VTEX||1 Vote|
|#=9. Neto||1 Vote|
|#=9. Kooomo||1 Vote|
|#=9. Brightpearl||1 Vote|
So there you have it! There were 23 different platforms recommended for small business ecommerce during the course of our survey, but as you’ve probably already seen from the table above, there were a small group that kept cropping up time and time again.
No other ecommerce solution was recommended more than Shopify – it was the runaway winner. In fact, it’s hard to have a conversation about selling online these days without mentioning Shopify. They just make ecommerce so accessible, and easy. You don’t need to be a programming whizz or spend thousands of dollars upfront any more. You can have a store set up and running in just a few days, sometimes even in just a few hours. Crazy, right?!
BigCommerce was another solution that was spoken very highly of by our experts and shares many similarities with Shopify, with some suggesting they feel it offers more “out of the box” functionality. And Wix was the other hosted platform that scored well, with its drag and drop interface, user friendliness and ulta-affordable subscription plans making it a great place to get acquainted with ecommerce or use as a testing ground with very little risk.
So in terms of hosted options, Shopify, BigCommerce and Wix are the best ecommerce sites for small business according to our survey and three solid contenders to check out. These are all rather good if you don’t want to get bogged down with the technical side of things yourself.
If you’re looking for a self-hosted ecommerce platform, which generally offer a lot more flexibility and control over both the design elements of your store plus its features, then our poll also turned up a couple of results worthy of your consideration. At #2 on our list, Magento was only beaten on recommendations by Shopify, and ecom pros consistently referred to it as being an extremely powerful platform that has the ability to scale from startup store to an online business turning over millions in revenue per year. It’s feature rich (there’s virtually no functionality you can’t achieve), great for SEO, and very robust. You will likely have to hire a developer though, unless you possess decent programming skills.
The other option if you want to go down the self-hosted route is WooCommerce, which was the 3rd most recommended ecommerce solution overall in our survey. This converts any WordPress site into a fully functioning, very versatile ecommerce platform, and there are thousands of themes and plugins available, making it easier to ensure your store stands out from the crowd and has all of the functionality that you need it to have. It may not be as powerful as Magento overall, but the learning curve isn’t as steep and you only require some basic technical skills to get a standard store set up.
1) If you’re not particularly technically minded and don’t have a developer on staff, you want to get up and running quickly, but you want a platform that offers the features and capability to grow with you, have a look at these:
3) If you want to make something that looks completely unique, need some custom functionality, and have some technical/programming skills or the budget to hire a developer, then these two platforms are likely your best bet:
Read What The Experts Said
Below you can sift through and benefit from the contributions of each expert that collaborated on this article and made it possible (huge thanks to you all!). There is tons of insightful knowledge in there that should go a long way in helping you land on the best ecommerce solution for your small business.
And if you’ve already got a platform in mind and want to see what established industry professionals have to say about it, use the filter to sort the contributions. We hope you find this information of some help!
- Wix - “They’ve really gone above and beyond with the latest website and eCommerce offering. Even an eCommerce novice can create a slick mobile friendly site using their drag and drop service. It’s great knowing you’re not held at gunpoint by an eCommerce agency when you’re just a small business or a startup. You can now cut out the developers and bring in a digital content creator as a permanent fixture in your team to maintain and style your site. If you outgrow this model and need to bring in a developer for more custom modules/functionality on your site then you’ve at least got an idea of what works and doesn’t before you spend the big bucks.”
- bluCommerce - “They’re a little more costly than a typical startup website, but blubolt (the agency that manages bluCommerce) will manage every aspect of your site… hosting, design, maintenance, support etc so all you have to do is manage the product catalog and content creation moving forward.
They also have some amazing modules for customer retention, personalization, promotions and managing seasonal changes with ease. All can be included in your initial start-up cost or bolted on as your business grows.
They also won’t shy away from unusual/unique warehouse integrations and proactively seek new ways to improve their platform and keep it current. This is all included in your standard monthly retainer! Because they own all aspects of the software they’re completely accountable for when something goes wrong so will deal with it swiftly…. Unlike the Magento’s of the world.”
- Shopify - “For consumer products Shopify offers the most flexibility, helpful 3rd party integrations, ease of use, and ability to scale with tiered pricing. Don’t make the mistake of building your site with custom code only your developer can change. Keep control and use templates. Think about it. Is it better to use a template that is proven to be effective or trust a developer who claims only they know the secret sauce that will produce a great site?”
- Wix - “For B2B and brochure type websites Wix offers the best combination of customization and ease of use. Their GSuite integration makes it easy to manage your team and tools, and the UX is user friendly. Keep image sizes reasonable to keep page load times under four seconds.”
- WooCommerce - “If you are 0.01% of the population that needs total flexibility, then WooCommerce/WordPress can fit your needs. But I would only recommend WooCommerce if you are doing the development yourself, never want to delegate that work to another party, and will stay on top of the plugins and inevitable conflicts that will arise. Stick to Shopify and Wix. You’ll thank me later.”
- Shopify - “If you are just getting started with e-commerce I highly recommend looking at a platform like Shopify. There are many things to consider when building a new e-commerce website such as PCI compliance, product and inventory management, and selling on other sales channels like Amazon and Facebook. A platform like Shopify handles all of this for you for a low monthly payment and a per-transaction fee.
You can typically get a website up and running in just a few weeks versus several months on other platforms. The platform provides several starter themes that are easy to customize and align with your company branding.
Shopify does have its limits. The first would be cost of the plugins to provide additional features and functionality. Shopify has many third-party plugins in its marketplace but many of them have a monthly fee, you may find over time it begins to add up as you continue to customize your website and add additional third-party plugins, something to keep in mind.
The second limitation would be if your business model has a complicated sales process that requires significant customization to the traditional e-commerce sales process. For example, a custom sales configurator or the need to integrate with many third-party systems. You may find that it makes more sense to move to a self-hosted platform that provides you more control and flexibility for your business needs.”
- Magento - “Magento is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms with a strong development community and third-party plugin-support. Magento is offered in two options. The first option is a paid solution called “Commerce”, the paid solution can be hosted with Magento on its cloud platform, you can also host it on your own server. The second option is “Open Source”, this is offered free and you can host with any web hosting provider you like. The differences between the two is that the paid version offers additional features with respect to marketing, reporting, and order fullfillment.
Magento’s codebase is completely open source, this means you can customize every aspect of your website to meet your unique business needs. Magento has a strong developer community which means it can be much easier to find a freelance developer or agency that has experience working with the platform. Magento has over 4,000 third-party extensions, the largest by far for any e-commerce platform.
While all that is great with Magento there are of course things to be aware of. When hosting your own e-commerce platform you are responsible for making sure your website is secure and PCI compliant. The costs for web hosting, compliance monitoring, security, and on-going maintenance and upgrades can quickly add up.
Given the higher investment costs for self-hosting, it is wise to consider whether you truly need the ability to customize your e-commerce platform or whether it would be better to conform to a hosted e-commerce platform and invest that money elsewhere in your business.”
- VTEX - “VTEX is probably not an e-commerce platform you’ve heard of but they are one of the fastest growing platforms worldwide. VTEX, headquartered in Brazil, has a strong presence world-wide and is only now entering the North American market.
VTEX is a hosted e-commerce platform. It provides many of the same features and functionality that you would find in any hosted e-commerce platform.
VTEX differentiators would be that is has a much more robust application programming interface (API) that allows you to integrate the website with many different third-party systems very easily.
VTEX is well known for its marketplace feature. A marketplace is a type of e-commerce site where product or service information is provided by multiple third parties, whereas transactions are processed by the marketplace operator. This can particularly popular for B2B website looking to aggregate sales between several partners in a specific industry.
VTEX has also been widely used by mid-size and large corporations looking to provide a presence in a country without paying high-licensing fees with their main e-commerce platform. VTEX charges a fairly low subscription fee with additional per transaction fees.”
- BigCommerce - “Big Commerce is a great multi-tenant SaaS solution for small businesses that are looking for majority of their merchant functionality out of the box. There are apps extensions that can be used to carry out specific functions, but just about all of what you need to start is already included with BigCommerce. This platform is ideal for a basic direct to consumer merchant who may have a few physical locations locally or nationally (I do not recommend BigCommerce for international businesses). BigCommerce does not support B2B out of the box and has limited product catalog management, so you would need to integrate a wholesale solution like Handshake. I would recommend Shopify Plus if you need basic B2B functionalities but a completely different platform like WordPress/WooCommerce if you have robust B2B requirements as a small business owner. However, if you do need to build custom B2B functions it would be better to do so in WooCommerce or BigCommerce instead of Shopify because you can build custom plugins with php/js in WooCommerce and custom applications with official SDks and Rest APIs for BigCommerce in Php, Node.js Ruby, and C# making custom development much easier in comparison to Shopify custom development. Here is an example of a partner now taking full advantage of the BigCommerce platform: https://skullcandy.com.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is also a multi-tenant SaaS solution ideal for small businesses that, unlike Bigcommerce, has an enormous community of partner developers and app extensions giving Shopify a functional advantage. However, from a technical perspective you will need to know their proprietary Ruby-based language, Liquid and is not as straightforward when it comes to developing custom applications for Shopify. Shopify Plus is Shopify’s “enterprise” version of its platform and comes with robust out of the box features that expand beyond BigCommerce’s functionalities that come out of the box. Shopify Plus also includes a native wholesale portal that supports basic B2B functions. With Shopify, you can easily take your small business transacting very little with basic features and utilize their extension marketplace to help fuel DIY growth and when ready, seamlessly upgrade to Shopify Plus to support your scaling business. I believe that if you are anticipating rapid direct to consumer growth, Shopify is an ideal platform to launch your business online. Here is an example of a past client of mine seeing growth on the Shopify Plus platform: https://pre-brands.com.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is a great solution for small business owners that need complex B2B functionalities or multilingual and multisite capabilities. WooCommerce is an extension of WordPress and is a bit more technical so you may need to have a technical resource available because unlike BigCommerce and Shopify, it is a self-hosted solution. Powering roughly 27% of the entire internet, WordPress has a gigantic community of plugin extensions and developer resources for WooCommerce. You can also build out a WooCommerce store with very little technical knowledge using page builder extensions and other plugins if needed. WooCommerce is ideal for small business owners who have a more complex business model, are international, or have complex B2B requirements. You can see an example of a global Chinese-based site I built using WooCommerce here: https://btcboosters.com.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is probably your best option if you want to get online quickly, but don’t have the expertise to either handle everything inhouse or manage external parties to build something for you. It’s a hosted solution, which means you pay a monthly subscription fee to have Shopify handle the server, security and various other technical aspects for you. There is a wide range of themes available, and the platform is generally well optimised for SEO.
The only real downsides in my opinion is flexibility/customisation, and the fact you are tied into a monthly subscription model. Over time, this cost builds up, but even if you are selling in relatively low volumes, it’s a low cost to account for each month.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce bolts beautifully into WordPress, allowing you to combine the most popular CMS system in the world, with a powerful, opensource eCommerce platform. Whilst there are many benefits to WooCommerce, I would highlight a few main elements:
1. The core platform is completely free to use, so no ongoing subscription fee to stay operational.
2. The ability to customize the design and functionality is significant, so it’s far easier to produce something truly unique and connected to your brand identity.
3. There is a massive pool of development talent and ‘plug and play’ addons that will enable you to extend functionality with minimum effort and cost.
If you are happy to handle some basic set-up elements and/or manage internal or external developers to help customize and deploy for you, then this is a fantastic option for any small business looking to jump online.”
- Wix - “In a distant 3rd position, and purely for very small operations, you could also consider Wix for handling your eCommerce store. Like Shopify, it’s a hosted solution that offers a cheap monthly subscription package to help you get up and running quickly, but for the price difference, I would really recommend you to pay slightly more and leverage Shopify if you wish to have a hosted solution.”
WooCommerce on WordPress if you only have a few products to sell.
Shopify for do-it-yourself ecommerce stores.
Magento if you are an established ecommerce business who can afford a developer.
- WooCommerce - “If you have a blog or content site and want to expand by selling a few products, all you need is WooCommerce. It is a lightweight WordPress plugin that is free, easy to use, and scales to thousands of products. Research shows that some stores with millions of page views a month and 4000+ products are successfully running on WooCommerce.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a great choice for starting a do-it-yourself ecommerce site that isn’t being installed on an existing WordPress site. You can get started inexpensively, and then keep adding features from Shopify Addons that will increase conversions such as cross-selling, upselling, and enhanced descriptions and images as you can afford them.”
- Magento - “When a store owner I know switched to Magento, their sales doubled almost overnight. That is reason alone to consider this option; however, only if you can afford to hire a developer. I would only recommend this option as a migration for stores with sufficient existing profits to make paying a developer financially feasible.”
Honorable mention goes to BigCommerce. If we were listing the top 4, they would be included. And you’ll see them mentioned in many comparisons as another that can be SEO-optimized.
- Shopify - “Shopify Plus is packed with a ton of features that help an online business grow fast in months. It’s affordable and doesn’t require any coding or tech savvy skills to get the ball rolling. The live chat feature is spot on and their customer service is on point.”
- Magento - “Magento is the best open source ecommerce platform around. The flexibility and openness of the system is basically the result of this philosophy. When it comes to features for hotairtools.com, we customized nearly everything, and it’s showed in our increase in conversions. It’s no issue if you are not an expert web designer; since Magento offers thousands of freely customizable templates. With a huge community of dedicated volunteers and members they offer expert webinars monthly, hands on customer service and even supports SEO like a champ.”
- Miva - “There are so many variables attached to an E-commerce website and Miva addresses most of them. You can design your platform architecture the way you want. This platform is scalable to any business size making it useful for large enterprises as well as growing businesses. It’s cost effective and offer useful community forums.”
- Shopify - “This is an obvious choice. It’s the easiest platform to use and the cost of ownership is low because it’s a SaaS product that anyone can learn without a lot of technical knowledge. It is now being used on bigger and bigger sites and is a great fit for most small companies looking to grow with eCommerce. My recommendation is to use a theme and identify the apps you need and you should be able to get started easily even without a lot of third party help.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is a slightly more enterprise product than Shopify, but is still great for small companies. It also has a low cost of ownership because it’s a SaaS product that anyone can learn without a lot of technical knowledge. This is a great fit for smaller B2B companies and companies that want to scale on a SaaS platform without having to re-platform as they grow. It has a lot of built in features that make it more powerful than Shopify out of the box and apps to grow with.”
- Magento - “I would certainly not suggest a small company to pay for an expensive enterprise license. However, the Magento Open Source edition is designed for smaller companies looking to grow with the power of a leading eCommerce platform without the heavy license cost. I suggest Magento here because it’s actually a good eCommerce platform as opposed to the popular open source alternative, WooCommerce, because it has proven to scale. This is certainly a fit for more technical companies, but I feel it is a better fit than the alternatives, that although might be cheaper, will not get you very far. I see many business struggling with WooCommerce because it’s not really an eCommerce platform first and the plugins can be crippling. If you want to go open source eCommerce, I suggest Magento.”
- Shopify - “Over the past few years I've seen Shopify gain enormous traction. If getting set up quickly is the name of the game there is very little out there to compete with its base feature set. It’s not for everybody though, if there are complex requirements involving lots of plugins it can become an expensive beast to work with and if you are a retailer with low margins it might not be the choice for you.”
- Magento - “A long heritage and a better starting point for complex project requirements. If you have something that’s a little more non-standard in terms of your requirement then Magento is normally our platform of choice. The fact that there are no built in fees means that there will generally be a better case for Magento with low margin products.”
- Bespoke - “Sometimes only a bespoke build will do. At this point there are some great frameworks to choose from but we normally plump for a Laravelle & Vue/React setup.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is by far the best platform for SMBs in my opinion for the reasons below:
• It incorporates a website CMS and Shopping cart capabilities into a single platform, that way you only have one platform to work with, which makes the learning curve much easier
• It has an intuitive product catalogue and provides nice search capabilities
• It has a strong reporting & insights capability, reports are shown in a dashboard like view and are easy to understand and take action
• It has an easy to use user interface (UI) that anyone, without any technical experience can use
• It has flexible, and customizable designs that you can pick from so your store can look as sharp as you want it
• You can launch your website and ecommerce store in a few weeks, provided you are just starting and don’t need have a product catalogue that is too large.
• It is affordable with plans starting at $10 a month and the ability to upgrade anytime as your store grows
• Best part is that they offer a free trial, so you can take it for a test drive before you commit to using this platform”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is my second pick for SMBs who are currently using WordPress for their website for the following reasons:
• It integrates with WordPress which makes managing your store easy, as you are accessing the admin interface from within your WordPress website
• It’s easy to use and create your online store, from the design to building out the product catalogue
• You can customize your theme (design and layout) of your store and are not stuck with the themes they provide
• It has several payment integrations so you can choose any of the payment options from PayPal to Stripe and anything in between
• It is an open source system so you can modify and customize everything, add as many products and users and process unlimited orders”
- Wix - “WiX is another great platform for SMBs for the reasons below:
• You can customize your store’s look and feel, by either choosing the available templates and customizing to what works for you
• Its easy to use for anyone without any technical experience, they have a drag and drop interface which makes building your store very intuitive
• They offer multiple payment options such as credit cards or PayPal and the best part is that they don’t charge you for your sales (no commissions)
• You can use the same platform for building your website and your online store making it more efficient for you”
- Shopify - “Most small businesses can do well with Shopify. An ecommerce website can be set up easily, and the back office functionality is intuitive and well-documented. Apps to integrate with other platforms and to expand website functionality are generally easy to install and have low up-front costs. Where Shopify fails is with highly configurable products, where you’re limited in the total number of combinations of size, color, and other attributes. As it is a hosted platform, you’ll need to host your Wordpress blog on a subdomain if you want more functionality than the very basic built-in blogging software. If you do go with Shopify, be sure to pay a little extra for abandoned cart recovery; it’s a nice feature. You’ll also need a quality developer who understands how to code in Liquid, and they’re a bit harder to find than most.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is an excellent ecommerce platform for small businesses that want a bit more flexibility in building their websites than Shopify will allow for, and you get more functionality out of the box. It’s a little less intuitive, but you can get an end result that’s closer to exactly what you want, particularly when it comes to configurable products and SEO. BigCommerce does have a much smaller variety of apps available, partly because so much functionality is already built into the platform.”
- WooCommerce - “Believe it or not, I would choose WordPress, enabled with WooCommerce over a more robust platform like Magento Community, when it comes to small businesses. Although the original intent for WordPress was as a blogging platform, it’s highly customizable both as a CMS and as an ecommerce platform. The back end isn’t what you’d expect with a traditional shopping cart, but WooCommerce is a breeze to learn, particularly if you already know how to navigate the WordPress back end. Unlike Magento, upgrades and bug fixes are relatively easy to perform and don’t always require the touch of a skilled developer. The one drawback to self-hosted WordPress websites is that you will be more responsible for maintaining website security than with a hosted platform like Shopify. If you have the means and discipline to keep your website updated and backed up, then it’s more than compensated for by the SEO benefits and other flexibility you get with hosting your own website.”
- WooCommerce - “This is THE combination I would recommend. I’ve been creating eCommerce websites since 1996. I’ve worked for tremendously successful web agencies and over the 22 years I’ve seen some sharp practices.
Agencies using their own bespoke, hand-written code to create an eCommerce CMS will boast about quality, speed, reliability, but in actuality, the customer is heavily played: paying much more for a website than needs be, needing to wait for new features, and each time an idea is needed to be implemented by the client, then barriers are hit. Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of quality coding, but not at the expense of the client, and certainly not when there are perfectly respectable alternatives.
The combination of WordPress and the shopping cart WooCommerce has proven (for my business and my clients) an excellent tool. If one knows what they are doing, then one can create an effective Roadmap to help clients plan, design, launch, promote, and manage an eCommerce website. Choosing carefully which plugins to use, being extremely careful with the hosting platform, then a client simply won’t see ANY disadvantages from using this platform.
With WordPress, one can easily create stunning designs, implement great CSS, create bespoke designs and user experiences. Websites can be made to work brilliantly on mobiles, tablets, and desktops (remember the difficulties posed by bespoke CMS frameworks in trying to get sites to work well on mobiles – how slow, how costly!).
WordPress and WooCommerce are updated regularly. If an agency knows what it’s doing then ‘off the shelf’ tools can be used to achieve astonishingly complex tasks.
Scalability is not a problem either. If you’re an SME with between £500,000 and £10,000,000 of revenue then this is the solution for you. It’s easy to use and can provide everything needed to make online sales. For example, we’ve recently launched a WordPress eCommerce website with over 90,000 products, from multiple suppliers, with bespoke customer tiered pricing, full stock-control and more.
With Magento this would have cost in excess of £20,000, with a bespoke solution… well, much, much more. But with WordPress, well, let’s just say the client got the deal of the century.
WordPress allows the web agency to use its skills and experience to help get an eCommerce website up and running quickly and to help clients start selling quickly… rather than being stuck in the quagmire of waiting for coders, CSSers, designers, and digital marketers to all complete their work first (and then more than likely be stuck with an out of date platform)!
I cannot shout from the rooftops loudly enough just how effective WordPress is for an SME. Often SME’s don’t have the staff to learn about websites and eCommerce, but they can be taught to manage a website, especially if it’s been built with WordPress. Furthermore, if they get stuck then there’s a plethora of help and advice on the web (the same can’t be said for custom CMS’s can it?).
Finally, if the client gets fed-up with the agency, as WordPress and WooCommerce is Open Source, then the core of the website is Open and GPL Licenced, meaning the website can be zipped up and given to another web agency, instead of being stuck in the hands of a web agency who can all too easily hold a website to ransom.
I fully support the WordPress & WooCommerce combination.”
- Magento - “Magento is good. But boy is it bloated. It takes quite some server resource to run it (it has so many modules, which requires better hosting and that of course means passing on the cost to the client).
It also takes a long time to configure… it’s just not as flexible as WordPress. Yes WordPress isn’t as well thought out when it comes to the database structure, but does this truly matter to the client or their visitors? Certainly not! If the web agency knows what it’s doing then WordPress will beat Magento hands down. Some say Magento is great for reports, this is true, but we’ve managed to arm ourselves with a wide range of tools to help clients drill down through tonnes of data to understand what’s happening on their website(s)… whether it’s connecting to an older Sage Line 50 software, or to a modern Cloud based accounts package, WordPress handles this all too easily.
Bottom line: Magento is good. But, the client will need to be charged more and it will take more time to complete. Why would anyone do that? Probably because they’ve been told that WordPress is the poor relation, but often I find that these comments come from coders who are effectively protecting their own jobs, their own purpose in the world. After-all, if WordPress gets any more popular then these very same coders (if they wish to stay in low-to-mid-level eCommerce development) will need to join the ranks of WordPress proponents or go and work for WordPress themselves!”
When we are working with small businesses, three main marketplaces we recommend are Magento, Big Commerce and Shopify. The rationale for all three are quite different - though some can make a huge difference in the long term.
- Shopify - “The entry level platform that we tend to look at is Shopify - you may have heard about them through brands like GymShark and HERA that have rapidly grown on the platform.
Shopify is great for startups as with a low monthly fee; no need for updates and you have fewer unexpected surprises than with other platforms. A lot of fast fashion startups use the platform as it has the right level of customisation, and you can easily extend the functionality.
Where you do need to be careful is with two main areas - there are fewer customisation options with Shopify compared to other platforms such as Woo Commerce and Magento and this can limit creativity.
The other thing to properly work out are the fees and charges you will pay. Starting at $29 a month, the costs may sound reasonable but the charges from ShopifyPay start at 2.2 percent - and if you want to use an alternative payment provider, you’ll be charged for this too.
In addition to these fees, also consider how much plug-ins will cost you that help extend the functionality of the software. Often costing under $10 a month they do sound attractive, but this all adds up.”
- BigCommerce - “Big Commerce is very similar to Shopify - in fact, you could probably copy and paste the benefits that I have written above and just switched the name - they also have a very similar pricing strategy.
We tend to suggest Big Commerce over Shopify as it offers better flexibility with features such as being able to install WordPress to run your blog, which has benefits in terms of the different page layouts your agency can design for you.
The next area is looking at the cost side of things - Big Commerce don’t charge you a fee for using your own choice of payment provider and this can bring huge savings as your business grows.
Big Commerce isn’t as well known in Europe as it is in the US, but don’t overlook it - the platform is cost effective, very powerful and will continue to grow with your digital sales.”
- Magento - “One of the best-known eCommerce platforms is Magento - it is used by many of the largest retailers in the country, and brands such as Ford, Nespresso and Samsung are examples of recent businesses using the platform.
The biggest difference between Magento and the platforms I’ve spoken about earlier is that Magento is hosted separately, so whilst the software starts with a free version, you will have to pay a reputable hosting company to host the website. This gives you some independence - but it can become very costly.
Because you host Magento yourself, you also need to keep on top of installing security patches - if you don’t and your website gets hacked, you could have a GDPR nightmare on your hands!
That said, Magento continues to be a clear favourite by agencies and retailers because of the levels of customisation you can undertake with the site - both creatively and technically. It is often the case that you can achieve things with Magento that other platforms simply can’t.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the current defacto go to platform for software as a service (SaaS) online stores – Its intuitive and easy to use and offers a range of services that put it a step above its competitors. One area its particularly strong is in the area of Apps, which are becoming a much larger part of the ecosystem for these online platforms, allowing users to customise their offerings greatly. Additionally, as the biggest player, Shopify can offer significant savings in terms of fees for their platforms and for transactions – a real saving for smaller businesses where every dollar counts.”
- BigCommerce - “The solid number 2 in the online store platforms is definitely BigCommerce – its offering is also very good and has most of the functionality that any store would need. Its cheapest plan is also cheaper than Shopify’s and has more features making it the best bet if you are just starting out and testing the waters online. It also offers a tonne of customisation features within its own platform (rather than relying on apps). Lastly its templates have better AMP integration (a Google mobile initiative) which in the long run may prove more beneficial from a traffic perspective.”
- Volusion - “Volusion, similar to Shopify and Big Commerce is a hosted online platform that is specialised for ecommerce – and it has all the tools you require to run a successful online store. The one area that Volusion really shines is in analytics and reporting tools – They make is super easy to keep track of all the important metrics you need to keep an eye on to manage ROI across channels, as well as order funnels and consumer behaviours. Volusion isn’t as straightforward as some other platforms, but if a robust view of your data is your number one priority, it’s the best platform by far.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the market leader which makes it easy to get up and running quickly if you’re new to the world of Ecommerce. They are the fastest to get up and running and operate on a SAAS model (Software As A Service). They have a huge variety of options to choose from and there is a big community of users out there to help. And also a large number of partners who can help with creating the store and integrating it into your business.”
- Magento - “Magento is free but you have to host it and build it, which is not what most people want to do so many Magento solutions are built by partners who will build it as per your requirements. This can be what many people are looking for to have some experts to hold your hand as you build out the ecommerce business line within your business. Magento does give a bigger range of options and may be better if your requirements are more complex.”
- EKM - “EKM Powershop is a British company that powers over 50,000 shops in the UK and has dedicated UK account managers that can help you. As well as all the features you would expect the functionality is all built natively, so there are no issues with compatibility as you some time get with 3rd party developed apps as platforms change.”
- Magento - “Magento for quite some time has been the open source platform that allows you to build your own local hosted ecommerce sites, as well as managed cloud deployment. One of the reasons I like Magento is the wide range of free and paid design templates, as well as many plugins to expand the core platform’s features & functionality. It's a great choice for any business dipping their toes for the first time in ecommerce through to large well-known companies who are looking at open source options and fast turnaround deployments.”
- Shopify - “Shopify – is another great, easy to setup, easy to use platform that will help you grow your business. Shopify is an out-of-the-box ecommerce solution for both small and medium/large online businesses, again with some great selections in template and plugins. It’s great for someone without development or design experience, who wants an intuitive user interface as well as a good selection of marketing assistance including Google Smart shopping and Facebook ads within the Shopify platform.”
- Wix - “WIX is an ecommerce platform which again is very popular within the SME community. I think is great for a small to medium size business looking to have a professional store representation online. The drag and drop option makes WIX pretty easy and enjoyable to use. The features and functionalities are quite rich and should be adequate for most businesses starting off and growing their online revenue.”
- Adrecom eSuite - “Adrecom is an aggregation of the American Dream Company because its founder always had the dream of moving to the USA. The system has been around for more than 15 years. The reason it’s called an eSuite is because it is far more than a mobile responsive, shopping cart system. It is a complete all-in-1 search engine optimized solution that includes the catalog, blog, events calendar, news archive, digital media gallery and a host of other built-in modules. The system is not a do-it-yourself product like Wix. The expert team at Adrecom becomes your online consigliere so that while they manage your website, you get to run your business. You have access to most everything under the hood but instead of spending $80-100k on a webmaster to tinker with your website, you spend a lot less partnering with the Adrecom team.”
There are hundreds of eCommerce platforms to choose from but at eCommerce Cosmos we recommend Shopify & Shopify Plus 99% of the time.
From zero to one million a year Shopify will work fine, after that Shopify Plus is going to start making more sense with lower transaction fees and more customization.
Many businesses will go with Square, or Wix to save money and fail to realize that they are not setting themselves up for success.
- Shopify - “If you are just starting out choosing an eCommerce platform can be overwhelming. You’ll want to choose a platform that is affordable, robust, is constantly updated & can scale with your business. Shopify is all that and more.
With world class themes and apps, Shopify is built simply and beautifully. The platform is built to help you sell more. From accepting all types of payments with one click integrations for accepting Bitcoin Payments, Amazon Payments to pushing your products to every social channel with native apps made to work to syncing your Shopify Store to Pinterest (this turned out to work extremely well when selling hammock chairs online since it’s such a visual product that people usually want to sit in and touch).”
“Shopify can carry you through your business journey for years. Ideally you grow too fast and you scale up to Shopify Plus. With prices starting at $2000 a month vs the $29-$299 a month on regular Shopify, Shopify Plus is everything you need to run an Enterprise level store. Recently we helped an 8 figure seller migrate from Netsuite to Shopify Plus and they saved over $630,000 & increased conversions by 25%.
With Shopify Plus you have the advantage of complete customization and a lower total cost of ownership compared to Magento, WooCommerce, Netsuite and other platforms where you’ll easily pay over 6 figures a year between hosting and development costs.”
- WooCommerce - “Wordpress is a common platform, currently powering around a quarter of the internet, so familiar to a lot of people both operationally and for other elements such as SEO. Woo is a bolt on plug in that offers some really good e-commerce functionality and therefore is quite good for those businesses that are just starting out, perhaps with a high street presence and want to bring e-commerce in at a later date. That said, Wordpress overall can be a bit annoying to use, and is probably now being left behind in terms of the ease of use of it’s CMS.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a really easy to use platform built around e-commerce. It integrates with payment providers, email platforms and has a good range of add ons. Like Wordpress and Magento it’s built using PHP, so a decent developer should be able to get under the skin if needs be. The other advantage is you don’t have to worry about your own hosting, and all the templates (at least the ones I’ve seen) look really good and are fully responsive. On the flip side, there is a small monthly cost - but this isn’t too much and will pay back over Wordpress for the ease of use.”
- Magento - “Magento is really the next level up. I’d suggest this for businesses who have ambitions to grow beyond £1.5M. Also if you have back office systems they want to integrate with to send product and stock data into the website, and orders and customer data out. The old v1.9 is due to come to its end of life mid 2020 (a date that has moved previously) and there’s a big push for businesses who need to plan a move to V2. Due to the advances in M2, this isn’t just an upgrade, but effectively a re-platforming project. M2 has loads of cool new features, is easier to use (M1 wasn’t great), and the higher level M2 Commerce and Cloud versions have some good B2B features built in.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is easy to set up, robust and connects to marketplaces seamlessly. They have been around a long time and are able to grow and scale for SMB’s.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is “stupid simple” to set up as well. It has a very diverse community of developers and plug-ins to make your store mimic many of the things more robust ecommerce platforms have.”
- Miva - “Miva is the platform that has been in the ecommerce space the longest going back to the 90’s. What I love about it, is the flexibility to do anything you can think of. It has a rock solid group of developers in the community and this platform can scale up into the mega millions as you grow. You will not need to jump off as you grow to enterprise level, like you might need to do on the other 2 platforms I mentioned.”
Jeroen van Eck
- Shopify - “What I love about Shopify is its simplicity. Everyone can start selling online within seconds. Managing a store-front is easy with a smooth design and user-friendly interface. Setting up and running a store-front doesn’t require any coding. There’s a marketplace available with lots of extensions and integrations with third-party marketing tools to boost your reach, user engagement and performance. But you’ll do fine at first with everything that comes out of the box with Shopify.
Shopify’s target audience are small business owners that are looking for an e-commerce solution that just works. ”
- Magento - “If you’re looking for something that’s more customizable to your specific needs, Magento is probably the go-to e-commerce solution. The platform is available in various configurations, so it facilitates growth. Magento is highly customizable through its development partners all over the world. Some of the largest shops run on Magento, and it’s amazing that as a small business owner you can tap into the same box of e-commerce power.”
Maria Luisa D’Uros
- Shopify - “Shopify is a cloud based solution designed specifically for online commerce and is optimized to allow you to progress easily during your experience; in this way you will not have to worry about anything because you can start with little improvements over time, without incurring wrong choices or annoying additional costs; at the beginning a free 14-day trial is available.
By opening an account with Shopify, you will have integrated SEO functions and your marketing activities will always be managed automatically, allowing you to find a greater number of customers that are anything but random, but really interested in buying. Shopify unlike Ebay and Amazon, allows you to customize the graphics of your online store, being able to change various parameters with the drag-and-drop system without any technical or computer skills.
The portal also allows the generation of shops dedicated to drop-shipping, that is, the sale on behalf of other activities, which allows you to earn a percentage only for generating a transaction; the warehouse and shipping remain at the expense of the upstream store.
Opening an online store with Shopify costs a minimum of $ 29 a month, plus 2% on the sale of each product. There are more generous and expensive tariff plans, but if you sell less than 50 products per month the basic account should be sufficient for you.”
- PrestaShop - “PrestaShop, on the other hand, is an eCommerce solution created in 2005 in France and used by more than 250 thousand online stores.
The platform is free (the modules you can install to implement specific additional features are not) and the interface is also quite intuitive. The first difference between the two eCommerce platforms is their different nature: PrestaShop is a software that requires external hosting and for you to install it, which translates into greater operational freedom (which is a positive and negative thing at the same time, depending on your experience), while Shopify is a platform that can be used immediately online by simply entering your credentials.
Of course if you decide to install the PrestaShop solution you will need a developer, but the use of the platform for eCommerce management and content management is really easy. It could be the best solution if you need to start a small business that needs more customization. It is one of the most used platforms in Italy and in Europe. It also has a large community of developers and users, from whom you can easily ask for advice.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that you (or your developer) can download directly from the official WordPress directory and install on your website. Alternatively you can download and install it directly from the plugin site or in the backend of your WordPress website. It can be customized and integrated with other platforms in many ways. Integrations can be created with MailChimp, vTiger, sugarCRM, Salesforce CRM, SAP, management, ERP (enterprise resource planning), CRM software, HR software, Zucchetti Software, GymGest, Magician and much more …
It’s easy to manage if you have a small catalogue, and is perfect if your first goal is to communicate. I suggest WooCommerce for clients who are not focused on eCommerce, but eCommerce is an additional arm of their business. For example, if you have a blog and you want to sell your lastest book, or your merchandising. Or if you have a winery and you want to share the history of your vineyard and the beauty of the terrain, and at the same time sell your wine.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a extremely good start for small businesses. Especially for those who have little or no technical proficiency. It allows you to start an online business in a very short amount of time and keep your thought focused on merchandising and marketing. It has a lot of apps and themes that you can use to extend the functionality at will. Prices are very affordable. I love it and usually suggest it as the first move in the world of ecommerce.”
- WooCommerce - “Woocommerce has the great value to be free and open source. If you or your team has some php programming skills, WooCommerce it is definitely a choice to take into consideration. It has an incredible number of commercial themes and plugins that can be used to customize it as much as you like. Given the fact that it is based on the well renowned Wordpress platform, it is also quite simple to find support from the community for any eventual need.”
- Magento - “Magento has been and still is my preferred choice when the business starts to grow and there is the need to scale rapidly. The only thing to take into consideration is that with this power comes the ownership cost. The platform is extremely powerful and to fully use it, good programmers are needed.”
- Shopify - “What I like about Shopify is that they are a solid and stable template solution with an ever increasing network of plug-ins for best in class features and functionality. It’s a great low cost platform, particularly for the smaller online businesses.”
- Magento - “I have found Magento to be the ideal stepping stone platform for smaller online businesses before they can make the leap to the more robust and costly Demandware (Salesforce Commerce Cloud) solution. It is highly customizable with development resources, otherwise it can be overwhelming to manage. It’s great for flexibility but, must have both budget and talent for developer support.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a great tool for small businesses. It’s easy to use and doesn't require any coding or tech skills to get started, and the software can grow as your business grows. Shopify is a highly optimized solution (mobile and desktop) with minimal effort on set up. Shopify also offers small businesses loans through their Shopify Capital program to help entrepreneurs get the funds they need to grow their business. Hosting with Shopify does give them control of your store data.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is a plugin used for WordPress sites. It requires hosting and a working WordPress installation to run. WooCommerce/WordPress gives you access to thousands of site designs and plugins that will enable you to extend the functionality of your store. You’re in full control of your eCommerce store but it does require a little more set up”
- Magento - “Magento is a great eCommerce platform for small business due to the fact that they have more features than many other platforms. It allows for more customization for companies selling B2B. Magento Community edition is free as well as open source, which makes it very accessible to anyone. Another great feature is that it is optimized for SEO by default. It is a little more technical than the other two options and requires a little more customization and set up.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the platform with the most momentum at the moment and is certainly the cool kid on the block in the small business market. Shopify is focused on a lot of small businesses’ biggest challenges through solid offerings in product databases and inventory management system functionality; this gives ease in building channels across multiple websites and marketplaces.
If you’re a business that has lots of inventory (congratulations!) you need a robust platform and Shopify delivers in spades. Consumers spend their time on the front end, but small business operators are in the backend and Shopify excels on the administration front.
Unlike other platforms, Shopify handles payment gateways much more efficiently baking them into the offer without messing around with additional apps. And unlike open-source competitors, Shopify has a dedicated support team that can handle all aspects of the platform.”
- Magento - “Magento has long been the leader in eCommerce platforms built off the open-source nature of the software appealing to developers across the globe. After the recent acquisition by Adobe, Magento now has endless riches sitting in the coffers to stave of competitors who have made up ground in recent years by focusing on user experience.
A big selling point is the Magento Community version that is free and gives small business owners a chance to get their business live and trading at minimal cost compared to many other platforms. As your business grows it is not difficult to upgrade, although you will be needing to shift onto a payment tier and will need to employ a decent agency to assist with the build.
Not that it will be hard to find someone to assist, as Magento has a village of capable partners that will help small businesses grow technically and connect you to a marketplace of third-party integrations that will handle most of what you could ever need.
Magento has a plethora of built-in eCommerce features such as promotional pricing, newsletter management, multi-language support, virtual products, layered navigation, personalized products, etc. that essentially just leaves open source competitors for dead.
Finally, Magento was the first platform to embrace the logistics market partnering with companies such as DHL and FedEx to deliver Magento Shipping, which takes away the pain of shipping for small businesses.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is competitive with leading enterprise eCommerce applications, but because it’s free, any small business can take advantage of this platform without fear of expensive support contracts or proprietary software licenses.
The modular nature is attractive for any business and especially small businesses where you are learning who you are and may need to pivot at any time. Commitment is hard when you are growing, so knowing that WooCommerce has a raft of developers in the background to dig you out of any situation is comforting.
Plugins can be your friend and WooCommerce has more than you’ll ever need. WooCommerce has WordPress as a parent so you know flexibility and functionality is at the heart of the platform. More than other platforms, WooCommerce has digital sales in its toolbox, so small businesses can theoretically sell anything from Jordan sneakers to digital games and everything in-between.
WooCommerce is made for selling and will give you heaps of advantages. With over a 100 payment gateways that can be setup, shipping capabilities and inventory management, this platform will save you a heap on ‘additional’ requirements that you so often get hit with when you start a business.”
- Wix - “Differently, from Shopify (who provides, both for small scale and big scale e-shops), WIX is only serving small scale business purposes, and is even more user friendly. It also has hundreds of free themes and templates for you to use, so you can build your simple website very quickly. Other than that, WIX is super affordable, as their highest monthly price is $25. WIX offers a very convenient set of SEO tools - including alt texts, descriptions and customizable page titles, which will help your e-shop rank high in the Google search results. All in all, although WIX does not have as many apps and functions as let’s say Shopify and is more simple in the most ways, if you need something specific that WIX doesn’t provide you can always use a third - party app to compensate.”
- WooCommerce - “Since WOO commerce is built on one of the most popular content management systems - WordPress - WOO powers around 40% of all the shops of the world and it’s no wonder, since with a free plug in you can transform any WordPress page into a fully functioning commerce store, and then build any type of website you wish. WOO is very flexible design wise, and super functional; it beats Shopify and Wix in these categories. It is also easy to use for most of the people who have used and worked with WordPress. Although if you are new to online store setup, it will take some time to master WordPress and WOO plug-in features, as it is not as user -friendly as the two other mentioned sites. WOO also suggests lots of free themes and plug ins, and also is very flexible in expanding and extending functionality, although It is more time consuming updating all the plug -ins than it would be in Shopify, where you have it already fully-managed. However, if and when you have big amounts of products to manage, I’d prefer Shopify over Woo. That’s why overall I grade it my #2.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is one of the most popular business e-commerce sites and rightly so. No wonder it’s also my number 2 recommendation. Its highly user-friendly interface helps small business owners with little skill to build their own trendy and cool online stores. As stated I would not directly recommend it for single product or smaller shops. WOO Commerce is often more suitable for that because of its open structure and plugin functionality options. But when things get big and product collection matters get to be a thing I’d go for Shopify. It is a common step for e-commerce shop owners. You can generate your domain name with Shopify’s tool, design your business logo on their site, use the free library of stock photos or even buy an existing online store, it also provides top-notch themes (most of them are not free though). Shopify also offers 24/7 customer support and a mobile app to track your business, which makes it super convenient. All that said, it delivers the most complete, all-in-one online and multichannel sales solution, with an affordable price.”
- Shopify - “Shopify has developed a very cost effective, simple yet robust ecommerce platform designed for the non-tech savvy business owner. They can easily construct, design, manage and promote their business in a way 5-10 years ago would have cost 10-20x
In addition, due to the rapid growth of the company and customer base, a very strong support network of developers, freelancers and app builders has quickly developed – providing a pool of resources to solve the changing needs of retailers on the Shopify platform.”
- Shopify - “There is no denying the popularity of Shopify, and it is for good reason. If you are just starting out in eCommerce you can be up and running with Shopify within days - even if you have limited or zero html, design or code experience. It is literally as easy as choosing a theme, adding some products and linking up your PayPal details - and away you go.
Shopify has also done a lot of work recently on its more advanced eCommerce solution - Shopify Plus. So it is possible to start off at very limited cost to get your business up and running and then as you become successful you have the options of upgrading and adding more features. With Shopify you also have the added benefit that it is a SaaS product, so all hosting is taken care of as part of the cost, which is one less thing to deal with, especially when your website is growing and increasing in traffic.”
- WooCommerce - “While Shopify is great for regular ‘shopkeepers’ just looking to sell, WooCommerce is a great option for people who are planning to create lots of content. WordPress is well known for being one of the easiest and most widely accepted platforms for bloggers - mainly because of how easy it is to create pages, drag and drop content and insert various templates and add-on’s with relative ease. So for anyone who either has a blog already and is looking to monetise it by selling product, or for people who plan on creating lots of content alongside their shop, WooCommerce could be the perfect fit. Unlike Shopify, you would be required to host the website yourself. However there are plenty of great services on the market for hosting WordPress, which are inexpensive in the early days when you have low amounts of traffic.”
- Magento - “Now for the third option it was quite hard to decide. I could have easily gone for BigCommerce, WIX, Squarespace or OpenCart - as all have their pros. But I wanted to put a bit of a wildcard out there. Magento historically would not have been a platform I would suggest to a small business - because it was complicated and had lots of hidden costs. However, with the launch of Magento2 and its acquisition by Adobe, I think we will see a much clearer divide between the free version (open source) and the paid version (Commerce) and with this a simplification of the open source version to make it easier for smaller business to utilise the power that the platform has. I would also recommend Magento for any small businesses with ‘big’ ambitions, as if you invest well early on then Magento can easily sustain your business up to £30m turnover and beyond. Like WooCommerce/WordPress, you would be required to host Magento yourself, and because it is a bigger, complex system it will require more sophisticated and powerful hosting than WordPress, so I'd recommend finding a Magento hosting specialist and expect to pay more per month than the other 2 options.”
- Magento - “If you are technically minded or have someone on your team, I recommend Magento Opensource. Magento has been on the scene for a long time and has developed into a very mature and stable product. Recently bought by Adobe, they are continuing to maintain the opensource version of the product.
A lot of big and small ecommerce shops run on Magento, including tech company www.hpe.com, Gardening Centre chain www.gardeningexpress.co.uk and fashion brand www.hellyhansen.com.
You will need to host and set up the product yourself, but you get complete control over all elements of the system and you can customise it to your needs. A healthy development community and ecosystem means you can get plugins and extensions to integrate with almost any system you need. While totally free, you will need some beefy hosting power to run the system efficiently.”
- Kooomo - “Powering online brands like www.missbikini.com and www.butlerschocolates.com, Kooomo is a completely managed platform for ecommerce sites.
Kooomo work with you to get you set-up and running, build your online brand and most importantly get you connected to over 60 global marketplaces so you can start selling around the world. It is obviously a more expensive system than Magento, however it sets up and manages the platform for you, freeing you up to focus on sales and growth.”
- Brightpearl - “If you achieve any kind of scale, the back-office quickly becomes unmanageable. Shipping, returns, customer service, inventory, purchasing, and accounting begin to take over and limit your growth. This is where Brightpearl steps in. It improves your efficiency in your ecommerce business with back office automation and connects your systems. Of course, this is one of those nice problems to have. At which point you will have no problem investing in a system like this.”
- Shopify - “50% of our clients are on Shopify. I feel Shopify offers one of the lowest barriers to entry for small businesses who are ready get their feet wet in eCommerce. They take complicated things like analytics tracking pixels and integrate it directly into their platform. While there are endless customization options an experienced Shopify programmer can expand on, there’s no need for a small business owner to know how to write code to launch an eCommerce store. I really love the flexibility Shopify has to offer from launch to scale.
In addition to Shopify’s friendly UI, there are 1,200+ apps for practically any eCommerce function you need to integrate with to run your ecommerce store. With a few clicks, you can connect your email software, social pages, and more.”
- SuiteCommerce - “SuiteCommerce is not a platform that is listed on many recommendation lists for whatever reason. It might be due to its enterprise ties with NetSuite or implementation complexity.
SuiteCommerce is ideal for small businesses of $5M and up because it consolidates all core business components under the same roof like order management, customer service, marketing, merchandising, and more – with the additional benefit of automatically integrating Bronto to deliver timely data-driven marketing in the customers’ lifecycle.
We have a client who just migrated from WooCommerce to SuiteCommerce in July 2018 and the transition was seamless, thanks to the SuiteCommerce migration team.
If you decide to migrate to SuiteCommerce, they have a team that handles the migration for you, which makes things a lot easier.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is the close cousin of Shopify. With some light coding, small businesses could afford a developer to customize their website. BigCommerce has the ability to handle scale with their enterprise package – which adds more bells and whistles for any business that needs it.
For the cost and features, BigCommerce does prove itself to be a viable competitor to Shopify. At the end of the day, it’s really a matter of preference and comfort level with the platform.”
- WooCommerce - “Those of you who have used WordPress will love WooCommerce. Woo is a free plugin that turns your WordPress site into a fully functional ecommerce site.
Although the standard functionalities of WooCommerce are pretty basic, it is built on an opensource platform and there is a vast collection of extensions that will enable you to customise your site to do whatever you want to do.
If you have big ambitions, don’t be fooled by the fact that this is a WordPress site. WooCommerce is really scalable, I’ve overseen some big builds on Woo – 100k+ Products.
WordPress/WooCommerce developers are pretty easy to find, so you should always have a good supply of people who can support you.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a very simple and easy to use platform that will allow you to get off the ground with relative ease. There are also hundreds of apps for Shopify, which makes it easy to expand.
There are lots of shopfront themes available for Shopify, so you will be able to choose a design you like and that works for your business.
Where Shopify falls short is on cost as you scale. This is down to the subscription and transaction fess involved. If you expand quite quickly, the costs can mount up and there will come a point where you will outgrow the site.”
- Magento - “Magento is a really good platform for building a site that is scalable. It has a real solid base and there are some big sites that have been built on Magento. It’s quite user friendly behind the scenes and I would say it is the most powerful out of the three platforms I have suggested.
Magento would be my suggestion to those who have a good budget and resources at their disposal. Because of its complexity it can be quite resource intensive. Magento developers are like gold dust, so you will need to consider this when making a decision. If you find a good Magento developer, pay them well and nail them to floor.”
- WooCommerce - “The architecture is extremely scalable and flexible. You can self-host, which at scale, can save you a lot of money.”
- BigCommerce - “This is a VERY affordable hosted ecommerce solution. Also quite flexible and open, and has nice designs you can implement out of the gate without hard work.”
- Shopify - “This is the Apple of ecommerce SaaS solutions. While not super expensive upfront, costs add up at scale, and limitations start becoming obvious. However, with that said, their designs out of the gate are highly conversion optimized, and their eco-system of apps are unrivalled in the ecommerce world.”
Mark A. Ramdial
- Shopify - “Absolutely love this platform! This is perfect for small business and even larger businesses. There is virtually no learning curve, if you’ve created an Ebay or Amazon listing before you have the ability to open up your own ecommerce website. There are no hidden costs! No Hosting Fees (usually a separate cost when having an ecommerce website i.e. rackspace) and no development cost – I call Shopify the great equalizer in an ecommerce world dominated by larger solutions like Magento and Demandware. Now a fashion designer can become an ecommerce manager, with their 24/7 customer support (they had support on Christmas day for me!!) to their robust app store – this honestly is your one stop shop for scalability. Clients include MVMT Watches and Kylie Cosmetics.”
- Squarespace - “I would not call Squarespace an E-commerce powerhouse in the space, however their capabilities are solid (depending on what your industry is) if you’re a photographer that is looking to sell some of their art while showcasing your portfolio. I would not recommend Square Space for a high volume store – however, if you some higher value product and you want to show it off with a clean aesthetic and easy to use backend tools, you honestly can’t go wrong with Squarespace. The cost is similar to Shopify too.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is a solid option as well if you are looking for inexpensive and easy to use ecommerce solutions. The Aesthetic of the B.C. Ecommerce sites defer from the previous 2 that were mentioned and offers a more “traditional” ecommerce experience. Usability is also very easy and it virtually does not have a learning curve. Costs are also in line with Shopify as well. Clients include Camelpak and Skullcandy.”
1. Ease of use for non-technical users
2. 24/7 support
3. Great App Store for any ecommerce needs you have, just download and done!
4. Cost Effective Pricing and no hidden fees
5. Extremely scalable
6. The themes already have a mobile optimized feel to them, and since most online traffic comes from mobile devices this is a nice feature to have.
1. The App Store could use some stronger players – some of the App Selection is limited.
2. There is virtually no support for a custom theme (a theme that is not available in the Shopify menu of themes – typically created by an agency or developer) so you will always have to go back to your developer or agency in the event you would like to make changes. Also, some apps are a mess to uninstall from the custom theme which could mess up things like checkout.
Another tip for the small business owner. Just remember, that even though you may have the premier E-commerce platform in the industry and you have a kick-@ss website, marketing will always be the biggest expense you will potentially run into. So, be savvy with how you market and drive traffic to your website and the rest should be taken care of.
For small businesses, I would always opt for the solutions that require the least manpower and costs to run. That means choosing a hosted solution (SaaS). Thankfully there are many to choose from, however the 3 top recommendations in my opinion would be:
Each provides similar capabilities and will get you off the ground quickly and cost effectively.
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce is the lesser known of the two platforms (vs Shopify) and has fewer businesses running their software. However, this could be an advantage as a challenger brand always works harder to keep customers happy.
In terms of features and functions, you get pretty much everything out of the box with a lot of features and functions to help you grow your business.”
- Shopify - “My second choice is Shopify. By far the most prevalent ecommerce platform on the market, and used by 100’s of thousands of merchants both big and small.
The 2 main advantages with Shopify are:
a. There are a lot of 3d party agencies and developers who are well versed in the platform and can help you build and scale your business
b. There are a lot of creative templates on the market you can choose from to suit your needs.”
- Squarespace - “The other option I would suggest exploring is Squarespace. This solution may not be a dedicated Ecommerce platform, but it does have some nifty features and designs you can use to launch and grow your store.
It’s by far the easiest one of the 3 to get started on, with little to no 3rd party support needed to get your businesses selling. There are also some really great looking themes to choose from.”
- Shopify - “I highly recommend the Shopify platform for anyone looking to start a new eCommerce venture. Although the back end is not particularly intuitive for updating the site, there is a lot of help available, some great add-ons to unlock additional long term value of customers and it is extremely easy to setup payment methods, fulfill orders and update customers. There is also an app that can be downloaded from the Play Store/App Store that is a great tool for modifying inventory, order fulfilment, basic analytics and more. I only wish there was such a low-cost platform available when I started my first venture back in 2007 because an entry point of only $30 USD is affordable and appealing because you aren’t handing all of your client information and business being potentially shut down with little explanation with the likes of being just on a platform like Amazon.”
- Magento - “I have been managing eCommerce sites for over 14 Years and the majority of that time has been spend working with Magento. Why I like Magento the most is because it has the widest range of entry into the ecommerce space with the Community Edition (which is free) to an enterprise solution that at one time was owned by eBay and now is owned by Adobe, one of the top software companies in the world. Also, Magento has a wide range of professionals around the world that are available to help implement customizations within your eCommerce business. Additionally there are lots of plugins that can add a lot of great extra functionalities to your ecommerce website, even integrating with a lot of popular business software including QuickBooks. To be honest though, in spite of the robust functionality there are issues with Magento as it is a heavy eCommerce platform that can slow load speeds for the end users (you and your customers). Also it does get a lot of patch updates which is a mixed blessing.”
- Shopify - “Another recommendation if you have limited resources is Shopify; a very popular platform with great features, although you are stuck with their hosting and it’s really hard to transfer the data if you move to more robust solutions.”
- PrestaShop - “If you do want to enter at a lower level with a lot of flexibility, I would suggest PrestaShop. PrestaShop has great plugins and themes, but very limited and the only place I know that really backs their plugins is Presto-Changeo.”
Euan A Cameron
- Shopify - “Shopify is a brilliant platform for any small business looking to launch an ecommerce site, which not only looks good enough to compete with the big online players, but which also packs in all the essential features. The number of add-ons and baked in integration with the likes of Facebook/Instagram/Google etc. make Shopify my number one choice for any small business looking for a reliable eComms platform. Its also super cost-effective which is important.”
- WooCommerce - “Woocommerce is great if Shopify isn’t your bag, or maybe you already have a Wordpress site. It is an incredibly powerful Wordpress bolt-on, which enables you to build a fully featured eComms website within a Wordpress environment. You won't get the same level of hand-holding that Shopify provides, and it will take a bit of work with plugins to get tracking etc. but it's a great alternative option. Plus it can be fun for those who like getting under the hood as the possibilities are endless.”
- Wix - “If you are new to eComms and want a simple drag and drop store in which to sell your products, Wix is a nice option. They provide all the handholding you could ever need. Support is pretty good - not that you will need much, and they also have tracking baked in for Facebook, Adwords and Google Analytics. Its a great stepping stone into the world of eComms, but you will likely outgrow the platform which can cause headaches later on…”
Choosing an ecommerce platform is one of the most critical decisions a small business can make. Picking the wrong platform can be a costly mistake, severely limiting your ability to grow and scale your business. It’s something I’ve seen repeatedly in my consulting career and can be difficult for a company to recover from. Companies often weigh ease of use, name recognition, or a flashy UI over capabilities, which is a huge mistake.
Making the right choice requires careful planning and detailed requirements gathering. While it’s nice to have a visually pleasing interface with drag-and-drop functionality, there are several factors that are far more important to consider if you’re serious about building a successful e-commerce business. Some of the most critical are scalability, compatibility/integrations with other platforms, and standard features vs. those requiring custom development.
There are a large number of platforms to choose from, but the three that I most often recommend to small business clients are Miva Merchant, WooCommerce, and Shopify.
All three are solid platforms, and you can run a successful ecommerce business on any of the three, but each has strengths and weaknesses that should be considered before choosing the one that most closely aligns to the specific needs of your business.
- Miva - “My top pick. I have built two successful ecommerce businesses and managed the development of several others on the Miva Merchant platform. Miva is an incredibly powerful, flexible platform, and is easily one of the most highly underrated platforms out there.
One of Miva’s key differentiators is a robust set of standard, built-in features included in the base package. Basic features like wish lists, saved baskets, abandoned cart campaigns, and automated order tracking require costly upgrades or custom integrations to build on some of the more popular platforms.
Miva’s base package also includes inventory monitoring, real-time shipping calculations, workflow automation, revenue tracking, reporting/analytics and pre-built integrations with popular third party platforms.
At just $79/month, Miva’s feature-rich base plan is hard to beat, and the platform easily scales up to handle everything from high-volume drop shippers that require complex shipping/tax calculations, to the largest Enterprise accounts.
o Highly customizable
o Well-designed starter themes
o Large, experienced developer network
o Highly Scalable
o Excellent user interface
o Great SEO features
o Pre-built integrations with popular external tools and platforms
o Non-standard functionality can get quite expensive to develop, especially if custom integrations are required.
o Not open-source. If you can't find a module that does what you need, you'll need to hire a developer or learn Miva Script.
o Miva Script- Steep learning curve, but once you get it, you get it.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce combines all the benefits of the WordPress platform with excellent e-commerce capabilities. WooCommerce is not a stand-alone platform. Rather, it is an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress, which happens to be both its greatest strength and weakness.
WordPress isn’t just for blogging anymore. It has become one of the most robust and well-supported web development platforms, with a large developer network and thousands of beautifully designed themes to use as a framework for building your site. There are countless plugins available, allowing you to extend the functionality of your site to meet business needs.
The WooCommerce plugin allows you to turn just about any WordPress site into a fully functional e-commerce business.
It’s easy to find well-qualified developers to build just about any feature you can imagine - which is important, because doing it internally can be a frustrating, time-consuming experience. If your business doesn’t have internal resources with the expertise to build or support a WordPress site, you’ll have to hire that work out, and that can get quite expensive.
• Built on the WordPress platform
• Large developer network
• Thousands of well-designed themes
• Excellent SEO capabilities
• Highly Scalable
• Easy pre-built integrations with popular CRM, Analytics/BI, and Marketing tools
• Steep learning curve to master both WordPress and WooCommerce
• May require numerous plugins, which can quickly become quite expensive
• Large number of plugins can become cumbersome to manage”
- Shopify - “Shopify is among the most user-friendly e-commerce platforms. If you’re looking for turn-key functionality, and are comfortable with a more basic feature set, Shopify is an excellent solution. Pricing plans to accommodate businesses of all sizes. Plans geared toward small businesses start at $29/month, making it easy to start small and scale up with minimal effort.
The Basic plan allows you to sell across multiple channels, create an unlimited number of products, and offers basic marketing features like abandoned cart campaigns. More advanced features require an upgrade to a more expensive plan, but the process is instantaneous. Shopify does offers an Enterprise-level option called Shopify Plus, which is ideal for high-volume businesses, but quite expensive.
While Shopify is an excellent solution for many small businesses, it's far from perfect and has some significant limitations. There are some very basic features that will require an upgrade to the advanced plan - like the ability to display calculated shipping rates from UPS/Fedex at checkout, or choose a less expensive credit card processor.
o User friendly
o Beautifully designed themes make it easy to design your site
o Respectable set of e-commerce features
o Expensive credit card processing
o Some very basic features require a costly upgrade.
o Can get frustrating trying to tease out what should be standard functionality.
o The themes are well designed, but everyone uses the same ones, which makes it hard for your site to stand out.”
There are numerous solutions out there, and I choose to focus my efforts on Magento. My software developers are familiar with and work with other platforms which I will discuss momentarily, however, we find the best value and flexibility to be in moving forward with a Magento based approach.
- Magento - “Magento is a open source solution that allows for most any level of customization and flexibility. While the backend is not as friendly as some of the more basic platforms, it is certainly one of the most powerful. The trick with deploying or moving to this platform is working with an agency or developer that is very comfortable with the platform. The sky really is the limit with magento, and you can essentially get started by hiring someone to setup and deploy a theme for a fairly low introductory cost.”
- Shopify - “I am probably one of the few people out there that really is not a fan of this platform. This is simply because I do not believe in the “rent a home” approach to business. I believe there is a lot of place for SaaS level solutions however, when you are building your core eCommerce business on a solution that is extremely proprietary in nature and requires Apps with monthly fees in order to grow, you are in some ways increasing the monthly costs and becoming more entrenched in a solution which you are bound to. This is an excellent platform to start out on, if you are going to be a one man shop and plan to bootstrap the initial launch, while managing the designs and app implementations yourself. But please be sure to monitor your monthly costs as there will be a time when you will need to consider replatforming. *Just my thoughts.”
- WooCommerce - “WordPress, and of course Woo-Commerce, cover almost every scenario, present and future…and this is why we like it. You’re practically future proofing your business! Unless you’re going truly Global with franchise stores then WordPress & Woo-Commerce will have you covered. You may argue WordPress is better suited to businesses that are no longer start-ups, and are in the SME arena. This is because it will be more expensive to set up and a little more complex, but that’s the price you pay for future proofing your business.
Ideally you’ll set up a bespoke solution. This will make your website more secure and less likely to crash, but even more important than that is you will spend less time and money on needing to update templates etc
Here’s some other good reasons to use WordPress:
• Easy to use and navigate through the Content Management System (CMS)
• Bespoke can mean both beautiful and unique designs
• Arguably the best Search Engine Optimisable (SEO) CMS out there
• Open Source and you own all the code
• Has a 24 hour support team and equally as important it has thriving community of independent developers
Here’s the downsides:
• If it’s not a bespoke design, then you will need to keep on top of updates
• It will take more development time and therefore cost then the Shopify or Big Commerce solutions
If you have a little more budget and you’re certain of success then a bespoke WordPress & Woo-Commerce is a no brainer.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a great option for ‘start-ups’ for a number of reasons which include;
• It’s very easy to use, not just in setting up but also for processing orders and the day-to-day running of a website
• Cost effective
• Looks professional and very smart
• Has a 24 hour support team and equally as important it has thriving community of independent developers
There are more plus sides than noted above, but these are the key factors you should take in to consideration. However, with all the plus sides there’s also some downsides too:
• Shopify is not open source and as a result you don’t have complete freedom to do what you want. Ultimately, the site doesn’t truly belong to you
• For products and main pages SEO is okay but you will have to deal with added terms being added to some URL’s, which limits some of your SEO
I almost always recommend Shopify for ‘start-ups’ because you can build out a really beautiful online shop with ease. It’s easy to use from a back-end point of view as well. It will last you for quite a few years and depending on your business aspirations you may never need to change CMS. In the future you may feel you need to move to another platform like WordPress or even Magento.”
- BigCommerce - “Now I have a confession, we mostly work with Shopify, which would be BigCommerce’s direct competitor. There’s not much between them so I’ll not go in to too much detail here. BigCommerce is a solid and simple platform, just like Shopify and you can have more Staff Accounts.
However, Pricing is almost identical as are many other features. BigCommerce does not have a proposition to match Shopify’s cheapest offering ‘Shopify Lite’, but then if you’re serious about your e-commerce offering, you would not use Shopify Lite anyway - it’s too basic.
Design options, User Experience and Extensions on both platforms are very good and in equal measure. Shopify’s just been around longer and is used by online retailers ‘considerably’ more often. These are the only real reasons why we lean towards Shopify over BigCommerce, but you won’t go far wrong with BigCommerce. We believe it comes down to a personal preference.”
There are plenty of reviews available for ecommerce platforms comparing functionality in detail. Whilst this is informative, it’s important to understand your own requirements before getting sucked into features. Whenever I’m asked by small businesses for recommendations, I tend to put forward the following considerations:
1. How specific is your business model and operational processes? This will indicate the level of customisation and integrations required for your site.
2. How aggressive is your projected growth trajectory? Scalability for your future success is crucial, both in terms of traffic and new functionality requirements.
3. How digitally mature are you or your team? A realistic plan of how and who is going to manage your site once it is operational is important for gauging the usability.
- Magento - “Magento has to be the top consideration for me given its maturity in the market coupled with rapid delivery on its development roadmap, vital in the constantly evolving landscape of digital commerce. With an open source architecture since its introduction over 10 years ago, and a re-engineered codebase (version 2) 3 years ago, it has the best of both worlds in market ubiquity among web developers and agencies the world over, along with a modern technology stack. What this means for the small business is a marketplace of (approved) extensions larger than other platforms, greater breadth of choice in developers who can build and maintain your site and a greater performance, usability and functionality, as well as experience for your customer.
Magento really stands out for flexibility and customisation and this is the reason that creative brands and businesses with specific requirements favour this platform. It pays to select a developer that understands Magento well to ensure your site is built for performance and with the future in mind, but with a large developer network, there is plenty of choice.
Pricing wise, Magento continues to offer their ‘Open Source’ edition which is free to download and use. This is ideal if you are a lean startup and it can be migrated to the ‘Commerce’ edition later when you need the support and additional functionality.
I’m excited by the acquisition from Adobe earlier this year and looking forward to seeing this market leading commerce platform integrated with best-of-breed marketing and advertising suites for a true customer lifecycle digital experience. I would consider Magento in the majority of instances for my business and particularly if I wanted to stand out from competitors with a compelling experience.”
- BigCommerce - “I like how BC have progressed recently. As a private company with the last of several funding rounds in the bank from earlier this year, they are building out their partner network globally and rapidly enhancing the platform. One of the leading SaaS platforms, they provide the full service with hosting included, and usability is a key strength. They have an open architecture philosophy and growing their integrations with other platforms including CMS platforms, Wordpress and Acquia in recent months, which means you can develop your site with both content and commerce.
Where SaaS platforms lack the customisation of Magento, they generally provide a speedy site setup and ease of use. I would consider BigCommerce if my business required little customisation and I wanted as little technical input on decisions as possible.”
- Shopify - “Shopify has had tremendous growth over the last few years, building out their suite of platforms and services, integrations with 3rd parties and a very solid marketing campaign. As another SaaS platform, it has a similar offering to BigCommerce but focuses more on an extended suite of proprietary services (e.g. payment gateway and POS solution). Shopify also has an extensive list of plugins to enhance the functionality, however these can add to the fees considerably so it pays to be aware of the total costs.
Shopify is promoted as a side hustle and I would consider it personally if I had a simple side project to set up with little time available.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is really easy to use and covers most of the aspects you’ll need to successfully run an online shop with the added bonus of it being very scalable, so it will take you from a small start-up to an enterprise-level business with affordable pricing plans. There’s also a whole world of apps and plugins for all the extras you might want, including subscription products, email marketing and product reviews functionality (albeit at additional cost). And when you get stuck there’s very reactive people there to help you, quickly. Their Experts Program gives you even more options of help and there’s developers available to build any customisations you might want.
The liquid code isn’t too hard to master the basics of it you’re that way inclined – it’s not at all necessary - and you can use HTML in product descriptions and editorial pages etc. The feature I would find hard to live without is the ability to download all your products via a spreadsheet, make bulk amends and re-upload. This is handy early on when you’re learning what works and what doesn’t, and changing things around to get the optimum situation for sales. All code updates are done in the background so you don’t have to worry about updating for each new phone or operating system, which you may have to if you’re building it from scratch.”
- EKM - “The “British Born & Bred” alternative to Shopify who now boast over 10,000 shops. Does most of the same kind of things as Shopify but they don’t charge extra for apps (or transaction fees), they’re all part of the service. And as they’re younger than Shopify, they’re ever evolving, so you will get lots of new updates and features as they develop them. There’s all the usual marketing features – you can upload your products directly to Google Shopping from the site, for example, plus email marketing, SEO and Wordpress blogging. Includes bulk product management and you also get a UK Account Manager. One to watch. I’m a fan so far.”
- Squarespace - “Actually, I haven’t worked with Squarespace but I know lots of who have and have only good things to say. There’s also plenty of Squarespace specialists out there who can help you if you get stuck. So that’s more of a ‘one to consider’ if the first 2 don’t suit your business.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is by far the best solution for SMB. Keep in mind that, at the end of the day, you are not only managing customers’ expectations but also your employees’ expectations. Shopify is a platform that offers a user-friendly interface that only requires basic skills when it comes to creating and designing your website template, integrating your payment solutions or adding any of their hundreds of plug-ins options, which allows you to connect your Google Analytics account and Merchant account or even just to add a promotion planner. Their CMS is simplistic and their customer support is very pro-active. The only downfall is the limitations of working with their own unique code “liquid” which may irritate some programmers along the way. The pricing structure makes it affordable and scalable when your business is growing to the next level.”
- WooCommerce - “For a SMB, WooCommerce would be an interesting solution to look into. They provide great options and features, however, I find their user interface not so friendly. The same goes for their website design tools, which may require a basic understanding of WordPress coding in order to design your website to your taste, although they do have ready-to-go templates. The main difference from Shopify is that WooCommerce is an open source plug-in and every additional option/feature you wish to add has a cost. In the end, Woo Commerce is a reliable affordable eCommerce solution that requires a bit more programming/coding skills.”
- Magento - “I could suggest Magento as a third option. Some may disagree, stating that it is by far one of the most expensive eCommerce platforms on the market, but it is an open source, free to use solution. If you do it right and keep a simple online store, your hosting fee might not be as high as expected. This being said, when you wish to add features, the cost goes up quickly. They have the largest community of users that can provide support, ideas and solutions to your need. However, you need a good programmer or have decent base of coding in order to get your website up and running in a reasonable amount of time.”
- Shopify - “I’ve had clients on Big Commerce and Magento (free version) and Shopify is easier to use and allows for more functionality at less cost. BigCommerce requires work to enable common ecommerce functionality (e.g. controlling sort order of products on a category page). Magento requires significant custom code.
With Shopify I was able to transition an ecommerce client with significant SKUs to the platform in less than 3 months. There are great plug ins for Shopify that are free. In addition, many of these free plug ins allow start ups and small businesses to execute sophisticated functionality that previously was only available to enterprise companies with enterprise-size budgets.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the absolute best for small businesses, whether just starting out, or a growing business. I’ve personally used Shopify for one of my past businesses and I chose them for these reasons:
Most importantly, Shopify is a platform that’s built for eCommerce. It has plenty of features an eCommerce store owner would need, and it’s ready-to-go. This means you don’t have to waste time and money building a store from scratch like the old days. But you can (and should) get a designer to customise the look and feel according to your brand and shop requirements (this applies whether or not you use Shopify). This doesn’t have to be expensive either - I paid a designer about £300 for excellent work.
Getting started often means being on a budget. I started on the Shopify platform for under $30 per month (plus a small percentage of sales revenue). Pretty much anyone can access it at that price! Bear in mind that their cheapest plan requires your own hosting (which it did not when I started my store), but if you’re one of those that expects everything for free (or very little), then it’s going to have a negative impact on your business. They’re a business too! Also note, the commission you pay to Shopify depends on which plan you have. But as you grow, you can always upgrade your plan to get more features, which you’ll need as you scale. This gave me the confidence to focus on growing my business without worrying about outgrowing the Shopify platform.
Small businesses often require the flexibility of being on the move a lot of the time. What I loved was the mobile app, enabling me to check on my sales and stats at any time and from anywhere. This meant I could focus on my marketing and use the app to keep tabs on effectiveness.
Lastly, the support experience was important to me. Even on their lowest plan, I experienced a level of support I was happy with. If I were to launch another eCommerce shop, I would go right back to Shopify.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the most popular e-commerce platform, because it is relatively easy to use. There are a ton of plugins to enhance the user experience and upsells.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce works on WordPress which is another popular platform. Many people are familiar with it and also has a lot of flexibility and customizations.”
- Magento - “While Magento is a well-established platform and is very flexible and scalable, the reason it is not higher on my list because it’s expensive. Also, over the years support has lacked and is nowhere near the level of support that Shopify offers. ”
- Shopify - “I’d recommend Shopify as the best e-commerce platform for small businesses. I think for some smaller brands, the idea of setting up an online retail store can be quite daunting, but Shopify is an affordable, easy to use option that can scale with your business. It’s also really user friendly, which I think is important as many small businesses don’t have a dedicated marketing team or web developer to build a site for them. Shopify invest a lot into their development – if there’s a new app or technology trend that you want for your site, it’s almost certain that Shopify will have it. I also really like the fact that there are so many themes and options available, so you can easily customise your site to suit your brand.”
- WooCommerce - “If you already have a website running on WordPress, Woo Commerce could possibly be the right choice to power your e-commerce site. This free, intuitive plugin integrates very nicely with WordPress, and the plethora of themes available make it an easy and rapid route to a sleek and efficient site to sell your wares. It has become somewhat of a standard, and support is widely available from freelancers who can provide help from installing and configuring the plugin to developing custom code to meet more complex requirements.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is an e-commerce solution provided as Software as a Service; simply choose the plan that is right for you (ranging from 29 USD/month to 299 USD/month depending on the service level) and you’ll be up and running in minutes. Shopify is possibly the easiest platform to learn and it takes much of the complexity of managing e-commerce away. All major platforms are supported and the clear and simple user interface make it easy to learn. Don’t want to configure and manage it yourself? No sweat; help is readily available online on your regular freelancer site. Be aware that Shopify will take a cut between 0.5% and 2% of all of your sales as well as the monthly fee.”
- PrestaShop - “Prestashop is one of the reference e-commerce frameworks which has been out there for more than 10 years now. In a way, PrestaShop is to e-commerce what WordPress is to content management! Like its CMS counterpart, Prestashop benefits from the support of a very wide community and can be enhanced by an impressive number of standardized plugins to do anything from connecting to your warehouse software, managing a specific type of product or boosting your e-commerce SEO. Although the Prestashop code base is free (Open Software Licence), you’ll need to anticipate integration and hosting costs to get your site up running.”
- Shopify - “Shopify takes away all the "technical" parts of running an ecommerce site and allows you to start selling online in no time at all. Shopify has a lot of pros, including no need to worry about hosting, easy WYSIWYG editors and a tonne of integrations to 3rd party solutions.
Shopify is a SaaS solution which means there is a monthly cost, and as you grow, you ultimately use more apps, which will increase this cost.
Shopify is a great solution for startups, SME's and is even used by ecommerce giants such as GymShark, who use Shopify's plus program.”
- WooCommerce - “If you focus heavily on marketing, blogging and building your brand’s story, then WooCommerce is the option for you. WooCommerce is a free plugin for WordPress (a popular open-source blogging platform) which once implemented, changes WordPress into a very versatile ecommerce platform.
WooCommerce has thousands of themes and plugins allowing you the flexibility to create a site with the features you want and additionally, as it is open-source you can really dive into the code and create your own functionality.
If you are planning to create your own WooCommerce site then there is no official support unless using a 3rd party company, and you may have to find your own hosting. But initially, this could work out to be a more affordable and flexible option than SaaS models such as Shopify or BigCommerce in the beginning.”
- Shopware - “Shopware is the no.1 platform in German-speaking locations and has been taking the English speaking countries by storm. In my opinion, this is everything Magento 2 should have been, but better!
It is an open-source platform that provides a free community version. Out of the box, it is feature rich, powerful, easy to use but furthermore, it gives you so much flexibility not just with apps and themes, but also with the possibility to hire a developer.
Much like WooCommerce, if you decide to implement this site yourself there will be a learning curve and you will have to arrange your own hosting. But Shopware has the ability to support a startup all the way to a multisite ecommerce giant.”
Nancy L. Bullock
- Shopify - “Why? You don’t need a whole team of IT folks to get your site up and running and it is very scalable and user friendly. The support and customer service small companies receive from Shopify is also geared for non-tech people who are focused on selling their message and their products and not coding. I have many clients who are satisfied customers. I have also heard Shopify’s vision and strategy is shared by senior management and they are consistently focused on bringing a top quality to the small market business community. I have also been impressed by the quality of the staff that they hire, and their platform is scalable. Also, very affordable.”
- Magento - “Why? Probably more geared out-of-the-box to medium sized companies, but starting with Magento will allow you not to have to change platforms for the life of your business. Magento is also investing in state-of-the-art technology improvements every year. It is a platform that will require an agency or in-house technical support (not your marketing department) but is a very robust platform that can play with the big guys, and has such a wide client presence, that many tech folks are familiar with the platform and you should be able to find IT support for fair and reasonable prices. It is “everywhere” for a reason. A pricier, but robust option.”
- Weebly - “Why? A very solid “no coding” option to get your site up and running. From a company standpoint, they are making significant technology investments to keep up in the marketplace and the platform for my clients has proven to be very intuitive to update and navigate. There are scaled plan options at different functionality options and price points, so make sure you understand what you are getting.”
- Shopify - “When it comes to an ecommerce platform for a small business seller, you have to be realistic about expectations from the platform vs your own in-house abilities and where/how you prioritize different aspects of your business. Let’s face it, in 2019, it is not as easy as it has been in the past to run a viable, sustainable ecommerce business. With my clients, I recommend things based on what I would use myself if I were in their shoes, with their advantages and disadvantages taken into consideration.
I would recommend Shopify first for several reasons, the most important of which being all-around flexibility and their commitment to staying on the cutting edge of new technologies. Shopify is a hosted solution. They have a legion of developers working to stay on top of their systems. Google requirements & other standards are hard to stay on top of for a small business with stretched resources. Shopify removes the burden of many of those worries as these items are built right into the system.
Shopify is very easy to sign up to and go live. They do not have the largest selection of free templates, but their liquid code makes altering those templates very easy once you understand the process. I’ve gone live with stores in less than 5 hours in the past with no issues. The back-end is very useful and easy to use for anyone at any skill level. I had an older woman as a client for a long time who did extremely well on Shopify in a male dominated sector. She wasn’t doing any programming, but used the back-end interface with very few problems.
Shopify has a large partner network with custom themes available, apps, integrating systems and support. It is very easy to find all of the functions that you need and plug them into the store. One important feature of Shopify that is unmatched is it’s flexibility and integration as a standalone POS. It gives the seller the opportunity to take payments like any brick and mortar store without the extra equipment like cash registers and payment readers. Shopify also integrates with Facebook, Pinterest and other platforms, extending its usefulness beyond just a website standalone interface. Shopify is an all-around solution both online and offline. This is unmatched among competitors.”
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce comes in right behind Shopify and appeals to the more technical entrepreneur. BigCommerce also offers many of the flexible solutions for selling on other platforms that Shopify does minus the POS. It also offers many of the backend capabilities that Shopify does. The backend of BigCommerce looks and functions similar to Shopify as well. Really for some the difference between the two comes down to personal opinion. However, from my point of view the POS offering that BigCommerce does not have makes it a close second place.”
- Volusion - “If your eCommerce product offering is centered around a small group of sku’s, Volusion is quite easy to use and fairly flexible. They offer many of the same features as the others. Their setup interface is a little easier as it has video walkthroughs and there is a lot of hand holding with each new feature that you use. Someone experienced like myself finds that annoying, but for a new seller or user, it comes in handy. Volusion offers less themes than Shopify but they are all free and responsive. Volusion has been around since 1999. It used to come in two versions, now only one which is focused on ease of use. It still is a little clunky on the backend UI but navigatable nevertheless. Volusion has a cap of 1000 products, but no cap on amounts of orders or anything of the sort.”
- BigCommerce - “I believe that BigCommerce would make an excellent choice as an eCommerce platform for your new online business. It has all the functionality you need to run a successful online business and BigCommerce offers subscription plans to grow with you as your business grows. It is a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that is hosted by the vendor, so no upgrades, hosting, security, PCI compliance or other hassles to worry about.
It also offers robust enterprise functionality like vaulted (saved credit card) payment gateways, store credit support and wide support for 3rd party systems via the BigCommerce app marketplace and API suite for custom integrations to other systems you may have.
Recently BigCommerce has started rolling out native integrations with the likes of Instagram and Amazon that make selling on these platforms seamless and easy.
Finally there is a wide range of off the shelf, 3rd party and custom themes/designs to choose from to get you up and running quickly.”
- Shopify - “Shopify would also make a good choice of eCommerce platform for your new online business. Shopify also offers plans to grow with you as your business grows and it’s also a SaaS (Software as a Service) platform that is hosted by the vendor.
Shopify does not support vaulted (saved) credit cards or store credits, but it does offer a very mature, stable, robust & feature rich platform to build your site on. As one of the most popular eCommerce platforms in use today, it also has one of the largest offerings of 3rd party tools and services with native integrations through the Shopify App Store.
Finally, Shopify has an even wider variety of themes and designs available for it than BigCommerce does.”
- Shopify - “Perfect for the needs of most small businesses, micro-businesses or individual traders. It's fuss-free and easy-to-use, which is a key factor for small businesses. No need to spend hours trying to configure a platform or manage complex settings, when you just want to get on with the job. Customisation of the look-and-feel may not be as good as some other platforms, but it's a small compromise. The Shopify app store is also a great bonus for extending the functionality without breaking the bank.”
- WooCommerce - “Integrates seamlessly with WordPress, so if you're amongst the millions of WP users, you don't need to learn a whole new interface. It's mostly quick and easy to configure, although some elements such as shipping options can be a little head-scratching at times. It's also easy to customise quite extensively if you have a web developer or know your CSS well. It has many of the features found in much larger eCommerce platforms, without the hefty price tag or the need for an IT team to manage it.”
- Shopify - “For any small ecommerce brand I would always suggest starting on Shopify. The easy to use platform makes it suitable for complete beginners and depending on your requirements, you can be up and running very quickly. It integrates with the major CRM platforms, payment gateways and marketing channels and is a cost effective solution to get started. Over the past few years it’s really come a long way.”
- Magento - “If a brand has the funds to implement Magento correctly and has the growth plans to support this type of platform, then Magento is a great solution. I would opt for Magento for clients that have global plans, as the platform is set up to cater for this. Magento 2 is also a vast improvement on Magento 1 in terms of usability and features.”
- WooCommerce - “For content led brands I would suggest using WooCommerce. The easy to use ecommerce channel means you have access to the extensive range of WordPress plugins and large range of themes that are easy to customise. The only downside to WordPress / WooCommerce is that you will need to find your own hosting provider too.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a cloud-based ecommerce platform that can scale with your business. It’s also a great way to test out a business idea before adding the risk of significant investment.
It has a number of free and paid-for themes giving your store a basic look and feel, which can then be customised. Themes are responsive and optimised for tablets and mobile making it easy to get a good-looking and functional store launched quickly.
The Admin tools are pretty straightforward and one of the best things about the platform; together with site configuration these include basic catalogue, product and content management and reporting as well as promotional tools, such as discount vouchers, as standard. There’s also an Admin app which allows you to manage your store from your phone.
In general, Shopify is fairly easy to customise for technically-minded non-developers. There are lots good apps available to extend the functionality of the core platform. Many are free, some requirement a one-off payment or a monthly fee that scales as your demand grows. Even the most expensive are significantly cheaper than paying for the development of new features on other platforms.
Shopify allows you to manage multiple channels from one place including Facebook stores, online marketplaces and provides a POS solution. But if you have multiple online stores selling across a similar catalogue this might not be the best solution.
The platform is pretty fast with a mature CDN solution providing speedy page loads. Many order management systems and helpdesk solutions now come with plugins for Shopify.
Shopify does have limitations. If you have a complex product type it may be tricky to work out the best way to structure these products and having complete control over the customer journey requires more technical knowledge and investment.
For the basic package there are significant limitations on the customisations you can make to the checkout journey. However you can add some branding and configure delivery and payment methods, even adding new payment methods like Amazon Pay, very easily. Shopify handles all security including Level 1 PCI compliance meaning you don’t have to worry about the safety of your customers’ payment data.
The community of store owners and app developers is global and large, which means that new features and apps are in demand and there’s often someone with experience who can help if you get stuck!”
- Magento - “Magento 2 is a flexible platform which comes in many forms. I have only worked on a self-hosted implementation of the Community edition. There are options for cloud-hosting and a more feature-rich Enterprise edition available.
There is a large collection of themes which can be used to provide the framework for your storefront which range in price. These can then be customised to achieve your desired store. Be sure to check the theme is fully responsive and has as many of the features you need as possible.
The Magento platform allows you to control the entire customer experience. It can handle large catalogues and be extended to handle complex product types.
Magento also allows you to easily manage multiple online stores from one place. If you plan to have multiple brands or specific international sites selling similar products this can save you a lot of time.
The admin tools are very powerful and certainly the standard catalogue, product and campaign management tools are pretty advanced. There is basic content management and merchandising management but I’d recommend looking for addons if your site is content-rich and you have non-technical people running it.
There is a large marketplace of addons which allows you to extend the core functionality of the platform. These range significantly in both price and quality so it’s worth doing your homework first. In my experience some addons can be installed by admin users and some need technical support to get running.
The platform uses the PHP framework making it easy to build your own features and integrations if you have a couple of PHP developers to hand, but obviously this is generally more costly, both at implementation and for ongoing maintenance, than purchasing an addon from the marketplace. You should also be careful about how customisations are implemented to ensure that both the platform and theme upgrades can be done without major rework.
I did find site speed performance an issue, but it’s difficult to know if this was down to hosting, configuration or the core platform, so I would definitely look at cloud-hosting for any new stores.”
I am a visual person and have used analogies for simplicity all of my life. In the discussion around website platforms, I think that it is much clearer to use the analogy of building a house.
A website is just like a house – it has a foundation (the platform), it has walls (the structure), it has rooms (the pages and categories) and it is fully furnished (with your content and / or products). A little more on that later.
I started my first eCommerce business is 2010 and although it was such a short time ago, it may as well be in the Neolithic Age as far as the resources that were available then to small business.
My initial website cost me north of $20,000, was clunky, was run by a website design agency who were only interested in their monthly proprietary fees and had absolutely no interest in my business, its strategies or its growth. The initial build took me 5 months, I was overwhelmed with “geek-speak”, I couldn’t customise anything as I wished without outlaying literally thousands of dollars more and I had virtually no control over my own website back-end.
This eCommerce startup ended in tears (mine) and I put the whole concept to bed.
Fast forward a couple of years and I began another eCommerce business with the welcome knowledge that a new breed of website templates had been developed by genius techs who understood the pain points of small business – enter BigCommerce and later, Shopify. Both have their subtle differences and I will outline them a little later.
My second, and subsequent eCommerce sites have all cost me less than $80.00 per month, have taken only days from set up to launch, are highly customisable, easy to operate, change and manipulate and I have full control over my own website.
In terms of our house build analogy, these eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms are similar to a kit home building company who is happy to provide excellent customisation and support for you as the DIY website builder or your own contract builder and also continue to enhance and develop their systems to ensure your kit home was constantly modernised and up-to-date.
• Made with the DIY business owner in mind
• Can eliminate the need for an external developer or designer
• An all in one eCommerce and shopping cart solution offering seamless integration with inbuilt applications
• Upgrades and changes to the platform are generally included in a monthly fee
• Although not designed by a community, there are many users and developers equipped to expertly use the platforms and therefore help is never far away
• If required, changing from one developer to another is quite seamless
• SEO friendly
• Easily scalable
• Designed for seamless import and export to and from commonly used payment (e.g. PayPal), accounting (e.g. MYOB), newsletter (e.g. Mail Chimp) and database (e.g. excel) programs
• Information on eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms and their capabilities is readily and publicly available
• Sophisticated in-built FAQ, reference and help sections
• Assumes a robust level of web savvy for DIY (although there are many companies / developers who can do the work on your behalf)
• Customisation is limited to the applications within the platform (although, in general, these are vast and cover the needs of most website owners)
• Not designed for highly customised websites
Best suited to
• eCommerce businesses on a budget
• Business owners who prefer to control the project and DIY
• Businesses with quantities of physical products
• Depending on the size and scope of your inventory and customer base, fixed monthly charges for eCommerce and Shopping Cart website platforms will generally range from $49.00 to $199.00 +
- BigCommerce - “I love using BigCommerce – the customer service is fantastic, the choice of templates is robust, the BigCommerce community support is incredible and best of all – the fixed monthly fees are just that – fixed; they are not pegged to revenue so I feel completely in control.
The integrations, APIs and the available applications that link with BigCommerce have grown exponentially over the past 2 years especially and many of the “cool kids” are adopting the platform – check out Skull Candy’s website for some inspiration!
When you have a large inventory or number of options and SKUs, I believe that BigCommerce handle the categorisation of products better than any other DIY eCommerce platform. I also believe that their categorisation and optimisation of a combination of retail and wholesale sales on the one site is second to none.
Although, like previously stated, DIY customisation definitely requires some web nous, the platform is relatively easy and user friendly to work with.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a beautiful eCommerce platform. Although, in my opinion, not as ideal as BigCommerce, it runs a very close second.
I don’t like that monthly fees are pegged to revenue (unless you utilise their comparatively expensive payment gateway) and I don’t like their simplistic treatment of product categories. Of course, high level customisation would circumvent the latter issue but it is simply too complex for my liking.
Other than those two gripes, the Shopify customer service is excellent and their available basic templates are arguable more attractive at first glance than those of BigCommerce”
“Shopify would be at the top of my list, as there is very little lift to get off the ground with their standard package. The ability to scale up based on features is great for a small business.
A quick second would be Big Commerce, which also offers very customizable and scalable packages for small businesses.
Another option that is popular with entrepreneurs is WooCommerce, as it is built on the popular WordPress platform. While this does an adequate job of bringing eComm to a blogging platform, it would not be my first choice.”
- Shopify - “Shopify in my experience to be the best “out of box” solution that can also grow with your business and not hinder it. It has intuitive processes to syndicate your product feed and track marketing activities through the cart. I have also found it to be very stable over the years.”
- BigCommerce - “Big Commerce is a strong contender for shops that are poised to grow and want a solution that can enable their growth. While there are entry level packages, a more established store will benefit from the customizations that are available.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce can be helpful if your business is growing out of WordPress, or if you want to explore eCommerce capabilities in addition to other goals. It can be a bit tedious to setup, though no more so than other WP Plug-ins.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is a great platform for SMEs for a number of reasons. Firstly you do not need much money to set it up or manage it, and in terms of order processing/handling it’s very simple to manage. There are lots of great themes to use plus there is a great network of Shopify developers should you want to customise.
Shopify also supports all of the major payment gateways and is very easy to setup. There are lots of free apps to use and it’s simple to set up. For a simple platform which is easy to manage and customise, Shopify is the one.”
- PrestaShop - “PrestaShop is also a good platform for small businesses and similar to Shopify, but is suited perhaps for larger turnover sites with bigger product catalogs. PrestaShop also enables you to expand in a multitude of languages whereas Shopify does not have this functionality. PrestaShop is open source meaning you can access the source code should you wish, plus it has a large community of developers.
PrestaShop is fairly easy to use and has a wealth of add-ons and plugins, which can be easily switched on and off – plus is fully customizable.”
- Wix - “For simplicity and ease of setup, I would look at an affordable Store Builder solution such as Wix. Very easy to set up and great range of templates, WIX websites can look very good indeed! A simple drag and drop set up means any one can set up in no time and it also has a range of add ons.
WIX is not that great in terms of SEO and is not that customizable without the plugins it comes with, plus it is not a powerful ecommerce solution (eg if you have hundreds of product to manage).”
- WooCommerce - “For businesses that are just starting out or want to try to sell products on their existing site, our go-to solution is WooCommerce. Built for WordPress, this is a very popular and easy-to-use free plugin. Store designs are available through WordPress and number in the thousands. There’s no limit to the number of products you can sell, and the software provides reporting ability and support for multiple languages through third-party plugins. There’s also a great support system in place, with ticketed support, forums, and plenty of blogs. What’s more, WooCommerce supports hundreds of payment gateways, so you won’t be locked into one because of the platform. Before getting started, you’ll need to obtain a domain name, sign up for hosting, and pick a WordPress theme. Using WooCommerce may be more of a hands-on-approach, but you’ll benefit by choosing from thousands of designs and plugins to help extend control of your eCommerce store.”
- Shopify - “If you outgrow Woocommerce, or simply don’t mind paying a fee to avoid dealing with setup, then our 2nd choice is Shopify. Shopify is an easy to use subscription-based service that has a similar set of features, although modifications to the store are limited by the platform. Setting up Shopify is a snap compared with WooCommerce, as the subscription already comes with hosting, a free subdomain, SSL certificate, and unlimited file storage. Shopify provides high-quality 24/7 support, with access to a customer adviser, and an extensive knowledge base. Expect pages to load rapidly on this hosted platform. What you give up with Shopify is the extreme customization that is possible with WooCommerce. But then again, you gain a LOT by using a stable platform that is supported well. For those of you looking for peace of mind on a budget, Shopify is a no-brainer.”
- Magento - “Our 3rd choice is Magento. Magento 2 is a powerful and scalable eCommerce solution that offers both open source and an enterprise commerce cloud option. As your business and client demands grow, you may have a number of complex requirements that require custom solutions. Magento offers more features and advanced solutions than either WooCommerce or Shopify, however, the learning curve is steeper. Extensions are often an additional cost. There exists a large community of Magento developers who can provide solutions, but expect to spend more on developer costs. Magento is for the enterprise level store that needs a lot of options. That said, it is well worth the price.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is an excellent choice for new brands. For ease-of-use, plugins, integrations and speed-to-market, Shopify is the go-to if you’re starting a new online brand. With big-name brands like Budweiser and Tesla utilizing the platform – and a user base north of 500,000 accounts, Shopify use is growing rapidly.
Other advantages to Shopify include easy theme installation and customization. Hosting and SSL are included in Shopify as well. Overall, Shopify represents the easiest solution for brands to get up and running quickly. Whether you’re an eCommerce beginner or advanced, Shopify has solutions, themes, apps and functionality to enable quick start up and rapid growth.
Shopify is particularly strong in fashion, cosmetics and jewelry verticals and has traction in others as well. Recently, Shopify is making a big push for dropshipper accounts and offers easy integration with Oberlo and other integrators of dropship product data.
There are few industries I would consider as “bad fits” for Shopify, but there are instances where it may not be the best solution. Large retailers, those with high SKU counts and those needing advanced CMS functionality may become frustrated with Shopify.
Other potential drawbacks of Shopify include the lack of ultimate coding/design functionality in some cases, scalability concerns for large retailers and rising costs as business grows. A percentage of sales (2.4% & up) is paid to Shopify, but covers credit card/processing services. Consider that this is in addition to regular platform fees ($29 - $299/mo). The percentage of sales payment rate is ok for most start-ups, but many find the fees greater than other solutions at larger sales volumes.
Overall, Shopify is great if you want a fast start-up or growth platform with a large selection of apps and integrations. The interface is user-friendly and there is a multitude of Shopify developers and consultants should the need arise for advanced functionality or customizations.”
- Magento - “With stores like Coca-Cola, Nike & Ford using its platform, Magento is well-situated for larger, mature brands and multi-channel retailers. Magento has a higher cost of ownership at entry point (can be up to $20,000 for a commercial license), but its open-source nature, design flexibility and other benefits can outweigh the costs in large implementations.
Magento is known for creating high ranking SEO pages and stores, enabling B2B commerce and for its development agility. The community of programmers with PHP (the coding language of Magento) is large also.
There are integrations to major, enterprise-level solutions for email, analytics and other marketing and data providers. Most major PIM platforms also work well with Magento. The platform is known for good data management support and superior handling of large SKU counts.
While there are advances in usability with Magento 2, the interface is not as friendly as Shopify. Some basic customizations require familiarity with PHP as well.
As mentioned, licenses for Magento (other than the free “community” edition) can be expensive and the cost of design and development customization can be high. It is important to understand, though, if it is the platform or the business that is driving the need for customization. Those finding Magento development costs high might very well experience the same on other platforms as well. It’s important to compare total costs of ownership for each platform in apples-to-apples format.
Unlike Shopify, Magento does not provide hosting and does not charge processing fees as a percentage of sales. Start-ups or smaller businesses are unlikely to secure much better rates for Magento than Shopify offers. As the business grows, this will change.
All in all, Magento is a good platform if you’re looking for a larger, more flexible and scalable solution. It is good for brands as well as for high SKU count retailers.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is the most ubiquitous solution on the planet. WordPress.org estimates that a full 30% of online stores worldwide are powered by WooCommerce. WooCommerce is a free commerce-enabling plugin for WordPress. The availability of the plugin makes it easy for a site to add purchase functionality to any site.
WordPress, like Magento, is known for its ability to create high SEO-ranking pages. It has a large community of developers also and offers plugins to most major integrated platforms (such as retargeting platforms, entry-level email service providers and more).
Like Magento, WordPress does not “require” (or “compel”) you to use an internal CC processor. WordPress is open-source and quite flexible in terms of design and development capabilities. WordPress is not a commerce-first platform, but one advantage of using WordPress for commerce is the built-in CMS capabilities.
Plugin conflicts and support are often-cited disadvantages of WooCommerce. Reliance on a developer for advanced functionality can increase the cost of ownership for WooCommerce and some basic customizations can be difficult to affect for those unfamiliar with WordPress backend functionality.
WooCommerce is prevalent in the publishing industry, with stores like Spectator Shop and Men’s Health store utilizing it.
An eCommerce store can be launched quickly and inexpensively with WooCommerce. For those businesses for which content is important, WooCommerce is a great solution. Control of code base and ability to perform well in search engines are compelling benefits for eCommerce businesses on WooCommerce.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is the number one ecommerce platform we recommend to all ecommerce business owners because it just works, no matter what type of products you sell, what type of business model you use, or what kind of volume you sell at. For most ecommerce entrepreneurs, it will always be the right choice.
Why we recommend Shopify as the ecommerce platform for small businesses is threefold
• Ease of use
• Integrations and apps
• Scalability & flexibility
First off, Shopify is super user-friendly and easy to get started with. You can set up a great-looking and highly-functional store without having to piece it together with code, which means you can get up and running faster and without any technical skills. Shopify is also a hosted platform which is especially ideal for entrepreneurs and small businesses who don’t have the people-power to constantly be keeping an eye on the backend of things to make sure everything is secure and running smoothly. Shopify handles all of that so you can focus on your store.
Secondly, because Shopify is a top player in the industry, it integrates with almost all other relevant tools and services and nearly every app is made for Shopify first before any other ecommerce platform. It’s a priority, so when you sell on Shopify’s platform you have access to all the tools, services, and apps in the industry because everything's made to be compatible with it.
Finally, Shopify is capable of scaling with your store as you grow and their platform is flexible enough to work with your business no matter what you sell or how you sell it. Even if you’re just starting out and have less than 10 orders per month, Shopify is a great option for you, and if you’re scaling your store and growing to a million orders per month, Shopify can still stick with you every step of the way. They’re built for stores of any size, so you’ll never have to switch to another ecommerce platform. As for flexibility, they offer so many options so you can sell physical products, digital products, product subscriptions, or any combination in between and you can sell on your own store and on social media platforms, in-person, on Amazon, eBay, and more, all through your one Shopify dashboard. This gives you the means to be where your customers are so you’re never limited by what your ecommerce platform is capable of.
In addition to these reasons, Shopify is also very accessible to get started with, price-wise. Back in the day, entrepreneurs had to shell out huge amounts of money to pay for their business venture which, if they financed through a bank, they were taking a huge personal risk. With Shopify, you can start your own small business right here, right now, for monthly payments that are probably lower than your cell phone bill.”
There are a variety of eCommerce platforms out there for small businesses. I believe due diligence is key for decision making and an organisation’s starting conditions, business objectives, budget and capability must be considered before locking down which path you want to take. I’m recommending 3 platforms as they are likely to cater to the distinctive needs and different type of SME customer.
- Magento - “A highly customizable eCommerce platform that offers secure cloud hosting solutions, integrated order management functionality, decent business intelligence capability and the benefit of a global community of experts and peers that can help you through challenges. In my opinion, Magento Commerce is perhaps more suitable for small businesses with higher levels of maturity and larger starting budgets; more of an aspirational platform to utilise as ecommerce businesses scale and grow.”
- ShopyGen - “A complete turnkey solution, again very affordable and specifically aimed at developing multi-vendor platform capability for small businesses. They have template options available, but can also offer bespoke store designs developed around Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce. The analytical suite is robust enough to help small businesses grow, they offer SEO consultancy and dropship integration solutions if needed, the user interface is very intuitive for backend management and oncall support is fast and efficient.”
- iPage - “One of my personal favourites for startups and solo entrepreneurs! iPage offers everything you need to get started in eCommerce, but this is reflected in the price and you will have to do all the work yourself. Servers are secure, startup costs are super cheap and you can create your own ecommerce website (fully mobile optimised) with free FTP locations and free SSL certificates using Wordpress, Weebly or Website Builder. Analytics capability and email marketing tools are basic but adequate for micro companies and they also offer integrated solutions that tap into Mojo Marketplace, Google Adwords and Small Business Funding platforms. The support team is also very responsive and very helpful when called upon. There will be limitations as your business grows and scales, but this is a great starting point that doesn’t cost the earth.”
Worldwide ecommerce sales are expected to grow to 4.88 trillion US dollars by 2021. As more consumers turn to online shopping, launching your own ecommerce store can be an effective growth strategy for your business.
Though it might seem daunting to enter the world of ecommerce, there are many easy-to-use ecommerce platforms that can help you create your own store.
I strongly recommend that small business owners leverage the following ecommerce platforms to grow their businesses.
- BigCommerce - “BigCommerce caters to the needs of both small and large businesses with a plethora of ecommerce tools. It helps you create and customize your online store, manage shipping and payments, and list your products on Amazon, eBay, and Facebook. This platform helps you deliver the ultimate shopping experience to increase engagement and sales.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is another popular all-in-one ecommerce platform that comes with a plethora of built-in features to help you start, run, grow, and market your online store. You can build beautiful, easy-to-use, customized online stores using their 100+ shop themes. Their built-in tools can also help you run and optimize effective marketing campaigns on Facebook and Google.”
- Wix - “Wix is an easy-to-use ecommerce platform that allows people with no coding experience to create impressive online stores. You can easily showcase products, track orders, receive payments, share coupons, and manage shipping and taxes. Wix automatically optimizes your ecommerce stores for mobile devices for good customer experience.”
- Shopify - “Shopify, as the name suggests was designed to enable you to easily and cheaply create an online shop. There’s even an option to support real-world sales.
Shopify commands an impressive 500,000+ websites on their hosted (or cloud) platform, claiming over a million active users and $62Bn of transactions.
As a platform it is easy to use, even for novice users, with a vast resource of help and plug-ins to deliver almost any ecommerce experience. With extensive configuration options, plus a choice of off-the-shelf or custom themes and integration plug-ins to scalable pricing and a partner network, Shopify really can grow with your business needs. Notably there are no limits to the number of products or customers it supports.
Marketing integrations support almost any channel you wish, with tools for search, social media and even Amazon. Inventory management, blogging and reporting are built-in and they can even manage your payments and send automated fulfilment instructions for you.
It’s worth investigation which version of the software will meet your needs as certain features are only available in the more expensive pricing plans. However with plans starting at just $29 per month, you get a lot of value compared to getting a site custom built. The range of plug-ins provides an easy and cheap way to deal with dynamic business requirements, although you may have to compromise when is comes to the exact functionality you require.
For these reasons, Shopify is my cloud based ecommerce platform of choice. They even offer a 14 day free trial!”
- Magento - “Magento, now owned by Adobe, is the world’s #1 ecommerce platform in terms of revenue with over $100Bn in annual sales. It’s an ideal platform for the more technical business and capable of being customized to individual requirements. Magento is available in both cloud based and self hosted varieties, notably the core open source software itself is freely available. This community option has been a significant contributor to the wide adoption and range of resources for Magento. Support is abundant from self-help online to over 200,000 developers worldwide. There is also an academic version that is suitable for businesses with less than $500,000 in sales.
As their website states, it offers flexibility that many hosted platforms can’t compete with, so if you want custom content, tools or integration, especially with back-office systems, then this may be a better choice for your business. It tends to be the preferred choice for B2B ecommerce.
If you’re hosting the site yourself, you may need to find a development partner unless you have experience in coding already, and although plug in themes and tools are available for most common requirements, it’s advisable to get help with payment solutions from a reputable source if you’ve not done this before.
Due to its PHP heritage, Magento opens up a world of possibilities and enables you to only include the elements you need. This helps to keep your website lean compared to off-the-shelf solutions that may include unwanted capabilities that complicate the configuration or operation of your site.
It’s worth noting that self-hosted platforms can potentially be more expensive to maintain despite the free access to the code. As with most things, if you’re buying in development skills, quality can vary widely, as can hourly rates. By planning your needs carefully you can avoid ad-hoc costs in future, and as a result Magento is a good platform for businesses whose ecommerce requirements are unlikely to change often.
For these reasons Magento is my self-hosted ecommerce platform of choice.”
- Wix - “Don’t get me wrong, Wix has its place as a website tool and many businesses run successfully on this platform. However, Wix is not built for ecommerce, integration with Google merchant center and other marketing platforms is complex or expensive. A modern ecommerce site needs to leverage the key marketing tools that enable businesses to find shoppers.
Its primary focus is to provide a cheap, easy to use environment to build a good looking website, which it does, but since there’s so much more to digital marketing than that, I have to rule it out of my ecommerce options. Interestingly the word marketing only appears on their homepage & feature list for email!
Although on the surface Wix may seem like a simple, cheap option, unfortunately the lack of scalability and integration options mean that Wix is not the right solution for most small business ecommerce needs.”
- Shopify - “I work with many entrepreneurs on this platform. It is a hosted solution, so you don’t need to worry about external hosting, uptime is reliable, and they use a CDN for media files, so the speed can be pretty good too.
It is a simple platform, you could open a Shopify store without a developer if you needed. I don’t like the simplicity in the products and product management, they only allow for single products with a max of 2 product options natively and making bulk updates is difficult and time consuming without an app or the API.
Shopify has great documentation, they make it fairly easy to add tracking pixels for Google (and to setup enhanced ecommerce) as well as the Facebook pixel with shopping cart events by default.
I also appreciate the deeper level of integration offered with other platforms like Klaviyo for example. All of this comes at a premium, Shopify is known for being the most expensive and many of the apps actually scale in price depending on your Shopify level.”
- Magento - “Magento is open source, so it is fully customizable and there’s a free version. One of the advantages of Magento is that they support various product configurations, so if you want to create groups or bundles or products with complex options, Magento can do this natively. I also like the filtering functionality for product sorting and organization on the front-end, I think they do a good job of this. They also have upselling and cross selling features that require adding on for most other platforms. In general, Magento is known for being more robust and better with SEO, so if you plan on having a large store with high sales volume, Magento might be a good fit.
However, the complexity creates a steeper learning curve and I’ve found it requires more planning and organization to launch. I’d recommend taking a training course before you dive in.”
- WooCommerce - “In my opinion, the clear benefit of WooCommerce is that it’s a free add on to WordPress. So, if you’re already running on this platform or you’re familiar with the functionality of the platform, you can fairly seamlessly add a shopping cart. Another bonus in doing this, is that you won’t have to migrate your content over which can drop your rankings and cause issues with SEO.
Wordpress is also open source, and there are endless options for plugins which make it very easy to add on the functionality you need.
If you’re not comfortable with WordPress, you should plan to have a developer help you with the setup and management. I see many WordPress sites go unmanaged and often end up with viruses or other issues. Consider a hosted solution if this sounds like you.”
- Neto - “Recently awarded as “Best eCommerce Solution in Australia”, and backed by Australia’s largest telecommunications company Telstra, Neto is a full-featured and robust ecommerce solution for online retailers of all sizes.
Unlike Shopify and Magento, there is no need for 3rd party apps. All the functions needed to run a website are built into Neto. Customer pricing groups, custom fields, multiple invoices and pick slips, multi-tier pricing, SEO, cross-promotion, fully customisable shipping rates and rules, plus a bunch of other features are all included.
Neto includes powerful functionality for advanced inventory management, shipping consignment creation and label printing, mobile pick & pack, analytics, plus seamless integration with Google Shopping, Facebook, accounting software and popular marketplaces including eBay and Amazon. But Neto goes a step further with its built-in Point-of-Sale (POS) function. This means Neto is truly an all-in-one 360O commerce solution.
Neto is a fully hosted solution, meaning you’ll never need to worry about hosting yourself, updating modules or forward compatibility. Whilst the basics of an ecommerce website are all taken care of by Neto’s built-in functions, the front-end website can easily be customised by a knowledgeable web developer.
One of my favourite features of Neto is its data import and export function which allows efficient modifications of data in a spreadsheet, or uploading new products and categories in bulk.
Whilst Neto is a true all-in-one commerce solution, its inventory, order processing, fulfilment and analytics features make it a powerful back-end solution for existing websites. Neto integrates with Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce and Magento for those who might not want to change their front-end website, but would benefit from the powerful back-end functions of Neto.
Neto can also connect multiple websites and marketplaces together so all inventory and order processing is done centrally in a single flow. That makes Neto a super efficient way to structure complex and large businesses.”
My recommendations depend on the type of company, its size and capability of dealing and managing an online store, and the scope and size of the catalogue. Depending on that, I can recommend one of these 3 platforms:
- Shopify - “For me, Shopify is the best choice when you are starting something. As it does not have a high implementation value or high maintenance (if you stick with the basic features), it is the best platform to make a proof of concept and launch easily and quickly. So, if you want to establish your ecommerce business, but are not quite sure if it is going to work, or if you are able to handle it, Shopify allows you to put your ecommerce website online, without a high risk when doing so. Also, the fact that it is cloud based allows you to focus on your business, instead of worrying about hosting your website, and all the necessary precautions to keep your website up. On the other hand, when you are sure of what you want, and need to customize the website or have a lot of additional features, Shopify starts to get limited and costlier.”
- WooCommerce - “After you know exactly what you want to do, you can choose to have your own ecommerce store. So, if you have a store that is not huge in terms of categories and articles, WooCommerce can be the perfect choice. It handles relatively well a store with different product configurations and allows you to be able to focus and optimize for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and UX (User Experience). Also, there is a plethora of available plugins (free or paid) to enhance the platform and build a bulletproof store that does almost anything. The problem with WooCommerce is that when you start to get really professional, and need to have hundreds of categories and thousands of products, and to be able to have different kinds of clients, with different price rates, complex shipping tables or integrations, it might start to be complicated to keep the platform optimized, or keep it cost effective. But if you have a small shop and need to control all the content in an easy and attractive way, WooCommerce is the platform to go with.”
- Magento - “Magento is the most complex and robust of my 3 suggestions. In fact, Magento can be used by a small business, but it can also become an enterprise level solution. The fact is, when you start growing your ecommerce website, you will need to solve some issues that start to happen, when dealing with order management, logistics, or event stock and invoicing integrations. And that’s when you start realising that a simple ecommerce website is not realistic anymore. But you should keep in mind that complex is not equal to complicated. Magento allows you to implement many more features than a simple ecommerce platform and for that reason it has a bigger learning curve. But as you start working with it, it is just a matter of time to realise that you now have a robust tool in your hands that prevents future problems, and even allows you to scale your platform and strategy, considering integrations with Marketo for Marketing Automation, or with the whole Adobe Marketing Cloud, allowing for a completely automated platform, that profiles your users and even creates automated campaigns focused on user behaviour.”
- Miva - “I've worked with this platform since version 1. It has constantly grown with advances in technology and security. As a SaaS shopping cart, both green and experienced store owners and developers can get up and running quickly. It's chock full of key features, like inventory control to the attribute/option level, synchronization with popular payment and shipping gateways, and integration with third-party tools. A great benefit, though, is Miva's open-style environment. If a module or plug-in for a necessary feature or connection doesn't exist, developers have the ability to "hook into" Miva to make it happen. So long as the script doesn't compromise security or privacy, any functionality - especially unique ones - can be incorporated into one's store.”
- Magento - “Great all-around ecommerce PaaS with perhaps one of the strongest ecosystems of solution and industry partners, which means a lot of support options and quite flexible and customizable. The platform can grow with your business and is scalable. Recently acquired by Adobe.”
- BigCommerce - “Strong ecommerce solution and penetration is growing steadily. CPO is ex Magento. They have interesting offerings for SMB and MM with affordable monthly rates and can scale up with the business over time.”
- Wix - “For people who have a worthy idea but know nothing about eCommerce and have zero development skills, and a tiny budget. Likely can’t scale with limited capabilities as it stands, but good testing ground.”
There is not one-size-fits-all eCommerce software platform yet, but WooCommerce and Shopify certainly are the closest thing to that. At ON.marketing we have been involved in hundreds of eCommerce projects for SEO and performance marketing and we had the chance to evaluate each one of them in terms of:
• user interface
• technical requirements
• preinstalled functionality
• how easy is it to expand features using plugins
• maintenance effort.
With these factors in mind and depending the business’s size we recommend the following eCommerce platforms:
1. Shopify: Start selling in 5 minutes! Do not spend time dealing with technical details, just sell now!
2. WooCommerce: The next step after Shopify. You need to grow capabilities, expand, do more things, get better control of everything. Move from Shopify to WooCommerce.
3. Magento: This is when you feel ready to grow from a small business and take everything to the next level. It is an investment into your future.
- Shopify - “This is the easiest way to get started with an eCommerce business, the cost is very small and overall the time to market is very quick. All you need is to create an account, select one of the available themes and start marketing your products. Overall, my experience says that it is 10 times more important to start selling immediately and invest your time, focus, energy and budget in marketing your new business than investing the same resources in the website development. Start working on the product-market fit as soon as possible and ignore all the technical details that just withhold resources from your potential success. It is easier to learn than anything else and support is always available from the platform, you don’t have to go out look for developers and work a business relationship with them (often the biggest, overlooked challenge).”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce is a great eCommerce software platform for small businesses ranging from solopreneurs that want to sell their very first product online up to very fast growing eCommerce startups that sell millions of dollars every month, as long as they are comfortable with some technical work. Self-hosting is not easy or that fast or for the faint hearted so it comes into eCommerce business’s life sometime after they get some traction and when they have solid proof that they need to move to the next level.
The first big difference when you move from Shopify to WooCommerce is hosting. Hosting all by itself is a major challenge, you had better expect to pay at least $50 per month for half-decent hosting, and still you will have to worry about uptime, backups and speed (or even more if you really want to invest in speed for SEO & CRO purposes). In order to get things moving, you need to look into payment gateways and how they integrate with WooCommerce, you will soon notice that things are not always that straightforward. The biggest challenge that you have to face before you actually launch: finding the right software development team to help you with all of these tasks and then some more like installing the right plugins, configuring them and then configuring a custom-made theme for your exact requirements. This takes time, cost and does not always work as you would expect, as it involves the most complicated part of business: People.
WooCommerce gives you all the freedom that you need to do proper SEO in your website and you need to do a lot of detailed technical and on-site SEO if you plan to sell more than 5000 products, something that you will find probably impossible to do with Shopify.”
- Magento - “Magento is the next step after WooCommerce, but it is not a necessary step. It is a choice for only very few, those that are happy to invest heavily in technical development for their eCommerce business. It has increased hosting requirements when compared to WooCommerce and it does not benefit from such a large plugin and developer marketplace.
Magento’s biggest benefit is that it allows for even more customizations, more accurate and detailed code implementations that will fit exactly your business model. If you want to have very fine-grained access rights for your team members and integrate your database with other systems such as enterprise ERPs then Magento might be the right solution for you.”
- Shopify - “If I were to launch an ecommerce business, my first choice would be Shopify since it’s very easy to setup and use. The basic front-end and backend UX interfaces on mobile and desktop are very intuitive and straight to the point when it comes to e-commerce. It’s hosted on Shopify’s servers so you can feel good about reliability, speed and security. You have a wide range of themes and apps you can buy to customize your front-end. Their customer service team is known to be awesome! Shopify has different pricing packages starting as low as $29/month and it goes up as you start selling more and need more features.”
- Magento - “Magento Open Source previously known as Magento Community Edition would be my second choice since it’s open source and you can self-host it on your own servers. Magento is widely used in North America and internationally and has a large community of app and module developers to extend the features of your basic site. It’s also a powerful and customizable platform made to support a large quantity of products and orders. You don’t have to pay a monthly plan and transaction fees to Magento. However, you’ll need a Magento professional or a web developer to help with customization, improving performance and service of your e-commerce site.”
- WooCommerce - “WooCommerce would be recommended if you already have a WordPress Site or Blog and you want to turn it into a shoppable platform, since WooCommerce is simply a WP plugin. WooCommerce is also very customizable with the hundreds of themes available on ThemeForest and Wordpress.org. There’s also a wide range of paid add-ons to expand on the list of functionalities required. You can’t use WooCommerce without WordPress so you’ll have keep that in mind if you already have a website that is built on another CMS and you want to make it transactional. The WooCommerce plugin itself is also free.”
- Shopify - “Having worked closely with hundreds of retailers, I’ve had the unique opportunity to make recommendations in various capacities including ecommerce. The needs of the smaller retailer generally differ greatly from those larger retailers, mainly because there is not always a dedicated team to handle all the different facets ecommerce demands. Given that, Shopify is an easy recommendation that provides for most ecommerce needs and doesn’t require smaller business owners a huge upfront investment of time or money. Shopify provides hosted carts that are designed to work out of the box. There is not a need to have a dedicated developer on staff to set up and maintain the cart experience. The templated approach allows for easy plug and play and allows the retailer to be up and running quickly (within a few hours). If a retailer is concerned about outgrowing the solution, no worries as Shopify also provides ShopifyPlus - a more robust option for a more sophisticated retailer.
If you are a new retailer, just entering the ecommerce space, Shopify invests a lot of time and money to support you as well. Shopify works to build an ecosystem of experts and encourages such experts (currently near 570,000) to share their pearls of wisdom in their forums as well as Facebook group. Shopify also invests money in annual shows and regular meet ups to further encourage the open communication. One of the major differences I’ve seen at this trade show versus others in the space is that the founder and current CEO, Tobi Lütke is very visible, accessible and open to discussions. This is quite refreshing to me as he candidly shares future plans with the group, making all feel included in the wave. This is one example of the little things that go a long way with Shopify.
One of Shopify’s greatest assets is the marketplace which allows developers and experts to create plug-ins, or extensions that provide additional customizations to meet the ecommerce needs that go beyond the already-robust Shopify solution. Shopify also supports Point of Sale (POS) transaction functionality for those who need to sell in a brick and mortar situation, tying all sales functionality into a single source. There are multiple reporting tools to pull reports and information from the system so that a smaller retailer doesn’t need to invest in additional analytics tools to assess sales trends. All of these details can be pulled from the retailer’s personal phone allowing access anywhere. Shopify truly is an ecommerce solution that provides instant turnkey functionality to a retailer without requiring expertise in multiple areas for deployment. Because of this there are numerous success stories and a network of thriving merchants, developers and consultants all working because of the Shopify ecosystem.”
J. Andrew Keeler
- Shopify - “For launching a single product and testing it, Shopify is still your best bet. The ease of set up and getting to market quickly to test can’t be beat. Again, this is for TESTING a SINGLE product only. I would not use your preferred/primary domain for this. Again, ease of set-up, payment gateway integration and getting to market quick is ideal.”
- WooCommerce - “Once you have identified a winner, I would move to WooCommerce via WordPress for a full product line roll-out. There are great store experiences already made out-of-the-box with only slight modifications needed. There are fantastic plugins ready and waiting for one page checkouts, cross-sell and up-sell opportunities, email marketing integration and even membership or community management. The universe of freelance support for all things WP is also quite large, and relatively cost-efficient as well if you can’t afford full-time in-house support.”
- SAP - “I would have to recommend that any business consider what I’ll call the big 4 of eCommerce platforms such as SAP, Oracle, IBM, Salesforce. They have a long heratige in the eCommerce space and have very well developed features and functions with a long list of additional features that can be added via integrations / plugins to other packages. Originally these platforms were only accessible to large businesses, but they have all worked hard to start supporting the SME market with pay as you grow type revenue share models, as well as offering cloud based hosting and support. Don’t just assume they will be too expensive and be careful to evaluate these against the full cost of seemingly cheaper solutions. These platforms tend to leapfrog each other, but all have an unrivalled set of feature and functions which continue to be improved on and added to.”
- BigCommerce - “I’d also recommend looking at the new breed of fully hosted platforms such as BigCommerce and Shopify, which have historically been aimed at very small businesses, but are now capable of supporting larger businesses. They also have the reputation for faster set-up and configuration times than the Big 4, while still offering a feature rich set of functions that can be expanded on using their app store.”
- Magento - “No list would be complete without Magento (now part of Adobe). Magento was the original disruptor with an extensive and expandable feature list and very competitive pricing.”
- Shopify - “Shopify has totally disrupted the eCommerce Platform market over the past few years by reducing complexity, championing usability and reducing time to market for eCommerce builds. Even those with little or no eCommerce experience can setup a stunning eCommerce store in a matter of hours by utilizing one of Shopify’s pre-built themes. The platform also has an excellent library of apps which allows you to add features (Abandon Basket emails for example) with ease. The Shopify online knowledge base is also extensive and, if you do need a helping hand, the Shopify Experts directory will help you source freelance support in no time at all.
However, the real beauty of Shopify is the power under the hood and the platform’s excellent scalability. The solution is absolutely suitable for larger businesses or those planning to scale as it benefits from a large variety of advanced features and extensive customization options which can utilized by developers as a business grows.
Watch out for: Before on-boarding, ensure you understand the fee structure. Unlike some other eCommerce Platforms, Shopify charges a fee per transaction in addition to a monthly service fee. This works well for small businesses as it requires very little capital investment upfront but as sales grow, so do costs.”
- Magento - “Until recent years the opensource version of Magento (Community) was my go-to platform for eCommerce Startups with plans to scale. The core platform is a tried and tested eCommerce engine with a 19.64% of the top 1 million Alexa rated websites (https://pagely.com/blog/top-ecommerce-platforms-2018-compared/). Unlike Shopify, Magento community has no monthly fees attached, but beware, you’ll need to host the platform yourself and will most certainly need support from a developer to help with configuration, customization and integrations.
With the right technical support Magento is super flexible, stable and powerful. Again, the platform comes with an extensive plugin library (tip: these can create security vulnerabilities, always check the suppliers thoroughly before installing) and a robust knowledge base.
Watch out for: The key watch out with Magento is the lack of support and the vulnerabilities a self-hosted environment can present. Ensure you enlist a Magento certified agency or freelance developer before on-boarding to the platform to help mitigate these risks.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is by far the best solution for small businesses as it is a complete e-commerce solution. It allows companies to scale their business to new levels of success financially. I have seen numerous clients scale from $0 to over $1M and some over $10M on Shopify successfully. I personally find that it is a solution that grows with you and your business, providing thousands of apps, and is cloud-based meaning you can avoid the headaches and liabilities of self-hosted solutions. We've seen dozens of businesses shift from other platforms to Shopify and have not seen any of our clients leave Shopify for another e-commerce platform.”
- Shopify - “Shopify is my recommended e-comm platform for small businesses, especially those with lean teams and limited development resources. If you haven’t used Shopify before, don’t worry – this platform is super streamlined and user friendly, with helpful recommendations and analytics pre-built into it.
As a small but fast-growing company, Shopify helps us increase efficiency and reduce our reliance on developers while allowing us to remain agile with our site and site features. The Shopify app store offers hundreds of useful plugins (many of which have free versions or trials) designed to work right out-of-the-box – in fact, we recently launched our auto-replenishment service using just a few hours of front-end dev work to install an app and make design customizations.
If you have in-house development or custom development isn’t of concern, Magento is a great open source platform where you can build out features exactly per your own specs.”
About Chris Herbert
Founder & Chief Question Asker @Whatsaytheexperts.com. I'm seriously passionate about publishing content that helps. I also love a good coffee!