Monday 28th November 2016
An Overview of eCommerce Platforms: Shopify, Magento, BigCommerce and More
When looking for an eCommerce platform to handle your store, you could be forgiven for being overwhelmed by the number of options. There are plenty of different platforms currently on the market, all with different pricing, features and capabilities.
This makes choosing the right eCommerce platform for your store a tough decision. How do you know which platform will offer all of the features your store needs at a reasonable and transparent price?
Not only that, but how can you be sure that your chosen platform will scale with your business as it grows and continue to adopt new technologies as they become available?
We’ve put together this overview of the top eCommerce platforms right now, to help you choose the right one for your business.
Shopify has experienced a meteoric rise to the top of the eCommerce platform charts. It’s currently rated the top platform on ecommerce-platforms.com and recently surpassed industry stalwart Magento as the most popular platform in terms of search traffic (as can be seen below).
Shopify take care of hosting, SSL certificates and the rest of the technical set-up, so you don’t need to be a coding expert to get started with Shopify. Their pricing structure is also very simple, so there are no hidden fees and you can easily plan the costs into your forecasts.
A great advantage to choosing Shopify, is the Shopify app store. Apps allow you to add extra functionality to your store such as recurring payments. This means anything you find missing from Shopify can usually be fixed with an app.
Shopify’s interface is also very easy to use, so accessing all of your sales data, building reports and adding products is all a breeze.
Not only that, but an incredible community has grown around the platform. There’s a wealth of Shopify developers and creatives out there and they regularly get together at Shopify’s ‘Meetup’ events to share ideas. In fact, we hosted a meetup in Leeds recently and we’re also Shopify Experts!
As mentioned above, Magento has been in the eCommerce business for a long time. Since being originally released in 2008, it has been a front runner in the eCommerce market. Many see their longevity as trust-worthy; others see the platform as outdated.
Nowadays, Magento offers various different versions, depending on the size of your store. All of these are self-hosted, meaning you’ll have to handle all of the hosting, SSL and other technical aspects yourself.
The Magento interface is far less user friendly than some other platforms on this list, and it requires plenty of time and technical knowledge to set up. However, once you’re up and running, you’ll benefit from a good set of features and plenty of options for customisation.
Customer support for Magento can be quite difficult to access. However, a large developer community exists around the platform, so there’s plenty of 3rd party help available if you understand tech or have a web developer on hand.
Generally, Magento is a robust and adaptable platform that should be able to cope with your store. Just be sure to get the advice of a professional on which version would be the best option.
Wordpress originated as a blogging platform, but a large library of add-ons has made it a popular choice for eCommerce sites too.
Some of the more commonly used eCommerce plugins for Wordpress include WooCommerce and WP-eCommerce. These plugins will add store functionality to your Wordpress site allowing you to sell from your existing blog or website.
As Wordpress isn’t a dedicated eCommerce platform, it can be prone to errors and will need regular updates and maintenance if your store is to remain secure. You’ll need to ensure that you have technical support in place and a web developer who can take care of updating and ironing out any issues that arise.
BigCommerce offers plenty of features and a pretty easy-to-navigate interface. You’ll find everything you’d expect from an eCommerce platform, with add-ons to further enhance functionality.
There’s also a good selection of themes available for those looking to customise rather than create a custom store design. This means set-up is simpler and quicker than many other platforms.
There are some similarities between BigCommerce and Shopify, however, one way in which the platforms differ is pricing. BigCommerce’s pricing structure is more complex than Shopify’s and is not all that transparent. There have even been stories of BigCommerce increasing pricing for successful stores.
In general, BigCommerce is a solid choice of platform that should fit most growing stores. Just be sure to fully research the prices you’ll be paying.
Volusion comes with plenty of features as standard, meaning there should be no need for add-ons to the platform. You’ll get access to product reviews and Facebook integration without having to install additional apps or customise the system.
You will need to pay for their more premium pricing plans to gain access to features like loyalty schemes though so costs can quickly rise without you realising.
The trade-off of having so many features built in is that Volusion’s theme selection isn’t the best. You’ll probably want to opt for a custom design rather than use one of the available themes. This will drastically increase the cost of having your website built.
The user interface is also not very intuitive. You’ll certainly need more time to learn your way around the system. Thankfully, Volusion provides plenty of training videos to help you get orientated.
Compared to other platforms, Big Cartel offers quite a simplistic solution. If you only need a very simple store, this could be for you, but most store owners will likely be left wanting.
The Big Cartel interface is quite clunky and outdated, so carrying out your daily tasks will be more of a chore than with the likes of Shopify, Magento and BigCommerce. This simplistic approach is reflected in their low pricing, with a free plan available and prices not topping $29.99 per month.
Big Cartel will provide you with an SSL, which is fairly impressive for such a low price, but this probably isn’t the best option for businesses with growth aspirations. If you’re just looking to dip your toes into eCommerce, giving Big Cartel a try could be an option but scalability may be an issue. Otherwise, stick to the more enterprise ready platforms on this list.
Established sites like these already have strong customer bases and huge volumes of traffic ready for you to tap into.
This means less investing in marketing and SEO to drive traffic to your site. Of course, for all of this traffic and ease of setup, you’ll have to make a few sacrifices. There are little or no customisation options with online marketplaces. Adding your business logo is likely to be the extent of your branded presence. You’ll also have to hand over a large portion of your sales revenue for the privilege of selling on the likes of Amazon.
However, if you don’t want to invest a lot of money, but want to start selling quickly, online marketplaces could be for you. If you’re interested in finding out more about marketplaces, take a look at our roundup of the popular online marketplaces.
There are plenty of eCommerce platforms on the market today and all have their strengths and weaknesses. For a platform that’s easy to use, powerful and customisable, we think Shopify is the way to go - which is why we’ve invested a lot of time and resource into becoming Shopify Experts and immersing ourselves into the Shopify ecosystem. It has the flexibility to suit most stores and businesses, no matter the size, and is quick to adopt new technologies and features.
All of the listed platforms have some great strengths, but for a good, reliable all round platform, it seems there’s nothing better than Shopify at the moment.
Still not sure which platform would be best for your store? Get in touch with us and we’d be happy to help.
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