When it comes to starting an online store, there are many things to take into consideration. One of the most important parts of the puzzle is which platform to use to power your e-commerce site.
I work for a search engine marketing agency, AdFicient, and we do a lot of e-commerce work for our clients. Thus what you are about to read is solely based on my experience working with the following e-commerce platforms.
There are two major categories with e-commerce platforms: hosted and self-hosted. Hosted simply means that the company will host your store, while self-hosted means they will provide you with software, but you have to get your own Web hosting.
For stability purposes, I recommend going with hosted versions because you always have dedicated support and chances of it going down due to hosting are slim to none. The downside of hosted software is that you will have to pay a monthly fee, and sometimes it can be pretty high.
Shopify is quickly becoming my favorite e-commerce platform. The user interface of the admin panel is simply gorgeous. Although it has its limitations, there aren’t many things I wasn’t able to accomplish with it.
The biggest downside is the limited ability to change the checkout page. Although you have some control over it, it is minor. So if you’re trying to design the checkout page to be exactly how you want, Shopify is probably not for you. In fact, none of the hosted solutions will offer customizable checkout process so you can jump the the Self-Hosted section right away.
One area where Shopify easily beats is competition is with awesome add-on apps. Just like your smartphone, Shopify has many apps that you can download and install on your store, which extend the default or introduce new functionality. Their entire app process is set up much better than the competition and they have the most available apps, too.
Shopify starts at $29/mo. And if you use their credit card processor, you will only have to pay the standard 2.9 percent + 30 cent rate. If you upgrade to a higher plan, the per-transaction fee is lower.
Volusion is a similar platform to Shopify, except it is about a hundred times less customizable. It is quite locked down, so you cannot do much with it. For starters, the entire website is generated using just one main template file. If that doesn’t sound silly enough, you also cannot retrieve basic information about store, products, categories, or cart contents needed for many remarketing tracking scripts.
Although their support is responsive, they simply are not helpful most of the time. But perhaps that’s because most of the technical questions I’ve asked were not possible to accomplish in Volusion.
You can get Volusion for as low as $15 per month, which is almost 50 percent cheaper than Shopify, but I wouldn’t recommend them.
BigCommerce is similar to Shopify and Volusion, but I would rank it closer to Volusion than Shopify. Although you can customize it slightly, it still lacks the total control of Shopify. It seems like you can implement Google Trusted Stores and Product Feed with their built-in functionalities, but trying to implement a different system would most likely be out of the question.
One area where BigCommerce is better at than Volusion would be the user interface of the admin panel. It looks a lot cleaner and is much easier to navigate.
BigCommerce starts at $29.95/mo. and with that plan you also have to pay a 1.5 percent transaction fee, in addition to other credit card processing fees. In other words, you could quickly find yourself losing money even while making sales.
Out of the three hosted e-commerce platforms, I believe Shopify is without a doubt the best one.
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This is an e-commerce platform that has been around for ages. Perhaps the criticism I am about to unleash on it could be attributed to that.
Although used by a large majority of big e-commerce websites, Magento is a platform I would advice most companies against. There are many reasons for this, but difficulty to customize would be my number one.
The platform is like a giant complex dinosaur that just won’t quit. Yes, it has plenty of features and then some, but the user interface is not friendly at all. It is a classic example of a product designed by engineers and developers who do not really understand what makes a user interface great.
Another big issue many stores face is the terribly slow performance that arise on Magento. There’s many different things to fix the problem, but the fact that you have to specifically fix the issue is a big no-no for me already.
Out of the box, Magento is a slow and sluggish platform and until you spend hours or days messing with caching extensions and settings, you probably won’t be happy with its performance.
Comparing WooCommerce to Magento is difficult because WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin so it depends very much on WordPress. You cannot use WooCommerce without WordPress.
WooCommerce is great because it offers ultimate customizability. Anything you can do with WordPress, you can do with WooCommerce. Only WordPress developers will understand what I mean, but using actions, hooks, and filters to make enhancements or changes to functionality is pretty sweet and efficient.
As with anything WordPress, the resources available are endless. You have access to millions of themes and plugins to do exactly what you want. And in the rare scenario where you need something custom, there are many quality developers waiting to work.
Because WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, you also get all the goodies that come with WordPress. That means blogging on your e-commerce store comes standard and is all very neatly organized. Compare that with Magento where you have to install a blogging extension just to even start blogging.
For me, this is a no-brainer. In 95 percent of cases, I think WooCommerce is a better and safer choice than Magento. Unless you have millions of dollars in your development and maintenance budget, you shouldn’t really touch Magento.
If you use Magento, you will need custom development sooner or later and there’s no way getting around that. In fact, you will probably need a developer on call 24/7 for whenever you want to do any minor change to your store.
So who are the ultimate winners here? I would say it is between Shopify and WooCommerce. If you are a big company with lots of products, clients, and traffic, then Shopify is a safer choice to go with because you will have better and more dedicated support.
WooCommerce is perfect for average and smaller stores that just need a store to sell a few things and sell them right!
Read all of Haris Bacic’s articles on AllBusiness.com.
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