Choosing an ecommerce platform can seem like a daunting task. With so many platforms on the market, it can be hard to decide which one is the best fit for your business.
Do you go with the most popular? Do you select the one you’ve heard most about? How do you know which one is going to be best for your needs? What should you be looking for in the features and benefits? Should you upgrade your current platform, or migrate to another solution? So many questions, we hear you! Fortunately, this is what we’re going to cover in this article.
Adido prides itself on being able to offer impartial, practical and considered advice, especially when it comes to selecting a CMS or ecommerce platform. As Shopware partners we do have a preferred choice (as our clients tend to be medium enterprises), but we always make sure we understand a client’s needs and will endeavour to recommend the best solution, whether we can fulfil the service or not.
If you’re a medium to enterprise level business, ready to take the next step and are on the cusp of buying, upgrading or thinking about migrating an ecommerce platform, then you may prefer to speak to one of our ecommerce experts.
Nevertheless, in this article we’ve compiled our top level thoughts on the prevalent ecommerce platforms on the market today, so whether you’re a small, medium or enterprise business there is an ecommerce platform out there that’s right for you. Happy hunting!
What is an ecommerce platform?
An ecommerce platform is software which allows businesses to sell their products and services online. Aside from being necessary to keep up with your competitors, using ecommerce software has many advantages, including:
You can set up your store quickly
Ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and Squarespace will have templates for you to create your store on. Usually, you won’t have to worry about having profound technical skills, hosting or maintaining the platform, as many will take care of this for you. This allows you to focus your time on getting your business set up and running sooner. That said, there are some platforms out there that may require the hands of a developer, so it’s important to choose one you will be comfortable using.
It helps your business to grow
According to Statista, over 2.14 billion people worldwide are expected to purchase goods and services online in 2021. By providing your business offerings online, you are able to reach a much wider audience on a global scale 24/7, helping to increase your revenue. This is different from brick and mortar businesses who are restricted to reaching those who can physically visit their store.
You can get customer insights
Selling online makes collecting and measuring customer data much easier, allowing you to work on your business strategy to improve customer experiences.
It can be more cost effective
If you are looking to build a business, ecommerce may be the most cost effective option as you will save money on costly expenses such as a physical store and inventory. Ecommerce platforms offer a way for brands to build their business online as their sales grow.
You can develop a content marketing strategy
Taking advantage of ecommerce platforms also means that you can focus on improving your content marketing strategy, allowing you to share more information about your business and expertise. Producing good-quality content is also another way of increasing your online visibility and improving search engine optimisation (SEO). You can find out more about the benefits of SEO services here.
To decide how to choose the best ecommerce platform, you need to consider the following:
What size is your business?
The size of your business will help you to determine your ecommerce needs. It’s important to consider any growth goals as your chosen ecommerce platform will need to be able to support these changes (i.e. there will need to be enough capacity for more products, overseas expansions, images, content and more!)
Are you familiar with coding or have a development team who can help?
What payment methods are available and will my business need to change in order to accommodate them?
You’ll need to make sure your online store will allow customers to make payments and selecting the best payment method both for your needs and your customers’ is very important. For example, you may consider accommodating Stripe into your accounting software to help manage your online business and accept payments.
How does order fulfilment work?
You should consider whether order fulfilment can be integrated into your business’s existing ordering system so that you can easily manage your online orders in one location.
How easy is it to use the platform and what is the user experience like?
You should consider this from both a business and customers’ point of view. If your platform makes your process more complex for staff or the user can’t navigate the site painlessly you could have chaos on your hands and waste valuable time.
How customisable is the platform/how many themes do they have available?
To get your website looking exactly how you want it and give it that unique edge, you’ll want to go for a platform that gives you plenty of web design options so you can tailor the site to better reflect your brand.
Is the platform SEO friendly?
You want to outrank your competitors, don’t you? Having an SEO friendly platform will allow you to optimise your content, improving your online visibility.
Does the platform feature responsive mobile-first designs?
Having responsive, mobile-first designs will improve user experience and is an important ranking factor for Google.
What built-in tools does it have? Are there any apps and add-ons to increase functionality?
Some ecommerce platforms will have built-in marketing tools to help you run campaigns on channels such as Facebook, others may have a live chat feature. Take a look into what the platform offers or whether there are any add-ons and apps you can take advantage of (bear in mind that these will be additional expenses).
What does it cost?
Now this one could be a deal breaker! Make sure you consider any monthly fees, any transaction charges and additional app installation costs.
There is no right or wrong ecommerce platform to choose; the most important thing is to be completely clear about your requirements so that when you look at the options available (of which there are many), you can make an informed decision.
Exploring the pros and cons
With years of experience building ecommerce websites on multiple platforms, we thought it would be a good time to compare some of the best providers available right now. Whether you already have an established ecommerce business and are looking to migrate to a different system, or are thinking about building one, we’ve looked into the pros and cons of various ecommerce platforms to help you decide which is best for your requirements.
- Shopify is a hosted solution running on its own servers so you won’t need to worry about purchasing web hosting or installing any softwares.
- Multichannel selling - with Shopify, you can sell on Facebook, Amazon, eBay and Instagram.
- You have access to HTML and CSS, giving you more control over the design of your website.
- A range of apps are available if you want to improve the functionality of your website.
- Shopify uses mobile responsive themes which helps with keyword rankings (SEO).
- Unlike other platforms, Shopify has transaction fees so you will need to consider these costs.
- It isn’t always easy to format your non-ecommerce content for blogging.
- Some pages have a URL structure which is not ideal for SEO purposes as it uses many subdirectories.
- Although you have access to HTML & CSS, it’s still limited in what you are able to optimize and may be impacted by CWV.
- Magento is great for big businesses as you can easily manage multiple stores and locations using various pricing and languages.
- It’s a really flexible platform as code can be modified and templates customised to meet your needs (you may just need to be up to scratch with your coding skills!)
- It’s mobile friendly which allows for better customer experience when accessed through mobile devices.
- It’s SEO friendly as you can modify the sitemap, meta data and other sections to help improve online visibility.
- Magento is seen as an ‘Enterprise’ platform for large retailers attracting between £50m-£100m a year or more.Therefore, it may not be the best option for smaller businesses.
- In the absence of an in-house experienced development team or agency, Magento can be very challenging to implement new concepts.
- Magento is an expensive option; and if your business is attracting less than £50m a year, you might not get the support you need.
- Hosting Magento can be expensive with trade offs between page performance and costs. The cost per page request can be quite high against some of their competitors.
- To use Magento’s SEO capability, every option needs to be worked through manually.
- Wix is praised for its site speed which is important for user experience and rankings
- There is a wide variety of templates to choose from (there’s over 500 available!)
- It has a drag and drop interface which makes it incredibly easy to use for beginners. It even has a mobile editor so you can visualise your site on a mobile device.
- There are a wide range of plugins available (including blog sections, popups and forms).
- It features built-in SEO management, making it easy to optimise your site to outrank your competitors.
- Wix provides its own web hosting.
- You must use the hosting which is included in your plan. Moreover, as your content is hosted exclusively on Wix’s servers, you will not be able to export or embed your content with the system editor - making it difficult for you to migrate to a different platform should you wish to further down the line.
- Wix websites are not completely responsive as page elements will not position themselves relative to the screen of the user’s device. This is a red flag as Google highlights that having a responsive design is important for rankings and user experience.
- Squarespace is a hosted platform solution making it easy to set up.
- It has a responsive design so page elements will fit the user’s screen.
- There are over 100 themes to choose from to suit your brand.
- There is a blogging feature for you to build on your content strategy.
- It tends to have poor page speed which can lead to negative user experience and damage your rankings on the SERPs.
- There is just one sub-navigation bar which means you can’t have much of a hierarchy in your navigation menu. Therefore, Squarespace may not be suitable for larger businesses.
- It isn’t as easy as other platforms to make edits.
- Not only is WordPress free to use (although premium plans offer much more than the free version), it has a huge ecosystem and a content management system market share of 62%. It gives you total control over your website as you are not linked to a web hosting company.
- You have access to a large number of extensions, plugins and add-ons to extend your website.
- It’s easy to customise your website with a wide range of website designs and templates to choose from.
- Most third-party tools have integrations to use with WordPress so if you have an existing CRM system, email marketing software or payment gateway, it should comply.
- As you are the one in full control of your website, you will need to consider the extra responsibilities such as sorting out security and installing any necessary updates.Whilst these tasks can be automated, you will still need to manage them.
- It can take a while to familiarise yourself with the set up as WordPress doesn’t have a drag and drop builder (however this plugin can be installed).
- You may need to familiarise yourself with basic HTML and CSS coding to improve your site.
WooCommerce (a plugin for Wordpress)
Building onto WordPress, WooCommerce is the most popular open-source ecommerce plugin for the platform which is easy to set up. You’ll have to be running WordPress on a self-hosted site and will need to download the plugin to get started. Here’s the pros and cons of using WooCommerce:
- WooCommerce is a versatile ecommerce platform as it is suitable for both physical and digital products and services.
- You can use WooCommerce with an affiliate marketing model.
- WooCommerce is free to use.
- You can completely customise the user interface to echo your brand’s theme.
- There are additional features and add-ons available including checkout add-ons - these offer customers offers such as free shipping and highlight relevant products to help increase sales.
- Although WooCommerce is free to use, it is likely that you will eventually need to consider purchasing plugins and other add-ons to improve functionality and flexibility.
- You will need to consider costs involved with self-hosting.
- WooCommerce is a plugin specifically for WordPress so it can’t be utilised for other sites that don’t use it.
- You will need to be happy with using WordPress.
- Shopware is an open source platform, therefore users can customise their website as they wish.
- You can easily add new products or remove them
- Total cost of ownership is low in comparison to other platform solutions, making it ideal for small-to-medium enterprises .
- Shopware has a great Shopware store where you can purchase plug-ins as your business grows over-time. These plug-ins are built by the community, for the community meaning you get all the functionality without all of the cost! (They’re properly tested and quality checked by in-house Shopware developers too!)
- SEO settings are automatically configured, and can also be modified if necessary.
- There are different ‘editions’ of Shopware so you can choose which is appropriate for the size of your business and your needs. You can find the various editions and prices here.
- Shopware may not be the best solution for those who are not tech savvy and you may require a developer or agency to help take you through the process.
Which platform is best for creating an ecommerce website?
So, those are the main pros and cons of some of the most popular ecommerce platforms out there, and you’d be forgiven if you still felt some uncertainty as to which platform will suit your business needs best. To lay this information out more clearly and help you with your decision, we’ve put together a table summarising their offerings:
If you already have an ecommerce site (on whichever platform), we can support you if you are looking to migrate. Likewise, if you’re considering starting a new ecommerce site for an existing business, we are here to help.