Which Ecommerce Platform is Right For You?

While there are many Ecommerce platforms out in the marketplace today, these three represent the lion’s share of online shopping experiences today. Here is a quick rundown of what each platform does best and what to consider when shopping for your own ecommerce solution.

WOOCOMMERCE

WooCommerce is a 100% free open source Word Press plugin that has something for everybody. According to its developers, WooThemes, WooCommerce is “the world’s favorite Ecommerce solution that gives you complete control to sell anything.” WooCommerce has a lot of upsides to it. Its layout is flexible, there are five payment gateways, it’s SEO friendly, and its features are upgraded regularly. That explains why it gets 30% of the market share out of all the ecommerce platforms that exist today and has over 12 million downloads. You can sell anything you want and it has very simple product pages which are easy to customize. The store management interface is particularly appealing to its users because you can update inventory on the go without the need for html knowledge.

It allows you to turn your Word Press website into a no hassle storefront pretty easily and quickly while also offering many of the features of other more robust ecommerce platforms in the marketplace such as third party integration, marketing tools and order fulfillment. While the plugin is free, don’t let that fool you. Their third party integrations and add-ons can become costly and some have even jumped ship back to Magento or moved on to Shopify. You can see a good price comparison between Shopify and WooCommerce here.

While simplicity rules the day here with WooCommerce’s ease of use and basic low cost operating cost, their support is limited and their themes are less flexible. While they work with any Word Press template, it will be a whole lot easier to use WooCommerce with WooThemes (they recommend their own Storefront theme), duh, so that might limit your options as well.

If you are comfortable using Word Press, then using WooCommerce should not pose a problem and most users can find it fairly easy to figure out all the administration functions. Designed for merchants large and small it is often hailed as THE best ecommerce plugin in their reviews on WordPress.org.

SHOPIFY

With over 243,000 online shops and $12 billion worth of sales, it’s easy to see why newbies to online business and pros alike both use Shopify. It has a sleek, modern, and easy to use interface offers over 100 templates to choose from. It’s a web application that you do not need to host yourself. You don’t need to know HTML but if you do, you can certainly customize your site to your own satisfaction. Shopify also helps you organize your products, track customer orders, and manage your inventory while accepting payments from 50 payment processors. And now that they’ve launched Shopify Payments, it is even better as you can manage all your payment gateway info in one place where you can track all your transactions in real time.

In the ecommerce world, a storefront needs to be superfast to keep shoppers shopping and coming back for more. A user will usually give a site 4 seconds to load before exiting your system. With ecommerce sites, the wait time is less. Shopify does fast really well. It keeps sites running smoothly and integrates well with all kinds of vendors and payment  solutions. Shopify also allows you to sell on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.

It’s all about leverage. You can expand the functionality of your online store with over 1100 apps! From shipping, accounting, inventory to marketing and sales, Shopify has what you need to “Super-fy” your Shopify site. Many of the apps though, are not free, so take that into account before upgrading willy-nilly. But whatever you can think of, or desire, Shopify probably has an app for that. You can even turn your iPad into a product catalog by integrating with Shopify’s POS which syncs your inventory with your online store.

Here’s a great example of how one newbie online entrepreneur used Shopify’s app selection to his business’s great advantage:

The grandson of Angelus Shoe Polish’s founder brought the business back from the dead a couple of years ago and says Shopify was one of the reasons they are so successful today.  They went from being a physical offline retailer to now selling close to $300k per month online. Calling Shopify a “powerhouse,” they use apps such as Mail Chimp, Zopim Chat, Referral Candy, Adroll, Yotpo, Shipstation, SEO Meta Manager, Shopify Bulk Discounts, Order Look Up, Shipping Calculator, Product Customizer, Fraud Alert, Email Template Editor, Revenue and Tax Reporting, Checkout Donations, Coupon Pop, and Persistent Cart to make their site really zoom. More success stories can be found here.

Shopify also offers great 24/7 support via email, phone or live chat which is critical if you are building your store alone or if you need some hand holding.

Something that might not be so appealing is that Shopify uses its own coding language called Liquid that works in conjunction with HTML and CSS but which means that if you are creating your own templates and storefronts, the learning curve is a bit steeper and if you need to hire someone to make changes for you, you have to hire a Shopify Expert who is knowledgeable in Liquid which usually means that will cost you more money.

The good news is that Shopify offers a free 14 day trial so you can give it a go for free and see if it’s meant for you in the long term without making any investment beyond your time. They have a clear pricing scale which starts at Lite for $9 a month and goes up to Unlimited for $179 per month.

MAGENTO

Magento is an open source shopping cart that you install on your own server. It caters to mostly medium to large ecommerce companies that have a web development department or some cash to spend on a robust ecommerce platform. While this is not for beginners, Magento is a developers dream with an easy to use interface and a self-hosting set up.

Business News Daily last year called Magento the “best ecommerce software for enterprises and fast-growing online businesses.” Magento is also the leading ecommerce software according to Alexa, the traffic metrix company owned by Amazon.com, for the third year in a row. Alexa surveyed their top 1 million websites and discovered that 26% of their ecommerce sites are built on Magento.

From offerings that include everything from mobile commerce to customer service to SEO to product browsing along with checkout and payment management, Magento’s platform is highly flexible and adaptive. It allows you to set up a one-of-a-kind storefront with an endless array of features to choose from which makes it very attractive — and pricey. They do offer a free version called the Community Edition, which is available for download right on their site, which includes all the commerce features you need to rock ‘n roll. It has an active user forum with developers from around the world who continue to advance the platform and there is helpful documentation but no human beings to help you figure out what went wrong if you need support.

The Enterprise Edition, however, has excellent support and can handle any and all business and technical questions. It has an extensive features list starting with layered navigation, personalized content and a streamlined checkout process and more, all of which creates a seamless shopper experience across any platform or device. One of the biggest selling points is their ecommerce security. Magento has a Security Center and is ready to help the moment an issue arises.

All to say that there seems to be an infinite amount of reasons why Magento is the answer large businesses have been looking for as a leading ecommerce platform. But one main reason is that it has an array of excellent mobile responsive templates that will get you great results in click thru rates from mobile devices. It also allows for multiple storefronts where you can list hundreds of thousands of products.

A great example of a business that thrives on Magento is 247 Blinds which has had much success with mobile sales. This UK store demonstrates that you can sell very well hundreds of products from a well-developed ecommerce mobile platform while keeping security as a top priority.

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About The Author

Matthew Harris

Matthew began designing and building websites in 1995, and has since grown Harris Web Works (formerly Medium Well) into a full-service online marketing provider. He continuously adds expertise to become proficient in the evolving world of e-commerce, digital marketing, search engine optimization, mobile web, and more. Client work includes large corporate websites to comprehensive, customized services for small-to-medium sized businesses. He has worked as a designer, programmer, marketer and project manager. Matt is on the Board of Directors of Search Engine Marketing New England (SEMNE), and is a partner at Digital Media Sync in New Haven, CT.