Right ecommerce Platform For a Website

How to Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform for Your Website?

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Building an eCommerce Business is a massive undertaking. It takes a lot more than simply listing products & adding images on a site. A successful eCommerce Store is much greater than the sum of its parts, and it is crucial to plan and execute each of the parts to the highest possible standards.

Choosing the right eCommerce Platform is one such strategic decision that will go a long way in determining the success of your Store.

An ecommerce platform is essentially a software-driven application. This application allows an online eCommerce Business to manage their website and other day-to-day operations, such as inventory management, marketing and sales. 

In this detailed blog post, we’ll first look at the most important factors you need to consider when choosing an ecommerce platform. We’ll then quickly examine the top ecommerce platforms in the market. Finally, we’ll go through the pros and cons of each one of these platforms. Let’s dive right in.

12 Factors You Need to Consider When Choosing an Ecommerce Platform

Pricing and Payment

This is really a commonsense suggestion. But different platforms offer various features at different price points.

You’ll also get a deep discount if you choose to make a one-time yearly/multi-year payment. This payment option, however, may not be the right choice for your business.

Maybe, making a monthly payment might just make better business sense. Especially, if you’re not sure about the right solution for your needs yet.

You also need to look closely at the additional transaction fees charged. Some platforms don’t charge any transaction fees for every transaction in your store. Other platforms might have a low base rate, but they might charge you for every transaction. In such a case, your overall cost will be pretty high.

SEO Friendliness

Every ecommerce platform out there claims to be SEO friendly. But you need to have some basic knowledge of SEO features yourself to determine whether the ecommerce platform you have selected is indeed SEO friendly. Some platforms are doubtless more feature-rich than others.

The top SEO features to drive traffic to your ecommerce site include page speed, faceted search, responsive design, re-directs, user experience and external plug-ins. Check if the platform you have picked offers all these features.

SEO friendliness is a huge factor because an SEO-friendly platform will help enable a robust SEO strategy, which in turn will help get free organic traffic to your website.

App Integrations

An ecommerce platform typically presents you with plenty of tools to run your business. But you’ll still need to determine the best plug-ins for your store based on your business needs. 

As you look at various platforms, consider the tools you’ll need the most for your day-to-day operations. Some of the most popular app integrations you should look out for include:

  • Payment gateway integration is a must for your ecommerce business. Make sure that the platform integrates with popular and various payment processors to ​​offer convenient and secure payment options for your customers.
  • Apps that manage shipping and delivery of your products
  • Accounting apps to monitor sales and help with taxes
  • Email marketing tools to stay in touch with your customers
  • Rewarding your loyal customers for using your products/services

Flexibility and Scalability

The ecommerce platform you choose must be flexible enough to keep up with changing times. Your platform should be scalable enough, too. With some planning and due diligence now, you can save lots of time, money and effort in the future.

Your business is sure to grow over time. But you simply don’t know to what extent. So, don’t settle for a platform that’s not flexible and scalable. Likewise, you don’t need to pay for features and storage space that you don’t need when you start out initially. 

You only want to keep up with higher business demands over time. Hence, choose a platform that’s highly flexible. Or, rather, choose a payment plan that allows for the growth of your store. But make sure you don’t pay outrageous fees for anticipated growth in the future.

Ability to Customise

When you build an ecommerce store, you must create a site that reflects your brand’s identity. Hence, it’s important to look for an ecommerce platform that offers site customisation. So, you can tailor the site using the right templates, themes, or layouts, over time.

Site customisation is also important from the perspective of scalability and growing your online store, over time.

Loading Speed and Performance

No one wants to shop on a slow-loading ecommerce site. Imagine you’ve added some of your favourite products but are unable to checkout due to slow performance or page load issues.

What if you can’t browse the products since the site keeps loading endlessly?

Dealing with a slow website is frustrating for users and comes at a high opportunity cost for your business.

So, make sure to choose an ecommerce platform that guarantees superior performance.

Mobile Friendliness

More and more shoppers are using their smartphones to make online purchases. This means it’s important to look for a platform that allows your customers to easily access your store through mobile devices. 

The mobile-friendliness feature not only makes it easier to drive traffic to your ecommerce site but also makes it simpler for shoppers to navigate and complete a purchase.

Security

Website security is an essential set of protocols that safeguards ecommerce transactions. With hacker activity at an all-time high, no shopper would like to add in their credit card information on an unsafe site. 

So, before you select an ecommerce platform, ensure that it has the best built-in security protocols.

Ease of Migration

With various ecommerce platforms out there, there’s always a possibility that you might want to switch from an existing platform.

There are many reasons why you may want to switch – cost savings, site performance, poor customer support, scalability issues etc.

When you choose a new ecommerce platform, consider how easily you can migrate data, products, and customer information to the new platform. You don’t want to have any interruptions that could make you lose sales.

Customer Service

Solid IT support is possibly one of the best features of an ecommerce platform. Most platforms will try their best to sell you on every unique feature out there. In fact, you might not think of IT support as a big factor at all.

But when your site is down, you need fast solutions.

This is precisely the reason I’d recommend one of the larger platforms with a proven track record (WooCommerce & Squarespace have the highest eCommerce market share). A bigger platform will typically have a large support community. And you can find quick answers.

You need to consider the size and complexity of your online store, too. A platform with dedicated support can be extremely helpful if your store is more extensive. Remember, prolonged technical difficulties can hurt your revenue.

Headless

Headless ecommerce is a unique ecommerce solution. This is a highly technical feature.

A headless ecommerce platform does not have the front end (or the head). The front end—which is a template or theme—has been removed, leaving only the backend.

The main advantage of this feature is developers can use APIs (Application Programming Interfaces) to deliver store essentials, such as product descriptions, customer reviews or blog posts to any screen or device. Front-end developers can focus on how to present this content using any framework they choose.

All the functional elements on your site (such as blog, forms, products, banners, etc.) can be programmatically managed. The creation, as well as management of the content components, can be done programmatically, too. 

A headless CMS can be a great choice for eCommerce Businesses with additional complexity, such as too many optional product parts, or hundreds of thousands of products.

What Are the Different Ecommerce Platforms to Consider?

Choosing the best platform for your web store is a tough decision. There are simply too many variables. And depending on your business niche, you need to consider different variables. 

The pricing information and best features of the top ecommerce platforms based on market share are detailed below.

1. WooCommerce (Free, Open Source Software But Premium Themes Will Cost You Extra)

WooCommerce, an ecommerce plug-in for WordPress, makes setting up an online store a breeze. This platform presents you with vital features, such as secure payments, inventory and tax management and shipping and delivery integration. 

The integration of WooCommerce on your WordPress site gives you access to great SEO features that can get free traffic to your website. This platform is immensely flexible, and you can use it to sell any product/service. 

WooCommerce presents you with access to thousands of WordPress themes and plug-ins, as well as countless ecommerce-focused extensions built specifically for this platform.

2. Shopify (Basic Shopify $29/Month, Shopify $79/Month, Advanced Shopify $299/Month)

Shopify, founded in 2004, is a value for money ecommerce platform. This platform provides you with a robust yet flexible way to build your store and increase conversions and sales. 

Shopify is similar to Google Play and has an app store with 1,400+ free and premium apps designed to improve your store’s functionality. These tools cover stock alerts, social media, shipping, customer service, reporting and the ability to see how shoppers interact with your store using heat-mapping.

From an SEO perspective, specialists seem divided about Shopify, but in our experience, Shopify is as good a platform as any, and most issues have an easy work-around.

3. Squarespace (Business $18/Month, Basic Commerce $26/Month, Advanced Commerce $40/Month)

Squarespace delivers everything you’ll ever need to power your ecommerce store whether you’re a new or an established brand. Their easy-to-customise templates ensure your online store stands out.

Visitors can quickly browse your merchandise, and they can see each one of your products at their absolute best. That’s just the beginning. Shoppers can add items to their cart easily. And the checkout process is simple and fast.

The best feature of this platform is its integrated systems. This advanced feature allows you to efficiently manage the logistics of your store.

4. Magento (Pricing based on annual Gross Merchandise Value [GMV] and Average Order Value [AOV])

Magento offers you commendable store structure, excellent features and user-friendly navigation. This ecommerce platform assists SEO by enabling you to create header tags, URLs and meta descriptions with prime keywords. Magento not only helps to get free traffic to your website but also has proven tools to boost conversion optimisation with Up-sells and Cross-sells.

Magento integrates extremely well with numerous third-party ecommerce services, such as payment gateways, order tracking, database applications, shipping, delivery, etc.

5. Wix (Nation-Wise Pricing Based on Purchasing Power Parity)

Wix is a feature-rich ecommerce store builder. This platform combines intuitive editing tools with great ecommerce features. 

Wix ecommerce enables you to streamline your business operations and run your store smoothly from a single, innovative dashboard. This integrated analytics dashboard lets you see your sales success, refine your marketing efforts and create personalised business reports.

This SEO-friendly platform helps you in targeting the right shoppers. You can drive traffic to your ecommerce site using Wix’s suite of professional marketing tools.

6. Drupal (Free, Open Source)

Drupal is a tightly integrated 2-in-1 Content Management System (CMS) and ecommerce platform. 

Drupal enables you to connect your store to 80+ payment gateways, letting shoppers pick their preferred method of payment. Similarly, this platform offers countless free modules for your ecommerce store’s smooth integration with specific services.

This platform scores high on the mobile-friendliness front. The mobile-first architecture of Drupal makes it easy to display your product pages on all devices, as well as in all browsers. The size and placement of images, forms, buttons, etc., also makes it easy to browse your products, move them to the shopping cart and complete the purchase from a mobile phone.

7. OpenCart (Free, Open Source)

OpenCart, an open source ecommerce platform, is completely free. However, you’ll need to pay a fee of $99 per month if you opt for dedicated support. If you don’t want to pay this recurring monthly fee, then it’ll cost you $99 for a one-time fix.

OpenCart features more than 13,000 modules and themes to launch, grow and expand your online store. Beautiful themes are available for just about any sector, payment providers, social media, service integrations, marketing, accounting, shipping methods, reporting and sales.

Which Is the Easiest Ecommerce Platform to Work With?

Whether you are a novice or someone who understands technology, there’s great power and flexibility with open-source platforms. However, every platform comes with its unique features and limitations. So you need to consider the cost of maintenance, developer hiring costs, etc. before you make your choice. 

In my experience, paid ecommerce platforms are best for beginners, as they lack the experience needed to set up or manage a web store.

Let’s take a quick look at the pros and cons of the seven ecommerce platforms we’ve discussed.

1. WooCommerce

Pros:

  • Completely free and open source.
  • 100% customisable – you can customise headers, footers, product pages, checkouts and more.
  • Great flexibility regardless of your market niche or your products.
  • Optimal security with secure gateways and e-wallets. 
  • Large community of contributors, developers and users.,
  • Simple product listing.

Cons:

  • Too many plug-ins that slow down overall performance.
  • All extensions are not free – you need to pay for some extensions on a monthly basis.
  • Too many updates – you’ll always have a pending update.
  • You need to be an expert in both WordPress, as well as WooCommerce.
  • Can be used only on WordPress websites.

2. Shopify

Pros:

  • You don’t need to purchase web hosting or install any software.
  • High on trust quotient – Large user base and market share inspire confidence – powers more than 1.5 million online stores.
  • Five different price points with deep discounts for upfront yearly payment.
  • Cost-effective Starter Plan that costs just $9 per month.
  • Guaranteed server uptime for enterprise-grade version.
  • High-quality professional templates.
  • Clean and intuitive interface.
  • Comprehensive Point of Sale (POS) hardware that can be used in an offline store, as well.
  • Abandoned cart recovery feature available in the $9 per month plan.

Cons:

  • Content editor doesn’t use the Drag and Drop feature.
  • No automatic cropping of images to a uniform ratio.
  • You might need to add expensive apps.
  • A basic email marketing tool that lacks advanced features.
  • A comprehensive range of reports is available only for expensive plans.
  • The in-built payment gateway, Shopify Payments, only permits you to sell from certain nations.

3. Magento

Pros:

  • Availability of numerous out-of-the-box features.
  • Fully scalable and can deal with it effortlessly.
  • The large pool of contributors can find quick solutions to any issues.
  • Mobile-friendly platform that offers smooth storefront integration. 
  • Highly flexible and limitless customisation options.
  • SEO-friendly platform that helps you drive traffic to your ecommerce site.

Cons:

  • High license cost – Magento Open Source is free but it requires ongoing support, such as updates, custom development and integrations.
  • Requires exceptional development skills.
  • Complex coding that is time-consuming.
  • Poor technical support.
  • Complex and unintuitive customisation.

4. Wix

Pros:

  • Excellent app market that includes 250+ free and paid apps.
  • Built-in ability to sell products to millions of potential customers on Instagram.
  • Easy-to-use interface that is beginner-friendly.
  • Innovative abandoned cart recovery feature. 
  • Multilingual sites for targeting shoppers in different countries.

Cons:

  • Difficult to scale as you don’t receive any stock management alerts.
  • Too much creative freedom makes it challenging to follow ecommerce design best practices.
  • Requires a lot of permissions.
  • Image library functionality is below par.

5. Drupal

Pros:

  • Extremely customisable, open source, free to use platform.
  • Provides multi-store support.
  • Supports many product variations.
  • Suits a headless architecture to perfection. 
  • Fast and responsive design.
  • Intuitive content management functionalities.
  • Offers shoppers a wide range of payment gateways.

Cons:

  • The cost of coding is too high.
  • Requires plenty of custom code writing.
  • Demands specific technical skills.
  • Regular, time-consuming updates are needed.
  • Steep learning curve.

6. OpenCart

Pros:

  • Easy to upload numerous categories for products.
  • Supports multiple languages.
  • Very easy and highly customisable, open source and free platform.
  • Ease of use and simple to design.
  • Offers a comprehensive set of reports and metrics.
  • Intuitive content management functionalities.
  • Offers shoppers a wide range of payment gateways.
  • Huge, active community of developers.
  • Multi-store management from one dashboard.

Cons:

  • Difficult for entrepreneurs who are not tech-savvy.
  • A very buggy platform that needs constant fixing.
  • Outdated themes/templates.
  • You need to purchase add-on modules separately.
  • Limited customer support.
  • Difficult to import your store’s inventory list.
  • Slow checkout experience for shoppers.
  • Not optimised for SEO.

7. Squarespace

Pros:

  • 100+ slick and attractive templates.
  • Access to thousands of royalty-free images.
  • Large range of web fonts – almost 100 from Adobe and 600+ from Google.
  • Access to a logo designing app. 
  • Very simple content layout engine.
  • Easy-to-insert content blocks.
  • Excellent drag-and-drop builder.
  • Top notch image manipulation and management tools.
  • Schedule the publishing of future blog posts.

Cons:

  • Navigation limitations – only two levels of navigation.
  • Cannot create multi-lingual store.
  • Does not facilitate multi-currency transactions.
  • Supports only two payment gateways – Stripe and PayPal.
  • Phone support is not available.
  • Involves more work to make your store GDPR compliant.
  • Content versioning not available.
  • Autosave feature for pages and posts not available.

Summary

Choosing the right ecommerce platform for your website is a difficult task. Sometimes, features that seem advantageous for certain businesses might not be a good option for your business. Hence, you need to carefully consider your specific business needs first.

Based on my Experience, I have found both Woocommerce & Shopify to be great options for small and mid-sized stores. While Woocommerce is cheaper overall, Shopify is easier to set up & manage. For larger Stores with more complicated products, Drupal is a fairly robust option.

At the end of the day, every eCommerce Business is unique, so it’s important to choose a platform that you feel comfortable using.

I suggest that you do your own research on the pros and cons of the ecommerce platforms you shortlist for your store. If factors such as low initial cost and easy installation are important to you, then I’d suggest that an open source platform would be the right choice. But if you have time constraints, then I’d suggest you go for a paid ecommerce platform such as Shopify.

Are you having trouble picking the right ecommerce platform for your online store? Or do you want to refine the design elements on your online store and boost your business income?

If your answer to either one of these questions is yes, then please get in touch with us for a No-Commitment, Initial Consultation.

Medha Dixit
medha@digitalchakra.co.uk

Medha Dixit is an eCommerce SEO Consultant and Founder at Digital Chakra, a UK based Internet Marketing Company, focused on helping small & mid-sized eCommerce Businesses rank higher in Google's Organic Search Results. Medha is a Computer Science Engineer and an MBA from IIM Ahmedabad, India's Top Business School. She considers herself to be a sponge, absorbing knowledge whilst also constantly striving to build & improve. Medha has helped clients in UK, India, and US generate millions in revenue through SEO. Say hello on LinkedIn or feel free to drop an email at hello@digitalchakra.co.uk.

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