By - Charlie Carpenter

How to choose the right eCommerce platform

Ecommerce platforms are all different just like labels
Source: Unsplash

Getting the right eCommerce Platform for your business:

As crowds migrate from the mall to the mouse, it’s natural that you want to get in on the eCommerce action. It may not surprise you that, according to the US Department of Commerce, 53% of internet users made an online purchase in 2016. That number is only set to increase.

 

Whether you’re looking at ways to increase the revenue of an existing eCommerce business, start a company from scratch or find new avenues to make your bricks and mortar store more profitable, investigating eCommerce platforms is imperative for the contemporary entrepreneur.

The question is—how do you choose the right eCommerce platform from the word go, so that you are not faced with the cumbersome task of migrating down the line?

 

You’ve more than likely heard of the top three players: Shopify, Magento and WooCommerce. I’m going to take you through the pros and cons of each of these, so that you can make an informed decision about which one is most appropriate to your needs. When I meet you on the other end of this article, you should be in position to head straight for your platform of choice.

 

But first, let me explain the methodology I use to analyse eCommerce platforms, and why I believe it’s important to be strategic when it comes to making your decision.

The paradox of eCommerce platform choice

Unless you live completely off the grid, you’ve more than likely been prone to one of the great challenges of our time – the paradox of choice which over complicates our daily lives and slows down our decision making.

Like most aspects of our contemporary world, the digital realm is packed full of options. Making an informed decision requires a capacity to separate the qualities of our various options to decipher not necessarily which player wins the race, but which option is most appropriate to our individual needs.

When it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform, I’ve distilled it down to a simple instruction:

TAKE AIM

Ok, perhaps it’s a little more complex than shooting in the right direction and hoping for the best.

That’s why TAKE AIM is not just an instruction, but an acronym – a list of the seven most important factors that I have found to help when deciding on an eCommerce platform that is appropriate to your individual needs.

TAKE AIM at profitable eCommerce business

Ecommerce platforms need evaluating according to your needs
Source: Unsplash

TECH ELEMENTS

How much tech know-how do you have? If you’re not a coder, are you willing to employ someone to set up and maintain your store? Part of this decision is whether you want to be in complete control of your site as it grows, or if you are happy to call a third party into help when you need something changed.

Added to this, consider if the platform you’re choosing takes the speed and functionality of your site into consideration. Whilst this has always been a factor for users, it has recently become a serious marketing priority. Since Google rolled out mobile-first indexing, the speed of websites has become integral to site-ranking.

AGENCY

How much freedom do you want in the design of your store? Do you want to be able to add your own code? How much do you want to influence the design?

KICKSTARTING OR MIGRATING?

Do you already have an existing eCommerce store or are you setting one up from scratch?

ECONOMICS

Cost will be a factor in your decision-making, one way or another. Where do you want to invest your money, and how much of it do you want to put in? Factors that have a bearing here are whether you are an individual, startup, or established business.

ADD-ONS

What plugins are available? What do they do for profitability of your store? Do they solve issues from shipping, to marketing, to new income revenues that you may not have even thought of yet?

INTEGRATIONS AND FUNCTIONALITY

A Statista study placed cart abandonment in 2017 as high as 69.23%. If your checkout system is not seamless, and your store does not integrate with popular web platforms, and payment processors, your store may find itself on the wrong side of this statistic. Think about the platform and its functionality on different devices, and much more. Otherwise you may have to invest in additional solutions to manage your cart abandonment rate.

MARKETING

How can you get the word out about your store and make sure the right people find it? How can you apply content marketing and your social media following, and does your platform support these initiatives?

Ready to TAKE AIM? So am I. Let’s have a look at how the top three platforms measure up.

Your eCommerce platform options

  1. Shopify
Shopify is a leading ecommerce platform
Source: Unsplash

TECH ELEMENTS

Shopify is primarily a hosted platform, meaning that you won’t have hassle with externally hosting or maintaining your site. If you are not a tech whizz, nor have 24/7 access to one, Shopify is an ideal platform to launch your business quickly and easily. You can set up a store without any coding knowledge. In addition to this, as your business grows, you will be able to make changes to your site yourself if you choose to do so.

In terms of the speed of your site, there are ways to optimise your store for performance. Again, very little technical know-how is required. Look at Shopify plugins such as PageSpeed Guru.

AGENCY

Shopify comes with a host of paid and unpaid templates that will provide a large degree of freedom to configure your store as you wish. While no programming knowledge is necessary to set up a store using the platform’s templates, you do have the option of editing HTML/CSS Files to customise designs. Here are some theme tutorials that will help you through.

KICKSTARTING OR MIGRATING?

As an eCommerce beginner, Shopify makes your store very easy to set up. If you’re migrating from another platform, make sure that you do your research. A common trend at the moment is to move from BigCommerce to Shopify. If you choose this, research properly so that you don’t create an SEO nightmare. Consider products like Cart2Cart to help facilitate your move.

ECONOMICS

The cost of setting up a Shopify store is not free – $29 for their basic plan (at the time of writing).

Other costs may appear in with the plugins that you add. In addition, ensure that you use Shopify Payments. If you don’t, Shopify may charge for transaction fees.

ADD-ONS

This is the element I love most about Shopify. There are easy-to-use plugins for everything – design, print-on-demand, shipping, discounts, promotions. As developers continue to work on these addons, this list becomes truly endless. This creates a more profitable landscape for you, and a better experience for your customer.

INTEGRATIONS AND FUNCTIONALITY

Shopify integrates with PayPal, as well as a range of payment gateways that accept credit cards from all over the world. This makes for  a higher conversion for you. They have also introduced the Chip and Swipe Reader that will allow you to sell your wares beyond the digital marketplace.

If you want to focus on your product rather than the “how” of running a store in this day and age, Shopify will take care of much of the dirty work for you.

MARKETING

Shopify marketing plugins and integrations allow you to sell from Facebook (and other social channels), easily promote on Instagram and Pinterest, and use content to drive qualified traffic.

  1. Magento
Megento a popular ecommerce platform
Source: Unsplash

TECH ELEMENTS

Magento is an Adobe company that provides an open-source eCommerce self-hosted option. It is a powerful platform which is popular amongst advanced-knowledge users.

A possible downside is that Magento is definitely not for beginners. You need to have developer skills, or hire someone to launch and maintain your site. There is little customer support, although there is a strong developer community with a wealth of forums, blog post, and more.

AGENCY

Provided you know what you’re doing, Magento is highly customisable. You are only limited by your own imagination. It has a great features set and very scalable.

KICKSTARTING OR MIGRATING?

It’s not an easy kick-off. Unless you have worked with Magento before, be prepared for a steep learning curve. Migrating to Magento is possible but difficult. In fact, the more common migration is not from outside platforms but from Magento 1 to 2. (If you need to do this, here’s how.)

ECONOMICS

It’s open-source so the cost won’t come in there. But that doesn’t mean it’s free. Hosting and site development and maintenance should be factored into your budget.

ADD-ONS

Magento comes with range of plugins. It must be reiterated here that you do need to have a developer on hand to fully understand and apply these extensions. Another consideration is whilst many are free, not all are. As with Shopify, this might be where the price tag escalates.

INTEGRATIONS AND FUNCTIONALITY

Magento payment provider gateway allows you to create payment integrations with a host of payment service providers. Here is a detailed guide on how to accomplish this.

MARKETING

Numerous marketing extensions allow you to create a successful advertising machine from your store through social media, email and SEO (again, don’t forget to check the price tag first.)

  1. WooCommerce
WooCommerce is the ecommerce platform for WordPress
Source: Unsplash

TECH ELEMENTS

WooCommerce is the eCommerce for WordPress. It’s an excellent option if you already have a WordPress site that you’re looking to monetise. Like Magento, WooCommerce is an unhosted platform, meaning you have to take care of the domain and site maintenance yourself. It is easy to use, provided you have prior knowledge of WordPress and PHP.

AGENCY

This is perhaps the primary reason why WooCommerce has consistently been so popular – it is devilishly customisable, provided you have some developer skills.

KICKSTARTING OR MIGRATING?

Kickstarting your WooCommerce shop requires buying a domain, integrating it with WordPress and then adding the plugin. It’s simple enough, particularly if you’re familiar with WordPress. When it comes to migrating, I wouldn’t do it too quickly without using a migration plugin. It’s possible, but you want to ensure that your catalogue, visuals and order statuses can be easily- transferred. Once you have moved the data across, you will be able to customise your store.

ECONOMICS

Like WordPress, it’s free. But be warned – developers and site maintenance will be chargeable.

ADD-ONS

Many WooCommerce plugins are free, and the ones that aren’t are not exorbitantly expensive.

INTEGRATIONS AND FUNCTIONALITY

WooCommerce has a variety of payment gateways to suit the needs of your customers. It integrates with PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay and Square, to name a few.

MARKETING

Other platforms are gaining traction, but WooCommerce still has the greatest market share at 23.85%. Perhaps because of this, a full range of marketing plugins have been developed by external developers seeking a piece of that market share pie. These range from social media integrations to reminding shoppers about incomplete transactions.

In conclusion…

Now that you’ve taken aim, it’s time to shoot for the platform of your choice by deciding which elements are most appropriate to you. To help you with your final decision, I’ll break things down very simply:

  • If easy setup, maintenance and a range of plugins that will bolster your profitability,  Shopify is without a doubt the way to go
  • If you are looking for a more heavy-duty platform and you have the technical skills at your disposal, head in the direction of Magento
  • If you are already familiar with WordPress and PHP and/or are looking for a way to monetise an existing WordPress site, WooCommerce perhaps the most attractive option.
Image of Charlie Carpenter

The author: Charlie Carpenter is the co-founder and CEO of Kite. He is a mobile advocate with over ten years of industry experience.

After working for large and small agencies for many years, he co-founded Kite; a software solution for print-on-demand, zero inventory merchandise, and personalised photo print goods. As well as an entrepreneur, Charlie is a seasoned product strategist with experience of various types of digital projects which include: Responsive and Adaptive Websites, Mobile & Tablet Apps, Hybrid Apps, Cross Platform App development. You can connect with Charlie on LinkedIn, and follow him on Twitter.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.
*
*

Call Me Now!