The time has come — your business is established, your products are ready for sale, and you want to start selling online. With the COVID crisis, more shoppers are buying from home rather than venturing out in person.
This is your moment to launch into eCommerce. For that, you’ll need an eCommerce platform.
Wait, What Is an Ecommerce Platform?
Good sites need good support to run well and make an impression on visitors. Support for a site includes hosting, design, SEO maximization, security, or any features that can allow your potential customers to get the info they need and make the jump to give you their business.
An eCommerce platform is just another supportive aspect for your site, giving you the mechanism you need to sell products online. Essentially, eCommerce platforms are software applications enabling customers to pick products, put them in a virtual shopping cart, pay for them, and have them delivered.
However, eCommerce platforms are not one-size-fits-all. While the variety available presents you with several options for finding the best platform to suit your business, having too many choices leads to analysis paralysis. Luckily for you, we’ve narrowed down some of the top contenders, so you aren’t drowning in eCommerce platform potentials.
What Should an Ecommerce Platform Have?
Alright, so now you know what an eCommerce platform is, but how do you distinguish a good one from a bad one?
Well, it depends on your needs.
Before you choose which platform to use, consider your business’s priorities, size, and goals. If you have a small business that’s just starting out, you might not need to worry about spending a lot of money on extra features, but you do want a platform that will grow with you (called scalability).
By contrast, if you have a bigger business, you might need a platform with plenty of options, integration with other online retailers like Amazon, and strong SEO tools to target customers. If you have a physical store, you might need a different eCommerce platform than an online-only retailer.
You can choose to host your entire site on an eCommerce platform or use one just for your shop. If you’re in the market for a one-and-done approach to your online presence, using an eCommerce platform for hosting can be the simplest solution. However, if you want more options or control, or need to add a shop to your existing site, you’ll want a different platform.
Altogether, you should consider these aspects:
- Business size
- Online vs. brick and mortar
- Design elements
Our Best Recommendations
While there are countless contenders in the eCommerce platform market — BigCommerce, SquareSpace, Weebly — we think the best all-around options are Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce. Each offers different approaches to eCommerce support and suit different kinds of businesses.
Amazon is obviously the world’s best-known eCommerce site. But did you know Amazon is integrated with Shopify, making them the online retail giant’s preferred migration site? Through this partnership, you can sell your products on both your Shopify-hosted eCommerce site and Amazon. This gives you access to Amazon’s powerful marketplace, allowing you to reach customers who only know about one eCommerce site and guiding them toward your products.
That’s not the only plus of using Shopify as your eCommerce platform. If you don’t already have a site in place, Shopify can be your one-stop-shop for your entire website. They provide web hosting and even domain name purchases, allowing you to set up your site and your store all at once.
For smaller or less online-savvy businesses, this is very convenient, avoiding the fuss of creating an eCommerce platform along with your business site. Shopify is also user-friendly and accessible, which could be a relief to less technologically confident business owners.
Shopify’s ease and accessibility make it ideal for small, new, and/or brick and mortar businesses. These businesses are looking for something simple and effective, and don’t want to blow the budget on an overly fancy online store. However, gaining accessibility means sacrificing customization, and Shopify is less flexible on tailoring the shop to your unique business.
Another of Shopify’s strengths is dropshipping, allowing you to keep your products elsewhere with a supplier. Shopify makes it easy to stay updated with the supplier’s inventory, sends orders quickly, and allows both buyers and sellers to track orders.
Unfortunately, one of Shopify’s weakest aspects is its SEO. Search engine optimization is a crucial tool to drive customers to your site. Use of good keywords can propel an eCommerce site up in search rankings, generating traffic and therefore generating business. Shopify isn’t doing all they can to maximize this tool.
Best For: New or brick-and-mortar businesses
Pros: Amazon integration, easy to use, one-stop site and platform building, multiple plans
Cons: Poor SEO, customization gets pricey
The keyword for Magento is “big.” This platform supports top brand names and for good reason. Ideal for large businesses hoping to get the most out of online shops, Magento provides flexibility and customization, allowing you to tailor your shop to your specific needs. And you can host the software in plenty of places as well.
Contrary to Shopify, Magento is strong in SEO, which is exactly what a large business wants to maintain and grow its place in the online marketplace. A big store needs big numbers, and good SEO directs high-volume traffic to an eCommerce site. On top of that, Magento makes it easy to add 1-click shopping and plenty of other features and themes, so your store has all of the functions it needs to create the ideal shopping environment.
All of these features also make Magento a great pick for growing businesses. This is an eCommerce platform that will grow with you. If you’re intending to make your sales go up, up, up, Magento will join you on that climb.
However, remember that the keyword is “big” — a big eCommerce platform equals big software. Giving up a great deal of storage and memory space to the platform is the price you’ll pay for having a variety of customizable options and features at your disposal. For a big business, this likely won’t be a problem, but having a giant eCommerce platform is impractical for smaller or new stores. The size of Magento can also equal slower speeds for the site.
A big platform will also require a lot of support. Unfortunately, Magento can come up short in this area. Compared to other sites, Magento requires more tech savvy and hands-on work to design and develop, and you may find yourself needing to pay a web developer to help with the site. That makes Magento better for those who are skilled enough for a little DIY customization or who have the budget to hire someone to design the site for them.
Best For: Large businesses
Pros: Good SEO, plenty of options, scalable, compatible with many hosting options, good free version
Cons: Expensive paid version, requires large storage and memory, slow load times
Unlike Shopify but similar to Magento, WooCommerce allows plenty of options for hosting and customization. If you already have a site, WooCommerce can be added onto that existing site, rather than forcing you to build a site from scratch. That also means you won’t be able to build and design your shop with WooCommerce; you’ll need to obtain hosting, a domain name, and use a content management system like WordPress first.
However, WooCommerce is a little more manageable than Magento for smaller businesses, making it a middle ground between that and Shopify. It’s free, but some extensions and themes might cost you money. It’s customizable, but not so much that it’s going to eat away at your memory and storage. It’s also very SEO-friendly, making it the best option in this category.
WooCommerce works best with WordPress, making it very accessible for anyone who is familiar with the system. Once you install it, you simply add the extensions you want, such as payment options, 1-click shopping, and memberships or subscriptions. This makes it a flexible eCommerce platform without being overwhelming. It also works ideally for small and new shops who want to get their foot in the door with just a few products.
What makes it ideal for small shops also makes it problematic for growing businesses. Scalability is one of WooCommerce’s weaknesses, with the platform proving less capable of expanding along with a business. More product listings and higher volume traffic can bog down the software.
Additionally, getting support when you encounter a problem can potentially result in you getting the runaround.
WooCommerce doesn’t have a lot of built-in troubleshooting, and when you try to find someone to deal with your problem, you could find yourself constantly referred to someone else in a repetitive cycle. While WooCommerce doesn’t require as much developing and design knowledge as Magento, it doesn’t have as much support overall as Shopify.
Best For: Small businesses
Pros: Great SEO, easily added to WordPress, plenty of options, budget-friendly
Cons: Poor scalability, no support for troubleshooting, potential for additional expenses
No matter the size of your store, establishing a strong eCommerce site can boost your sales, grow web visibility, and expand your business. But having a store on the wrong eCommerce platform can actually sabotage those goals, costing you money, customers, and energy.
Take the time to consider what SEO, scalability, hosting, and design mean to your business, both now and down the line. Once you know your priorities, find the platform that works for you and your site and pour your budget, time, and creativity into making that eCommerce shop the best it can be.
What Dotlogics Can Do For You
Just as we can help narrow down the best eCommerce platform options for you, Dotlogics can help put that platform to the best possible use.
Do you know how we said support for a site includes several factors, such as hosting, security, design, and eCommerce management? A web marketing and design agency can manage all of that support for you. At Dotlogics, we can expand your visibility, increase online traffic, refine your site’s functions, and launch marketing campaigns through email and social media.
If you’re still struggling with eCommerce platform choices or development, our agency can take the pressure off and run the show for you. Contact Dotlogics today!