Selecting the right eCommerce platform for you

In 2018 eCommerce is set to account for 18% of all UK retail sales, with indications this will rise to over 95% by 2040. The popularity of online retail, coupled with the decline in bricks and mortar shops, confirm it is no longer a ‘growing trend’ but rather a key component of any successful business plan and future-proofing strategy.

Whether you're a ‘bricks and mortar’ retailer expanding into online retailing or a purely eCommerce business, deciding which platform is right for you can be difficult; particularly as the answer will vary depending on your company aims and growth strategy. It is worth considering that 57% of mobile customers would abandon a site if they have to wait over three seconds for it to load, and 38% would leave a site with an unattractive layout or design.

Making an informed decision means analysing each platform on its own merits, and successfully pairing the applications each offers with your goals, business scale technical, and of course financial provisions, to create a site that will work for you in the long-term.

We have reviewed some of the most popular eCommerce solutions currently available to help you to understand the best uses for each. Whilst there is no "one best solution" each has its own benefits and limitations to be considered when deciding which is the best eCommerce platform for you.

Shopify

A perfect entry-level site, Shopify offers a quick, low-cost and easy initial set-up, however the charges can soon mount up as extra functionality is required to allow your business to compete.

Pros:

  • Quick and easy set up
  • Minimal coding knowledge required
  • A range of design templates available
  • Wide range of apps available for extra functionality
  • Payment plan options available
  • Easy entry point for small retailers

Cons:

  • Charges for every transaction or monthly licence fee
  • Costs increase rapidly when adding functionality
  • Starter package is very basic, apps almost always required
  • Unsuitable for a large or high-growth eCommerce retailer due to number of plugins required

WooCommerce

Another site that offers a relatively convenient set-up for a low cost, ideal for freelancers or smaller businesses; just don’t expect the site to grow as your business does. Essentially a WordPress blog with a retail element, WooCommerce alone won’t support heavy traffic.

Pros:

  • Easy for people familiar with WordPress
  • Cheaper to develop than a purpose-built eCommerce site
  • Free to install with existing WordPress plan
  • Open source and customisable

Cons:

  • Extensions and apps are not free and can add cost
  • Need experience with coding, or an outside developer, to install and run
  • Lacking in sophisticated functionality
  • No control over Wordpress updates that can cause WooCommerce and extensions to break
  • Lacks scalability
  • Growing eCommerce businesses will quickly outgrow the capability of the platform
  • Ultimately it's based on a blog platform which can only bend so far before it breaks

SquareSpace

An extremely cost-effective route to market this glossy site offers strong visual appeal but can find itself struggling to keep up when it comes to businesses with large product ranges.

Pros:

  • Sleek and elegant design choices
  • Simple user interface for all experience levels
  • Quick to get a basic shop up and running
  • All themes are automatically mobile friendly
  • All features of the system are inbuilt - no reliance on third parties

Cons:

  • Very restrictive functionality
  • No third party integrations available for specific functionality
  • Limited choice of payment providers (Stripe & PayPal)
  • Navigation is not appropriate for retailers with large product ranges
  • Limited ability to customise CSS & HTML beyond the templated design

Amazon / eBay

Two of the most recognisable products on the market, Amazon and eBay command a vast volume of traffic and is widely considered to be one of the fastest routes to market for any new eCommerce retailer; however, for professional growing businesses, they should be considered an additional channel, not the primary site.

Pros:

  • Access to large volumes of traffic instantly
  • Can be integrated directly with other platforms
  • No up-front development costs

Cons:

  • Limited control over design and functionality
  • Product management interfaces can be clunky
  • Typically customers are very price sensitive
  • No control/ownership of your customer data - limited ability to build customer relationships
  • Vulnerable to policy and functionality changes made by the marketplace
  • Very difficult to build your own brand through a third party marketplace

BigCommerce

Despite what the name implies, this site is perfect for small to medium retailers. While it has no up-front development costs, the sales limits can make it expensive for larger retailers.

Pros:

  • No transaction or large upfront development costs
  • Range of payment providers available
  • Professional store reporting
  • Ability to tweak CSS / HTML

Cons:

  • Sales limits apply, site earnings are capped
  • Expensive pricing plan compared to alternatives
  • Limited additional functions such as blogs
  • Little control over functionality and integrations

3D Cart

This subscription service’s biggest selling point is the abundance of features available to give users a comprehensive service. A great choice for small to medium retailers, there is a restricted ability to tailor functionality to your own specific needs, or integrate with in-house systems, which can hamper bigger company potential.

Pros:

  • One of the most feature rich eCommerce platforms operating on a SaaS/subscription model
  • Flexibility to customise and add functionality
  • Relatively feature rich core platform to support small to medium retailers
  • Easy to change and customise design

Cons:

  • Caters primarily for the US market
  • Free design templates are very basic in appearance
  • Subscription model can quickly add up to incorporate advanced functionality
  • Limited ability to create own functionality and integrations
  • Can be difficult to use from a store admin perspective

Magento

A powerful and purpose-built eCommerce platform, Magento is designed and optimised to deliver excellent performance in online sales. Usually an up-front development cost is required to build and launch the site; however once created it is capable of scaling with the business from start-up to enterprise level without needing to rebuild and/or re-platform the store. Business News Daily recently heralded the site as the leading eCommerce site globally.

Pros:

  • Open source purpose-built eCommerce platform
  • Very robust and reliable
  • Excellent from an SEO perspective when built and configured correctly
  • Very flexible and entirely customisable
  • Ability to integrate with any third party API
  • Extremely scalable
  • Supports startup to enterprise level eCommerce operations
  • No ongoing license fees

Cons:

  • Complex administration system requires learning and solid understanding
  • Requires expert support from experienced developers to build the platform to your needs
  • Requires an up-front development cost
  • Huge marketplace of ready-made integrations and apps available but many of them have a one-off cost

To find out more about selecting the perfect eCommerce platform for your business get in touch with our experienced digital team or take a look at some of our past web-build successes.

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Tags: Digital

Posted by Samantha Wilcox
on June 13, 2018