What eCommerce platform is best for the online entrepreneur? Every eCommerce business owner has had to struggle with this question. Some have pondered it as they planned their new business setup. Others have made snap decisions and found out later that there was a better option. Whatever the case, the choice of eCommerce platform has always been something of a tussle.
Below are the three top choices today and some information about each eCommerce platform. With their strengths and weaknesses outlined, determining the best one for your businesses is just that much easier.
But why take all that trouble choosing when they’re all basically the same?
The thing is, they’re not. And it can be a huge mistake for an entrepreneur to choose and use the wrong eCommerce platform. The eCommerce platform that you use must fit your business, and you, who will be using it on a daily basis. It has to match your target audience, your budget, your products, and many of the other factors that make your business unique.
More than 500,000 online stores are running on Shopify at the moment. This eCommerce platform is extremely easy to use, even for those who have never had yet set up an eCommerce store.
Payments – Shopify accepts payments from around 70 payment processors in many different currencies. It is a very secure platform as well, with protections for sensitive data.
Tools – Shopify offers a comprehensive range of easy and accessible eCommerce tools. This eCommerce platform also has over 1,400 apps that you can purchase from their App Store to make things even easier. Enjoy a range of add-ons as well that allow you to expand your site’s features as needed. On top of this, you can edit HTML and CSS directly. Shopify also offers inventory management and website analytics so you can stay on top of what’s happening on your site.
Mobile-friendly – Shopify was designed to be fully responsive, giving your customers an excellent mobile experience right out of the box. Even its mobile eCommerce shopping cart is built-in, and free.
Themes – Shopify has more than 100 professional themes. You can create the most appropriate design for your needs with an incredible range of options. Plus, it’s all on your own domain name.
Blogging – Content is and probably will always be king. As such, even ecommerce platforms need to be content-friendly. Shopify has a full blogging platform so you can conveniently create content for marketing and SEO purposes. The Shopify eCommerce platform has a good number of SEO options, including social links, which help you with promotions.
Robust system – You can get unlimited bandwidth and online storage plans for your Shopify store, as well as free hosting. It’s a one-stop solution so you can get right to listing your products as soon as you create your account. The Shopify admin interface has a very clean and modern look that makes it even more comfortable to navigate. Shopify also offers a live editor so that you can preview and test your store before it goes live.
Pricing – Shopify can be pricier than other options depending on the plan that you need. You will pay individual transaction processing fees as well as the monthly eCommerce platform fees if you decide not to use Shopify Payments. Most Shopify apps aren’t free, so your monthly costs can add up if you use multiple apps.
Product attributes – There are only three options in Shopify as far as attributes go: size, color, and material. You can add different options under these three basics, but you cannot go beyond them and create new ones.
Customer support – Shopify offers round-the-clock customer support. Response times are fast, and support is friendly and knowledgeable. There are also a ton of help articles available that explain how to use the different options. There is also literature on customizations, even though Shopify does not technically support some customizations.
BigCommerce is a younger eCommerce platform than Shopify, and currently has about 55,000 online stores running on it.
Ease of Use – BigCommerce is one of the easiest eCommerce platform to use for online business beginners who have no prior technical knowledge. It has a comprehensive list of built in features that make store creation simple. It has basic and additional features built in, such as reports, basic marketing tools, payment gateways, gift cards, and reviews and ratings. These helpful and practical tools are available on the basic monthly package. BigCommerce practically manages your store for you, taking care of orders, products, analytics, discount and coupon code creation.
Themes – BigCommerce offers 100 free templates in addition to paid themes. They are responsive and therefore mobile friendly, making this a very easy eCommerce store option. Apart from this, there are also design options with point-and-click tools and customizable CSS and HTML for those with experience using these features. Hosting on this eCommerce platform is also free.
Customer Support – BigCommerce offers great customer support. 24/7 support assistants are available to help users with the system as well as external features such as SEO.
Integrated Features – There is no need for third-party software with BigCommerce. You can have full control over your inventory straight away. BigCommerce also offers a neat marketing module that supports AdWords integration, coupons, and other features so you can partly automate your store’s marketing. You can also take advantage of different social channels through this eCommerce platform to increase sales with minimal effort.
Payments – BigCommerce accepts payments from over 60 different processors in different currencies, even at the same time, and supports credit card and PayPal transactions.
Themes – Only seven of BigCOmmerce’s themes are free, and these options offer very limited features in comparison to other platforms.
Pricing – There are no transaction fees on BigCommerce if you go for the $79.95 / month plan. Otherwise, you pay 5% for each transaction. The themes are also much pricier if you want to use a premium option that gives you the look and feel that you want for your image. Mostly because of the higher costs, BigCommerce is not a good choice for startup businesses that haven’t yet hit a massive growth stage and don’t operate on a large scale.
Customization – There is no need to code on BigCommerce, but although it means the eCommerce platform is easy to use, it also means that you have less customization options available to you. You may not need or want to change anything significantly, but having this option is necessary as you never know how your store may have to change as your business grows.
Store Management – There is no BigCommerce mobile app so you can’t manage your store on the go.
WooCommerce is the youngest of these three platforms, but already claims to run a little over 40% of all active eCommerce stores.
Open Source – WooCommerce is an open source shopping cart plugin. Being open source, it’s also free to use. WooCommerce does not charge transaction fees.
Extensions – WooCommerce has hundreds of features and integrations through almost 400 plugin extensions. Some of these are free while other are paid.
Flexibility – Like most other platforms, Woocommerce offers the basic flexibility of shipping settings, data control, multiple product additions, product categories settings, user reviews and ratings, sales tax with automatic calculations, and stock level management. It also offers geo-location support.
Ease of Use – You can start selling with WooCommerce on WordPress in as little as a couple of hours. Once the plugin is added to your WordPress website, you can start adding products right from the dashboard. WooCommerce also offers one-page checkout to conveniently display your product selection and the checkout forms on the same page. Customers can edit their orders and pay without ever having to leave that page.
Ready Themes – There are several WooCommerce-specific themes that you can use for an even easier integration and setup experience. Fourteen of these themes are mobile responsive, and all sport a clean design that focuses on images.
WordPress Only – WooCommerce works expressly with WordPress sites And thus you need to get WordPress first and install it on your web server before you can get and install WooCommerce.
Payments – WooCommerce offers fewer payment options, basically PayPal, Authorize.net, Stripe, PayFast, and FirstData.
Security – WooCommerce is open source, which means that its code is open for viewing by anyone and anyone can suggest contributions to the plugin. Any addition is of course thoroughly reviewed before it is applied, but the open nature of this eCommerce platform makes it inherently risky. All WooCommerce extensions are third-party, which makes the risk even greater.
Hidden Costs – Many features of a WooCommerce store require extensions, even for basic ones like pricing options. This means that the costs can go up quickly. Some extensions and hosting do not. Some extensions are one-time payments while others are monthly subscriptions. Hosting is also not free since WooCommerce is connected to a WordPress installation.
Very Basic – WooCommerce is very simple, and therefore does not offer the wide range of advances features that are normally available on an eCommerce platform like Shopify or BigCommerce. The lack of comprehensive features makes it a poor choice unless you are running a small store and do not expect to grow much.
So Which One is Best?
Once again, it really all boils down to what you need. However, the true entrepreneur always wants his business to grow. Overall, therefore, Shopify comes out on top. This eCommerce platform is the best product on the market right now for small to medium sized eCommerce businesses.
WooCommerce may suffice for a very niche store that you want to have only a very select few products on. Shopify, however, gives you the flexibility to change your mind down the road. If you ever wanted to shift gears to meet the market’s demand, WooCommerce would force you to give up that established store and start over on an enterprise-level eCommerce platform.
Big Commerce is on the other end of the scale. It’s not worth it for the average business, and will only work well for businesses that are consistently dealing with high volumes. If there’s ever a dip in sales, BigCommerce can become a burden.