Every eCommerce business comes with unique characteristics and requirements. Startups are no exception. Most flounder because entrepreneurs fail to address business processes and scalability. Factored into this is understanding the true value of eCommerce platforms, and then selecting the right one to support and perform complex business functions.
Regardless of whether your business is B2B or B2C, you will need an eCommerce platform to facilitate the online sales process. Website design, business operations, customer engagement, and lead generation must be considered when determining which eCommerce platform is best for your business.
As an eCommerce digital marketing agency, we know which platforms are on par with industry standards and offer the best value for your money. Read on to learn more about why having an eCommerce platform is a must for online merchants as well as the basic lowdown on the platforms we strongly recommend.
Most businesses require eCommerce solutions to sell products online, especially when it comes to marketing, logistics, and fulfillment.
The best eCommerce platforms (business software) integrate commerce and business functionality into a single platform to help online stores create relevant, engaging, and personalized shopping experiences online.
In other words, an eCommerce platform is a software application that enables online stores to run their sales processes and fulfillment portals, marketing, and day-to-day operations via their website.
eCommerce platforms are the backbone of online retail enterprises and don’t just support businesses but also facilitate their financial growth. Choosing the right eCommerce platform allows you to provide a seamless customer experience and offers unlimited scalability.
Present-day eCommerce platforms provide businesses with mobility and time-saving automation processes. As always, your business needs will influence the type of eCommerce platform you choose.
When an eCommerce platform is open-source, it means users have full access to the source code, i.e., they can modify and customize the platform to meet their unique needs and use a composable architecture approach.
Open-source platforms provide greater control for business owners and are the best choice in terms of flexibility. You’re not locked into paying a licensing fee (like you would be with Microsoft Office, for instance), however, you have to provide hosting and build your eCommerce site à la carte.
Due to their flexibility, these types of eCommerce stores are more costly and complex to set up. Therefore, most businesses hire developers or an agency to build them and manage their maintenance. Magento is an example of an open-source eCommerce platform.
Software as a Service is a way of delivering applications over the internet as a service. So, instead of installing and maintaining software, you simply access it via the internet, freeing yourself from complex software management and maintenance.
SaaS eCommerce platforms are typically sold on a subscription basis. Online merchants use this model to save on infrastructure installation and maintenance costs, as well as accelerate time to market and easily scale operations.
It may not be as flexible, but SaaS platforms are attractive, turnkey solutions for many business types, particularly startups that don’t yet have mature IT infrastructures or large budgets to develop their platforms from scratch. Shopify is an example of a SaaS-based platform.
CaaS platforms allow business owners (typically large companies with access to development teams) to cobble together the best integrations, platforms, and CRMs for a highly customizable, cloud-based eCommerce site.
With Commerce as a Service, your business data and computing move to the cloud, and, in some cases, your front-end remains your responsibility. This provides the freedom to design your store’s front-end as you wish, without having to worry about the back-end functionality in terms of product management, inventory management, security, etc.
Essentially, CaaS separates content and code. Following the cloud-based model of other SaaS solutions, CaaS (headless eCommerce) provides organizations with the flexibility and agility needed to execute on fast-changing opportunities and priorities.
The best eCommerce platforms seem to offer more or less similar functionalities, which makes it a challenge to choose the right one. Consider the four factors to ensure you’re guided by the right reasons:
Remember, we’ve come a long way from brochure-style websites. Current customers expect a multichannel buying experience, with excellent customer service, responsive web design, and watertight security.
Once you’ve decided what your online store’s requirements are, you’ll want to make sure you choose the best eCommerce platform for your business. This doesn’t necessarily mean the most expensive one, as you may not need all the bells and whistles.
However, when weighing your options, we recommend a platform that (at the very least) offers the following:
Below you’ll find a list of the best eCommerce platforms available today. Most are SSL certified, customizable, and mobile responsive. For brevity’s sake, we’ve focussed on each platform’s main features, as well as overall pros and cons. Although we’d encourage you to do your research as well!
The right eCommerce platform allows your business to operate at its best online. These have the features and functionalities to attract and nurture leads and increase sales.
Shopify lets you customize your store design, create a product catalog, set prices, and more. The eCommerce platform’s functionality makes it possible to sell almost anything—shippable goods, digital products, services, and even dropshipping—you name it!
As a proprietary SaaS-based platform, Shopify is highly popular among startups because it sells as a subscription service, so there’s no need to piece together different web development elements like a domain name or hosting. Most tools and applications required to run your store are available via the platform.
Founded in 2006, the eCommerce platform allows store owners to create a multichannel shopping experience that enhances brand awareness. It’s highly popular among startups due to its secure order processing and inventory management capabilities. You can run your entire store’s daily operations from its intuitive admin panel.
What makes Shopify attractive is its low startup costs, accessible interface, and easily customizable templates for online stores. It’s a ‘hosted’ solution, meaning it runs on its own servers, and you don’t have to buy web hosting or install any software to use it.
The fact that large corporations like Pepsi, Heinz, and Tesla use the platform is proof of its scalability. In a nutshell, Shopify is an attractive solution for online merchants who are looking for a platform that enables growth but can still be controlled in-house.
Shopify offers competitive rates to accommodate businesses at all growth stages.
If you have the budget to pay upfront, you can reduce costs by purchasing an annual subscription, which shaves off 10% of the price for the first year.
More than a million online stores use Shopify, and for a good many reasons.
Naturally, there are some disadvantages, which include:
Shopify is suited to eCommerce stores of all sizes. Its powerful backend editor and impressive inventory system make it ideal for managing—and scaling—larger stores.
Although it caters to developers by providing users full access to CSS, HTML, and Liquid (Shopify’s templating language), its drag-and-drop functionality also makes it easy for beginners to build an online store by themselves.
First released in 2007, Magento is one of the best eCommerce platforms providing powerful marketing, search engine optimization, and catalog-management tools. Owned by Adobe Commerce, Magento also offers multichannel eCommerce functionality for B2b and B2C customers.
Easy order processing, search engine optimization, UX, and scalability make this platform a terrific choice for many startups. It’s successfully used by retailers such as Procter & Gamble, Jaguar Land Rover, and Coca-Cola to name a few.
Magento’s open-source platform is free to download and offers startups a great deal of control over the management and customizations of their stores. As an advanced eCommerce platform, it enables merchants to create result-driven marketing campaigns and optimized content for search engines. You can also visit our Magento development services page to learn more.
One of the main characteristics that sets Magento apart is its extensive product management capabilities. It can easily maintain over one million products, ensuring peace of mind as your business grows. But, more than that, it comes with Amazon integration and has two versions: paid and free.
Both are open-source. This means the software’s architecture is completely customizable, which is desirable to online business owners who want greater flexibility. However, you will need help from an Adobe Commerce expert to create your online store, make changes and perform regular maintenance.
It’s difficult to provide an accurate cost for Magento as it depends on the amount of functionality and customization you want over its original core features, as well as the number of integrations you need to run your store.
The basic Magento licensing cost is roughly:
Keep in mind that this is just the licensing cost and excludes extensions, development, design, payment options, etc.
Magento is justifiably acknowledged as an eCommerce site builder for the following reasons:
Because even the best eCommerce platforms have drawbacks.
As a self-hosted eCommerce platform that offers basic and essential features for free, Magento’s service level suits both small businesses with basic needs and large-scale eCommerce stores looking to create impressive stores and test innovative eCommerce ideas.
However, having said that, you will most likely need to hire a developer; therefore, the platform is ideally suited for B2B businesses with a bit of budget (enterprises) that are unintimidated by development technicalities.
BigCommerce is another SaaS platform that comes with an abandoned cart recovery system and great SEO tools. Its name suggests what sets it apart from other eCommerce platforms, i.e., BigCommerce supports massive eCommerce stores aiming solely for omnichannel (online) growth.
Consequently, it’s great for businesses with large inventories looking to scale quickly. The eCommerce platform offers more than 180 mobile-responsive themes, so merchants can build and customize their stores via a WYSIWYG page builder (drag and drop) or HTML code if they require further optimization.
As one of the most popular eCommerce platforms, BigCommerce is placed in over 120 countries and serves in excess of $17 billion in merchant sales due to its exceptional features, ease of use, and overall website builder tools.
BigCommerce is the only cloud-hosted eCommerce platform with ShipperHQ integration. This sophisticated shipping rate calculator helps online stores convert abandoned carts into completed sales by providing real-time quotes and customized shipping rates.
Moreover, like Shopify, it offers unlimited bandwidth and file storage and like most reputable eCommerce platforms also has a secure sockets layer (SSL) certificate that protects online payments and lets merchants safely sell products on social media platforms.
BigCommerce is feature-rich and offers the potential to increase website traffic with product syndication and shopping feeds. You can easily connect your stores with popular shopping feeds like Shopzilla and Google product search.
BigCommerce has four pricing plans ranging from Standard to Enterprise.
It’s important to note that BigCommerce’s price tiers are based on estimated revenue. Therefore, the more sales you make, the more you’ll have to pay.
BigCommerce provides a wide array of features, including:
Despite its many benefits, there are also a few drawbacks you should be aware of before you decide to invest in BigCommerce.
Although BigCommerce positions itself as an eCommerce solution suitable for all businesses, it best suits enterprise-level stores that want to transition their offline business online or have outgrown their existing online platforms.
Because there is no limit to the number of products you can sell, BigCommerce is one of the best eCommerce platforms for businesses with large and complex inventories.
WooCommerce is an eCommerce platform exclusively for websites built on WordPress. It takes WordPress’ basic operating system and transforms it into a fully functioning eCommerce store.
The SEO capabilities and custom integrations WooCommerce affords are excellent. As one of the world’s most popular open-source solutions, it makes creating and managing an online store simple. The plugin itself is free, so domain, hosting, and further customizations have to be added and paid for à la carte.
More than 99% of WordPress stores are powered by WooCommerce. Its core software supports essential eCommerce features like international customers, inventory management, sales tax management, shipping cost calculations, coupon, and more.
Furthermore, you can augment your eCommerce website with over three hundred extensions to add additional features like product bundles, customer documentation, returns and warranties, order tracking, and inventory management.
While the software is free, you’ll still have to pay for hosting and plugins to make your store fully operable. Below is a rough estimate, although it’s tricky to provide an exact quote without knowing the particulars of your online business.
Beyond being recognized as one of the best eCommerce platforms for SEO practices, WooCommerce offers the following advantages:
Every eCommerce platform, including WooCommerce, has natural disadvantages:
You may not find the functionality you need if you’re looking to set up a large-scale eCommerce business with thousands of products. Therefore, WooCommerce is an excellent choice for small businesses or if you only want to sell a few products on your WordPress website. You can also visit WooCommerce development services page to learn more.
PrestaShop is a feature-rich, free, open-source eCommerce solution that you can run via the cloud or locally download. It includes many built-in eCommerce capabilities that allow you to create product listings, track inventory, configure a one-page checkout, calculate taxes, offer coupons and discounts, and much more.
This self-hosted eCommerce platform supports 65+ languages, so you can set up your shop from almost anywhere in the world. The best part about Prestashop is it comes with a set of readily available features for marketing, customer support, and payment processing.
Here is a brief summary of this online store builder’s main advantages:
If you’re building your own online store with Wix and have a Wix Business Plan, then you can add the Wix Stores app to your editor to transform your website site into an eCommerce platform. Wix Stores offers all the features needed for small businesses to operate a successful online store.
Combined with the Wix website builder, it supports many third-party apps and plugins to sell through multiple channels and streamline shipping. Wix and Wix Stores are flexible and customizable with plenty of options for your eCommerce store. You can keep things simple with professional design templates or customize your eCommerce website with a range of add-ons.
Wix is a great option for a basic online store, especially for small businesses and DIY entrepreneurs without extensive technical knowledge.
Pixpa is a niche platform in the eCommerce space, designed specifically for visual creators to display and sell their art online. It’s basically a visual website builder that offers eCommerce functionality such as client galleries, blogging capabilities, and an SEO manager.
Its focus on simplicity, flexibility, and powerful editing features make it stand out from other website builders within the same niche. This eCommerce platform offers a full-featured website builder with everything you need to run your online business—from products and inventory management to abandoned cart recovery and easy order processing.
Pixpa’s affordable pricing plans are feature-rich, offering ample resources and unlimited bandwidth, plus:
Much like Wix, Squarespace isn’t technically an eCommerce platform, although some of its templates offer basic online business functionality. By connecting your template to a payment processor, you can accept PayPal, issue refunds, and receive donations.
While Squarespace is a good fit for small businesses looking to take their sales online, it’s a near-to-perfect fit if your top priority is awesome design that lets your products shine. Known for its sleek and sophisticated templates, Squarespace provides shoppers with rich product descriptions, embedded videos, and images for each product variant.
Squarespace is mostly known for its professional-looking templates and simplistic section-based editor.
Zyro is an emerging eCommerce platform with an impressive range of features for as little as $4.17 per month. Its main advantage is just how easy it is to use. For example, Zyro’s website builder provides a grid format to guide your eCommerce store design, which is especially helpful to position content elements.
While its capabilities aren’t as scalable as its competitors, Zyro is still suitable for small startups with limited budgets. It’s compatible with over 70 payment gateways, including PayPal and Stripe. And although the eCommerce platform doesn’t charge commissions on any sales, you still have to pay fees associated with the payment gateway you choose.
One of Zyro’s standout features is its AI heatmap which allows business owners to predict customer design preferences that maximize conversions. It immediately eradicates the guesswork of where to place your call-to-action buttons or whether your page’s layout is user-friendly. This eliminates the need for long-term A/B tests. If you want to make a design change, you can run it by the heatmap tool and improve your website’s conversion optimization in minutes.
Yo!Kart is a customizable multivendor eCommerce platform that allows businesses to launch eCommerce marketplaces. Similar to Etsy or eBay, it can support an unlimited number of products and vendors. Notable features include SEO, inventory management, reporting dashboards, as well as tax and inventory management.
The platform is compatible with over 20 payment gateways and is suitable for businesses of all sizes as it offers the support of an in-house agile team for end-to-end customizations. Used by over 2000 global clients, it’s best suited for eCommerce startups, SMBs, and large enterprises. Essentially, anyone who is opening an eCommerce marketplace from scratch and who doesn’t want to have to use an external plugin.
The eCommerce platform boasts diverse built-in features such as catalog management, multilingual capabilities, ready mobile apps, abandoned cart recovery, and several pre-integrated APIs. Yo!Kart comes with a lifetime license and one-time pricing model making it cost-effective for entrepreneurs.
The eCommerce platform allows creatives to sell their works in the simplest manner possible. You can give your store a beautiful online presence without any coding knowledge. Thus, it’s fair to say the small platform offers the necessities. While it’s not as comprehensive as other website builders, it makes things simple for beginners with basic shops.
Additionally, Big Cartel’s onboarding process is user-friendly and provides useful prompts and suggestions to guide you through the setup process. As a hosted solution the platform runs on its servers, so you don’t have to worry about installing software or buying web hosting.
Sellfy is a cloud-based eCommerce solution designed to enable creatives to showcase their portfolios and sell their products from ebooks to music to illustrations. It’s ideal for digital product businesses looking for a quick and easy eCommerce solution that still offers a degree of personalization.
If you already have a website or want to sell on social media as well, you can embed products and buy buttons on Facebook and YouTube. As an all-in-one solution, it connects with over 750+ third-party apps. According to its website, Sellfy has earned creators more than $100 million in total revenue.
Sellfy is a good option if you want to start selling immediately. It strikes a good balance between simplicity and functionality and has access to useful marketing features like email marketing and print-on-demand merchandise.
Regardless of the type of eCommerce startup you’re running, there are myriad platforms to choose from depending on your store’s unique needs, size, and scalability goals.
It’s easy to get carried away by all the impressive features each of the above platforms offers, but always remember to place your store’s needs and your business budget first. Not every store sells thousands of products, and not every store needs over 20 payment options.
If you’re having trouble understanding the difference between all the eCommerce platforms out there, or need help choosing the one that’s right for your business, contact our eCommerce platform experts. We’ll be happy to perform a full business analysis free of charge and walk you through your options!
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