Selling products online has become easier than ever in recent years. Why? First, demand is high. In 2020 alone, worldwide eCommerce sales amounted to over $4 trillion USD. People are already used to the convenience of finding whatever they need online and having it delivered to their door. Second, the advent of social media has made advertising to a global audience simple and relatively inexpensive. And finally, many tools that allow merchants to build online stores without any technical experience have appeared on the scene in the last decade or two.
If you’re looking to join the eCommerce market as a seller, now’s the perfect time. First things first: You’ll need to choose a platform with which you can build your online shop. Let’s dig into some of the most popular options out there so you can choose the right tool for you.
What is an eCommerce platform?
As we’ll be using the term here, an eCommerce platform is a software application or system that allows you to sell goods or services online. These platforms typically offer users an easy way to create a digital storefront, list products, and accept payments. Many also provide built-in options for managing shipping, marketing campaigns, and inventory. Some give you the freedom to integrate third-party apps and tools, too, so you can market more effectively, grow your sales, and operate your business more smoothly in general.
How to choose the best eCommerce platform for your business?
Every eCommerce business is different, as is every retailer. For some, cost is the most important thing. For others, the availability of certain functionalities will be the deciding factor. When choosing an eCommerce platform for your new online business, you need to choose the solution that’s right for you. Consider these elements to help you decide:
#1. Your own experience and skills
eCommerce platforms vary widely when it comes to the skills that are required to use them. Some are simple, drag-and-drop interfaces that require zero experience to use. Others are SaaS but require a bit more savvy or training to get started. Still others are open source, which are geared toward trained developers. Understanding which platform will match your own level of technical expertise and skill will be a key factor in your decision.
For most eCommerce brands, search engine optimization (SEO) is of the utmost importance. The higher your store appears in certain, relevant search results, the more business you’ll have the opportunity to earn. Different platforms have different capabilities and tools when it comes to optimizing your site for search engines, like site speed, structure, provided domain name, etc. Make sure to factor these in when making your choice.
Mobile commerce has risen sharply in the past several years. Nowadays, if you don’t have a website that consumers can browse, search, and shop easily on any device, you’re likely to lose out on business. Selecting an eCommerce platform that will allow or make it easy for you to optimize your website for mobile is a must.
No one wants to shop on a site where their personal information and credit card details are at risk. That’s why it’s important to choose a reputable eCommerce platform that has a proven track record of security.
What are your short-term and long-term goals for your eCommerce shop? Do you want to keep it small as a side hustle, or expand as much as possible? Once you’ve answered that question, pick an eCommerce platform accordingly. Moving all your products to another platform after a few months or years can be a difficult and time-consuming task, so make sure to consider how the platform you choose will suit your business’s needs in the future.
Of course, the service fee charged by the eCommerce platform you choose will impact your business’s costs. Each one has different plans, many have variations between annual and monthly payments, and some also charge transaction fees, etc. Do your homework and plan your budget properly to figure out which platform and plan you can afford for your business.
Now that you know which factors to consider in your search, let’s take a look at five of the top eCommerce platforms out there. We’ll analyze each one from the perspective of the aspects we’ve just listed to help you narrow down your options.
Comparing five of the top eCommerce platforms
Shopify is a SaaS tool specifically designed for creating online stores. That means its features are tailored for those trying to sell products and build a successful online business. Shopify is widely popular and is already used by over 1,700,000 businesses in 175 countries globally.
- Shop setup: Of all the options we’ll list here, Shopify makes it easiest to set up your first shop. A big part of this is their wide range of customizable themes, which you can apply and edit quickly. Shopify also provides a step-by-step guide you can follow for learning how to add products, customize themes, and link a domain, so you can get up and running fast. Plus, they provide 24/7 tech support via email, live chat, and phone if you get stuck. Their active user community and online help center are both useful resources as well.
- SEO-friendliness. Shopify has built-in SEO tools and generates sitemaps automatically. Website content, URLs, and alt text can all be edited.
- Mobile-friendliness. Your customers will be able to navigate your Shopify site using all different devices. Plus, you can manage your store from your phone with their seller app.
- Security. All Shopify stores are certified Level 1 PCI DSS compliant, so all payment information and business data is safe.
- Scalability. Shopify is easily scalable. They offer different plans and solutions for brands of all sizes, along with a huge selection of certified, third-party apps to help you grow.
- Price. Shopify’s plans start at $9 USD per month and include a free 14-day trial. Enterprise brands who are interested in the Shopify Plus plan should contact Shopify for a quote.
WooCommerce is another widely used eCommerce platform around the world. The biggest difference between WooCommerce and Shopify is that Woo is an open-source plugin installed on WordPress and can’t be used independently.
- Shop setup. If you’re already familiar with WordPress, setting up WooCommerce is as easy as adding another plugin. From there, it has basic templates that you can fully customize to fit your needs. However, if you’re unfamiliar with WordPress, WooCommerce will require a fairly steep learning curve. Also, since their system is open-source, there’s no official technical support. For the average seller with no technical background, WooCommerce may not be the best choice.
- SEO-friendliness. WordPress is known in the eCommerce community for its high marks in SEO friendliness.
- Mobile-friendliness. Just like with Shopify, customers of a WooCommerce store can browse and purchase easily on any device. You can also manage your store via mobile.
- Security. Security is always a concern with open-source systems. With WooCommerce, you’ll essentially have to handle all the security infrastructure and resolve any problems that may arise yourself.
- Scalability. WooCommerce is an eCommerce platform that brands of most any size can comfortably grow with over the long term.
- Price. WooCommerce is technically a free plugin. However, you will have to pay for things like your annual domain-name fee, your hosting service fee, and variable costs like paid plugins, paid themes, etc.
Magento offers two different platforms for eCommerce sellers: Magento Open Source and Magento Commerce.The first is free for anyone to download but requires technical knowledge to use. The second is an all-in-one solution that’s catered toward users without a strong technical background.
- Shop setup. It’s not as easy to set up an online store with Magento as it is with some other platforms. If you don't have developers on your team, choosing Magento will involve quite a steep learning curve. They do offer 24/7 tech support, however, to help you on your way.
- SEO-friendliness. The SEO structure is fully built into both versions of Magento, but some technical setup is still required. Magento also has premium SEO extensions available for advanced users.
- Mobile-friendliness. Magento emphasizes its Progressive Web Apps studio, which allows you to create fast and engaging user experiences for your customers on mobile.
- Security. Magento is probably the strongest of all five options in this category. It offers a comprehensive Security Center to help you keep business data and customer details safe and secure.
- Scalability. Magento is a powerful tool that can likely meet any business’s expansion needs. Thousands of app integrations are also available if needed as you grow.
- Price. As with WooCommerce, Magento Open Source is free but requires you to pay for your own hosting fees, extensions, and other costs separately. For larger businesses, consider Magento Commerce. Contact them directly for a quote.
3dcart is a well-known, all-in-one eCommerce platform designed to help online sellers become more competitive.
- Shop setup. Setting up a shop with 3dcart is fairly easy. You can install one of their 100+ templates in no time thanks to the step-by-step instructions the platform provides.
- SEO-friendliness. 3dcart’s SEO function is built into the Marketing section, though it can be a little confusing at first. You can use the SEO tools there to change URLs, generate social links and sitemaps, set up rich snippets, and more.
- Mobile-friendliness. 3dcart has a mobile-selling feature, and all of its templates are mobile-friendly.
- Security. 3dcart is Level 1 PCI compliant, which is a high security standard used by banks. That means customer data and payment info is likely quite safe with this platform.
- Scalability. 3dcart is very small- and medium-sized business friendly, but it also offers a top-notch, premium solution for brands whose sales volume is over $1 million USD per year. If you grow your business to that level and beyond, you’ll be able to stick with Magento.
- Price. 3dcart offers four different plans that all run on a monthly subscription basis, ranging from $19 to $229 USD per month. Keep in mind that you’ll also have to pay for third-party payment processing because 3dcart doesn’t have its own.
In the beginning, Wix was well-known for being a top content-website platform. Later, they also added a suite of eCommerce tools and functions called Wix eCommerce, which now powers more than 700,000 stores.
- Shop setup. Setting up an online store with Wix is easy, since they offer free and paid templates and an intuitive drag-and-drop interface. If you’re looking for extra capabilities, you can use the Wix App Market to find the tools you need. Additionally, Wix has a cool tool called Artificial Design Intelligence (ADI), which helps you build a website in minutes by answering a few questions. Keep in mind, however, that only clients on Business VIP plans and higher have access to full tech support.
- SEO-friendliness. Wix allows you to customize page titles, meta descriptions, and URLs for all pages. Its SEO Wiz feature creates an SEO structure for your pages based on best practices for search engine optimization. Despite these features, Wix does change image names by default which might impact your rankings.
- Mobile-friendliness. Unlike other eCommerce platforms that apply the RWD (responsive web design) method, Wix uses the “absolute positioning” approach. That means you have to create two website formats and adjust each layout to fit different devices. So you can absolutely provide a smooth mobile-shopping experience for your customers, but setting it up on your end can be time-consuming.
- Security. Wix's security is relatively weak compared to the other platforms. It only provides SSL certificates to website users and does not specifically emphasize other transaction security safeguards.
- Scalability. Wix is designed for small to medium businesses. If you want to start small and aren’t looking to get too big, Wix might be a good choice.
- Price. Wix is free until you want to start selling, which means you can play around with the platform before spending a dime to see if it fits your needs. When you’re ready to open your shop, Wix’s premium plans range from $17 to $35 USD per month. They also charge payment fees in different percentages based on payment methods and regions.
Choose the eCommerce platform that’s right for you
Consider your unique priorities when it comes to choosing an eCommerce platform for your new online business. Maybe price is a key concern, or scalability is on the forefront of your mind. Whatever your situation, you can refer back to the breakdown of the five platforms above to help you select one that fits most or all of your needs. Whichever one you choose: Don't forget to integrate Shypyard to understand insights into exactly how your e-commerce channels are doing, and start making decisions confidently with the most up-to-date data and machine learning driven predictions.
What is Shypyard?
Shypyard is building a unified data platform that generates insights for rapidly scaling e-commerce merchants to help them avoid growing pains.
Our platform connects quickly to all common e-commerce data sources, normalizing the raw data into our proprietary data model. This allows us to deeply understand how each area of the store, from marketing to operations to finance affect the merchant overall.
We offer two main value propositions for the merchant: a quick, centralized view of their business plus growth recommendations that consider their business holistically. As Shypyard becomes more sophisticated, this foundational data layer is a springboard for additional AI e-commerce tools in the form of alerts, automations, etc.
Shypyard is designed to be easy to get started and hard to outgrow. Merchants get value immediately from our high level dashboards, and the more they use Shypyard, the better recommendations they receive.
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