A few weeks ago, we looked at a number of solutions for your eCommerce, in this post we will go through, in more detail, the type of platforms available if you are looking to start selling online or if you just want to know if the platform you currently use is the most suitable for your business.
The first thing to consider is that there are two platform options: hosted or self-hosted. If you choose the hosted option, then the company will host the store itself, but if instead you choose self-hosted option, then you will need to sort out your own hosting and the platform will just provide you with the software to run the shop.
Hosted eCommerce Platforms
The biggest downside to “Hosted Platforms” is that you cannot customise the checkout page properly. Therefore, if you are looking to have a checkout page that is custom to your business, then I recommend you jump straight to the bottom of the article and look at the “Self-Hosted” options. However, if you don’t want the stress of finding your own hosting and having to sort out any problems if things go wrong, then the hosted option is definitely the way to go.
Shopify is probably one of the most popular platforms right now, and it is quite obvious as to why. The dashboard is stunning and has amazing add-on capabilities. It has apps that you can purchase, just like on a smartphone, that will introduce new functionalities to the store. It has an amazing gallery of the various stores that already use the platform, you can get some inspiration just by browsing through the gallery.
Cost: Starts at around $29 per month, but if you use their credit card processor, then you will get discounted fees on the transactions.
BigCommerce has lots of customisable templates and has a nice and easy user interface, making navigation easy. You can set up a store within hours, even without any prior knowledge. It also has a built-in blog function, allowing you to keep your readers up to date with latest news, it also helps your SEO.
Cost: starts at $29.95 per month, but transaction fees will be added on top of this.
If you are looking for a cheaper alternative for a web store and are not too bothered about how it looks, then maybe Volusion is the option for you. The whole site has only one template, so each store will look the same. Also, you cannot retrieve basic information that is required for tracking scripts.
Cost: starts at $15 per month.
- Big Cartel
Big Cartel is made for the creative industry, but it lacks features and customisable options. It does offer a few themes, but you will quickly see that these options are rather limited. On the upside, it is rather easy to use and does have a free pricing option, although you will need to be selling only 5 items or less.
Cost: goes from $9.99 per month to $29.99 depending on the number of products you sell.
- 3d Cart
When you start to take a look at the templates on 3d Cart, it looks like it is highly extensive and customisable as they have over 80 templates. However, on closer examination, they are just the same templates in various colours and slight tweaks! It offers some rare features, which are not really seen in other eCommerce platforms, such as affiliate marketing, which could really help boost your income. Their customer support is also superior to other options and they even include support for features such as drop shipping.
Cost: from $19.99 per month.
Self-Hosted eCommerce Platforms
A plugin for the WordPress platform, so you will need to know how to use it in order to start selling online using WooCommerce. WooCommerce is highly customisable, you can choose one of their themes or if you prefer you can build a unique one using a variety of widgets. Moreover, you can use their dashboard and reports to keep an eye on your sales. It covers a number of features including payment gateways and shipping methods, they cover many of the popular options, including PayPal. In case you want something specific, there are premium extensions that you can put in place and make your shop even more unique.
WordPress sites are very SEO-friendly and WooCommerce simply enhances this aspect. You won’t need to have any knowledge about SEO and you can see your site ranking exceptionally well, simply install one extra plugin.
These guys have been around for several years, which gives Magento an advantage in the experience department. They know what they are doing and many big companies rely on them. Their clients include big names such as Nike, Mothercare and Rosetta Stone. However, the sites often run very slowly, which disappoints users and also harms SEO. Also, since they have been around a while, some of their features are out of date and they show no intention of improving them anytime soon.
Make your decision based on your business goals and on these two aspects: customization or budget. If budget is your main priority then you should consider going down the self-hosted route. It will work out cheaper in the long run given that the software is completely free, although you need to consider that this option will be more resource and time consuming. If budget is indeed on top of your list, then consider using WooCommerce for WordPress.
However, for customization purposes, choosing a hosted store will probably be a better idea. The hosting platform will look after any problems you may have. If this is your case, then Shopify would win hands down due to how many add-ons and capabilities it has. You are able to customise your site to your liking as well as having a pretty and easy to use admin panel in the back-end.