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Pros and Cons of Well Known eCommerce Website Platforms

Choosing the right platform for your website can be daunting, and at eComOne we speak to a lot of potential and existing clients that just don’t know which one is best. With this in mind we have decided to compile a list of the top eCommerce website platforms (in our opinion!) with pros and cons of each one as well as information on what it can do, how easy it is to use and the costings.

 

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is an open-source platform and is also one of the most popular eCommerce platforms worldwide. Designed for use with WordPress it is a plugin that when implemented correctly will enable your website to have very powerful online sales ability. WooCommerce was made for people who want full control over their eCommerce business.

Pros

  • Open-source – You have full control over the files that come with the benefits of customisation to the end of your imagination.
  • Many advanced features make it a good choice even for larger stores, there is a large community of users and developers with an equally large number of plugins and extensions available to make the most of your store and make it even more powerful.
  • Built on WordPress – Being built on WordPress means it runs on one of the most popular web cms systems.
  • Allows for both Customer and Store Administrator Accounts allowing different rights and access for each, also allows guest checkout without the need for an account.
  • Sell anything – You get the option to sell more than just physical products. You can sell digital downloads, subscriptions and you can even use it as an appointment system.
  • A large amount of pre-designed themes and shop styles are available, both free and paid which can provide a good professional looking store relatively easy.

 

Cons

  • Although there are a great many themes available they vary in ease of use and the level of ability you will need to edit them.
  • Initial setup can be considered a pain for users without much experience
  • There is no central support as the support can be with the theme, hosting etc; so unlike with platforms like Shopify this can cause problems.

 

Statistics About The Platform

According to BuiltWith at the time of writing February of 2019, there are 3,317,205 websites in the world using the WooCommerce platform with approximately 8,550+ of these being within the British Isles.

WordPress.org plugins page for WooCommerce makes the claim that 30% of the worlds online stores are now powered by WooCommerce.

 

How Much Does It Cost?

Although both WordPress and WooCommerce are open source and are free to all users, there are associated costs when thinking about running an online store with WooCommerce that are not necessarily associated with some other platforms.

As with all of the other platforms here you will need to consider the purchase of a domain name for your business/website, this can vary in cost and can be anything between £2.99 to £100 per year in the UK (shop around).

With WooCommerce you will also need somewhere to host your WordPress website, again there are many of these available and WooCommerce actually recommend hosts like SiteGround and BlueHost and once again costs can vary from £15 to £250 per year.

With WooCommerce there are a number of additional but optional costs, while there are many free themes available and WooCommerce comes with its own official Storefront which while being simple is well developed you can opt to purchase one of the thousands of other themes available and these can cost anywhere up to £80-£100 one-off fee or yearly.

 

Magento

Magento is another eCommerce platform built on open source technology that many in the industry consider being the best. Magento was acquired by Adobe in around May 2018 and as you would expect of an Adobe company they push for creativity and success.

 

Pros

  • One of the biggest plus points for Magento is its flexibility, it allows for a lot of third-party integration with a wide range of plugins available that cover pretty much everything imaginable for an eCommerce store.
  • Out of the box robustness, even the open source version of Magento has everything you need to get a store up and running and is packed with eCommerce features. Even the standard theme, while not being the prettiest provides you with an optimal UI to start selling.
  • Extensive suite of SEO features within the platform, an area many others are lacking, including plenty of discoverable features such as sitemaps, canonical tag management etc.
  • It’s very scalable and can grow as your business does, some of the largest stores in the world are built on the Magento platform. Magento can easily handle a handful of products or thousands of them.
  • A large community of users and developers and as a result, if you have problems there’s generally someone who can help or something that provides a solution.

 

Cons

  • Hosting can be expensive as because of its large and complex systems (over twenty thousand files and two hundred database tables) it is recommended to run on a dedicated server.
  • It can be expensive to develop on the Enterprise and Premium versions of the platform, and it can be difficult to find good genuine developers.
  • Investment can be expensive in time as well, Magento is a very complex system to learn and requires advanced development skills.

 

Statistics About The Platform

At the time of writing, BuiltWith has 9,600,718 sites worldwide with 347,480 of these being in the top 1 million. The number in the UK is 309,175.

 

How Much Does It Cost?

Unless you are going to go straight to Magento Enterprise Edition then the actual platform is Free, if your requirements are such that you need the Enterprise edition then you are looking at a cost of £16,500 for annual sales of less than 1 million.

Hosting costs for a Magento Open Source website will vary from provider to provider but unmanaged hosting can be anything between £5 and £180 with managed hosting being around £150 per month. For Magento Commerce (Enterprise Edition) these figures will be more like £375pm for dedicated servers.

Themes for Magento stores again can vary widely, anything from £20 to £350 with extensions that will enhance the store’s capabilities starting from around £35 although there are also a great many free extensions available for Magento that are well worth investigating before splashing out.

If you have in-house development or are particularly tech savvy then you can save considerably on the cost of actually building the website. Otherwise the hourly rate of Magento specialists is going to be around £80 – £100 per hour.

On top of this, you will then need to consider ongoing maintenance of the website that you can usually agree with the developers.

 

Shopify

Shopify is a cloud-based eCommerce solution developed in Canada a little over 13 years ago by a budding entrepreneur who wanted to sell snowboards online. He developed Shopify and quickly recognised that there are a great many others like him that want to sell stuff online in the easiest way possible. Fast forward to today and it is one of the most popular platforms for those starting out with an eCommerce business.

Pros

  • Ease of use is a big advantage with Shopify, nearly everything can be done with a few clicks and there is a lot of guides and documentation from beginners to advanced.
  • The design is another aspect pretty much taken care of, and the quality of their designs all of which are responsive are excellent. If you don’t like any of the roughly 170 options that are from Shopify there are plenty you can buy or even create your own with their Liquid Template Engine.
  • Shopify is a very flexible platform as well, not only do you have a wide choice of themes and templates but you have full access to all of the code as well.
  • Another platform with a large community of developers both sites and apps both free and paid to make Shopify even more versatile.
  • Unlike the previously mentioned open source solutions Shopify has 24-hour support and in our experience, they have always been found to be both helpful and efficient in finding solutions to issues.

 

Cons

  • Price is one of the main reasons people avoid using Shopify, the cheapest option of Shopify will not give you the ability to create a fully featured online store.
  • Out of the box, installation is missing some of the key functionality you might expect and will need to be added through the many app’s that are available.
  • Although Shopify insists that their platform is optimised to give the best performance there are factors that can slow this down and it is not as easy as with other platforms to fully control this.

 

Statistics About The Platform

There is no doubt at all that Shopify is one of the more popular eCommerce platforms out there, with merchants in 175 countries and 600,000 merchants around the world.

According to BuiltWith statistics, there are 768,675 websites in the world with a little over 33,000 of them being in the UK. Of all of these sites, there are 21,649 in the top 1 million in the world which is 2.16% of the market.

 

How Much Does It Cost?

Shopify offers a multi-tier pricing structure with the monthly fees being billed in US dollars, all the versions offer a 14-day free trial which should be more than enough to see if its the right platform for you.

The basic package Shopify Lite comes in at $9 per month (but as already mentioned is not a full solution) with the next tier being Basic at $29 a month. According to their own site, the most popular packages is $79 with an advanced package coming in at $299 a month. The three main tier solutions also have transaction fees if you utilise either Shopify payments or other payment providers and there are more details on current pricing of these items here.

Shopify do also offer an enterprise solution for high volume merchants and larger businesses and this is quoted on a case by case basis, it does, however, start at around $2000 per month. On a plus note, there are no transaction fees with a Shopify Plus account.

As already mentioned there are many apps available and themes that all provide a much nicer look and slicker online experience but as with other platforms these are available at a cost.

Unlike some other competitors Shopify requires you to be on its more expensive $79 plan in order to gain access to its in-depth sales and customer reports, so this is another factor to consider.

 

BigCommerce

BigCommerce is in many ways very similar to Shopify, it is a Saas product (software as a service) and as such, like Shopify is a hosted and paid for solution that allows anyone to set up a store and sell products online. It comes with a great range of customisable templates and although aimed at users without much in the way of web skills it also lends itself to the more tech-savvy by allowing you them to access and edit HTML and CSS files of their store.

BigCommerce is definitely one of the bigger players in the arena and is a well-established product with some big hitting users including clients such as Gibson Guitars and Toyota.

As platforms go Shopify and BigCommerce are pretty equal, but for some user,s the smallest things can be deemed a crucial advantage and when it comes to items that can be game changers such as SEO Bigcommerce has the lead.

Another difference between these two is unlike Shopify, Bigcommerce do not charge transaction fees, however, it’s not all as rosy as it sounds as they will move you into a higher plan when your sales hit a certain threshold.

 

Pros

  • BigCommerce is an all in one solution, so if you are starting out, or you want to build the store yourself without having to hire a developer it comes with everything you need out of the box to power your online store.
  • It is incredibly easy to pick up and develop, including creating the products and managing the store as a whole.
  • As we mentioned already, unlike some other platforms there are no transaction fees.
  • Easily handles multiple sales channels such as online marketplaces like Ebay, Amazon and Google Shopping as well as integrating with social media platforms such as Facebook.
  • Quick and simple shipping setup with real-time rates from major carriers.

 

Cons

  • The more successful your business the more expensive the platform is to run as its controversial fee structure grows as your business grows.
  • Although it has a wide range of themes available, unlike other platforms these can be somewhat expensive.
  • The theme editor can also seem a little outdated until you are used to it.
  • No mobile apps available to assist a busy owner in managing the store on the go.

 

Statistics About The Platform

Once again taking data from the BuiltWith website, BigCommerce is listed as having 44,725 websites worldwide with only 2,426 of these being in the UK and 3,963 of them being within the top 1 million websites which is a mere 0.4% of the market.

 

How Much Does It Cost?

There are currently four tiers to the pricing structure for Bigcommerce and they are somewhat similar to those offered by Shopify. The main difference is there is no entry level solution as with the Shopify Lite with BigCommerce first offering (standard) coming in at $29.95 per month. Again, according to their own information, their most popular solution is (plus) at $79.95 a month with the (pro) solution being $249.95 per month.

BigCommerce does offer and (enterprise) version which is available as a call for custom pricing option, which they do tout as being lower than Magento or Shopify Plus.

As mentioned earlier, there are no transaction fees with BigCommerce, however, they do place a limit on your annual online sales at which point you will incur a forced upgrade to the next plan.

BigCommerce Standard: $50,000

BigCommerce Plus: $150,000

BigCommerce Pro: $400,000

BigCommerce Enterprise: negotiable

You will still incur additional charges for the use of the payment gateway as with all platforms.

As with most of the other platforms discussed there are free and paid for theme options, BigCommerce does have some really professional quality themes but they are a little pricey when compared with the majority of the other platforms, ranging in price from $145 to $250.

Once again there are a host of apps available at a range of prices similar to those of other platforms, however, there are not as many available, 600 for Bigcommerce as opposed to over 2000 for Shopify.

BigCommerce does supply several good reports as standard and for an additional fee, you can gain further insights by utilising its more advanced reports. The cost of these vary according to plan ‘Standard and Plus’ for $49, ‘Pro’ $99 and ‘Enterprise’ $249.

 

OpenCart

OpenCart is a relative newcomer first released in 2012, however, it has fast become a popular choice in the online market, mainly due to its simplicity, functionality and speed. OpenCart was designed to make life easy for merchants to open stores and customers to interact with them. It is a PHP based platform that utilises a MySQL database and HTML components with a simple and easy to understand interface.

Pros

  • Good for creating a reasonable scale multinational eCommerce presence, OpenCart makes it easy to have multiple languages in your storefront.
  • Compatible with almost all current payment gateways, although they lead with PayPal.
  • Easy to manage and run your store with loads of add on features available through its 13,000+ modules and themes available.
  • A good set of reporting tools that are customisable to suit your business needs, all of which is accessible through an easy to understand well-designed dashboard.
  • Easily integrates with the most common shipping methods.

 

Cons

  • Straight from the box, it can cause canonicalisation issues with your SEO creating several duplicate pages with different URLs.
  • Like WordPress, although its modules and extensions are relatively easy to implement, they don’t always sit together happily and can cause issues and conflicts.
  • The system itself might be too light for some users and the scalability of the package can be somewhat limiting.
  • Importing of products etc can be problematic without the installation of a relevant plugin.

 

Statistics About The Platform

According to BuiltWith statistics, there are 362,438 websites in the world with a little over 17,000 of them being in the UK. Of all of these sites, there are 3,726 in the top 1 million in the world which is 0.37% of the market.

 

How Much Does It Cost?

OpenCart is a free, open-source platform so its really easy to get a store up and running for very little cost, ie. hosting and domain. An additional advantage with the hosting is that the OpenCart software doesn’t need a powerful server to run so you can start off with lower costs here and upgrade as the store develops.

As with the other platforms discussed here, there are plenty of themes available at relatively little cost, some of the really good ones being within the range of $20 to $60. There are also a great many add-ons as already mentioned and these range from FREE to between $20 and $150.

If you have some web experience you can probably get by without a developer but if not it will be necessary to hire one, OpenCart also offers some support with either a $99 per month dedicated support plan or a $99 one time fix plan each time you need assistance.

 

Our Personal Opinion

If you have read through the information on the different eCommerce packages above you will understand there is no one size fits all solution, there are a lot of factors to take into consideration.

If you are just starting out on your eCommerce journey and have little or no experience with development, then we would look to Shopify for a reasonably cheap and easy to use a solution where you would be up and running in a very short time.

The cheapest solution and one we have used for several clients would be the OpenCart route, however, if you are looking to grow the site with your business, or are a larger company then this carts features via extensions structure could prove problematic.

For an all-round platform that will grow with your company or a company that is already of a reasonable size then when implemented properly it is definitely Magento. Not the easiest of the platforms to set up without experience or a developer but one to persevere with and if you have a large number of products with options and variants it will cope right out of the box.

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