There has never been a more critical time for shops large and small to start selling online, but with so many options to choose from it can be difficult to decide on the right ecommerce platform. So, what should you be looking out for when choosing a sales platform – how do the various options compare?
To set up an online store a decade ago meant paying a developer or agency or an eye-watering amount of money to run your servers, keep your software up-to-date, and pulling together a variety of open source and proprietary tools. Now, however, you can sign up to a cloud-based ecommerce platform, fill in your details, select a pre-built design or theme, and you can be up and running without any technical help required at all and with little or no upfront cost.
Many people still choose to build their own solution with open source tools like WooCommerce or Magento, but for those looking to get themselves online as quickly as possible with little fuss then Shopify is probably the best bet.
Ease of use
Many people think it is complicated to put their products up online, but with the numerous cloud-based options around today that is simply not the case. WooCommerce has got better in recent years in making it easier for non-technical people to add products and categories, but it remains confusing to many, especially in comparison with the simplicity or Shopify, Squarespace, Wix, and others.
Amazon famously brought its checkout process down to a single click and at the same time built a bookshop into a commerce behemoth that is one of the top 20 companies in the world. The checkout process matters.
You want a checkout process that is secure, loads quickly, looks great, and lets people pay with as little fuss as possible. Today, that means processing credit and debit cards along with options for Apple Pay, Google Pay and PayPal. Here, the cloud pagebuilders that have tacked on ecommerce like Squarespace and Wix struggle to offer the same variety of options available on a dedicated enterprise ecommerce platform like Shopify or the open source competitor WooCommerce. Shopify also has a secret weapon up its sleeve at checkout, and that is that if you have bought anything at any Shopify-based store then they have their own one-click checkout process that gives Amazon a run for its money.
Most small businesses will not want to get into the nuts and bolts of running an ecommerce store – that is what has scared them off for years. However, for larger enterprises they will want to tie together various business tools, add their own tracking to see how people are making purchases on their sight, and collecting data for business insights – and for this you need to get your hands dirty.
Options like WooCommerce are open source and so companies can look at and change the code to their heart’s content. Beyond the template or theme, most of the cloud-based services only provide a few ways that companies can customise their store, but Shopify stands out as an enterprise ecommerce platform as it offers a wide variety of APIs for companies to connect to as well as offering 20 different sales channel integrations from its own Point of Sale (POS) device to Instagram and eBay.
Ecommerce used to be expensive, but with the DIY cloud-based options like Shopify, Squarespace, and Wix it is possible to get a great looking site up and running yourself with zero upfront and just a relatively low monthly fee. WooCommerce is “free” in the sense it is open source, but you will have to pay for hosting ($20+ per month minimum for reliable cloud hosting), 1-3% transaction fees, and a fair amount for a developer to set it up for you in the first place. Meanwhile, Shopify starts at $29/mo, Squarespace starts at $26/mo, and Wix starts at $23/mo. Beyond these monthly costs, do note that you will also be charged fees per transaction which range from as low as 1.5% with the top Shopify plan to over 5% overall with the basic Squarespace plan.
Setting up an ecommerce store has never been easier and allows businesses to sell to consumers (B2C) and other businesses (B2B) at a much larger scale than ever before (read more info about digital commerce at the BBC). What are you waiting for?
Photograph by Burst