Taking the plunge to start an ecommerce business is a big deal in itself, but as you will soon realize, there is much more to this apparently easy business opportunity than meets the eye. In the generation of start-ups, you do not need to have a background in technology to support you in your climb to the top; but to catapult your business to success you do require an ecommerce platform to show you the way.
If you search for ecommerce platforms on the net, you will be handed a plethora of options. After hours of research, you must have come across four names that crop up everywhere you go – Shopify, WooCommerce, Magento and BigCommerce. Now the question arises, which of these would be suitable for you? Without a sound knowledge to guide you, you will be back to square one. Personally, I know of many such aspirants who got stuck in a vicious cycle of the trial and error method and inevitable disappointment. Given below are just some of the things you look for in an ecommerce platform; to make it easier for you, we will look at each criterion and weigh the pros and cons of each platform against them. Let’s start from the basics:
Ease of Access and User-Friendliness for the Beginners
Not every start-up has a man with technical knowledge behind the wheels, and nor do you need to be an expert in coding or programming. Speaking of user-friendliness, you have to go for a platform that can make the tedious affair of creating a website, a manageable one.
If you haven’t yet grasped the basic concepts like your site’s pages, lists and product categories, you can rest assured, it happens to the best of us. In that case, you might want to opt for Shopify. They have kept the steps simple and straightforward, all you have to do is create an account, pick a theme and customize it to suit your requirements. If you have doubts, you can always refer to the user manuals to clarify. Moreover, Shopify allows you to import from one platform to another sans the enormous hassle.
BigCommerce makes your job easier with a drag and drop builder, not to mention the fact that the admin page is exceedingly user-friendly, as shown below.
Magento ranks much lower than Shopify or BigCommerce in user-friendliness. It is in many ways old school and the technical and complex concepts might end up being a bit too much for you.
If you already have a WordPress account, it would be safe to say that you have some idea about how it works; that given, you’ll be in your comfort zone with WooCommerce. You can access and customize it directly from your own WordPress account. WordPress is really easy to use, once you get the hang of it, you will automatically be thorough with the ways of WooCommerce.
But if you look at all the aspects, it would probably be better to opt for Shopify, after all, not everyone is a WordPress expert. If you’re a beginner trying to make it big, why not go for something that will build you up from the roots?
An Attractive yet Minimalistic Design
What is the first thing customers notice when they visit your ecommerce website? The aura or the ambience of your website. And who controls that aura? You do. That is why you need to pick a theme and template that most accurately reflects your company.
For a dignified, professional look you might want to go for Magento. It takes into consideration each aspect of your business and is detailed in its representation and content. On the other hand, both WooCommerce and Shopify offer more than a 100 professional themes. Your website’s theme needs to be unique, it should be able to give you the edge over your competition. Why else will a prospective customer choose your website over another? With Shopify, once you sign up and pick a theme, you don’t have to worry about anything else. They have a few tricks up their sleeves to give your website a modern, clean interface which while minimalistic is still appealing.
BigCommerce too boasts of a number of responsive, modern themes to choose from, and is a lot similar to Shopify in this aspect. If you have used WordPress, you will know the stunning designs they offer. WooCommerce too has hundreds of themes which are a fine blend of contemporary technology, functionality and premium design. An example of a beautiful theme by WooCommerce has been shown below:
The Best Features
After your theme, the other vital element of your ecommerce website is the features; now each of these platforms provides a wide range of features. Your job is to decide which ones matter to you and which ones don’t.
Shopify, with its blogging platform, is a self hosted CMS, which means you can start creating your products straightaway, right after you sign up. You can also choose the domain name of your choice, which is a major advantage. Apart from unlimited bandwidth, Shopify also offers search engine optimization (SEO) to speed up your business growth. An interesting feature of Shopify is its adaptation of app store, to make it easier for users and the abandoned cart recovery feature. Unfortunately, Shopify has just three product attributes- size, color and material. Some of the features of Shopify have been shown below:
Unlike Shopify, BigCommerce allows you to have as many product attributes as you want. Some useful features like DDoS defense, multi-level security, “buy button” on social media sites, mobile and desktop previews, advanced SEO and faster sites are guaranteed by BigCommerce. Coming to WooCommerce, this WordPress plug-in allows you to examine your progress as a store with reports on sales, store performance and reviews. Secure payment is ensured by WooCommerce, with PayPal, Cash on Delivery, free shipping and so on.
Search Engine Optimization
Ask any business owner about the key to their success, and they will harp on the importance of effective marketing. SEO optimizes the site’s web pages, to make sure your site holds a higher position in search results. Since this increases traffic to your website, you need to find a platform that is SEO friendly.
BigCommerce makes your site search engine friendly with optimized URLs, search friendly themes, microdata, automatic sitemaps and so on. For a Magento, you do not have to do much to optimize your website; their sites are by default search engine friendly.
But Shopify emerges as a winner in this battle, with WooCommerce coming a close second. Both provide meta tags, alt tags and meta descriptions along with other SEO factors. But when it comes to WooCommerce, you will need the help of an SEO expert to optimize your website, owing to the numerous plug-ins and configuration. Not to mention the fact that SSL certification (to secure your domain) is provided by Shopify; the SSL certificate will further optimize search results. On the other hand, WooCommerce charges extra for SSL certification which could be instrumental for SEO.
A start-up needs promotion and without enough of it, you’re likely to fall behind in the race – that’s the harsh reality. Go for a platform that complies with SEO requirements, like Shopify, to help your business grow.
As the owner of a start-up, you want an ecommerce platform that will not cost you an arm and a leg, right? Personally however, I feel that pricing shouldn’t top your list of priorities; if you are investing so much of energy and time into your retail store, shouldn’t you spend more time worrying about other things, like making it the best in the market? Nevertheless, take a look at some of the rates of the four leading ecommerce platforms…
Magento offers free downloadable software, or you can pay $18000 per annum to use the platform. Shopify offers services starting from $14 to $179 per month. Of course, the more services you opt for, the more you have to pay. BigCommerce charges based on the plan, but unlike the others, they do not have a cheaper rate for entry level beginners. The price ranges from $29.95 to $79.95. Now if you have a fixed budget for your ecommerce platform, this can be a real deal-breaker.
But nothing can beat WooCommerce in this respect. It is free, since it is a plug-in of WordPress. For business owners not keen to spend too much on website creation and SEO, WooCommerce would be the ideal choice.
Appropriate User Groups
While each of these sites may offer some attractive features that you want for your website, you need to ensure that the platform you are choosing is compatible with your business. For example, Magento or BigCommerce is not really for small or middle sized industries, it would be more appropriate for big enterprises. Shopify and WooCommerce are more suited to beginners looking for someone to hold their hand through the entire process and for those starting from scratch. Both have a responsive customer support system, to help you out in your endeavor. For those wishing to unravel the little tricks and secrets that are key to the success of an ecommerce website, Shopify has an “ecommerce university”, where interaction with top industrialists will give you the boost you need to kick start your business.
Starting a business of any kind is not a piece of cake; today, there are hundreds of ecommerce websites, each striving to make a mark in the business. What will set you apart is how you approach your ecommerce website. To wish to succeed is not enough to spread your name far and wide, an ecommerce platform that caters to all your needs will be instrumental in helping you reach the heights set by ecommerce giants across the globe.