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Choosing the right e-commerce platform is critical to the success of your business. You’re not only choosing the features you need, but you’re also choosing the challenges you will face as your business grows or changes. The scalability, flexibility, and cost of your platform can work for or against you.
Before you compare e-commerce platforms, it’s a good idea to have already sorted-out a great deal of your skills and strategy. For example, some platforms are better for those who are SEO-focused. You don’t want to build your e-commerce site and then realize it's not optimized for your strategy. While some platforms will feel restrictive to those who have coding skills, those who don't have that skill may greatly benefit from the simplicity of the same platforms.
Keeping your priorities in mind, join us as we take a look at the six best e-commerce platforms currently available.
For a long time, WooCommerce dominated its market. As a direct WordPress plug-in, it still has a lot to offer, especially for those businesses that have a website and are jumping into e-commerce for the first time. WooCommerce has high customizability and built-in analytics. The platform also has 24/7 customer support, like almost all e-commerce platforms.
The plug-in itself is free, but you still need to host your site and pay for some related costs. If you need an all-in-one package, competitors such as Squarespace may make more sense for you.
WooCommerce is right for those businesses that need a customizable platform, know WordPress well, and have coding chops. However, WooCommerce is a challenge to scale and doesn't allow for proper SEO. It also lacks the social media marketing support that makes Shopify so appealing. If you are planning on significantly growing your business, other options may serve you better.
Who Uses WooCommerce?
Shopify is overwhelmingly popular. It is the e-commerce platform of choice for those who rely on social media marketing to sell or who do drop shipping. The platform is simple, flexible, and scalable from small to medium-sized businesses. You also don’t need coding knowledge to use it. Instead, the platform has a drag-and-drop interface that allows you to build your site.
Shopify focuses on selling and provides a lot of customer experience management (CEM) and up-sell features. However, Shopify struggles to handle the largest stores. Shopify Plus may help you grow into a larger store, but if you're already a larger retailer, it may not be the right choice for you.
If you deal with high volume sales or want to focus on SEO over social media marketing, it’s worth your time to check out Shopify’s new competitor, Big Commerce, which offers superior performance.
Who Uses Shopify?
3) Big Commerce
Many businesses find themselves narrowing down their choice between Shopify and Big Commerce. Not only can Big Commerce handle the massive stores that Shopify struggles with, but it also offers stronger SEO performance. It has a one-page checkout experience that could help your conversion, but it lacks the one-click up-sells that Shopify does so well.
Whether or not Big Commerce will work for you over Shopify depends on your own strategy, of course. If you do choose Big Commerce, you can expect high customizability (if you have coding skills) and constant customer support. However, you can also expect a higher price tag for many features that other platforms include in their basic plans.
Who Uses Big Commerce?
If the bigger price tag of Big Commerce is out of the question, you may appreciate OpenCart instead. It's open-source and free-to-use, although you can invest in add-ons, which range in cost from free to $100. There are many add-on options, some with features you would have to pay for elsewhere.
The platform also requires a great deal of coding ability, not just because it’s highly customizable, but because their support isn’t as strong as other platforms. If something goes wrong, you may need to tinker with your site yourself while OpenCart works on getting back to you.
Still, OpenCart has good SEO capability, is always mobile-responsive, and can be the right option for a tech-savvy small business owner who wants to save on their platform.
Who Uses OpenCart?
It’s easy to see why small businesses without much coding skill would gravitate to Squarespace. The platform offers excellent design from a simple drag-and-drop interface based on several beautiful templates. Visually, it’s very appealing, so it's popular among design-focused professionals from photographers to interior designers.
Squarespace also seems to attract small business owners—likely because they don’t have coders on staff to personalize their e-commerce sites. Despite that, Squarespace is flexible and allows you to offer unlimited products on your site. On the other hand, if your business is focused on e-commerce, or has high sales volume, Squarespace may not be right for you. It doesn’t have much SEO or CRM capabilities.
Who Uses Squarespace?
Magento, by Adobe, is especially popular in Asia. Now, North American companies have begun to realize the power behind this e-commerce platform. You do need coding expertise to excel with this platform, but if you do have some, the open-source nature makes it incredibly flexible and scalable. Many extensions and features are already available, or you can build your own. Plus, with a smart, modular design, it’s easy to make an e-commerce site that looks really good.
Magento is a smart choice for small or large businesses that can handle a more complicated interface than Squarespace. While there is a free version of Magento, the jump from free to enterprise is significant—the enterprise cost is $2,200 per month. That can make it tough for growing businesses to expand in the e-commerce world.
Who Uses Magento?
Ultimately, the best e-commerce platform for your business will be one that matches your coding skills and expectations for growth, both in volume and number of products offered.
The right platform should also allow you to use the marketing and customer experience strategies that you need to thrive.
Whichever you choose, don’t rush your decision to choose the right e-commerce platform—it's a complicated decision that will have a profound effect on your business.