The importance of choosing the right e-commerce platform for your website can directly affect the success of your business. With that said, how exactly do you choose the right platform? Each platform boasts about it’s unique selling points so to distinguish which platform really suits your business you first need to understand the two different types of platforms and the pros and cons of them and then work out which platform is right for your business.
In this article I’ll be giving you an in depth view of each platform and also giving you a helping hand in picking out the best platform for your ecommerce business.
Let’s get started!
Types of Platforms
In regards to Ecommerce platforms there a two different types, these are:
● Self Hosted
Hosted means that a company will host your website for a monthly/yearly fee. Self hosted is fairly self explanatory; software is provided by the company but you have to find your own means of web hosting.
Before choosing to opt for either hosted or self hosted, it is important to know that there are inherent advantages and disadvantages of each type of platform. For a good, stable but generic foundation for your website it would be best to opt for a hosted platform but for a more customisable website it’s best to opt for self hosted. I’ll venture a little more into the advantages and disadvantages here:
Hosted Platforms Pros and Cons
Pros of Hosted platforms
●Easy To Use - This is the most obvious advantage; with a user friendly dashboard designed for users with limited tech knowledge, taking away the complexity of writing your own code for hours and hours on end to then be mindblown when it doesn’t work and you have to retrace your steps to find the problem. Breathe!
●Update, Development and Maintenance - Automatic and stressfree. Any updates or problems are dealt with by your hosting company and would generally be affecting multiple clients connected to the hosting company.
●Technical Support - Generally much better than self hosted platforms because most hosted platform companies have a strong, dedicated team of tech support gurus to assist you with any problems or queries.
Cons of Hosted platforms
●Speed - This can be an issue with multiple clients of the company hosted on 1 server and can affect the load up speed of your website.
●1 Problem Affects All - Exactly what it says on the tin; if there’s a problem on the server it affects all websites on that server.
●Satisfy Average Client Needs - It’s not bespoke; if you want to install something to help your site and add features, etc.. sorry no can do.
Self Hosted Platforms Pros and Cons
Pros of a Self Hosted platform
●Bespoke - The big buzz word you just can’t get from a hosted company; Customisability! Being able to design your own look and feel of the site to help showcase your brand in the best possible light whilst having the features and functions to engage the audience.
●Possibly Less Expensive - If you have personally the skills or a tech team at hand within your own business, you can save money developing and launching your e-commerce store.
● One Time Fees - Pay a one time fee to download software instead of monthly charges.
Cons of a Self Hosted platform
●Designing - Depending on your skill level you may need to hire a developer to work with in order to create your site. This can take qulte a bit of time and a hefty sum of money depending on the designers hourly rate.
●Security - Not always an issue but you may need to add additional security to your website, especially if there is no security measures in place.
● Updates, Development and Maintenance - To put it simply; this may not be free.
●Support… Or Lack Of – Support for Self Hosted platforms is limited; checking out forums and blogs is probably your best bet to hopefully find your answer.
What To Look For When Choosing An Ecommerce Platform
When choosing an e-commerce platform you need to make sure that the one that you choose meets basic needs.
Moz, the largest community of SEO’s in the world have produced an in depth article listing all the basic needs that you should expect your E-commerce platform to be capable of performing. The list is as follows:
● SEO Friendly URL’s
● Granular Page Title Control
● 301 Redirects
● SearchFriendly Navigation Structure
● Robust Taxonomy Options
● Automated XML Sitemaps
● Google Analytics For Ecommerce
● Robots Meta Tag
● Custom Landing Pages
● Robot.txt Control
● Site Speed
● Analytics Enabled Site Search
● Authorship Markup
● Schema.org Markup
● Alt Tag Control
● Granular Meta Description Control
● Frictionless Social Sharing
● Content Rich Category Pages
Check out Mozs’ article here - https://moz.com/ugc/choosing-an-seo-friendly-ecommerce-platform-20-features-tolook-for
Award winning business growth experts Integrity Search published a Periodic Table of E-commerce Success Factors which is a fantastic infographic that you can use to make sure you’re getting the best possible features and functions from your E-commerce platform.
Shopify is definitely the best hosted ecommerce platform, for starters it’s userfriendly interface makes easy work of navigating through layers of options. The dashboard’s easy to use, clear features and design as well as it’s customisation options that allows a user to extend default functions or introduce new functions, is a testament as to why there over 175,000 active Shopify stores; more than any other hosted platform.
This platform is far more advanced that even it’s next 2 competitors, Volusion and BigCommerce. Since Shopify is a good platform it does cost but if you’re looking for a solid foundation with flexible customisable options then Shopify is definitely a Hosted platform that you should give serious consideration to.
Prices for the basic platform with your own online store start at $29/ month which is around £19.00 GBP, however if you’re looking for the full complete ultimate Shopify package then it can be yours for $179/ month (£118.08). Start a FREE 14 Day trial today!
Although this is one of Shopify’s main competitors it is hugely inferior. This platform is very rigid; there’s no malleable flexibility to help a user gain the best for their online shop. Search marketing is very difficult when using this platform for example, a brand awareness campaign on Google would need to be managed by a search marketing professional as a remarketing campaign with the purpose of driving brand awareness using visual display banners is near impossible as this platform doesn’t even allow the account holder to retrieve basic information needed for remarketing.
The only plus side (and I do literally mean thee only) is that this platform is offered for $15/month (£9.90). However, with it’s inferiority it’s rather small saving over the cost of Shopify would be peanuts compared to the potential offered on Shopify. Coming from this platform onto a Shopify platform would be like walking into Narnia.
Similar to Shopify, this platform does have customisable options but are hugely limited and are yet again inferior to Shopify. BigCommerce loves Google; Trusted Stores and Product Feed options and functions are built in but if you try to market on another Search Engine like Yahoo then I’m afraid you’ll likely encounter a brick wall of problems.
A plus side for BigCommerce is that it’s dashboard is a lot more user friendly than Volusion.
That’s pretty much it.
The cost of this platform would put you back $29.95/ month (£19.76) plus a 1.5% transaction fee for purchases. Give yourself a week on the platform and you’ll be bleeding money.
The Best Hosted Platform Is…
Clearly has to be Shopify. It’s the Alpha market leader among hosted platform companies.
Self Hosted Platforms
WooCommerce and WordPress are like the great criminal duo Bonnie and Clyde; they go hand in hand, both complimenting each other’s ability.
Anything you can do on WordPress you can also do on WooCommerce. The customisability of the platform is huge and if you need a bespoke function then there are many developers ready and waiting to help you out.
We do know the drawbacks such as costs for upgrading and added security, etc.. but as a Self Hosted platform you can’t really fault WooCommerce.
Magento is a platform jam packed with all the features and functions that this platform has picked up over the many years it’s been available. However, you’d have thought by now that the user interface would’ve been updated into something someone could actually use without getting lost every 2 seconds.
It’s like a platform that’s lost it’s sense of direction, thrown together by a team of designers and engineers that love making things 5000x more complex than it ever needed to be.
The Best Hosted Platform Is…
By far WooCommerce. There’s no competition at all. However, you have to also bear in my the cost of a Self hosted platform such as the cost for updates.
Best Ecommerce Platform Winner Overall
This quite clearly is between Shopify and Woocommerce. If you are a small company with only a few products then WooCommerce would be a great option for you. However, if you’re a big company and/or see your company expanding in the future then Shopify is the best platform for you.
For me, since the ever expanding market potential in Ecommerce and the potential growth of businesses, I’d recommend Shopify. Yes there’s a monthly cost but the benefits are too great to ignore.
In the last year 90% of new businesses failed and the 2 top reasons were that not enough market research/exposure was done therefore the potential audience wasn’t tapped into and the second reason is that trends were ignored. This is why it’s very important to understand the trends in the market and notice that Ecommerce and Mcommerce sales are increasing year on year with Mcommerce predicted to represent nearly 50% of online sales by 2019.
Therefore, being proactive in noticing treads that will help to tap you into new audiences is a driving factor in the success of your business and in order for an online business to be able to do that, you need to make sure that you are using the right platform for your business.
In short, it’s very important to choose the right platform for your company. I’m sure you’re like any businessman or woman; you want to continue to expand, so a Shopify platform would definitely be the best choice for you.