I know it’s strange to say everyone is jumping on the e-commerce bandwagon, simply because there are literally millions of e-commerce sites in the world today. However, the statement still holds true as hundreds and thousands of businesses are just entering the e-commerce sphere this day. This has resulted in new e-commerce platforms springing up, and existing e-commerce platforms beefing up their features.
I’ve been asked very often what the best e-commerce platform is. I suppose one can give a rating to each feature of every platform, but as each platform has different strengths and weaknesses, I believe the more important question at hand is which e-commerce platform is more suitable for your business now, and in the long run.
Nonetheless, let’s go through the prominent e-commerce platforms and their suitability for your business. Note that I am only covering the top 5 that businesses are using here in Southeast Asia, and will not be covering the other big platforms such as OsCommerce, BigCommerce, and Big Cartel.
Shopify is the fastest growing e-commerce platform, boasting more than 400,000 shops hosted, and transacting over 34 billion dollars. These are impressive numbers, but is it the right fit for your business?
First of all, Shopify is extremely easy to set up and use. If you and your team have no experience in setting up, or have no technical expertise to create and maintain an online store, Shopify is a good option. However, as always, with ease of use comes the possible lack of functionality. While Shopify provides the basic functionalities of an online store, there are unique or advanced features that are not readily available.
With a wide range of extensions and plugins, you may be able to find one that provides the functionality you require, but chances are that the plugin has a cost to it, and making sure it looks and behaves exactly how you want it to is very unlikely.
If you are operating with a low startup cost, Shopify has lower tiers to get your feet wet in the e-commerce sphere. As you expand your operations, you can upgrade to higher tiers without having to recreate your store.
Now if you are intending to make customised changes to your Shopify store, you will need to have someone on your team who is proficient in ‘Liquid’, which is Shopify’s own programming language. Generally, it is not easy to customise your Shopify store if you have any unique requirements.
One of Shopify’s latest offering is their POS (Point-Of-Sale), which allows you to accept payments and integrate the statistics and data with your online store. This may prove useful if you are also running a brick and mortar store.
Lastly, think about the payment methods you are intending to accept. It is important to note that you will be charged an additional transaction fee on every order if you are not using Shopify Payment.
Magento has been one of the leading e-commerce platforms for a while now, hosting some major brands such as Paul Smith and Christian Louboutin. However, it is important to note that there are two different editions of Magento, namely the Enterprise Edition and the Community Edition.
The Community Edition is free and open-source, which means that you can install it and use (even modify) it almost anyway you want so as to fit your requirements. It being free is a plus point if you are operating on a low budget and a basic online store is what you’re looking to set up.
The Enterprise Edition, as the name suggests, is more suitable for larger operations. It is not a free software and can in fact cost a lot, depending on your requirements. If your business is growing quickly and you have the resources, the Enterprise Edition is something to consider. The Enterprise Edition handles large product catalogs better (faster), and it provides a versioning back-up system that can be vital in case of a necessary rollback of system data.
Similar to Shopify, there are many free and paid templates as well as plugins to extend your store’s functionality. There is also a community forum where you can get assistance from fellow store owners and extension developers.
Although you are allowed to modify Magento to cater to your business needs, it can be quite complex to edit, and you will likely need solid developers for customisation. Setting up Magento in the beginning may also feel daunting due to the number of features the software ships with.
All in all, creating and managing a Magento online store would require time and expertise. If you have simplified business requirements, other lightweight options may be more suitable.
Wix made its name by being the best user-friendly drag-and-drop website builder. Their aggressive advertising campaigns never let us forget this. But they’ve taken this same strength in drag-and-drop into the creation of an e-commerce store. So to you business owners who are very visual and prefer the what-you-see-is-what-you-get (WYSIWYG) route, Wix is something to explore.
The basic Wix e-commerce tool provides you enough functionality to start selling your products, but its strength (other than their drag-and-drop capabilities) is in its App Market. Although the Wix App Market does not have as many apps as the plugins that Shopify and Magento hosts, it still has an array of apps that extends to your marketing and business needs, as well as expanding the features of e-commerce by integrating with more powerful tools such as EcWid.
Wix’s drag-and-drop certainly allows you to customise the layout of your online store, especially with a pretty template to begin with, but customisation of actual functionality is a whole different ball game. If you are looking to build a scalable online store with reasonably large operations and complex functionalities, this may not be the best option.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin to provide e-commerce capability. If your current website is already on WordPress, then this may be a good fit as you do not need to manage two separate sites and administrative panels. One of its core benefits is that it runs seamlessly on WordPress, which means that it cannot be too difficult to set up since even bloggers are able to do so.
WooCommerce is easy to set up and manage if you are intending to start small. It has the basic e-commerce functions to get your product catalog going and accept payments through a range of payment gateways, but if you are looking to start a more complex and big-scale online store, WordPress and WooCommerce may limit you.
As WordPress has a comprehensive list of plugins available, chances are you will be able to find plugins that can integrate with WooCommerce to extend the e-commerce capability of your online store, but these may come at a cost.
In conclusion, WooCommerce is a suitable choice if you are familiar with WordPress, and are working on a smaller budget to begin with.
PrestaShop is a free open-source e-commerce solution that claims to be hosting more than 250,000 online stores. Although PrestaShop is free, it is not easy to set up and manage on your own. If you do not have a strong technical background in programming or web development, it is likely that you will need to engage these professionals for their services.
PrestaShop’s administrative panel has its functions categorised under different buttons on the menu, and these will allow you to start selling your products online as soon as the store is fully set up. However, if you wish to get more functionalities or integrate other softwares with PrestaShop, you will need to purchase add-ons at a rather steep price. One example is the Stripe payment gateway integration that costs about USD 159.99.
Unfortunately, it has been reported that not all modules are able to work cohesively on PrestaShop, and this has caused many PrestaShop stores to be buggy and glitchy.
If you are running a larger online store and have the resources to hire web developers and e-commerce managers to handle the store, you can customise your PrestaShop store quite a fair bit. But it is definitely not recommended for beginners or small business owners whom are trying to start selling online.