There are over 12 million online stores in the world, attracting over 2 billion online shoppers. The COVID-19 pandemic has further propelled the Ecommerce sector, as retail Ecommerce sales have almost doubled from $2,982 billion in 2018 to $4,891 billion in 2021. Besides, global Ecommerce sales could reach $6,388 billion by 2024.
This exponential growth has encouraged many businesses to launch their Ecommerce stores and start selling online. If you’re one of them, stay tuned, as you’ll learn about selecting the best Ecommerce platform for your online business.
An Ecommerce platform, also known as Ecommerce software, Ecommerce store builder, or online store builder, is a software platform that allows you to build and manage your online storefront. It provides the tools and features needed to develop your online store from scratch, list products, facilitate buying, and process transactions.
In a nutshell, an Ecommerce platform enables you to launch your Ecommerce business.
Benefits of Using an Ecommerce Platform
It’s entirely possible to develop an Ecommerce website without these platforms. However, it requires extensive coding, making the process time-consuming and prone to errors. The right Ecommerce platform automates many Ecommerce development tasks and adds various innovative functionalities to your store. Hence, you can build your store quickly and add amazing features to it.
Here are some benefits of using an Ecommerce platform for your business.
Ease of Use:
Ecommerce platforms are easy to use, and you can use them to develop an Ecommerce site even if you have zero coding knowledge. These platforms also have in-depth tutorials to help you get started.
Popular Ecommerce platforms have best-in-class built-in security. Hence, you can stay assured that your Ecommerce business is in safe hands.
Ecommerce development platforms like Shopify and Magento allow you to give a distinct look, feel, and functionality to your store. Hence, you can set your store apart from the competitors and get your customers’ attention.
Most Ecommerce platforms offer dedicated web hosting services that ensure amazing performance and minimal downtime.
These platforms come with admin dashboards from where you can manage all your store operations.
Top-Notch Customer Support:
Ecommerce development providers have dedicated customer service teams to help you in case of any issues.
How to Choose the Best Online Store Platform?
Building a successful Ecommerce business goes beyond listing products on the web and promoting it to customers. It requires the same level of planning, strategic thinking, and administration needed to run a physical retail store.
Your store’s running costs, customer engagement, design, and UX collectively determine its success. The Ecommerce platform you choose will dictate a lot of these features. Hence, it’s crucial to choose the right Ecommerce platform for your Ecommerce store.
Here are a few factors to consider when selecting an Ecommerce development and management solution.
Identify Your Requirements
First things first, you need to determine your needs and objectives. What are your front-end and back-end requirements? What features do you need? Also, what level of architecture, performance, security, and scalability do you want?
Note your needs on a paper and classify them into four categories:
Good to have
This list of requirements will act as a reference point while comparing Ecommerce platforms.
Set a Budget
The next step is to set a budget for launching your online business. You can technically build a WordPress site and start selling online for free. However, you’ll need to pay for some essential features and functionalities. Let’s look at some expenses associated with launching and running an Ecommerce store.
Ecommerce platform costs
Web hosting fees
Design and development costs
Payment processing fees
Marketing and advertising costs
Based on your needs, Ecommerce development costs can vary from $25,000 to $250,000.
Research and Compare Ecommerce Platforms
Once you have determined your requirements and budget, you can start comparing Ecommerce platforms. Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento are the top Ecommerce platforms. However, several other platforms are also available, such as:
Salesforce Commerce Cloud
You can check out these Ecommerce solutions and shortlist a few of them.
Test and Choose
The last step is to test the shortlisted Ecommerce platforms. Most of these solutions offer a free plan, along with a free trial to the premium plan. Test the platforms you’ve shortlisted to find the best solution as per your needs.
Top 5 Best Ecommerce Platforms Compared
WooCommerce is the most popular Ecommerce platform in the world, with a 25% market share. Then comes Shopify with 20%, Magento with 10%, OpenCart with 4%, and BigCommerce with 3%. Let’s compare these five Ecommerce platforms based on their features, cost, customer support, and other factors.
WooCommerce is not a standalone platform but a free WordPress plugin that adds Ecommerce functionality to your existing website. The initial plan is free, though you can upgrade to a premium plan for more features. It comes with a bunch of free themes, and paid themes start at $39.
WooCommerce doesn’t provide in-house hosting, but it partners with hosting providers to offer WooCommerce-specific hosting services. Some of its partners are BlueHost, Siteground, WPEngine, GoDaddy, and more.
Effortless WordPress integration
Open-source Ecommerce platform
Various themes to choose from
Products sorting and rating
Add unlimited products and product photos
Integration with other Ecommerce and marketing tools
Low costs, various features, and seamless customization are reasons to select WooCommerce over other Ecommerce platforms.
However, WooCommerce has some drawbacks. Since it’s a plugin and not a platform, you need to set up all aspects of the store yourself. If you’re not familiar with WordPress, be ready for a steep learning curve. The good news, however, is that WooCommerce has amazing customer support to help you with almost everything.
Shopify is another popular Ecommerce platform that allows you to launch online stores with minimal technical knowledge. It comes with all the Ecommerce features and functionalities needed to start an Ecommerce small business website.
Shopify doesn’t have a free plan, and the initial plan (Shopify Lite) starts at $9 per month. Shopify also has a Plus version for large-scale Ecommerce stores.
Unlimited bandwidth, products, and storage
Sales and finance reports
Manual order development
Online sales channels
Shopify point of sale and discount codes
Drag and drop functionality
Shopify has emerged as the go-to choice for startups and small businesses to launch their online business and sell online. It comes with effective search engine optimization (SEO) and marketing features.
The only drawback to using Shopify is difficult customization. You need to know the Liquid language to change Shopify’s theme templates.
Magento is one of the most robust open-source Ecommerce website builders. It offers powerful growth and scalability features, making it ideal for large and growing businesses. Many dropshipping companies also use Magento.
The basic commerce version of Magento is free, though you can add paid plugins to enhance your store’s functionality. Magento also has a premium version called Magento Commerce. Its price depends on your sales volume.
Page builder with product recommendations
Customer segmentation and personalization
B2B, B2C, and mobile commerce
Order management and customer service
Cloud delivery with Adobe Experience Cloud
Performance and scale
Magento supports direct integrations with various tools to enable inventory management, multi-channel selling and lets you accept online payments. You can also integrate it with WordPress sites or any other popular website builder.
Though Magento offers amazing features and functionalities, it requires substantial technical know-how. If you’re not familiar with Magento development, this platform may not be the right pick for you.
OpenCart is an open-source Ecommerce space that allows you to build and launch a fully functional Ecommerce website. You can install OpenCart for free from the official website. Paid products, including hosting, extension packages, and support, are also available.
OpenCart provides access to over 10,000 themes and modules. It comes with extensive documentation to help you get started.
Feature-rich administrator dashboard
User management and different roles
Multiple store management
Various options and attributes to choose from
Discounts and coupons
Track sales and orders
OpenCart is an ideal pick for small stores. It is free to use and comes with various free themes, extensions, and other features. However, it lacks various important features you get with other Ecommerce solutions, like Magento. Also, OpenCart doesn’t provide free customer support.
Let’s conclude this list with BigCommerce, another popular Ecommerce solution that comes with SEO tools, payment processors, customer accounts, and other important features. Most BigCommerce users are large brands with over $100 million in online sales. If you’re looking for a robust Ecommerce platform to launch and manage a big storefront, BigCommerce will be an ideal pick for you.
BigCommerce doesn’t have a free version. The pricing starts at $29.95 per month, with the highest plan being $299.95 per month. However, there is a free trial.
Customizable templates and branding
Abandoned cart recovery
Content management and collaboration tools
Order and inventory management
Reporting, analytics, and statistics
Third-party integrations, payment gateways, and website management
Though BigCommerce has slightly expensive plans, it doesn’t charge any transaction fees if you use your merchant account. The company offers top-notch customer support and also helps you migrate from other Ecommerce platforms.
On the downside, BigCommerce has limited free features. For instance, the platform offers a handful of free templates, and the premium templates are costlier than other platforms on this list.
Which Ecommerce Software Is the Best for You?
By now, you may have already decided which Ecommerce platform you’ll use to add Ecommerce capabilities to your website. If not, let’s classify these solutions based on the business type they’re best suited for.
Cost savings is a priority for new businesses. If you’re just getting started, it’s essential to opt for an Ecommerce platform that has free or low-cost plans and comes with a small learning curve.
WooCommerce and Shopify are the two ideal solutions for startups. You can launch a WooCommerce store for free, whereas the basic Shopify plan is $9 per month only. Both platforms offer basic features, and you can update your plan for advanced commerce functionalities.
Low costs continue to be a priority for small businesses. However, these companies must ensure optimum performance, uptime, and user experience to drive customer acquisition and retention.
OpenCart is a decent pick for small businesses. It’s open-source and free. It provides an exhaustive range of features at minimal costs, along with helpful documentation and powerful UI.
Apart from OpenCart, small Ecommerce businesses can use WooCommerce, Shopify, and Prestashop.
Large businesses need to ensure top-of-the-line performance and uptime while keeping costs in check. Such organizations also need additional extensions and features to enhance the performance of their online store.
Shopify Plus is an excellent Ecommerce platform for large businesses. It comes with robust marketing and SEO features. You can further enhance your store’s performance by adding products from the Shopify app store.
Magento is also an ideal pick for large Ecommerce businesses.
If you are looking for a robust Ecommerce platform that enables you to sell on multiple channels simultaneously, Magento and BigCommerce are ideal picks.
BigCommerce is great for high-earning Ecommerce companies with large sales volumes. With BigCommerce, you can sell on various channels like Google Shopping, Amazon, mobile app, etc. Magento is better for smaller businesses that want to sell across various channels.
Both BigCommerce and Magento offer in-depth Ecommerce analytics to help you track the performance of each channel.
Selecting an Ecommerce platform is the first step in building and launching an Ecommerce store. The platform you choose must enable you to accept payments online, leverage mobile commerce, and scale your business as per your requirements. Dozens of Ecommerce solutions and there, and you can choose one based on your goals and needs. Keep your objectives, requirements, and budget in mind to pick the right platform.
Dave is an Emmy-Award® winning web designer/developer and has worked in the digital media industry in both newspaper and broadcast television since 1999. He has also worked as an Art Director for a medium-sized advertising agency in the South Florida market and TheeDigital's customers' are benefiting from his talent these days.