Comparing Popular E-Commerce Platforms
Anyone can build an online shop using e-commerce platforms. It’s one of the easiest ways to become a small business owner or expand an existing business. There is a wide variety of platforms available, each with its own unique features and various price points. We’ve summarized three popular platforms, WooCommerce, Squarespace and Shopify, and how they differ from each other. To figure out which platform best suits you and your business needs, there are several important considerations to make including usability, scalability, payment gateways, prices, user-experience, security, support and integration.
With an endless number of platforms available to launch your business, it can easily be overwhelming and confusing. Before researching which e-commerce platform to use, make sure you know what you are looking for. Think about what your requirements are for your online store, what features you’d like to have, the “look” you are going for and how customizable and personalized you want your store to be. Consider your front-end needs which includes what the customer will see on your site, how your merchandise will be displayed, navigation and search engine capabilities. Then think about your back-end requirements including how to make the task of processing, packing and shipping run smoothly for both you and your customer. You must also think about your own skills and if you would require more guidance in building your store or if you are a savvy user with minimal support needs.
- ease in which a customer can navigate the e-commerce store, the shopping experience from start to completion at checkout;
- a person with little computer or online shopping experience can navigate your store easily;
- ability to shop online via mobile and tablets;
- having such a great user experience that a customer would want to return to your online store to shop again and again; and
- how user-friendly the platform is to the small business owner starting their online business.
Pricing & Currencies
- ability to add promotional, sale and discount codes; and
- ability to change currencies to reach people from all over the world.
- a platform’s ability to support growth of your business.
Integration & Marketing
- ability to integrate with other platforms such as Facebook; and
- ability to add a blog to your website and have customers leave reviews on products.
- having a wide selection of templates available makes it easier for small business owners to start their online store.
- ability to make the changes you want for your online store.
- cost of using the e-commerce platform, maintenance fees, transaction fees, hosting costs, integration costs, etc.
- as a small business owner, getting the support you need when you need it from the e-commerce platform of your choice.
- consider the options of payment you want to offer your customers. Some platforms have many payment gateways but don’t offer digital wallets such as Apple Pay and Amazon Pay.
- protection from unauthorized access and use or wrecking.
Users familiar with WordPress will likely find the learning curve of WooCommerce to be easier because the WooCommerce plugin is an add-on to WordPress. WooCommerce is an open-source which means that anyone can add or change features on the backend; therefore, there are constantly new releases, extensions and themes making it attractive to small business owners because of the ability to customize and personalize their store. All new releases are documented so that users are aware of what’s new and can use these releases to customize their site. Users can add more plugins to add functionality and features. With WooCommerce, users have the option for multi-channel selling such as listing products on Amazon, Wal-Mart or eBay.
WooCommerce offers a 30-day money back guarantee. While WooCommerce and WordPress are both free, WooCommerce users need to choose a host and pay hosting feels (which can vary from $4 per month to over $5,000), domain name registration or site name, themes (if selecting ones that are not free), payment gateways, SEO, security and SSL certificate. Users who want to be in control of their spending will enjoy WooCommerce because of the ability to customize and control the cost of their e commerce platform, whereas most other platforms have integrated costs.
Squarespace is a great option for small and mid-sized businesses that may be too busy to spend much time making their website attractive. Squarespace offers professionally designed, award-winning templates that are beautiful and sophisticated. In addition, Squarespace has great 24/7 customer support with the option to hire a Squarespace expert for additional support.
Before starting with Squarespace, users would need to check if they are eligible as Squarespace’s payment processor is limited to Stripe and PayPal; therefore, it is limited to Stripe and PayPal’s supported countries and currencies. E-commerce stores on Squarespace can only accept one currency at a time. Squarespace offers a free 14-day trial and if a user chooses to continue using this platform, they can select from 3 plans: Business - $33 per month, Basic Commerce - $36 per month and Advanced Commerce - $65 per month with discounts of up to 30% if paid annually rather than on a monthly basis. Squarespace does not require plugins, although users can connect third-party tools on Squarespace Extensions. Squarespace is hosted so users aren’t required to pay for maintenance and server costs. Squarespace offers marketing tools that include Abandoned Checkout Recovery (included in the Advanced Plan), connecting to social media platforms, create customer mailing lists for campaigns, etc.
Shopify is user-friendly for small business owners who may not be very sophisticated with building websites and the technical requirements needed on the front and backend of an online store. Shopify allows users to get started with their 14-day free trial that allows users to follow their initial setup guide that provides step-by-step tutorials. If a user is already utilizing another e-commerce platform, Shopify has a step-by-step store migration page dedicated to helping the user move from one platform to theirs. Shopify is available in many countries but is not worldwide. The pricing plans are available in multiple currencies including Euros, British pounds, US dollars and Indian rupees. Shopify has 3 plan levels priced in USD: Basic Shopify - $29 per month, Shopify - $79 per month and Advanced Shopify - $299 per month. Shopify offers discounts on annual and biennial plans when fees are paid upfront. Each plan level reflects the different features and discounts included with the price. For example, credit card rates for Shopify Basic are 2.9% + 30¢, whereas the Shopify rate is 2.7% + 30¢ and Shopify Advanced is 2.4% + 30¢.
With Shopify, users have the opportunity to pick from over 100 paid and free themes. Users can create an online store that can sell on the web, phone, social media platforms and online marketplaces and has a built-in mobile commerce shopping cart. Customers can input discount codes and small business owners that utilize dropshipping will benefit from Shopify’s extensive dropshipping options. In addition, Shopify has a wide range of payment gateway options and can take payments in multiple currencies. Users can manage products and inventory and keep track of payments and shipping. Shopify is cloud-based and hosted which means users don’t need to look for a hosting website, maintain software or web servers.
In addition to WooCommerce, Squarespace and Shopify, there are many other platforms available to launch your online business. It’s important to research the platforms you are interested in as well as read user reviews and reach out to customer support for additional questions to get a well-rounded understanding of the platform before you invest your time and money.