So you need an Ecommerce platform, but aren’t sure which works best for your business? Well, we’re glad you asked, because some platforms are certainly better than others depending on your situation. Here are a few of the most popular options, and the kind of business they are most suited for.

Small to Medium Sized Businesses

Woo Commerce

WooCommerce

Overview
Woo Commerce is a free WordPress plugin which allows you to sell through your WordPress website. It also offers additional paid features you can add on. This option is known to be affordable and allows you to make sales, process secure payments, manage inventory and shipping, and manage taxes automatically. It is recommended for retailers earning revenues that range from $0-$500,000.

Cost
Woo Commerce is free to download and install for WordPress sites. The themes range from $39 to $139, depending on the type of features that you want to install. Paid extensions will tack on additional fees. Premium plans are available and cost from $20 to $50 each month.

Features
Woo Commerce offers seamless integration with WordPress, and as a result, you can sell whatever you want worldwide. In addition, it also has the following features:

• It’s also mobile-friendly, allowing you to turn your store into a mobile app if you choose.
• They are able to scale to a certain extent, and keep all of your data in your own hands, instead of a third party software.
• You can rest assured knowing that the plugin undergoes auditing by Sucuri to ensure it’s is in line with coding best practices and standards.
• As far as payment processing, you can use PayPal along with a wide range of payment gateways.
• They also offer back office operations, marketing functions, and reporting.

Benefits
Obviously one of the best benefits is WooCommerce that it’s free, making it a great solution for those businesses who already have a WordPress site up and running. It’s also easily customizable, with its huge collection of themes and extensions offered by WordPress and independent developers. Simply by inserting your logo, color scheme and other branding, you can customize it to suit your business. Depending on your competency with HTML and CSS, you can also change the code and add widgets.

Plugin extensions allow you to add a whole range of functionality, including accounting, order fulfillment and analytics to suit your business needs. It also allows you flexibility in choosing your own back-end options, such as different shipping providers, accounting software like FreshBooks and Xero and a whole range of other extensions.

Customer Support
WooCommerce offers customer support through several channels. You can submit a ticket to get help from customer or tech support. Additionally, there are plenty of resources available to troubleshoot problems yourself including a FAQ section, Knowledge-base, fellow Woo Commerce users in the Community Section, WooThemes Documentation, and a videos section that will offer you all the resources you need.

Drawbacks
As it is only a plugin, you’ll still need to set up the other parts of your site yourself. This means finding your own Web hosting, domain name registration, and setting up your site on WordPress. You may also need to learn how to use it if you are not as familiar with the WordPress platform, and may need to switch to another platform if your store grows beyond the capabilities available o WordPress. This will require a considerable investment of time and money to switch to a full featured e-commerce software which is off WordPress.

Shopify

Shopify

Overview
Shopify offers several plans for small to medium sized businesses and is one of the best platforms as it doesn’t require any tech knowledge to operate. It has all the features you need to launch a full Ecommerce store and it’s used by over 100,000 businesses. It is recommended for retailers in the start-up phase, up to $5 million in annual revenue as they don’t need advanced capabilities of the more expensive platforms. They do offer a “Plus” option which will be mentioned for larger businesses.

Cost
Several packages are available, starting at $9/per month for Shopify Lite, which merely lets you test out the waters, and ranging up to $29 for 1 GB of storage, $79 for 5GB of storage and $299 for unlimited storage. Each plan also offers varying transaction fee rates and features. If you would like additional paid themes, they range from $80 to $180.

Features
All the features you need for setting up a store are available, including an online shopping cart, social media integration, marketing tools, reports and analytics and flexible payment options – you will not need any third party applications. Mobile access is also available and allows you to control the backend from an app on your smartphone.

Benefits
Shopify is fully integrated with all the features a merchant needs to run an Ecommerce store, including a content management system and customer relationship management tools. The backend is also taken care of, and data is hosted on Shopify’s own secure servers, with daily backups. Business and customer information is kept secure with 24/7 monitoring and Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliance.

Customer Support
24/7 customer support is available over the phone, email and live chat. There is also one-on-one help via Shopify experts approved by Shopify to help with design, coding and marketing. There are also self-help options available, from the Shopify Manual, which has a collection of FAQs, to discussion forums from the Shopify community, and an Ecommerce University with tutorials to teach you everything about selling online.

Drawbacks
Customization may be an issue if you want to make changes to templates. Without a knowledge of Shopify’s ‘.liquid’ programming, you may need to hire a web developer to make custom modifications. Also, if you need features beyond order management, such as for marketing and design, and if transaction fees are too costly for the volume of sales you are processing, a Shopify Plus plan is worth looking into.

Open Cart

OpenCart

Overview
Open Cart has is a simple, open-source shopping cart system. It is free to download and install, and has plenty of themes and extensions available. It’s considered a complete ecommerce system that can be supported on any server that meets the system requirements. This is recommended for a more tech-savvy business owner that doesn’t require too much customization, and who is of small-medium size.

Cost
The platform is free to download and install, but hosting, extensions, and templates will cost extra, though they are relatively inexpensive.

Features
OpenCart is developed in PHP has a fairly large user base with a community that has developed many extensions. It can power a store of virtually any size, and is run on Object Oriented Programming and MVC Architecture.

Benefits
Open Cart is fast and there are 10,000 over themes and modules that are both commercial and free. With a huge community, it is actively developed and open source, with plenty of documentation and a responsive admin UI.

Customer Support
Open Cart has a huge community that are on hand to help with any issues or questions.

Drawbacks
As an open source platform, many amateur developers build extensions and themes for it that are not secure, so it’s easy to download a bad theme for your site. Open Cart is also lightweight which limits it in functionality to about 20% what other solutions such as Magento can offer big businesses.

PrestaShop

PrestaShop

Overview
PrestaShop is highly customizable and its basic features are free to use. It’s easy set up makes it perfect for small to medium businesses, and by purchasing themes, templates and modules, you’ll be able to get your Ecommerce site to where you want it easily. It’s also available in 40 languages.

Cost
PrestaShop is free to download and install, but themes, extensions and hosting are paid features.

Features
Offering a myriad of features, Presta Shop is a good out-of-the-box solution for small and medium businesses. It includes product listing, payments, catalog management, tax systems, shop customization, a user friendly back office, SEO and more.

Benefits
It’s a great choice for merchants who aren’t as technologically savvy and who need an easy-to-use back end system. It’s also easy to install and has a lower system requirement. It’s relatively easy to customize and has a lower monthly cost as compared to other systems like Magento.

Customer Support
PrestaShop does not have a dedicated technical support team, but has a community support forum.

Drawbacks
With fewer out-of-the-box features, limited SEO options, and no full-time customer support, PrestaShop may leave larger businesses opting for another solution.

Medium to Large Sized Businesses

Magento

Magento

Overview
As an Ecommerce platform, Magento is suited for upper-tier medium to enterprise sized businesses mainly because of its focus on scalability and growth, and a backend that caters to enterprise-level needs. They are said to support businesses who earn $0-$50 million and above per year, however, those with sales under $1 million may find this solution to be “too much”.

Cost
With no monthly subscription fees, you are able to download and use the community edition of Magento for free. There are paid plugins and extensions for added functionality. For Magento Enterprise, the fee starts at around $15,000. Running Magento will also require hosting costs ranging from $100-$500 per month.

Features
If you have no coding knowledge, you are still able to customize your website from thousands of templates available built by designers. There’s also an integrated shopping cart and secured payment options from popular payment gateways like Paypal. The backend is streamlined with order management, product management and mobile commerce functionalities.

Market your site effectively with Magento’s own extensive SEO tools, offer promotions and discount codes, and even up- or cross-sell your products alongside reviews and social sharing. Offer customer service to your customers by giving them access to their purchase history and tracking information. You can also manage multiple sites from one account.

Benefits
As a highly popular platform, there are countless resources available on your journey to setting up your Ecommerce site. You’re also able to use third party software and servers if necessary, giving you options and flexibility. The platform is also continuously being improved upon by independent developers and community of users, which means that you will probably be able to find any extension or plugin you need easily.

Customer Support
Unlimited support is available via the online customer portal and through the hotline. Once you submit a ticket, expect to receive a response under four hours. Under the help section, find the resources you need from the Magento wiki, forums, Expert Consulting Group as well as certified developers and partners for the assistance you need. There’s also a knowledge base with articles and webinars to learn how to manage your Ecommerce site.

Drawbacks
It’s not the best option for those who aren’t tech-savvy. There is a learning curve involved, though it’s not impossible to use if you’re an absolute beginner, it definitely requires time to get to know the system.

You may need to hire a developer, but they come with a price tag of about $150 to $250 per hour, and as the Magento program is hosted on your own server, you may need to invest in your own tech support team.

As you can imagine, this may be a bit much for a smaller business.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce

Overview
BigCommerce is designed for use with high earning brands that deal in up to $100 million in sales online. It has all the tools necessary for a big storefront but without the large upfront costs.

Cost
The service can range from $30-$200 per month as well as charges per transaction, however there are no hosting costs involved. Their enterprise pricing starts at about $1000 per month. Big Commerce also has a selection of over 100 free website templates, as well as paid templates which range from $140 – $250 each.

Features
BigCommerce comes with templates that are customizable to suit any branding. Changes can be made in a development environment that will not impact your live store. There are inbuilt tools to maximize conversion, helping customers to find their way around the site quickly, with a one page checkout to allow customers to make their purchase speedily. The backend is designed to be integrated with enterprise-level applications easily.

Benefits
If you’re a brand looking to grow quickly beyond $1 million annually, BigCommerce is designed for businesses like yours. It’s a platform that is targeted specifically at mid-sized businesses, with tools to suit their needs.

Customer Support
There is support throughout the transition process from any prior platform to BigCommerce. On top of that, there are dedicated account managers to help big businesses maximize sales. Priority support also exists for all customers to get help fast.

Drawbacks
There are fewer templates available, and they cost more on average than templates designed for other Ecommerce platforms. It’s also a fairly new platform, so it has a smaller community as compared to other well-established solutions like Magento.

Shopify Plus

ShopifyPlus

Overview
Yes we already reviewed Shopify above, but we had to include a note about Shopify Plus in this section. Shopify Plus is an upgraded version of Shopify that provides enterprise-level capabilities like high traffic without the relatively high costs or lead times of traditional platforms. It is also a hosted solution and is great for medium to enterprise level businesses that want to move on to the next level.

Cost
Shopify Plus plans starts from $2,000 a month.

Features
Shopify Plus is easy to customize and can be modified to suit any business’ branding. It’s also highly integrated, allowing you to use email marketing and customer rewards programs by downloading apps from the Shopify App store. It is integrated with offline sales through the Shopify POS system, and is PCI compliant, meaning that any customer data is protected by bank-level security.

Benefits
It’s an option that allows you to launch quickly, with a user-interface that is more user-friendly and easy to navigate. As a platform, it is also more conducive to third-party applications, with a large community of users and developers.

Customer Support
There are dedicated Plus Account Managers who will cater to your business needs, along with a 24/7 phone and email support service.

Drawbacks
You will find that Shopify plus is primarily an ecommerce platform and so lacks in the content management area. This can cause problems such as not being able to publish your website and ecommerce store on the same subdomain. Additionally there are backend integration limitations as anything added has to work with their API. While an account manager may be able to help, you are limited by Shopify’s hosted platform. Lastly, platform lock in is also an inherent risk with Shopify to consider.

Differences from Shopify
How does enterprise differ from other Shopify plans? There are no transaction fees, you get 200 TB of storage, and it comes with advanced analytics and reporting tools. As compared to Shopify, there is white glove on boarding and personalized customer service from an account manager. Configuration and application support is also available 24/7.

Weigh the Options

There are pros and cons to every platform – but ultimately, the right choice will depend on your company’s size and unique needs. In our business at Red Stag Fulfillment as a third party fulfillment provider, we know our customers need an ecommerce solution they can rely on, and we regularly hear feedback on the good and bad of various platforms. Hopefully this guide has helped you in your decision process.

Have you had an experience with an ecommerce platform that will help others in their decision? Share it in the comments section to help our community.

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