If you're looking for an ecommerce platform to sell your products online, there are plenty of options out there. However, not all platforms are created equal. Some are better suited to certain types of businesses while others are better suited to other types of businesses. And as a business owner, you're typically caught trying to figure this out on your own.
A brick-and-morte store needs an online store because customers want to shop at home. The internet has changed how we shop and what we do when shopping. Customers now prefer to shop from home, and they like to compare prices and read reviews before making a purchase. This means that stores need to offer a great experience for customers, and provide them with all the information they need to make a purchase decision.
The first thing you should consider when choosing your eCommerce Platform is whether or not it will be mobile friendly. If your website isn’t responsive then it won’t look good on any device.
A great way to start building your online presence is to set up a blog. This is free and easy to do, and you can choose from a variety of themes which will help you build a unique style. Once you’ve got a few posts published you can begin to monetize them through affiliate marketing.
In this article, we'll compare popular ecommerce platforms - Shopify, WooCommerce, Swell and Magento - and explain why each one is the best fit for different types of businesses. Because each has a ton of additional features, while some have advanced features that may be necessary when scaling.
Hopefully, on your read through, this article will help you decide which platform is the best fit to get you from ideation to booming online business.
tldr: If you're looking to get started with eCommerce quick, fast, and relatively easy – go with Shopify. If you want a customized and optimized enterprise level store, give WooCommerce a shot with a trusted agency partner.
Shopify has built a platform that allows merchants to sell online, but also to manage their inventory, create custom designs for products, and even accept payments through third-party payment processors like PayPal. It's a great tool for entrepreneurs looking to build an online store, but it's also a powerful platform for building a business.
The platform offers a lot of features and tools to help you build a successful store. The main advantage of using Shopify is that it is easy to use, and you don't need any technical knowledge to start selling online.
Streamlined shopping carts and checkout process
|- Easy to use|
- No need for coding skills to get up and running
- Can be used with any theme (free, premium, and custom)
- Easy to use mobile app
|- Fee structure can be stifling for startups |
- Not as customizable as other platforms
- App marketplace is very hit or miss
The cheapest Basic plan gets you started quickly for just $29 per month plus Shopify payment processing fees of 2.9% plus $0.30 per online transaction, 2.7% for in-person transactions, and a 2% transaction fee on all other payments, along with your payment processor’s fees. Shopify is what we'd consider the mid-tier and likely more robust plan on the popular platform, and has a cost of $79 per month plus Shopify payment processing fees of 2.6% plus $0.30 per online transaction, 2.5% for in-person activities, and 1% transaction fee on all other payments, along with your payment processor fees.
Shopify integrates with 100's of payment gateway providers, with a full list found here.
If you are a rapidly growing eCommerce shop, or an enterprise customer, Shopify Plus could be the solution you're looking for. Aimed at large volume merchants, Shopify Plus offers features that allow you to keep up with inventory, allows for a headless commerce setup (like Swell) and many more enterprise-grade features. Unless you've already got a team ready to lead the charge, Shopify Plus could be a daunting undertaking and you'll definitely need agency or developer support.
If you ever find yourself in need of customer service, Shopify provides a knowledge base and 24/7 support via multiple channels.
If you're ready to hop right into eCommerce, Shopify offers a 14-day free trial.
Magento is an open source ecommerce platform that has been around since 2007. It's used by some of the biggest companies in the world including Amazon, eBay, Microsoft, Zappos, and Target.
If you're looking for a powerful ecommerce platform that offers a lot of flexibility and customization options, then Magento might be the perfect solution for your needs.
But if you're looking for a simple solution, Magento may not be the best choice for you.
The main difference between Shopify and Magento, is that Magento is open source while Shopify is proprietary software. This means that anyone can use Magento for free, whereas Shopify is only available to businesses who pay a monthly fee. However, both platforms offer similar features, such as payment processing, inventory management, shipping, etc.
Easily create micro-stores
Here are the pros and cons for using Magento to bring your store to the online masses.
|- Easy to use (after setup)|
- Great support (if paid for)
- Good security
- Unlimited products
|- Gets expensive quickly, starting with hosting|
- Slow performance if not on optimized hosting
- Need experts to get it up and running
Unlike Shopify and others, you'll find no support for their open source offering. So, having an agency partner is absolutely necessary.
WooCommerce is an open source ecommerce plugin that allows you to sell anything online. It's free to use and comes with tons of features. WooCommerce is an ecommerce platform with over 4 million active users and thousands of plugins available for free download.
If you're looking to start an online store, WooCommerce is a great choice. It's simple to set up and has lots of features and can be easily setup to sell physical products as well as digital products.
WooCommerce is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms available today. It has been used by thousands of businesses around the world to create successful online stores. The main advantage of using WooCommerce is that it is easy to use and offers a lot of features. Like the ability to use a vast range of payment gateways.
Huge plug-in ecosystem
|- Easy to use Allows you to sell your own products|
- Allows you to add affiliate links for Amazon
- Allows you to create your own product categories
- You can make your own custom themes
- Vast payment gateway choice Unlimited Products
|- Extending through plug-ins gets expensive |
- Subject to malicious attacks frequently
- Finding coherent support can be difficult
- Gift Cards functionality lacking by default
Whether you use WooCommerce's own (more a choice for US customers and other select countries) or a third-party card processor, you'll expect at least a 2.5% transaction fee for orders.
We recommend a third-party app like Putler or Metorik for managing your store on the go versuses the official WooCommerce app.
BigCommerce is a cloud-based eCommerce platform that allows users to create a website, sell products, and accept payments through one easy-to-use interface. The platform has a number of features such as inventory management, order processing, and shipping options. In addition, BigCommerce offers a free trial period, which gives you access to all of the features.
Some of the major features of BigCommerce are:
|- Easy to use Interface|
- up to 600 SKU's for variant products
- can integrate with any front end
- massive multi-channel ability
|- Annual sales limit (determined by tier)|
- free themes too similar to one another
If you want to start selling online with BigCommerce right away, you will need to register for a merchant account. This is a service that provides you with a virtual storefront where you can display your products and take credit card payments. BigCommerce has many different types of plans available, each offering its own set of advantages. Visit the platforms site to do a comparison.
Swell.is is an online marketplace where you can sell anything from clothes to electronics to home decor. It's a great place to start if you're looking to get into ecommerce.
But is Swell a legit platform? Does it offer real value to its customers?
Swell offers a platform for entrepreneurs to sell their digital products in one place. Swell provides a ecommerce website builder for entrepreneurs to sell their products and services. They say their goal is to help entrepreneurs grow their businesses.
We've been using Swell for a bit now and we firmly believe that it's a legitimate platform that offers real value to its customers.
|- Headless. Can make your store look however you want with the framework you want|
- Use your chosen payment gateway API-based eCommerce functionality
|- High entry for customizability|
- Pre-made app/plug-in marketplace not as robust as other platforms
SEO tools help you track your progress and measure your success. They also provide insights into what works best for your site. Some tools are free, while others cost money.
The most popular tool is Google Analytics. It’s free and provides basic information, including traffic sources, page views, bounce rate, and keywords used. It also gives you access to custom reports that show more detailed metrics, such as social media shares and conversions.
Paid tools offer more features, like visitor behavior tracking, conversion funnels, heat maps, and retargeting. These tools allow you to see what’s working and where you could improve.
So, which of these ecommerce solutions allows for the best search engine optimization?
With Shopify you've got a few paid options in their app marketplace, but in our experience, these aren't as robust as offerings on a platform like Magento or WooCommerce. WooCommerce for instance has highly revered SEO tools like Yoast, RankMath, and SEO Press. We're still testing Swell, but for the most part if doing a highly customized site you'll want trained experts to handle the SEO for you.
For this test, we're going to say that WooCommerce has the upper hand in this category.
Winner: WooCommerce / BigCommerce (because headless)
Marketing integrations are important for eCommerce because they help businesses connect with customers across channels like email, mobile apps, social networks, etc. They also allow businesses to create personalized experiences for each customer.
As an example, you can set up an email marketing campaign that sends out a discount code after someone buys something from your website. The customer then receives a notification that they’ve won a prize if they enter the code at checkout.
If you offer a free trial, you might want to consider offering a discount for early signups. It’s not always easy to find people who will try new things, but if you give them a small incentive, it may help.
Social media integrations are a keystone for each of these platforms.
With these points in mind, you'll definitely want to consider a platform that integrates with your existing marketing tools, or ones you plan on using.
Given that the platforms spoken about are all meant to integrate with as much of your tech stack as possible, we're going to call this one a draw.
For each of these platforms, there's a marketplace that will extend the built-in features through plug-ins. One of the most frequent plug-ins we find our clients ask for is the ability sell and track sales and inventory across multiple channels.
Since Amazon is making a big push to be the "end-all-be-all" for all things internet, sites are often finding themselves setting up Amazon Pay as a payment processing provider – allowing customers to checkout and pay with their already filled out and existing Amazon payment methods.
Depending on your stores inventory, you may need more than the basic features provided by each platform. In this case you'll want more advanced commerce features that will certainly require either higher tier pricing plans or extensions at an extra cost.
For Shopify you'll need Shopify Plus, or Advanced Shopify to pull off true omnichannel selling. For WooCommerce there are pre-built premium plug-ins or hiring a developer for a custom built plugin; the same goes for Magento, though a custom plug-in is likely the best route in Magento's case. It's an additional cost on every platform and one you'll want to consider for the implementation of your eCommerce plan.
Winner: Hard to say because its one of those "it'd be nice" extra features, rather than an essential like online payments.
Ecommerce websites should be easy to use for customers, and they should provide them with a great shopping experience. The customer journey starts when someone lands on your website, and ends when he/she purchases something from you. Good user experience increases conversion rates and helps build trust between customers and businesses.
The user friendliness of a site goes a long way to selling more to your potential customer and cultivating 5-star customer reviews.
The best sites are easy to navigate, load quickly, and provide intuitive features such as search filters and sorting options. They also offer ways to share content with friends or colleagues via email, Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, Pinterest, and even SMS. A great example of this is Amazon.com. When we want to buy something online, we don't go to Amazon's website first; we go straight to amazon.com/product-name. This makes it easy to find what we're looking for. It also allows us to shop at any time of day or night when you, or I, are most likely to be online.
For our listed platforms, we looked at which platform had the easiest checkout user experience and mobile optimization. We found that with Shopify's super streamlined 1-Click selling ability, single page checkout made its end user experience a standout.
WooCommerce and Magento can both be customized to allow for 1-Click selling and user friendliness, but it requires expert care and implementation which incurs extra cost.
Winner: Shopify's user experience is hard to beat if you're just getting up and running
Should you make a mobile application for a eCommerce store? The answer depends on what kind of business you run, and how much money you want to spend. If you do not have much money, then you should probably focus on improving your current website first. However, if you have capital built up, then you should definitely consider making a mobile app. Mobile apps are becoming increasingly popular, especially among millennials. According to recent research, almost half of all smartphone users use their phones to shop, and one third of them use their smartphones to compare prices while shopping. If you want to build a successful business, you need to understand the psychology behind why people buy what they do. The best way to understand this is by studying the behavior of your customers. This will help you improve your marketing strategy, product design, and customer service. It will also help you make the decision whether your store will need a dedicated mobile application. Then again, if you have a large audience who uses smartphones, then having a native app might make sense. But if not, progressive web apps could work well for you too. PWA’s are basically just regular web pages optimized for smartphone viewing.
PWA's allow your customers who frequent your store to easily place your store on their smart phones home screen as if it were an app they downloaded from an app store. In some cases, you can actually have a PWA be downloaded directly from an app store.
Of the platforms we've mentioned, we've found that WooCommerce allows for this PWA solution much easier than any other options.
Payment options are extremely important for eCommerce. If you don't accept payments, then you won't be able to sell anything. One of the best ways to accept payments is through PayPal. However, if you want to accept payments from customers who do not use PayPal, then you need to set up a business account. There are several other ways to process payments, such as, Google Checkout, Authorize.net, and Stripe. Each has pros and cons, and some are better suited for certain types of businesses.
For most eCommerce platforms all the major credit card processors (Visa, MasterCard, American Express) are accepted through different means, but Stripe is becoming almost the de facto standard. This is great news for merchants as it allows them to accept payments from customers using any of the major credit cards with just one integration.
The biggest downside of accepting credit cards is that they charge merchants a transaction fee per transaction. That’s why it’s important to set your fees at a level where you’re still making money after paying the processing fees. For example, if you have a $4.99 flat rate for purchases under $25 and a $9.95 flat rate for larger purchases, then your net profit margin will be $4.94. If the average order size is $10, you’ll lose $5 on each sale. If the average order is $20, you’ll only break even. But if the average order is $50, you’ll actually make $10. Either way, most proper eCommerce setups can integrate easily with Stripe, but if you're an existing brick and mortar store owner, something like WooCommerce may be your best choice because an expert developer will be able to integrate it with your existing POS-system.
Winner: WooCommerce / BigCommerce
The best eCommerce platform for affiliates is Shopify, which allows you to create beautiful websites at no cost, and has excellent performance. In addition, you can customize your website to display your product images, pricing, and other information. The most popular affiliate program is Amazon Associates. This program offers free access to Amazon’s affiliate network, where you can earn commissions by promoting products on your site. To join, simply sign up through this link, and start earning. There are many ways to make money online, but affiliate marketing has proven itself to be one of the best. It’s especially beneficial for people who don’t want to spend hours each day writing blog posts, creating social media content, or building out their email list. As long as you provide quality content, you should be able to build a substantial audience for yourself. Of course every platform can be customized for affiliate marketing, but out of the box, Shopify has that ability baked in.
If you want to create an eCommerce website quickly, then Wix might be the best option for you. Wix offers free templates for eCommerce websites, and they also offer a wide range of extensions for additional features such as product reviews, payment gateways, etc. Wix also has a great support team that helps you build your eCommerce site.
For those who don’t want to pay for a domain name, Squarespace offers a free trial. The service allows you to create a basic website using a drag and drop interface. It doesn’t include any marketing tools, but it does allow you to easily add social media sharing buttons and email subscription forms. As far as integrations go, Squarespace is severely lacking. Make sure its suitable for your use case.
Using GoDaddy for your eCommerce store is a great idea because they offer a wide variety of features such as SSL certificates, domain registration, and email hosting. They also provide free website builders, which makes it easy to create an attractive website.
GoDaddy offers you an easy way to create your first website, allowing you to choose from hundreds of templates. In addition, GoDaddy has a large network of partners who offer additional free services such as domain registration, web hosting, email, and other tools that will help you build your business.
For eCommerce sites, while their builder is not on par with the likes of Shopify, WooCommerce, or even Joomla – if you do decide to use it for your store, the amount of features and integrations at your disposal is pretty staggering. You can accept Apple and Google Pay, monitor Yelp, accept all major credit cards, and go after customers with abandonned carts easily.
Shopify is used by everyone from startups to small businesses to established enterprises. It is the most widely used eCommerce platform out there. It was founded in 2004 by Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand, and Scott Lake. They are headquartered in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada. If you are looking for a reliable ecommerce platform that's ultra-customizable and user-friendly, Shopify is the way to go.
WooCommerce and Shopify are, in our opinion, the best eCommerce platforms. WooCommerce is open-source and has a huge developer community, whereas Shopify is a closed-source SaaS eCommerce platform that comes with a lot of benefits like integrated CRM and supply chain management tools.
With a trusted agency partner, you'll be able to navigate the waters of the growing pool of options in this already vast eCommerce space, and develop the store that your customers will love.