Recently I was helping a friend to setup an eCommerce website which led us to do a comprehensive research on the available platforms to build an eCommerce websites. After spending a couple of days and few hours on internet I gathered some details which I thought to share with you. The information shared in this post is strictly my views only; it has nothing to do with promoting any of discussed platforms.
There can be lot of ways to classify these platforms but I would classify them to a broader group that is the hosting. There can be two ways these websites are stored on the Internet, either Hosted or Self Hosted.
A hosted platform is that runs on someone else’s server. In most cases you don’t have access to the code that runs your site. You use their website to make changes to your site. A hosted platform offer easy interface and you don’t have to worry about the Updates. But most of the hosted platform they lack customization in the Checkout page. The best popular examples for hosted ecommerce website platforms are Shopify, BigCommerce and Volusion. Let’s take a look what Shopify has to offer.
Shopify – This feature packed hosted platforms powers more than 100ecommerce websites falling under best 10k shopping portals in the world and over 0.25 million ecommerce websites on the Internet.
It has all the best features like Website Builder, SEO optimization, Payment gateways, and Gift Cards & Discount cards. It also provides a wide range of themes to choose from (not all are free though). Shopify provides a bit of flexibility in customizing the appearance as they provide access to HTM and CSS files. For people who want to drive traffic via content marketing and blogs, it offers a fully functional blog feature as well. Some important features of Shopify are listed below:
- Free SSL certificate
- Multiple languages
- Social media integration
- Email marketing
- SEO product tags
- Automatic taxes
- Dashboard & Product reports
Most of the hosted platforms charge on a monthly basis. A basic plan on Shopify would cost you around $29/ month that will be around Rs. 24K a year. People with large Inventory can find this platform useful and profitable.
A self hosted platform on the other hand is a piece of software that you run on your own machine (or a machine you rent from someone). You usually see the code and are told where to upload it. Magento, Opencart and WoocCommerce are some of the best self hosted platforms for ecommerce websites. I personally inclined more towards a self hosted platform whether for CMS like WordPress or for building an online shop. A self hosted platform provides a lot of space for customization and not to forget to mention an important aspect that is ownership. Yes, you will own the codes and the entire digital property. This isn’t something people think about until something bad happens.
Magento – If you are a non programmer or you don’t have a team to do it for you then I would suggest to forget this platform. Some of the top ecommerce stores in the world are running on it. But would need a lot of time figuring out things. The codes are much complex and they have a huge library of classes and methods. Megento are used generally to develop a enterprise level of e-stores. If you are a coder and have knack towards knowing this platform more it’s a sure worth to bang your heads with as it powers 10% of ecommerce portals in the world.
Opencart – Since 2011, more than 6000 online stores built on Magento and VirtueMart have been migrated to this open source platform. It is one of the most preferred open source ecommerce platforms. Open cart’s official website states that it is powering over 0.3 million eCommerce website all over the world and being an open source platform it offers more than 13k module and themes.
Some of its key features are:
- Multi user Management
- Multi-Store – You can manage multiple stores from a single interface
- Affiliates – This is one of my favorite. Open cart comes with an inbuilt Affiliate system where affiliate can promote a specific product and get paid if the lead is converted to a sales. This system is completely automated and very easy to monitor. You have to spend a good amount of resource and money otherwise if you are building your store outside open cart.
- Back-up and restore
- Discounts, coupons, specials
- Unlimited products & categories
- Downloadable products – It’s easy to sell digital products like ebook, video or songs etc.
- Product Reviews & Ratings
- Reward Points – You can create a customer loyalty program which can help you to engage your customers and retargeting old customers
- Simplified email subscription integration
- Payment Gateways – Comes with 36 payment gateways integrated with the platform
Open cart is absolutely free and comes with many free themes and modules/extensions. But the premiums and the best are paid one.
WooCommerce – It’s an open source self hosted platform to build ecommerce websites. This platform alone powers more than 2 million ecommerce website on the Internet, which is 28% of the market share. So just by these figures you can imagine its popularity. One of the reasons to its popularity is its simplicity and its integration with WordPress. Yes, this platform can only be used along with WordPress and WordPress is the best CMS (Content Management System) till now. WordPress is very effective build content and can help driving traffic to your website; people are using blogs and articles to build businesses around them. Some of the features are listed below
- Sell physical as well as digital products
- WooCommerce comes bundled with PayPal (for accepting credit card and PayPal account payments), BACS, and cash on delivery for accepting payments. For other payment methods you can search for the suitable extensions.
- Customize shipping – If you would like to only ship your products to a specific country, you can easily configure these settings
- Control inventory and Taxes
- Woocommerce have thousands of free and paid themes and extension to choose from
- Ownership of data and the codes
- Mobile optimized
- SEO friendly product listing
Thank You !
Read my other blogs