When someone is thinking of starting an online store, lots of things must be considered. One of the most important aspects that needs to be solved is which of the ecommerce platforms will be best to power the site.
And why wouldn’t you be thinking of opening an online store?
It is one of the fastest growing and best options available for both startups and small businesses that want to expand.
In 2016, the worldwide ecommerce sales were around $1.85 trillion.
Statista anticipates that in 2021 that figure will be around 4.5 trillion dollars!
That is a huge surge of online revenue in only a few years.
According to BigCommerce, 67% of Millennials and 56% of Gen Xers prefer to shop on online rather than in-store.
You might think that setting up an ecommerce business might be ‘as easy as a pie’.
Well, you are half-right. All thanks to ecommerce platforms out there.
An ecommerce platform allows online stores to manage the website, sales, and operations.
It is the hub of the business.
They offer powerful features that are needed to run a business.
Aaside from selling the products themselves, it’s required for management of product, payment options, CRM etc.
However, the first problem that everyone faces is deciding which one to choose.
This is because there are numerous platforms available in the market. And most of them are very good.
Hosted or Self-Hosted?
You should also know that there are 2 types of e-commerce platform in terms of hosting.
- Hosted: It means that the company will host your online store. SaaS (Software as a Service) companies provide both the software and the hosting. Here it is provided to you as a service in exchange for a fee.
- Self-hosted: You will only receive the software and it is up to you where to host the store. The responsibility is solely yours. These are usually free ecommerce platforms.
In order to decide which one would be best for you, the first things you need to know is what the most popular ecommerce platforms out there are.
Additionally, what they offer, how they differ from one another and how much they cost.
Worried? Don’t be.
We gathered all the information you could want or need.
The following ecommerce platforms list is the culmination of the most popular platforms today.
This will help you decide which one to choose for a great start.
In their own words, ‘Shopify is a complete ecommerce solution that allows you to set up an online store to sell your goods’.
Based out of Canada, Shopify is the largest ecommerce platform in terms of market share that provide hosting themselves.
Shopify is far more popular in the USA than any other part of the world. With 70% of their market share coming from the USA alone!
Launched in 2006, Shopify has grown to be one of the largest ecommerce platforms in the world.
There are Shopify online stores in 175 countries today.
Shopify is written in Ruby based template language Liquid.
Programmers have the ability to use Liquid to add functionality to the existing template.
As of January 2017, Shopify has announced their integration with Amazon.
This would allow merchants to sell on Amazon from their stores.
What are the features that make Shopify one of the most popular ecommerce platforms?
This is the perfect ecommerce platform for you if you don’t have any experience in web development. And people agree with it.
Shopify is a marvelous platform.
It is considered by many to be the best ecommerce platform for startups.
With a range of tools available, individuals can launch their site within minutes if required.
They don’t even have to worry about finding a third party for hosting domain.
Neither it is as complex as WordPress or Magento. It maintains a perfect balance of both.
One of the lucrative features that Shopify has is its huge collection of themes and designs that can be customized.
Shopify offers store owners over 100 professional designs that they can buy.
The better ones starting from around $100. There are also about 21 free themes to choose from.
More adept developers can use CSS and HTML to modify these designs and add or customize it.
However, the free themes are a bit tough to customize than their paid counterparts.
Oh! Shopify is amazingly fast.
How fast you ask?
Shopify has a blazing processing power, no matter the size.
During the Black Friday & Cyber Monday of 2015, 24 Billion activities were processed.
They are backed by the reliability & speed of MySQL database. The peak order volume was 1,800 per minute!
The newest feature added to Shopify is the ‘Shopify Section’.
It is a visual editor that allows a wide variety of content sections to be inserted into the homepage.
Shopify also has both Automated & manual SEO settings. This ensures that consumers can find you easily.
Shopify has multiple payment gateways to provide merchants with numerous options to get paid.
Both their own payment processor called Shopify Payments and third party processors.
You can track your money in real-time.
There are small transaction fees ranging from 0.5% to 2% on every sale.
However, that fee is waived when using Shopify Payments.
Another distinguishing feature of Shopify is the POS.
Merchants can use the POS system to accept credit cards and sell their products in the retail store.
How secure is it?
Security is always a major concern in ecommerce business. Shopify hosts its carts on a level 1 PCI DDS compliant server.
This provides absolute securty.
All pricing plan offers 128-bit Free SSL certificate at no additional cost except the ‘Lite’ plan.
Customers are provided with a 99.94% uptime guarantee.
Shopify also offers security badges to show customers that your website is secure.
What’s the cost?
Shopify in their general plan offers three options. ‘Basic Shopify’, ‘Shopify’ and ‘Advanced Shopify’.
They cost respectively $29, $79 and $299.
Additionally, they offer two other options, ‘Shopify Plus’ and ‘Shopify Lite’.
The Lite version is for merchants selling on Facebook only.
And the Plus version is one of the best enterprise ecommerce platforms available. It is perfect for high volume merchants, and large businesses.
- A giant in the ecommerce platform market
- Great for beginners and experts alike
- Ready to launch out of the box
- Great themes available
- Secure payment options from multiple gateways
- Very fast, relatively cheap and varities of options
You might be thinking that ‘That’s it! No need to look at any other ecommerce platforms’.
But you’d be wrong thinking that. What if I told you that there is an alternative? Which was equally good and free?
WooCommerce is one of the most prominent and widespread free ecommerce platforms out there.
It is by far the most used ecommerce platform in the world.
WooCommerce has the highest ecommerce platforms market share. There are more than 2,282,000 live websites using WooCommerce.
That is a staggering number when you compare it with Shopify and its 384,000 websites.
Currently, WooCommerce powers 30% of all online stores.
One of the reasons, other than its boundless features is its integration with WordPress.
Since WordPress is the most used CMS for websites, it was possible for WooCommerce to get a head start.
Although WooCommerce is considered by most to be the best ecommerce platform for small business as well as mid-range businesses, it’s not actually a separate ecommerce platform like others.
In reality, WooCommerce is an open source plugin for WordPress.
It means that merchants get all the advantages they get from WordPress along with the platform.
And even though the software is free, there are fees associated with the complete integration of WooCommerce as a functional shopping cart.
But, there are many of free plugins and third-party apps in the market
WooCommerce was initially developed by WordPress themes developers at WooThemes.
They then hired Mike Jolley and James Koster to take the lead on a project called Jigoshop.
This essentially became WooCommerce in September of 2011.
In 2015, Automatics purchased WooThemes and it was placed within its family of products.
Developers of the Automatic team always contribute.
Also, independent developers in the greater WordPress community contribute to the WooCommerce code base.
What makes WooCommerce the most popular ecommerce platforms?
The biggest selling point of WooCommerce is that it gives its users complete control over their store.
Don’t get me wrong.
Shopify doesn’t take you out of the driver seat, but it doesn’t provide you the freedom to the extent that WooCommerce allows.
WooCommerce gives merchants ultimate customizability to the platform.
What is possible for WordPress is also possible for WooCommerce. And that’s saying a lot!
With some technical knowledge (which is easy to learn), the possibilities are boundless for modifying WooCommerce and making it the perfect platform.
These extensions allow merchants the ability to add/modify almost any functionality that is required to enhance their store.
Built with a REST API, WooCommerce can integrate with virtually any service.
To help you with this task, there are thousands of add-ons readily available that can easily be integrated with the dashboard.
Both free and premium add-ons are continuously being developed thanks to the great active WordPress community.
Since WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress, if someone is familiar with WordPress can easily manage it to.
Even if you are new to this, the extremely intuitive admin panel is quite simple to understand and manage.
WooCommerce also offers an extensive themes library to design your online store according to your taste and requirement.
The themes are created by developers & designers and can be downloaded from third-parties.
The better themes available in the market usually cost around $60-$80. Themes can also be designed from the scratch if needed.
WooCommerce is also extremely SEO friendly. Since it’s a part of WordPress, SEO works the same way.
Among other features of WooCommerce, there no limitation to product categories, a WordPress blog, and a top-notch analytics tool is available.
WooCommerce is continuously updated for providing an ease of use and adding new feature and functions.
Since WordPress is used in almost every major country, they have integrated more than 140 region-specific gateways within WooCommerce.
Aside from accepting major credit cards, PayPal and bank transfers, popular choices like Stripe & others are also accepted.
Payment gateway plugins are integrated into WooCommerce in the form of plugins. Some of these plugins WorldPay cost around $79.
These premium gateways also generate a fee for the transaction, which depends on the gateways and yearly transaction amount.
How secure is it?
WordPress is trusted by millions.
This trust flows to WooCommerce because of its ability to customize.
WordPress is full of security plugins, and they can add any feature that your site may require to strengthen it.
They are easily installed and configured. The plugins will monitor your site’s activity and prevent most common types of attacks such as brute force.
Both free and premium plugins are available.
It is also possible to attain SSL certificate that can cost up to $100+ (and free from some sources) to make your online store secure and encrypted.
- It is a Plugin for WordPress
- It’s Open-Source and free to download.
- Extensive plugins for customization, but premium add-ons require a fee.
- Thousands of themes
- Highly customizable
- Rest API
- SEO friendly
- Region-specific payment gateways
- Vast amount of plugins for security
With clear requirements and a little elbow grease, WooCommerce is the best ecommerce platform for small business.
It provides complete control over all aspects of your online store.
Aside from the aforementioned Hosted and Self-Hosted platforms, among the most popular ecommerce platforms list, there is another player.
Even when you are using an ecommerce platform like WooCommerce that is highly customizable, there are still some limitations.
The flow and functionality of the website that you’ll build are determined by the pre-built framework.
A custom ecommerce platform liberates the individual from such bindings.
The custom platform gives the developers an unprecedented control over every feature of the website.
How do they have such control you ask?
Simple, the custom platform is built from the scratch.
Unlike off-the-shelf ecommerce platforms, custom platforms require that developers build everything from zero.
This includes the design of the online store, the features, the functionality etc.
The platform, like WooCommerce, requires a domain to be hosted.
They are perfect for companies that are large or expecting it to be.
Creating a custom platform is a difficult task, and not everyone can do that.
However, there are expert developers that are easily available and can also create it exactly as you require.
They are also more time consuming and costly than off-the-shelf ecommerce platforms.
But the benefits of having a custom ecommerce platform outweighed the cost.
Why should you go for a custom ecommerce platform?
The greater accessibility of the custom ecommerce platform allows developers to create an online store that separates your business from other.
It makes you stand out, that is more personalized for your market sector.
This gives your customers a unique shopping experience.
A custom platform offers your store the ability to handle unique processes that require completion in a specific way.
A custom solution means that it’s not bounded by limitations on how you set up your store and shopping cart.
Thus, it will be easier to change your business as it evolves over time.
You can also add features that you feel are necessary or will be handy. It can also be easily mobile optimized.
A custom website is remarkably better in terms of SEO over others.
That is because your product page can be optimized as you like to rank higher in SERP.
Also, the data feed and the website can be configured as per requirement.
The biggest benefit, in my opinion, is that the ability to process and handle a huge amount of products and visitors.
This can be set up according to your expectation.
A custom website can also be easily integrated with other solutions such as gateways and CRMs; as well as with your business system.
A custom platform is able to integrate any payment gateway that is available in to it.
It is possible to integrate all the major credit cards, PayPal or even any other third-party apps.
However, it requires that a custom plugin is built for the gateway to be integrated.
Shopping carts like Foxycart, Snipcart etc. need to be set up to handle the transactions. These usually start at around $15 a month.
How secure is it?
The security of the ecommerce platform depends on how secure you want it to be.
Whereas the off-the-shelf platforms have become constant targets by hackers, due to them having built on the pre-existing framework, custom ecommerce platform offer something unique.
A custom platform can be fitted with more standard security then an off-the-shelf platform.
It is possible to secure it to the standards of PCI, HIPAA, or similar standards.
SSL certificate is also easily obtainable to secure and encrypt the site.
How much does it cost?
This is the part that drives most merchants away from the custom platform.
Unlike off-the-shelf platforms, a custom platform costs significantly higher.
However, the cost of the project depends on the requirements that you want in the online store.
The cost of a custom ecommerce platform can be significantly higher than its counterpart.
This cost can range from $7,000-$20,000 or even $30,000; depending on the features of the store.
But the cost is worth every bit to attain a super ecommerce platform.
And make sure that you have an adept partner to develop you this custom ecommerce platform.
- It’s built from scratch
- Provides complete control over all aspects
- Costly and time consuming, but worth it
- Not bound by limitations
- Any feature can be added according to the requirement
- Process large bulk of products or visitors
- Mobile optimized and SEO friendly
- Big boys use it
- Custom payment gateway
Starting your journey on the right foot is always considered as one of the most important steps.
That is why setting up the perfect ecommerce platform is vital.
Which platform is the right one for you depends on what you require?
These are the best ecommerce platforms of 2017, and you can’t go wrong with any one of them.
This is the most opportune time to open up an online store and rake in all the benefits & profits it allows.
And with the rise of smartphones in every hand (sometimes two), the revenue of ecommerce business will rise immensely.
If you use one of these three most popular ecommerce platforms on the market today, there is no doubt that you will be opening your online business on a very successful path.