Choosing an Ecommerce PlatformSeptember 26, 2018 Peter A. Liefer II
What’s the Best eCommerce Platform?
Are you trying to find the right eCommerce platform for your business? With over 200 to choose from, you might find yourself overwhelmed by all the options.
While PrimeView could help you with ecommerce website development for any eCommerce platform, we have focused on three of the best, Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce. So, we have exceptional skills with these top online stores.
As with anything, there are pros and cons. There are quite a few differences between them, so let’s look at what each one offers and find which is the best eCommerce platform for you.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin that adds e-commerce functionality to your WordPress website. Favored by small and medium-scale businesses, the platform offers a variety of plug-ins that simplify customization and improve your online store’s capabilities. Learn more about WooCommerce
Magento is an open source e-commerce platform that leverages modular e-commerce website building options to give online businesses flexibility with customization and integration. Packed with useful built-in features and limitless possibilities, it’s an exceptional ecommerce solution. Learn more about Magento.
Shopify is a premium e-commerce platform that allows online marketers to design, develop, and market products on a global scale. Complete with custom domains and hundreds of templates ready for use, Shopify makes it easy to establish your brand online. Learn more about Shopify.
Comparing Functions & Features
There is a list of things that you need to look at when sizing up an ecommerce website builder. Here are some of the main ones.
Cost – there are a lot of different aspects influencing the costs, initial set up cost, cost of Themes and Apps, hosting cost and more. For now, will just talk about which is the most affordable and which is the most expensive.
Ease of Use – Ease of use if a consideration if you are inexperienced with operating an ecommerce store.
Design Flexibility – The better able you are to modify your design to fit your branding and store organization is a plus.
Apps and Add-ons – If you want to grow your store having a wide selection of extensions will help automate tasks and expand the functionality of your site.
Themes and Templates – The more and better templates and themes you have to choose from lets you match your site to your branding. How
Payment Processing – To sell online you need to accept payments from customers. Not every payment gateway is compatible with every eCommerce platform.
Multilingual capabilities – If you want to reach customers that don’t speak English, you want an ecommerce solution that fully supports multiple languages.
Hosting – You need to have a host for your ecommerce website, another cost consideration.
Support – Whichever platform you choose you are going to want to have some support for issues you can’t deal with. PrimeView offers complete support services.
Now let’s dig deeper into these eCommerce platforms.
Magento is quickly becoming the latest standard in e-commerce software. Being open-source software, the code is customizable so you can adapt it very close to the needs of your online business.
The cost of Magento depends on several factors and can get quite complicated to answer the question, “how much does it cost.” There is a free version, but then there are different levels that vary based on the edition you use and the hosting option you choose.
There are two versions of Magento 1 & 2. Magento 2 is a completely new platform compared to Magento 1. You can go online and see many articles saying one is better than the other or what the difference is and problems they have.
At PrimeView, we have found Magento 2 to have a lot of issues. We usually recommend Magento 1. However, if you are currently using Magento 2 and need support or help with it, we can provide that.
According to Magecore, a company founded by the team that built Magento, Magento 2 cannot run on a small server (4 CPU cores). It requires more resources to operate properly compared to what is sufficient for Magento 1.
Since Magento 2 is an emerging technology, there are a lot of risks involved, but the payoff could potentially be rewarding. Magento 2 was made to provide a modern design and improve user experience with a lot of enhancements. It has advanced system architecture designed for large deployments, so it would naturally put a bigger load on a server.
If you plan to have a huge inventory, then Magento 2 may be what you want to use. However, it is going to cost you. The more you sell, the more it will cost.
Development – First of all, there is Magento Community (CE). It is FREE to download and use and is suitable for a small to medium size businesses. While the software is free, you will need a developer to set up your store. It’s very difficult to implement unless you know PHP/XML.
Don’t know what PHP is? Well, then you definitely will need professional help. So that will cost you. To say it is free is really not the whole story. Due to the size and changes that happen in the scope of a Magento project, it is hard to estimate the exact cost of a Magento website.
Development rates can range from around $65 to $150 per hour. Someone charging $65 is probably not really experienced, so they will take longer, and it will come out about the same. How long it takes depends on the skills of the developer and how many extensions you may want to add. Which you will most likely want to do to have the functionality for a quality store.
Support & Maintenance – Businesses using Magento CE won’t have access to technical help except in some forums. In addition to development, you will also want to have support and maintenance. The minimum average price is around $100 per month. PrimeView offers support for Magento.
Note: All the prices shown here in the cost section are normal prices in the industry, not what PrimeView will charge. View our pricing for Magento development and support here.
In addition to Magento Community (CE), there are 2 Enterprise Editions that are not open source. These require a license which range in cost from 22,000 to 190,000 depending on your gross sales revenue and whether you use Magento hosting. After the launch of Magento 2, licenses for new Magento 1 Enterprise Edition stores are no longer available.
PrimeView only works with the opensource version, not the Enterprise Editions. Your cost for Magento 1 or 2 Community version with our Arizona web design firm will just be in development, support, and maintenance, you don’t have to pay for the Magento C0mmunity software.
Multiple Stores – Magento can operate different stores on several websites and manage them from a single administrative panel. Sales transactions and customer interaction can be managed from a single database, which saves time spent on taking orders and managing sales.
Magento Supports Mobile E-Commerce – HTML5 capabilities are integrated into Magento. With this, Magento store owners can offer better mobile shopping experiences across multiple web browsers and devices, especially those millions of mobile devices that don’t have support for Flash. An online store developed using the Magento platform can include features like gesture-based controls, image scaling, use of both inbuilt audio and video capabilities, drag and drop facilities for shopping carts etc.
Analytics and Reporting – Magento is already associated with Google Analytics, Google Base and Google Checkout. This helps you to keep track of your site visitors. These tools give you reports on shopping cart abandonment, search terms used within your store, most viewed products, etc.
Security and Payment Options – Magento is a secure platform, the implementation of SSL security and dedicated IP is easy. Customers will buy from your Magento store with a feeling of security. This is definitely helpful to increase the conversion rate. Magento provides different payment methods, this allows you to accept payments using different payment processors like PayPal, Authorize.net, Google etc. Customers can also pay through check/money order, credit cards, purchase order and many more.
Code-level Access – Magento Community allows code-level access, which means the backend can be tweaked to make changes in your store. For added functionality, the Magento Connect Marketplace has 7,500 extensions to use, some of which are free while others are paid.
Persistent Shopping Cart – This feature saves the content of a shopping cart until a customer comes back even in a different platform whether it is a desktop, tablet or mobile. You can create discounts and other offers for specific customers. For instance, wholesale customers get an automatic discount of 5% or an on-going offer of free shipping for all orders made within a specific time frame.
Result Filters – Magento allows better browsing through filters and restrictions in results. With this feature, users can filter results according to color, size, manufacturer, and price.
Payment Configurations and Options – You can set different payment options as well as shipping options for international clients.
Product Options – Aside from the product name, cost, weight, size, color, description, and retail price, you can also set tier prices, which are different pricing systems for different customer groups such as retail and wholesale buyers. Meanwhile, you can also set special prices for a specific duration, which is typically done during sales or promotions. You can also designate up-sells, cross-sells, and related products to encourage higher sales.
SEO – Magento Community is integrated with SEO tools so that your website will be indexed by search engines.
Couponing and Promotions – Aside from helping you manage your e-commerce business, Magento also allows you to create coupons and promotions and easily add them to your store.
Customer Accounts Management – Magento allows you to edit customer information such as their address, passwords, and phone numbers.
Order and Sales Management – Magento Community allows you to go in and process orders and mark them according to progress.
Complex for Beginners and Non-Coders – Setting up Magento is not as easy as WooCommerce or Shopify. The platform uses PHP and Java. Users must know how to configure and make the store fully functional on their own. You also need advanced skills in PHP to maximize the customization capability of Magento.
Time Consuming Development – with over 4000 lines of code, Magento is complex. It is time-consuming to develop. It uses a Model–View–Controller (MVC) architectural pattern which follows best web programming practices, which make it difficult to work with.
Developers – Good Magento developers like the ones at PrimeView are hard to find. Magento is an extremely large system (over 20,000 files and 200 database tables) so it takes a good developer with good understanding of object-oriented development and experience with the core software to really know what they’re doing.
Cost – Community version is free, but there are development and support cost associated with it.
Hosting – due to its size, Magento should only be hosted on dedicated servers that can be configured or hosted with providers who specialize in Magento hosting. Running Magento on normal shared hosting will create a slow and frustrating user experience for visitors. Learn about PrimeView’s hosting solutions here.
Shopify is a hosted platform. It takes care of your hosting with no extra effort or expense required from you. Hosting costs are included in your monthly plan. For Magento and WooCommerce, you have to arrange the hosting.
From the beginning, Shopify will have your store installed, setup, and configured as needed. While Shopify is a commercial product that you need to pay for, you can try it out with a 14-day free trial.
Shopify is considerably easier to set up and use as compared to Magento and WooCommerce. With a store set up right away, Shopify can help you find and add products directly into your store which you can start selling at once. A network of suppliers is available who will hold your inventory, package, and ship the products for you.
Themes and Templates
A theme dictates the look and style of your website. It’s made of a range of items, such as font types and sizes, color schemes and other features that affect the aesthetics of your site. Your theme helps to reflect your branding throughout all the pages of your site and helps to improve your customer’s experience.
Templates are categorized under a theme. The theme is where the HTML/CSS code for a template is located. Themes allow templates to be saved with different content while maintaining the overall style.
Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce each have themes and templates that users can choose from. The themes can be changed and customized to match the branding of your business. However, there is a larger selection of themes and templates available in Magento and WooCommerce than in Shopify.
Shopify is a company, rather than an open source platform, so it produces themes just for its users. With Magento and WooCommerce there are many independent developers making themes both paid and free. This means that customizing Shopify might take a little more work because there are not as many choices. But most likely you will find what you need in the ones available.
Apps and Add-Ons
Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce each have add-ons available that include things such as integration of e-mail marketing, widgets, payment options, and others. Apps that make the customer experience better and make it easier for you to keep track of customer data. Shopify’s selection of apps is limited, as not many people will have access to the code that will allow them to develop them.
Shopify has 3/three basic plans.
In addition to the monthly cost, you will pay a fee for each transaction:
Shopify also has a $9 per month plan called – Shopify Lite. Sell on Facebook and chat with your customers on Messenger, add products to any website or blog, and accept credit card payments.
They have an enterprise-grade solution for high volume merchants and large businesses called Shopify Plus. The plan can go from $2000 on up.
Shopify is easy, for a simple eCommerce site, but if you really want to get into something bigger, better, more branded, and unique, it will take experience and work. PrimeView’s team of eCommerce experts can help you can make your Shopify web store all that it can be, maximizing its capabilities.
Unlimited Products – You are not limited to a certain number of products that you can sell in your store.
Unlimited Bandwidth and Online Storage – You are charged based on how many online visitors go through your store or how many files or photos you upload.
Shopify Point of Sale – an app for iOS and Android that lets you process orders and take payments in person in a physical store. Manage all aspects of your store from Shopify admin, which can be accessed using any browser.
Online Sales Channels – channels include an online store, Facebook, and Pinterest. Each sales channel connects to Shopify, so you can easily keep track of your products, orders, and customers across all platforms.
Fraud Analysis – built-in fraud analysis feature flags orders that are potentially fraudulent and brings them to your attention. Avoid chargebacks and losses.
Manual Order Creation – create new orders and enter payment details right from Shopify admin. For example, you can manually create an order that you took over the phone then email your customer a receipt with the full order details.
Discount Codes – discount codes help build your customer base and give your existing customers an incentive to shop in your store:
Abandoned Cart Recovery (ACR) – sends automatic emails to customers who leave your store without completing the checkout process.
Staff Accounts – allow your staff to complete basic admin tasks while restricting their access to sensitive information. Staff accounts also let you see updates and changes made by each staff member in your store’s timeline.
Many Apps Are Not Free – Shopify offers over 1,200 apps to extend the functionality of your eCommerce store, but many will cost you and these are paid for with a monthly charge. Integrating accounting software to your Shopify store, for example, can cost $31.99 per month.
Only Ten Free Theme Templates – If you don’t have any of the free templates you will need to pay a one-time fee to use any of the other themes. Paid themes go from $100 to $180.
Customization Requires Special Coding Skills – If you want extensive customization you need to know Shopify’s Liquid code or hire a Shopify expert if you don’t.
Email Hosting Is Not Included – External email hosting is needed and you have to purchase a domain in Shopify’s interface. PrimeView offers affordable email hosting packages.
Not Great For Blogging – Exporting blogs is not hassle free and you can’t embed products in blog posts and there are no categories, only tags.
Migration – It is difficult to move your store to another platform if you wish to change it.
WooCommerce is an open source product, meaning it is free to use and create a store. Because of its availability to the public, users of WooCommerce are free to share their experience and encounters with the platform. This includes sharing source codes, experiments and of course, indulge in debates.
Being a plugin for WordPress, a hugely popular CMS that supports 51% of the top million websites currently existing, WooCommerce is easy for WordPress users due to its familiar user-friendly interface. This saves a lot amount of time in production and makes room for more creativity.
WooCommerce is a simpler, less technical type of ecommerce platform, which is why it is good for businesses starting out that are not experienced with eCommerce websites. Users have the freedom to customize without having to know how to code.
WordPress lets you choose between a selection of different WooCommerce themes in the Woo Themes Store that you can customize – making it match your branding. You can do this by changing color themes, adjusting the CSS styles and even edit the code and experiment your way for a more personalized look.
Because WordPress is made for blogging as well as making great websites, it is easy to build your brand presence and manage reputation with blogs. What you are doing is integrating your store into your website, which makes it a seamless experience for your visitors. With Shopify or Magento, you will have separate URLs from your website, if you have one. Which you should of course.
Many Themes – Choose a theme that works best for your branding. WooCommerce works seamlessly with themes WordPress themes and many popular themes around the web.
Unrestricted Customization – Edit any part of your site – from the homepage layout to the buy button.
Built-in Blogging – Publish your content and build a strong brand. WooCommerce integrates eCommerce into a content publishing platform.
Embed Products, Checkout and On Any Page – Use shortcodes to add your products to blog posts, or create landing pages that go straight to checkout.
Categories, Tags and Attributes – Customers can find what they want by adding tags to describe a product. Add attributes like size so customers can search for items most relevant to them.
Product Ratings and Reviews – Show customer feedback directly on the product page, including a ‘Verified Owner’ label.
Customize for Your Location – Set the currency, language and measurement units (inches, centimeters or anything else) that’s right for you.
Product Sorting and Filtering – Let customers sort products by popularity, newness, rating, price or attribute to find the right fit.
Unlimited Images and Galleries – Include any number of photos to show off your products. Set a featured image to highlight the best photo site-wide.
Unlimited Products – Add as many products as you want to sell – your only restriction is your inventory.
Lack of Customer Support – WooCommerce doesn’t provide phone support, instead, you need to submit tickets and try to find the answer to your problem on the forum. PrimeView offers affordable support packages for WooCommerce.
You Will Need Plugins – WooCommerce doesn’t do everything right out of the box, you will need to add plugins and they can cause many conflicts between third-party plugins. Also, too many plugins can slow your site down.
Frequency of WordPress Updates – WordPress and its plugins are updated often which is something that needs to be maintained and can cause functional issues with your store. You must keep the WordPress plugins up to date with your current browsers.
Not an eCommerce Content Management System – WooCommerce is originally a WordPress plugin. So, it is not a very robust CMS for eCommerce websites. Also, WooCommerce lacks some of the advanced features provided by Magento and Shopify.
Hopefully, the information provided here can help you choose between Magento, Shopify, and WooCommerce or decide if you even want to dive into an eCommerce project.
There is much more to know about these 3 platforms and ecommerce in general. It is an undertaking that requires a lot of planning, time and effort to launch an online store that will result in profits. But the rewards can be tremendous.
PrimeView offers e-commerce solutions tailored to your unique needs, goals, and budgets. If you’re interested in our WooCommerce, Magento, and Shopify development or support services or any of our other internet marketing solutions, please get in touch with us today!
You can receive a free proposal from us by clicking the button.