Which E-commerce Platform Is Right For You?
For the love of all things holy: Please choose your e-commerce platform first, and then find a designer skilled in the development and design of that particular platform. Too many of us chose a designer we love and then develop an e-commerce site on whatever platform the designer is most comfortable with. The problem? If the engine that drives your site is aesthetically pleasing but lacking the core functionality that you ultimately need to be successful, then you’ve just made a significant investment in your business without deriving the full benefit of that investment. That’s a “best case” scenario. The worst case scenario? Your site can’t perform as needed and you abandon it, reinvesting time and energy into a new platform.
I’m assuming that you don’t have money to burn, yes? If so, then I urge you to read on and carefully weigh software options before making a commitment. While this post isn’t an exhaustive exploration of each platform listed nor a comprehensive list of available e-commerce engines, I’ve done my very best to extract key differences between several of the most popular e-commerce systems available to makers and product designers. I’ve designed this blog post thoughtfully… my least favorite platform is listed first and the options get better as you move through this review.
I hope you’ll roll up your sleeves and dive in!
THE PROS AND CONS OF WIX
1. The basic platform is free to use, though Wix advertisements will be tucked into both the header and footer of your site unless you upgrade to a paid package.
2. Those seeking an actual e-commerce platform will need to upgrade to a paid package, the most popular of which is their “VIP” package at $25 a month. That’s $300 a year in website fees before you process a single sale. That’s not a bad price for a sharp website, but keep reading to see how the value of Wix stacks up to its competitors!
3. A wide array (500+) of design templates are available, but you can’t switch templates once you choose one and begin building it out.
4. Many of those design templates look pretty dated. Wix templates are decidedly less elegant and design-centric than many of its contemporaries.
5. Wix isn’t designed to handle complex e-commerce needs. Customer communication features and general order management features are anemic at best.
6. You will enjoy easy “drag + drop” design capabilities when designing your site.
7. Customer support isn’t available 24/7 like many of Wix’s competitors. Enjoy email and phone support from 9am-8pm Eastern. Support via live chat isn’t offered.
8. Wix templates aren’t responsive (which is ideal), but they do offer a dedicated mobile editor.
9. The “VIP” package limits you to 20GB of storage.
THE PROS AND CONS OF WOOCOMMERCE
1. Woo offers a tremendous amount of flexibility in the design, but it’s not “drag + drop” easy. You’re going to have to put in some hours in the development of this site, or pay someone to execute the development on your behalf.
2. There are only 5 free themes available. However, you can enjoy 50 more for about $79 each or buy all a package which contains all of the themes for $399.
3. WooCommerce itself is free (hooray!) but you’ll need heaps of add-ons and those apps can get pretty spendy pretty quickly. The good news? You only add the functionality you need because pretty much everything is offered “a la carte.”
4. WooCommerce is the e-commerce arm of WordPress. While I’m particularly fond of WordPress as a blogging platform, I’m far less smitten with it as an e-commerce solution. I recommend choosing a platform that’s been developed with e-commerce as its primary purpose.
5. The “out of the boxes” payment gateway is Mijireh, which charges a .5% processing fee on every transaction.
6. WooCommerce isn’t a “hosted cart” which means that you’ll need to allocate funds for a third-party hosting solution each month.
7. Because WooCommerce is free, there’s no strict customer care. Generally speaking, you’re left to your own devices with the support of advice in Woo’s forums.
8. WooCommerce is significantly less secure than other available options. Because WordPress/WooCommerce is such a target for hackers, you’ll need to stay on top of updates and change your password often.
9. I once tried to build a site with WooCommerce. It was a maddening experience, even after I tagged in a seasoned pro who’s built several non-Woo sites for me in the past. My liver couldn’t withstand the amount of alcohol necessary to develop WooCommerce sites on a regular basis.
THE PROS AND CONS OF SQUARESPACE
1. Squarespace sports super-simple “drag + drop” site design that you can take live in almost no time. You can enjoy lots of design flexibility without touching any code.
2. Enjoy 40+ design templates which are decidedly rich and modern: minimalist, clean, chic, and image-oriented.
3. All Squarespace templates are responsive- they resizes instantly to play well on mobile devices.
4. However, Stripe is the only available payment processor, which means that you can’t operate a Squarespace site in certain countries where Stripe isn’t available. Essentially, Squarespace is only available in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, and Ireland at the moment. And you can’t include PayPal as a payment option.
5. Squarespace doesn’t automatically keep a history of site changes. If you make an error, then you can’t simply restore an older version.
6. Enjoy 24/7 email support with an impressive 1-hour average turnaround for support requests. Regrettably, no phone support is available.
7. There is some limitation to SEO (search engine optimization), particularly when it comes to blogging.
8. Squarespace includes some nice photo features, including automatic aspect ratio and designated focal points.
9. If you’d like “abandoned cart recovery” features or real-time carrier shipping quotes, then you’ll need to go with the “advanced” plan at $46 per month.
10. The Squarespace “basic” package weighs in at $30 a month, reduced to $26 per month when you pre-pay annually.
THE PROS AND CONS OF BIGCOMMERCE
1. There are 90 apps designed to support Bigcommerce, which means this platform can grow with you and you can largely build functionality as needed.
2. The “standard” package on Bigcommerce gives you three things that Shopify doesn’t: gift cards, a built-in review system, and real-time carrier shipping quotes.
3. That “standard” package does limit you to $50,00 in sales per year, though. After that, you’re bumped to “Bigcommerce Plus” at $80 per month. That plan taps out at $125,000 in annual sales. Then you’d need to move to the “pro” plan which is a spendy $200 per month. Ouch!
4. There are 7 free theme variants from which to choose. 76 additional themes are available, ranging in price from $145-$235.
5. Bigcommerce supports 30+ payment gateways. “Out of the box” gateways that require minimal configuration and quick set-up include: PayPal, Stripe, and Square.
6. There are no transaction fees with Bigcommerce.
7. Enjoy 24/7 support via phone, email, and online chat.
8. The “standard” package will set you back $30 a month, $360 a year. Pay annually up front and get a 10% discount.
THE PROS AND CONS OF SHOPIFY
1. There are more than 1200 available apps designed to support Shopify. That means this platform offers you more opportunities to build functionality into its feature seat then virtually any other e-commerce platform on the planet.
2. However, Abandoned cart functionality is absent from the $29 “basic” plan. For that, you’ll need to upgrade to the $79/month package. Even then, you can only send one automatically dispatched “abandoned cart” email to each user.
3. If you elect to use an external payment gateway versus “Shopify Payments” for card processing (which is powered by Stripe), then you’ll incur an additional transaction fee, which is 2% for Shopify’s “basic” plan.
4. Shopify plans have no sales limit, which is a big win over BigCommerce.
5. There are 24 free theme variants. 139 additional themes are available, ranging in price from $100-180 in price.
6. Shopify supports an astounding 70+ payment gateways. “Out of the box” gateways include PayPal and Stripe, which need minimal programming.
7. You can only offer customers 3 sets of option per product: size, color, fragrance, etc.
8. Shopify offers an app for managing your store while on the go.
9. Enjoy 24/7 support via phone, live chat, and email. Shopify’s customer support is widely praised as exceptionally helpful.
10. The “basic” plan is $29 a month or $348 a year. Pay annually up front and get a 10% discount; prepay for two years and you’ll receive a 20% discount.
Explore Shopify. Pssssttt: word on the street is that you can often sweet-talk a Shopify customer support member into throwing in those real-time carrier shipping quotations in for free if you ask nicely and pre-pay your first year. *wink*
WHAT E-COMMERCE PLATFORM ARE YOU USING?
I’d love to know! Drop a comment below to share your e-commerce platforms success stories. And let me know, too, if you’re having buyer’s remorse about the platform you’ve selected. Sharing your experience could very well help someone else! Perhaps a second post that explores Big Cartel, Weebly, and Volusion is in order.
If this post has proved helpful to you, then I invite you to share with those in your circle and any entrepreneurial Facebook groups that you might be a part of. Grazie…
P.S. This post triggered an avalanche of questions about e-commerce cart providers not mentioned in the original article. I circled the wagons and created a follow-up post which dissects Pinnacle, Spark Pay, Magento, Volusion, 3D Cart, and Weebly. I invite you to Which E-Commerce Platform is Right for You, Part 2.