Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform for your Online Store.
For most brands and suppliers, a productive and profitable multichannel approach to sales includes a robust, intuitive, and easily integrated platform that powers an eCommerce store. Even if a company has significant business in online marketplaces and through brick-and-mortar retail, today’s consumer will seek out products in multiple locations. The question is: what are the best platforms for eCommerce stores?
As an EDI and online order processing software provider, we work with all the major platforms for eCommerce stores. Our experience, the broad range of customers we serve, and our integration expertise give us valuable insight that can help you choose the platform that is best for your business.
Our opinions are unbiased—our developers work to ensure that our Lingo software functions well with all the major eCommerce platforms. Of course, there is no shortage of these platforms, and more emerge regularly. We won’t cover all of them here, but we will provide our thoughts on some of the most popular solutions out there. We believe our experience can help guide a decision, but remember that your choice should be based on the needs of your company—both current and future.
What are the most popular eCommerce platforms?
Of course, the most widely used eCommerce platforms are well-known, and often lauded in business media for their consistent growth and popularity. Fact is, most are excellent tools for companies seeking to capitalize on the migration to online shopping and build a channel that does not rely on dominant online marketplaces like Amazon and Walmart.com. Still, what are the best platforms for eCommerce stores?
The key is choosing a solution that is suited to your workflow, your volume, and your long-term plans. Ideally, your company works with a platform that is easily integrated into your systems now, and can scale as you grow. If you spend the time to adapt to a platform, you don’t want to be forced to switch to something different in just a few years. That’s a waste of capital, both financial and human.
At the same time, it’s not smart to make a larger than necessary investment and choose a platform built for much larger businesses. You’ll wind up not only paying for features you may not need, but you can also find yourself lost among a client roster of much larger players.
To find the right platform, evaluate all of them carefully. What does the backend look like? How easy is it to manage all your SKUs on it? Does it integrate easily with your ERP and your order processing software? And, of course, don’t forget about the consumer—does it provide a shopping environment that will help generate sales and present your products in a way that makes it easy for people to buy? Here's our take on the options available—we hope to eliminate some of the guesswork when it comes to the best platforms for eCommerce stores.
Shopify and Shopify Plus
Shopify is the most widely-used eCommerce platform. The reasons are many—easy to use, fast to get set up, built-in payment solutions.. There’s a full CMS, so products, price changes, discounts, promo codes, shipping, and customer databases can be managed simply and efficiently.
Shopify and Shopify Plus—the more robust option that growing companies turn to when volume and complexity increase—are built to be easily adopted by those without technical experience. There’s no coding required—although many brands and suppliers will hire professionals to design attractive, custom storefronts and develop features that make shopping as intuitive as possible. In short, Shopify is the go-to solution for so many because it is built to eliminate as many challenges as possible. If you’re a nascent company without unlimited resources, the platform lets you launch a crisp, professional, effective online store in minimal time. As you grow, you can upgrade to the more advanced Shopify offerings and avoid the need to suddenly switch to a different platform. You will pay regular fees, however, and you’ll need to weigh those as they increase.
Shopify is not, it should be noted, an EDI solution. For multichannel operations, it needs to be combined with EDI software such as Lingo that is easily integrated. When that happens, all your order data—online and EDI—can be managed and processed together.
Pros: Very easy to set up, backed by a large and growing company
Cons: Out-of-the-box solution is not easily customized
WooCommerce through WordPress
If you’re familiar with WordPress or operate your website with it, you know all about plugins.
WooCommerce is just that—a plugin that can be added to any WordPress website. More websites run on the WordPress platform than any other—for good reason. The platform itself is free, it’s robust, and it provides real value to both intermediate and professional developers.
Most people relatively new to building websites find they can create one fairly easily with WordPress. But the learning curve is steeper with WordPress and the WooCommerce plugin than an out-of-the-box, completely pre-built solution like Shopify.
That said, WooCommerce delivers all the services and capabilities you need when you establish your eCommerce storefront—inventory management, easily applied discounts, product presentations, storage of customer data. What’s more, WordPress and WooCommerce come with a built-in community of users. If you like to interact and find solutions through online forums and support, WordPress and WooCommerce deliver that more than anyone else.
WordPress itself grew out of a community space—founder Matt Mullenweg envisioned a platform built on shared expertise that would provide a place for content creators and developers to exchange ideas, develop solutions, and achieve constant improvement. WordPress Meetups—in-person when possible—happen around the world, and many plugins are shared by their creators. That seemingly endless supply of plugins makes it easy for companies using a WooCommerce/WordPress combination to make upgrades and add features on a regular basis.
In short, if you’re looking for a robust, inexpensive solution, even if it requires some interest in development and a larger time commitment, WooCommerce is a great platform for your eCommerce store.
Pros: Virtually free, community support
Cons: Not as easy for those not technically proficient
Magento is the powerhouse option—custom, incredibly robust, full functionality, seemingly endless options for features and presentation.
Of course, all the horsepower comes at a price—Magento is typically the most expensive platform. It was built primarily to serve large corporations with high volume sales rather than emerging brands or startups.
If your company has vast resources, however, a Magento eCommerce store will deliver, even at its premium price. A team of developers and designers will be required to produce real value from it, but a talented group can create an online storefront that is best–in-class. And a Magento solution definitely has the capacity to expand as your business scales.
Magento offers two versions—one that is initially free with community forums, and an enterprise solution that comes with full-service customer support. In our experience, Magento is the best choice for large, established brands. These companies either build out their own developer team or work with a trusted partner like Creative Digital LLC.
Pros: Very robust, seemingly unlimited capabilities
Cons: Expensive, requires significant investment of time and resources
Somewhere between Magento and Shopify is where BigCommerce lands. BigCommerce is a major player in the space, seemingly built specifically for companies on the verge of explosive growth. Scalability may be its greatest asset, and it’s most attractive to companies that believe it will help them make the step from emerging brand to market leader.
One of the major benefits of BigCommerce is its built-in nature—as companies grow they can easily add features without incurring additional costs. That’s a big reason why it’s attractive to companies ready to scale. It also offers integration across multiple online channels, making it a particularly nice option for brands and suppliers that drive business through social media.
As with Magento, all this functionality comes at a price. BigCommerce is not inexpensive, and users should be technically proficient or expect to build a team to maximize the capability of the platform.
Pros: Extensive functionality, easy to scale
Cons: Revenue-based billing can be challenging when product margins are tight, requires technical proficiency
You’ve undoubtedly been hit with online ads and TV commercials from Wix. Initially created to help people build their own websites for free, it also offers eCommerce store capability. Marketing clout aside, their message does resonate with many—free, easy, fast.
Wix is, indeed, all of those. A hosted solution, there is no software to install and there is no need to buy a separate hosting option. It’s a big operation—founded in 2006, it now has more than 5,000 employees. So while it is free and built primarily for small companies or sole proprietors, it’s no fly-by-night operation—you shouldn’t have to worry that it will fold and leave you stuck.
Of course, nothing is really, truly “free” and Wix is no exception. It’s enough to launch with the free version, but it doesn’t offer eCommerce store capabilities and it is ad-supported so your site will also serve up messages from others. In the United States, however, Wix is still quite cost-effective—the Business and eCommerce plans range from $23 to $49 per month. The platform is easy to use, and the template options are vast—it’s relatively simple to get a professional-looking site and store up and running quickly.
As a growth company itself, Wix now offers Enterprise plans as well. These are intended to compete with the likes of Magento, and do provide the opportunity to scale your business without needing to move to a new platform. The Enterprise plans also come with a full suite of support services.
As an eCommerce platform, Wix does make it reasonably simple to offer an unlimited number of products, create filters so shopping is easy for your customers, and ship and track orders efficiently. Again, it’s not an EDI solution, so you’ll need to ensure that it integrates seamlessly with your provider—our Lingo software can connect to it easily.
Pros: Inexpensive for startups, relatively easy to use
Cons: Cost escalates quickly as your business expands
Research eCommerce platforms before you choose.
Our opinions can help guide you, but you’ll want to do your own research as you seek out the best eCommerce platform for your business. Ask tough questions, and take honest stock of your company and your future plans. Make sure that your choice integrates well with your EDI provider, and that it won’t create a separate, time-consuming workflow.
There are myriad options available—the right one for your company will emerge.