The best Retail eCommerce
Choosing the right eCommerce platform is no small chore. Many of us have tried and test most of the major platforms at one stage or another. While there’s a huge amount of value available in all of them, there’s pros and cons with each.
A lot depends on your preferences on questions like ‘Would I prefer to self-host or use software-as-a-service?’ and ‘How much customization do I need to do?’ In this article we give an overview of some of the reasons people choose one platform over the other.
In some cases this might be the right answer. For example, if you plan to sell something in a completely unique way, you might need to go with a custom solution. On the other hand, if you’re selling products, dealing with inventory, order fulfillment, and just need a way to do retail sales online, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Similarly for wholesale, we built iStockist specifically so that more companies could buy B2B eCommerce off-the-shelf, rather than doing custom builds.
Custom software is difficult and expensive to make. Luckily, there are plenty of effective, affordable eCommerce solutions available. As a result, many of the biggest, best known eCommerce companies use out-of-the-box solutions.
Of these, Shopify, Magento, and WooCommerce are among the most popular, so let’s look at each in turn…
Shopify provides a good customer experience with a nice checkout and fast page loads ‘out of the box’. This means your team don’t need to think about servers and optimizing webpage loading times as much as you do with Magento and WooCommerce.
- Lite Plan: $ 9/month
- Basic Shopify Plan: $ 29/month
- Shopify Plan: $79/month
- Advanced Shopify Plan: $299/month
- Shopify Plus: $2000/month
While the basic Shopify plans are very affordable, it’s worth keeping in mind the transaction fees associated with Shopify also. Shopify charges up to 2% per transaction, based on the plan you are on. Additionally, fees are charged on credit card transactions.
Layouts are customizable, data structures are not
Shopify has made it relatively easy for designers to customize Shopify themes. There’s also a strong eco-system of apps connected to Shopify. That said if you are looking to make significant alterations to the data model or eCommerce functionality provided in Shopify, you might get stuck.
Shopify is ideal for businesses who don’t need to customize the functionality of their eCommerce platform and are more comfortable with the software-as-a-service model, as opposed to self-hosting.
Slow by default. Needs to be set up right.
Magento provides a comprehensive shopping and checkout solution, out of the box. The big strength that Magento has versus Shopify, is that it can be highly-customized since the code is open-source. This is useful, if you want to create something a bit different. That said, customizing large, open-source projects is not always simple, or cost-effective.
The fact that Magento is large, complex, open-source system, also highlights Magento’s main weakness. It is slow by default and needs to be tuned and tweaked to work nicely for you.
Magento has a steeper learning curve and set up costs, than the other solutions. To take advantage of customizing Magento yourself, you’re going to need a team with some knowledge and experience writing code for Magento. That said, because Magento is open-source and has been around for almost 10 years, it has a large community of experienced developers who work with Magento.
Therefore, Magento is best suited to companies who have (or are willing to hire) expert web development staff.
- Magento Community Edition: free to use.
- Magento Enterprise pricing: $20k/year and can rise to around $75k based on turnover. The four tiers for Magento pricing are: Up to 1M, 1M – 5M, 5M – 10M, 10M – 25M
In addition to the pricing plans, you are going to have additional costs, depending on your hosting requirements and the cost of developers for the project.
In short, Magento is a nice large-scale eCommerce solution. It will require a lot of planning, and a good plan around development and hosting. If this sounds like the right solution for you, here’s a nice article by Paul Rogers on creating an initial specification for a magento project.
Perfect for WordPress websites with simple eCommerce requirements.
While Magento and Shopify operate as standalone solutions, WooCommerce is architected as a plugin to give your wordpress site eCommerce capabilities. Since WordPress is the most used website CMS worldwide, undoubtably WooCommerce is a sensible solution for many businesses.
Furthermore, WooCommerce is free and maintained by the company behind wordpress, Automattic. It’s simple to install and to add checkout facilities to your existing site. This makes WooCommerce a brilliant way for a business to add eCommerce functionality to their wordpress website.
Simple and easy setup
WooCommerce integrates with the existing theme of your WordPress site. While you may need your web designer to add some specific elements to improve the eCommerce experience, you won’t need to start from scratch.
Dependent on WordPress
If you don’t already have a wordpress site, you’ll need to set one up. Depending on your requirements, it might end up being a bigger project for your designers to create your wordpress theme, rather than say using one of the default Shopify themes.
You will need to host or find a host provider for the wordpress site. Starting prices for hosting wordpress sites are very small. That said, it’s worth looking at the speed and bandwidth providing in the hosting package.
Cheap hosting can be a major downfall for many businesses running wooCommerce wordpress sites. Because a slow host was chosen, the checkout pages load slow, which turns off prospective customers from completing the purchase.
It has fewer features “out of the box” versus Shopify, and Magento. That said over 400 extensions have been built for wooCommerce.
WooCommerce is a good choice for companies that already run a WordPress website. Furthermore, it’s a good fit for companies whose work with developers that are familiar with WordPress, as it’s follows similar concepts, and can be extended. It’s not that suitable for a businesses looking for a lot of eCommerce functionality out-of-the-box, or for those who would prefer to pay for a SaaS eCommerce platform, rather than self-host.
Depending on your eCommerce requirements, one or more of the major solutions will be appropriate.
One way of classifying the three options would be:
– Simple solution, self hosted – WooCommerce
– Simple or scalable solution, SaaS – Shopify
– Scalable solution, self-hosted – Magento
iStockist is the best eCommerce platform for Wholesale, and we are building order management plugins for whichever Retail eCommerce platform you decided is best for your business.
Any questions? Feel free to contact us.