One of my customers, a small artisan jewelry e-commerce that sells globally, has faced a challenge lately. As their operations are growing, they need a platform that allows control and customization of their marketing efforts. But their shop is based on a server that limits their operations and allows few targeting and advertising options.
This is a situation that happens frequently to many small businesses that decide to transition from brick and mortar to online. When focusing only on initial costs, some owners don’t consider the growth and expansion of their businesses – something that can happen quite fast in the online world.
To help you out, in this article we are going to discuss how to choose the best e-commerce platform for your business.
- The different types of e-commerce
- Popular e-commerce platforms available
Different Types of E-commerce Platforms
Whether you’re expanding a brick-and-mortar store, looking to find an enterprise-level solution or even starting a business from scratch, your e-e-commerce platform has a huge impact on the profitability and stability of your business.
There are three main e-commerce platform options:
- SaaS (software-as-a-service)
- Headless commerce
Open-Source Ecommerce Platforms
Open-source e-commerce platforms are solutions in which you can modify all aspects of your website code. This type of platform is popular with middle to big organizations that have a development and IT team and want to all their e-commerce environment.
For many businesses, open-source e-commerce platforms are complicated, expensive to maintain, and require technical knowledge that some teams might not have.
SaaS e-commerce platforms
SaaS e-commerce solutions are ideal for businesses owners that want to avoid complexity from running an online business. Instead of building and developing an online store, you essentially “rent” the platform. A cheaper solution for those who can’t afford a development team. Etsy and Shopify are examples of SaaS e-commerce companies.
Product updates, security, hosting, PCI compliance, and every other task that comes with managing your own software are managed by the SaaS provider. Some SaaS platforms even provide marketing and growth services.
On the other hand, there is often a lack of flexibility and customization due to the closed-off portion of code on a SaaS solution. So, take this into account when choosing these services.
Headless Commerce Platforms
Headless commerce is a version of Commerce-as-a-service in which the shopping cart is separated from the CMS.
In these use cases, brands often use a design experience platform (DXP) such as Adobe Experience Manager and Bloomreach or a content management system (CMS) like WordPress or Drupal. Then they plug in a separate e-commerce shopping cart solution, like Magento or WooCommerce.
This solution is more complex than SaaS e-commerce platforms but still less complicated than an open-source solution. It demands more resources and time from online shop owners.
Popular e-commerce Platforms for Small Businesses
Due to costs, simplicity, and assistance, Saas e-commerce platforms appeal to small business owners. With the increase of new online shops year after year, we also see an explosion of this service. Let’s take a look at some of the most popular e-commerce platforms available in the market and hopefully you will be able to make the right decision, according to your business goals.
Shopify is the most popular e-commerce platform in English-speaking countries. Entrepreneurs tend to choose the company because of its friendly interface and the many integrations available, including Amazon services. It also includes a built-in CMS, multiple themes for your site (and a third-party marketplace offering more), and blogging functionality for your online store.
Even if you never managed a website before, the easy step-by-step guide wizard shows you what to do in a few clicks. If you need to get your businesses up and running quickly, this is the platform to go.
Shopify Price: Free for 14 days; from $29/month and 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for Basic Shopify plan with unlimited products
If you already have some experience with websites or use WordPress, WooCommerce might be the e-commerce platform for you. Instead of starting over on a different platform, this WordPress plugin seamlessly integrates into your WordPress site for easy selling.
Installing WooCommerce is also easy and this explains why this platform is so popular. You can manage your orders, create coupons, and view sales reports from your WordPress dashboard. As Shopify, WooCommerce also offers an extensive amount of integrations and extensions, making it easy to customize your online shop.
WooCommerce Price: Free for standard features on a self-hosted WordPress site; from $29 for additional extensions; transaction fees depend on payment gateway. WooCommerce is included in the $45/month (billed annually) eCommerce plan from WordPress.com.
If your goal is to create a complete website where e-commerce is a part of it and not the main attraction, then Wix is for you.
It’s a powerful site builder—but it doesn’t skimp on the eCommerce features like order tracking, automated sales tax, and abandoned cart recovery. When you first sign up, you tell Wix what kind of site you’re looking to build, and it makes a few suggestions. Then you get the option to choose from one of more than 500 templates or answer a few more questions and let Wix’s “Artificial Design Intelligence” do it for you.
Wix also provides an onboarding to-do list that covers adding shipping rates to adding advertising on Facebook or Google. As the platform is one of the most popular site builders around, you can count on a nice variety of apps and extensions to customize your website.
Wix Price: Free for 14 days; from $30/month Business Basic Plan; transaction fees depend on payment gateway with Wix Payments charging 2.9% + $0.30.
If you want the option to sell in-person as well as through your online store, Square is the best choice. Your online and offline orders are all organized under a single dashboard but in terms of customization, the platform is a little limited compared to other competitors.
Due to its characteristics, it is most suited to small, independent businesses with small catalogs with little variation, such as artisans, crafters, thrift shops, and artists.
Square Price: Free with 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction for unlimited products and a Square branded site; from $12/month (billed annually) with 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction to use a custom domain and remove ads.
nopCommerce is an open-source eCommerce shopping cart solution that allows you to upload an unlimited number of products, manage several stores from one admin panel, and increase sales with built-in marketing tools.
nopCommerce offers powerful out-of-the-box features for effective B2C and B2B sales, without any restrictions, and is free. As it is open-source, you might need to have some coding knowledge. Customer support isn’t available for free. You need to count on their documentation portal, community forum, or subscribe for their premium support services.
nopCommerce price: Free and open-source.