Five of the Most Popular E-commerce Platforms Battle it Out in this Guide
Starting an online store and making a mark in the e-commerce marketplace is not a walk in the park.
There are many things to consider to ensure you’re taking the path to success and avoiding all the unnecessary costs and hassles that come with exploring a new venture.
And one of the most vital pieces of the puzzle that you need to pick carefully is deciding which platform to use to power your e-commerce site.
At WebGrow, we can’t emphasise enough how important it is to choose the right e-commerce platform as it can affect everything—from customer experience to reporting, and ultimately, your bottom line.
This can be a make-or-break decision, which is why it’s vital that you’re guided with the right information and facts.
In this article, we’ll look at four of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the market today: Magento, BigCommerce, PrestaShop, WooCommerce, and Shopify.
This guide aims to help you navigate through all the noise and clutter, and send you down the path best suited to your organisation, whether you’re a beginner or not.
Considered as the mammoth of the e-commerce world, Magento is a robust open-source, e-commerce platform that counts high-profile brands such as Olympus, Harpers Bazaar, Nike, and Rebecca Minkoff among its customers.
It is offered in two distinct editions designed for different-sized businesses: the Magento Community, and Magento Enterprise editions.
Magento Community Edition
Magento Community can be downloaded for free (although you still have to pay for your domain name and hosting), and is fitted with an exceptional bundle of features and functionalities that makes it easy for developers and merchants to design, promote, and run an engaging and responsive site.
Configuring the Community edition is not difficult.
You can do so by simply purchasing affordable off-the-shelf extensions available at the Magento Marketplace, or finding experienced developers make the custom updates and integrations for you.
- Allows mobile integration
- Has multi-store functionality
- Thousands of Community-compatible themes
- Abundant learning resources and vibrant community-based support
- Historically slow site speed
- No Magento technical support
- High learning curve
Magento Enterprise Edition
Magento Enterprise edition is the high-performance and scalable version, and offers more powerful features and functionalities than the Community edition.
Some of its unique and game-changing features include built-in customer loyalty programs, private sales, customer segmentation and fast-checkout processes. It also comes with dedicated account management and 24/7 technical support.
All the bells and whistles of the Enterprise edition means it is on the expensive side. Depending on functional requirements, pricing can be anywhere from $20,000 to $80,000 per year.
Perfect for: Medium and large-sized retailers that handle high sales volumes
- Top of the line marketing capabilities
- Easy set-up and configuration
- Unique up-selling and cross-selling functionality
- Includes mobile-friendly version of site
- 24/7 technical support
- Vast network of developers
- Enterprise Edition
- High licensing costs
- Not open source
- Not very user-friendly
- No hosting plan included
Founded in 2009, BigCommerce is a relatively new platform that offers customisable, scalable and feature-rich solutions.
It already comes with free hosting and a variety of modern and beautiful responsive themes.
One great thing about BigCommerce is that it allows for more in-depth analysis of your customers and products. Its BigCommerce Analytics allows merchants to have a look at some of the most important metrics of their site, such as visits, orders, and average order value.
All these information then enables store owners to see quickly what’s working and what’s not, and then uncover solutions to certain issues.
The ability to seamlessly integrate with third-party apps makes BigCommerce an excellent choice for businesses that are using apps and tools that offer services beyond what the platform delivers.
BigCommerce offers three pricing plans: Standard at $29.95 a month, Plus at $79.95 a month, and Enterprise with customised pricing to suit the unique needs of businesses.
- Highly capable inventory management
- Free 15-day trial period
- Unlimited bandwidth for all plans
- User-friendly admin page, with a drag-and-drop feature
- Mobile-friendly stores
- No free plan
- No built-in recurring billing system
Perfect for: Standard plan is ideal for businesses with up $50,000 online sales volume per year; Plus for stores with up to $125,000; and Enterprise for high-volume businesses
PrestaShop is a free, open-source e-commerce platform powering more than 250,000 stores worldwide.
It is designed to help retailers with little budget and programming skills to create and run a profitable digital storefront quickly and easily.
Starting a PrestaShop store can be done in three ways: using the fully-hosted PrestaShop Cloud where you can get your online store running in minutes, and by downloading the latest version PrestaShop where you have full technical control of your store.
Both options are free and come with out-of-the-box features that support your e-commerce activities.
PrestaShop has over 300 built-in features, and allows users to customise their store themes and further enhance it by adding new features through add-on modules.
- Appealing and user-friendly interface
- Lightweight and flexible
- SEO optimised
- Mobile friendly
- Real-time analytics
- Powerful marketing toolkit
- Fully customisable store designs
- Available in 65 languages
- Pricey modules (since this is one of the company’s sources of revenue)
- Minimum scalability
- No official support team
Perfect for: PrestaShop is designed to fit all types and sizes of businesses. But if you’re an online merchant with limited or no programming skills, PrestaShop Cloud is the best option. PrestaShop Download, meanwhile, is ideal for developers or tech-savvy retailers.
From the makers of WordPress, WooCommerce is a free e-commerce plugin used by over 380,000 online retailers.
It’s worth emphasising though, that WooCommerce isn’t a standalone platform, but an e-commerce plugin for the WordPress Content Management System (CMS).
This means only online retailers with a WordPress website can actually use it.
WooCommerce is a very basic solution that contains all the standard features offered by more established e-commerce platforms such as Magento and PrestaShop.
An endless choice of free and pair extensions is also available to help users customise their stores.
- Simple set-up and easy customisation
- Small learning curve
- Customer support
- Large open source community
- Requires manual product upload
- Doesn’t have sophisticated marketing and reporting solutions
- Tightly linked with WordPress, and cannot be used without it
Perfect for: WordPress users looking to add e-commerce functionality to their site would do well with WooCommerce. It’s also the best choice for small-sized stores with a limited product catalogue and owners who aren’t very tech savvy.
A Canadian e-commerce platform founded in 2006, Shopify is one of the fastest-growing platforms today.
What started as an online snowboard retailer has become a beloved e-commerce platform used by more than 200,000 merchants.
Setting up Shopify is extremely easy, which is probably why many retailers, regardless of size, are attracted to it.
There are no set-up fees, and new users who want to start the 14-day free trial period need not enter their credit card details to sign up.
It’s more than just a website builder though, as it allows merchants to manage a host of store functions across all their sales channels, whether it be in their digital storefronts or in brick-and-mortar stores.
Shopify offers four pricing plans: Lite ($9/month), Basic ($29/month), Pro ($79/month), and Unlimited ($179/month).
All four plans allow retailers to sell an unlimited number of products, sync them with one’s point of sale system (POS), as well as process transactions through Facebook.
Each plan also comes with 24/7 support, fraud analysis, unlimited file storage, ability to create discount codes, and manual order creation.
For large companies and high-volume stores, Shopify now offers an enterprise edition known as Shopify Plus.
- Easy to use
- Highly rated customer service
- Offers 14-day free trial period
- Plans slightly less expensive than other platforms
- Extensive app store
- No one-page checkout
- Transaction fees
Perfect for: Shopify is a great match for small to medium-sized retailers that want a simple and easy to use system that’s aesthetically pleasing and comes with rich, relevant features.
Wrapping it Up
Each platform has its advantages and disadvantages.
The key to making the right choice is by considering how the platform suits your current or future business model, needs and goals.
Remember, the right platform can make the difference between a failing and a thriving business.
So it’s important to consider your options carefully before investing in one solution. Better yet, feel free to get in touch with our team at WebGrow so we can help you clear the clutter and find the best platform that works for you.
Which platform are you using? How was your experience so far? Don’t forget to share your thoughts in the comments section.