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Which ecommerce platform is right for you?

If you want to take your business to the next level in 2021, then ecommerce is a must. Selling online puts your product in front of customers worldwide at next to no cost.

Even better, unlike a physical location your online store can remain open 24 / 7 every day of the year... and it doesn’t even need to be staffed. There are a wide variety of ecommerce platforms on which you can build your site, and they come at a variety of price points and with varying functionality and service levels. So, which one is right for you? Below, we’ll compare five of the sector’s market leaders, providing you with valuable insights into what type of business they’re suited for.

1. Shopify

PRICE: Basic Shopify: $29.99 / month, Shopify: $79 / month, Advanced Shopify: $299 / month (10% discount on annual plans and 20% discount on biennial plans upfront).

FREE TRIAL: 14 days.

CHANNELS: Google Shopping, Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, eBay and Walmart.

SUPPORT: Callback support, email support, community forum, library of support content.

POS: Yes.

OUR VERDICT: 5-stars. Let us be very clear: we believe Shopify is the absolute best platform of choice for the majority of online businesses, we think its position as global market leader is well-earned, and we’re confident enough in this opinion that we now only build ecommerce businesses on the Shopify platform. The things that set Shopify apart are its comprehensive, end-to-end, set of best- in-class ecommerce tools, its intuitive and easy-to-use backend interface which almost anyone can master quickly, and its incredible scalability. Shopify has tiny one-man operations on its platform as well as giants like Heinz, Penguin Books, and Red Bull. This means it can scale with your business as it grows, letting you avoid difficult migrations to other platforms. Some other ecommerce platforms can compete with Shopify in restricted ways (Wix is cheaper, BigCommerce might be as good for giant multinational corporations) but overall, there is no doubt in our minds that Shopify comes out on top.

2. Wix

PRICE: Business Basic: $23 / month, Business Unlimited: $27 / month, Business VIP: $49 / month.

FREE TRIAL: No.

CHANNELS: Amazon, Facebook and Instagram. With Business Unlimited or Business VIP, you also get eBay. Other channels require third-party apps.

SUPPORT: 24 / 7 callback service; Business VIP comes with phone support.

POS: Yes

OUR VERDICT: 3.5-stars. Wix is a great option if you’re truly a one-man show with a shoe-string budget. It’s an easy-to-use drag-and-drop website builder that offers bare-bones ecommerce functionality. There are others like this (Squareapace, Volusion) but we haven’t listed them here. That’s because we think Wix beats them at this particular game... if it’s just you and your last £100, then Wix is the easiest way to get a decent-looking website online that can handle basic product orders. But you need to be aware that you’re getting what you pay for. Wix sites look okay, but your customisation options are limited, and you won’t be able to replicate a really professional-looking site. And the drop-off in quality is even more noticeable when it comes to ecommerce functionality – basic really does mean basic.

3. BigCommerce

PRICE: Standard: $29.95 / month, Plus: $79.95 / month ($71.95 if paid annually), Pro: $299.95 / month ($269.96 if paid annually).

FREE TRIAL: 15 days.

CHANNELS: Google Shopping, Facebook, eBay, Amazon, Walmart, Amazon, Etsy, Instagram, and various price comparison engines.

SUPPORT: 24 / 7 tech support via phone, email, and chat.

POS: Yes.

OUR VERDICT: 3-stars. BigCommerce really is what it claims, a specialist in BIG commerce! This makes it great for really big businesses looking to sell online, but a little clunky for small-to-medium sized businesses. Its ecommerce offering is powerful and comprehensive – but, for the vast majority of businesses, which are too small to have their own dedicated ecommerce development team, it is also completely overwhelming. Another minus is the fact that, for such a comprehensive platform, its customisation options are surprisingly rigid. Businesses that don’t need a truly massive ecommerce offering will likely end up confused and paying for functionality they don’t need.

4. Magento

PRICE: Custom plans only.

FREE TRIAL: No.

CHANNELS: Amazon.

SUPPORT: Tech support via phone and online.

POS: Requires third-party extensions.

OUR VERDICT: 2.5-stars. There are some businesses out there for which Magento is the perfect ecommerce platform, but not many. These businesses are big, established, have the required money and manpower to provide their own technical teams, need unique ecommerce functionality on their site, and don’t want to sell on many channels (anything other than Amazon is difficult to set up and comes with an additional price tag). For these businesses, Magento is a five- star service. But for any other business – the vast majority – it just doesn’t live up to the competition. It’s far too complex and heavily restricted as to where you can sell.

5. WooCommerce

PRICE: Variable – average is $30 / month.

FREE TRIAL: No, but it does offer a 30-day money-back guarantee.

CHANNELS: Google Shopping, Etsy, eBay, Facebook, Amazon, Pinterest and Walmart.

SUPPORT: Live chat only – no support for plug-ins or extensions.

POS: Yes.

OUR VERDICT: 2-stars. Unfortunately, we can’t recommend WooCommerce to anyone. It is listed here for a couple of reasons – first, despite the problems we’re about to discuss, it does have a large number of businesses on its platform, and many of them operate successfully... so it’s not totally broken. And second, it goes hand-in-hand with its parent-platform: industry-standard blogging provider and internet giant WordPress. The main issue with WooCommerce is that it’s a mess... it’s an add on to WordPress, which is great for content delivery but not designed for ecommerce, and delivers a major part of its functionality through third party apps and plug-ins. This means, to have the store you want, you’ll need to bungle a load of separate systems, developed by separate people, into a jumbled back-end mess... and, worst of all, there is no support provided for this third-party software. Some businesses have made this platform work for them, so it’s not completely useless – but we don’t suggest you take the risk.

If you’re looking to turn your business into a successful ecommerce venture, we’re here to help. We can build you a beautiful Shopify site, teach you how to use it, and partner with you to offer long-term support. We can also migrate existing businesses onto Shopify, giving you access to the world’s market- leading ecommerce platform. Call us on 01675 446101 to learn more.

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