I work with a number of ecommerce softwares and platforms each day. Some of them are lovely and some of them are terrible.
A number of people ask which ecommerce platform or software is the best one. You can’t recommend one without understanding the requirement of end user.
If I have to name an ideal platform for small or medium businesses (Large or enterprise business can ask their IT consultant), these features will be the available in it.
Factors to look for when choosing an Ecommerce platform
- Good Templates
- Standard Features
- Owner friendliness
- Documentation and Community
The software or platform should at least come with some well structured and responsive templates. It doesn’t have to be out of the box design but it should be good looking, minimal, responsive and easily customizable. One can make the theme work by just doing basic editing .
Thus, a new user doesn’t have to invest a lot of time or money to make a store which doesn’t suck.
Shopify has always been at top here. Their templates are great and well designed from start. They are also easily customizable and provide good experience.
BigCommerce used to have ancient looking themes but they recently launched some really well designed themes and now they are back to business.
WooCommerce might need some work in here. It’s basically a plugin and need a theme on top of it. I couldn’t find any free responsive theme for Volusion.
Standard features just contains basic functionalities of an ecommerce store. A platform should have customer area, cart & checkout page, product and category pages, shipping and fullfilment and seo and marketing friendliness etc.
BigCommerce aces here. It comes with more feature than any other popular platform and they are important for marketing and other purpose. Shopify and WooCommerce both also has nice set of features but not as much as BigCommerce.
The backend (Admin area) of the platform should be owner friendly. It should allow very easy interface to manage store. There should be a good looking a detailed dashboard to list important things and user experience to perform all management tasks should be not weary.
Shopify and BigCommerce both has excellent backend but I will give more points to Shopify. Shopify literately wows. WooCommerce has good backend too but again as a WordPress plugin you don’t have much option.
Affordability counts. You don’t want to spend thousand of dollars to start. The ongoing cost should be minimum. There shouldn’t be any hidden costs.
Shopify plans start from $29/month and BigCommerce plans start from $34.95/month. WooCommerce is self-hosted but a good VPS should cost you around $25/month.
Documentation and Community
Most of the small stores are one-man (or one woman, no discrimination) operations. Owners want to do most of the thing by themselves and proper documentation and community helps to learn.
Shopify’s community is more rich. They have a ecommerce university, detailed documentation, popular blog and forum. BigCommerce also has engaging forum and documentation available. WooCommerce gets some points here too because of its WordPress dependency.
Everyone wants assurance that their store can have more features in future if required. Built-in features are good but not sufficient.
Integration with other apps and services is also mandatory these day. Store is incomplete without Google Analytics integration. Email marketing is required for more sales. That’s where extensibility comes.
Shopify and BigCommerce both has app ecosystem. Shopify’s app marketplace is more rich and has useful application. BigCommerce adopted the marketplace model late but gaining. WooCommerce plugins are being development every single day.
A platform should offer security feature to both users and owner. The data should be safe and security mechanisms (Such as SSL) should be used by default.
BigCommerce and Shopify both has excellent security, Both of them offer free shared SSL. You can also opt for your own SSL for a price. WooCommerce is somehow less secure than these platform. It’s not because of the WordPress but hosting a store by an unexperienced person attracts more threats.
Scalability is important when you want to grow. Everyone wants to grow at some point and the platform should support it. You can add more contents and features, handle more traffic, target different demographics without any pain.
As a hosted platform, BigCommerce and Shopify both has different pricing tier. If you are growing, you just switch to an upgraded plan. Shopify recently launched a program called ‘Shopify Plus‘ for Enterprises. BigCommerce also supports custom plan for enterprise needs.
Scaling with WooCommerce requires more efforts. You need to be more technical or hire technical guy to support scalability.
I hope from now on, you will think about these parameters before choosing an platform.