One of the fastest ways to grow your business and build a brand is going online. Whether you’re an established businessman, who owns a mom and pop store or a startup trying to create its presence from the scratch, getting an ecommerce website developed can be a huge leap forward.
Ecommerce platforms are the software that you need to build and manage your online store. These help you with handling and utilization of sales, product, revenue, and customer data. There are a number of ecommerce platforms available to gratify your needs.
The aim of the blog is to provide its readers a comprehensible guide to help them choose the best ecommerce platform as per their need. First, let us see what all platforms are popular in the market.
Here is a list of seven most popular ecommerce platforms:
Magento: It is a high-powered ecommerce platform with tons of features. It is an open-source and a highly customizable ecommerce solution. It comes in two editions, first is a Community Edition and the second is Enterprise Edition. It is a great platform for medium to large merchants.
Shopify: For someone who wants to setup his/her website quickly and has no prior knowledge of website development, this is a one stop solution. You can get all the important features in this platform and is great for small to medium size businesses.
BigCommerce: It is a new and most promising of all the ecommerce platforms. It is also designed for small and medium store owners. It uses user-data very efficiently to boost sales and comes with a lot of new features.
OpenCart: It is another good open source platform that is designed for small- and medium-sized retailers. This is easy to work on and is very lightweight. Note that configuring it on your own server can take a bit long.
NopCommerce: This ecommerce platform offers you the flexibility to run multiple stores and also provides you with drop shipping features. Since it is open-source, you can improve and add new features and functionalities to your platform whenever you need it.
OsCommerce: This is one of the oldest ecommerce platforms; it has been there since 2000. The platform is open-source and is available for free. It has a great and active community because of the success it had in the past.
Zen Cart: This ecommerce solution was developed by osCommerce in the year 2003 and is thus similar to its parent platform. Configurations in this platform can be changed very easily within the admin interface.
The above data shows the interest pattern of people world-over in a few of the ecommerce platforms listed above. It is clear from the chart that the top two trending ecommerce platforms are Magento and Shopify.
Choosing the right platform can be a cumbersome task, but it is something that can create a huge difference to your ecommerce business. Knowing exactly what to look in a platform can help you a lot in this tiresome job.
Here are a few points that you must consider:
eCommerce Platforms: Cost and Hosting
To choose an ecommerce platform, one of the most important aspects that you should look is its pricing. You must always compare the features that the ecommerce solution is providing and whether it has the latest available features. Pricing can vary greatly depending upon your hosting and storage needs. If you’re not technical and self-hosted, you will need to hire a good ecommerce development company.
The cost of hosting for open-source can vary from as low as $5 to around $15,000 depending on the number of products you have on your store, the complexity of the product, and website features that you need. On the other hand, hosted or SaaS solutions are a lot simpler to setup and manage.
It is worth noting that any open-source and free software doesn’t provide a hosting solution. The pricing of such hosted solutions can vary a lot depending on the services you would like from the ecommerce website development company. The SaaS platform, Shopify might look a little expensive when you compare the prices, but it is a fully hosted solution with full tech support. This makes it very dependable and easy to use.
|Platform||Pricing||Storage||Saas or Deployed||Cost to Host||Support|
|Magento Community store development cost||Free||Depends on hosting service||deployed||$100-$200||Community Forums|
|magento enterprise store development cost||$15,000 per year||unlimited||deployed||$500/m||Yes|
|shopify store development cost||$29 – $499 a month||unlimited||SAAS||None||yes|
|BigCommerce store development cost||$29 – $250 per month||3gb – unlimited||SAAS||None||yes|
|OpenCart store development cost||Free||Depends on hosting service||deployed||$5||Community Forums|
|NopCommerce store development cost||Free||Depends on hosting service||deployed||$5||Community Forums|
|OsCommerce store development cost||Free||Depends on hosting service||deployed||$5||Community Forums|
|Zen Cart store development cost||Free||Depends on hosting service||deployed||$5||Community Forums|
The simplest and quickest way to start your website is to use the templates that are available on the platform for free. As your website grows, you can choose to switch to custom ecommerce design template which reflects the true personality of your business. Magento has the largest number of pre-designed templates. This is a big advantage you get if you choose this platform.
In ecommerce, every second your website takes to load matters a lot to your business. It is thus important that your website is a responsive ecommerce design. According to a research done on ecommerce site, a majority of the customers expect the ecommerce website to take 2 seconds or less in loading. Also, the average time taken by an ecommerce website is 3.39 seconds.
The second thing that is imperative for a good ecommerce website is its mobile-friendly design. 82% of the smartphone users turn to their mobiles get a help in choosing the right product. And 66% of the time spent on online retailing is done through smartphones.
|Platform||Free Templates||Paid Templates||Cost of Paid Templates||Mobile Friendly|
|Magento web Design Cost||500+||Yes||$10 to $300||Yes|
|Enterprise Magento web Design Cost||500+||Yes||$10 to $300||Yes|
|Shopify Store Design Cost||10+||Yes||$50 to $180||Yes|
|BigCommerce Store Design Cost||15+||Yes||$39 to $139||Yes|
|OpenCart Store Design Cost||280+||Yes||$10 to $300||Yes|
|NopCommerce Website Design Cost||37+||Yes||$10 to $300||Yes|
|OsCommerce Website Design Cost||500+||Yes||$10 to $300||Yes|
|Zen Cart Website Design Cost||200+||Yes||$10 to $300||Yes|
Third Party Integration:
Another important factor that you must consider is extension and plugins available at the platform and its ease of integration. The integrations like Amazon, eBay and social media are very popular. These are available at a platform, either as a free add-on or in the form of third-party integration. You must check if the extensions that you need are free or paid. If they are paid, compare the prices of these extensions. If you will compare the stores, you will find that Magento has the largest number of extensions.
These plugins can greatly reduce your manual calcul
ation and data processing work by automating them. For example, there are plugins available to help you with your accounting needs which will calculate your sales, revenues, taxes, and profits figures.
Social media integrations help a user in sharing your product on popular social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Marketplace integration is another important integration which helps you leverage the popularity of marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay.
You might need a little technical help with the integration of such extensions.
|Platform||Social Media Integration||Amazon/eBay Integration||Marketplace||Add-Ons|
|Magento Third Party Integration||Paid||Yes||https://marketplace.magento.com||Yes|
|Magento Enterprise Third Party Integration||Paid||Yes||https://marketplace.magento.com||Yes|
|Shopify Third Party Integration||Paid||Yes||https://apps.shopify.com||Yes|
|BigCommerce Third Party Integration||Paid||Yes||www.bigcommerce.com/apps/||Yes|
|OpenCart Third Party Integration||Paid||Yes||https://www.opencart.com/||Yes|
|NopCommerce Third Party Integration||Paid||Yes||www.nopcommerce.com/marketplace.aspx||Yes|
|OsCommerce Third Party Integration||Paid||Yes||https://apps.oscommerce.com||Yes|
|Zen Cart Third Party Integration||Paid||Yes||https://www.zen-cart.com/downloads.php||Yes|
eCommerce Platforms: Payment Gateway
For an ecommerce store, the collection of payments from its customers is a very important step. There are some platforms that charge a transaction fee which can be an important factor for cheap and price-sensitive customers.
For accepting payments, you need to be PCI compliant. Ecommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce are a hosted solution and hence its clients don’t need to get this certificate. But if you choose a non-hosted solution, getting a PCI certificate is absolutely necessary.
Providing a large number of payment options to customers is a vital component in reducing cart abandonment. Some platforms don’t provide some third-party payment methods (such as Paypal). Make sure that the platform you choose has a large number of payment gateway options. Payment Gateway customization is also possible in many big platforms, like Magento and Shopify. Custom Payment Gateways makes it possible for your customers to pay with more ease.
|Platform||Abandoned Cart||Payment Gateway included||Subscription||Fraud Protection||PCI Certified||POS App|
|Magento Payments Gateways||Paid extension||5+||Paid extension||Paid extension||No||Paid extension|
|Magento Enterprise Payments Gateways||Yes||Yes||Paid extension||Paid extension||Yes||Paid extension|
|Shopify Payments Gateways||Paid extension||70+||Paid extension||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|BigCommerce Payments Gateways||Paid extension||40+||Paid extension||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|OpenCart Payments Gateways||Paid extension||50+||Paid extension||No||No||Paid extension|
|NopCommerce Payments Gateways||Paid extension||50+||Paid extension||Paid extension||No||Paid extension|
|OsCommerce Payments Gateways||Paid extension||200+||Paid extension||Paid extension||No||Paid extension|
|Zen Cart Payments Gateways||Paid extension||200+||Paid extension||Paid extension||No||Paid extension|
Shopping and Marketing Features
There are a number of marketing techniques that you can use on your website. These are available in the form of a plugin or an extension. Marketing plugins can help you to contact your customers through emails.
Customer rewards will help you reward loyal customers and help you in retaining them. These include features such as coupons, gift certificates, membership discounts, reward points, and special offers.
It is an aspect that determines how much you can increase the visibility of your website. If your website doesn’t feature in the first page of a search query, the chances of your website being visited will be very bleak. Make sure that the platform enables you to add blogs and customer reviews to your website.
|Platform||Blog||Customer Reviews||Loyalty Program||Affiliate Program||SEO||Customer Segments||Upselling & Cross Selling|
|Magento Sales Extension||No||Yes||Paid extension||Paid extension||Paid Extension||Paid extension||Yes|
|Magento Enterprise Sales Extension||No||Yes||Yes||Paid extension||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|Shopify Sales Extension||Yes||Yes||Paid extension||Yes||Yes||Paid extension||Paid extension|
|BigCommerce Sales Extension||No||Yes||Paid extension||Paid extension||Yes||Free extension||Free extension|
|OpenCart Sales Extension||Yes||Yes||Paid extension||Paid extension||Yes||No||Yes|
|NopCommerce Sales Extension||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|OsCommerce Sales Extension||Yes||No||Free extension||Paid extension||No||Paid extension||–|
|Zen Cart Sales Extension||Yes||Yes||Free extension||Paid extension||No||Paid extension||–|
Other Important Features
Other than the ones that are mentioned above, there are some more features that have gained popularity. Recently, these features have helped etailers in reducing their costs and increase profitability. These features include Multi-language support, Real-time shipping calculations, APIs and dropshipping.
|Platform||Multi-language||Real time shipping||Responsive Admin Panel||Dropshipping||API||Inventory|
|Magento API and Inventory||Yes||Paid extension||Paid extension||Paid extension||Yes||Yes|
|Magento Enterprise API and Inventory||Yes||Yes||Yes||Paid extension||Yes||Yes|
|Shopify API and Inventory||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|BigCommerce API and Inventory||No||Yes||Yes||Paid extension||Yes||Yes|
|OpenCart API and Inventory||Yes||Paid extension||Yes||No||Yes||No|
|NopCommerce API and Inventory||Yes||Paid extension||Free extension||Yes||Yes||Yes|
|OsCommerce API and Inventory||Yes||No||Free extension||Paid extension||Yes||–|
|Zen Cart API and Inventory||Yes||Paid extension||Free extension||Free extension||Yes||–|
Back office and Security
No customer would like to make a purchase from a site that doesn’t have the necessary security. Whatever platform you choose, make sure it has HTTPS/SSL for safe and secure checkout.
Like mentioned earlier, you need to be PCI compliant to receive online payments from gateways. PCI SSC defines the standards that are needed if you deal with cardholder data. If you have decided to work on open-source platforms, make sure you hire a hosting service that provides a set of complete ecommerce solutions.
Unfortunately, the subject of card security has been under a lot of negligence by many ecommerce websites. If you remember, only recently, the U.S. retail giant Target Corporation was hacked and card holder data of 40 million of its customers were stolen from its network.
It is important to make sure the best of the available standards are followed since even a seemingly small carelessness can be disastrous for your website.
As a business owner, you must be expecting to grow your business in future. For this, you will require a platform that won’t charge you outrageously if you want to scale your platform to keep up with the pace. Also, you must see if there are features on the platform that you may need in future, even though it is not required now.
Magento is highly scalable platform and is hence used by some of the biggest ecommerce giants. This includes names like Nike and Burger King.
eCommerce Platform Help and Supports
Problems like server outages and downtimes can be very harmful to your business. If you don’t have an in-house team of developers, help and support from the ecommerce platform company will be needed quite often especially, when an ecommerce website is a deployed one. On the other hand, if the platforms are self-hosted, like Shopify, Magento Enterprise version, and BigCommerce, you can expect a 24×7 phone or chat support.
Other open-source platforms have community forums where you can find help and solve your queries. You might need some prior technical knowledge to understand and implement the necessary suggestions.
|Platform||Ticket System||Live Chat||Phone|
|Magento Help and Supports||No||Yes||No||No|
|Magento Enterprise Help and Supports||No||Yes||No||No|
|Shopify Help and Supports||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|BigCommerce Help and Supports||Yes||No||Yes||Yes|
|OpenCart Help and Supports||No||Yes||No||No|
|NopCommerce Help and Supports||No||Yes||No||No|
|OsCommerce Help and Supports||No||No||Yes||No|
|Zen Cart Help and Supports||No||No||No||No|
As a thumb-rule, you can remember that flexibility is inversely related to simplicity. The more flexible your platform is, the more complex it will be for you to manage. Platforms like Magento (Community Edition) are very flexible, and thus, it requires an expert developer team to handle it. Shopify is just the opposite, you won’t get much flexibility with it but it is so easy to use it that you don’t need any computer proficiency. While the former is a great and highly scalable solution, the latter is a one-stop-solution for a small or a medium store owner who is just entering into the ecommerce market. The two platforms have outgrown its competitors by a huge margin and are still in their exponential growth trajectory.
There are many ecommerce platforms that come up each year. It is hard to accurately say which one will get to the top position in the future.
Again, it is worth mentioning here that the best ecommerce platform for you depends on your store’s requirements. Compare each and every feature offered by the ecommerce platform and make your choice accordingly.