When choosing the best eCommerce platform for your business there are a massive amount of factors and considerations to take into account. Regardless of whether you’re just in the startup phase of your product or brand or you’re an established company with hundreds of products on offer, making the best decision for your online eCommerce store is one that comes with possible long-term success or long-felt consequences. With such a saturated market for eCommerce platforms and an endless number of variables to weigh the pros and cons of, it’s invaluable to get the perspective of marketplace owners who have the first-hand experience. The purpose of this article is to help you make an informed decision based on other’s experiences and, if any mistakes were made along the way, learn from their success and failure.
We reached out to business owners from varying industries to lend their veteran advice when it comes to building your ideal eCommerce platform. Our first guest writer is an expert in the field of eCommerce consultation and auditing. His sound advice comes from a place of an overall ethos to consider when making that first leap.
I’ve been in the eCommerce business for well over a decade, built well over 100 web stores and have used practically every shopping cart platform that exists. We currently have eCommerce sites running on 3DCart, Shopify and BigCommerce. They are spread across those three platforms because each site has unique needs and some shopping carts serve those needs better than others
There is no perfect shopping cart – one that meets the needs of every website. Every shopping cart has weaknesses – things that it lacks that other shopping carts provide. Every shopping cart also has things that it can do that other shopping carts cannot. Although we prefer Shopify for most eCommerce websites, we have to sometimes use other ones for various reasons.
You never really know what a shopping cart lacks until you get in there and start using it. My recommendation is that people should take advantage of the free trials that every shopping cart provides. Figure out which one best meets the needs of your particular website. Once you get to know each shopping cart’s idiosyncrasies, you’ll be able to choose the best one for each project.
-Dave Hermansen, Store Coach
Dave suggests that jumping headfirst into a platform is the best way to experiment with it, get to know the features, and ultimately decide whether it’s something you would continually use for your business in the long-term. This certainly applies to all eCommerce platforms, but maybe more so with leaders like Shopify and WooCommerce that allow you to experiment with a trial period. For some of the more complex platforms, like Magento for example, this line of thinking may require deeper consideration. When it comes to larger, feature-packed, and hard-coded platforms an entire site’s functionality must revolve around these highly technical aspects. Next, we’ll hear from Jeff Moriarty, owner of a Magento website who learned some of these lessons first-hand.
About 5 years ago our company started with Magento. It was great at the time, allowing us to customize everything we needed. Over the years of having this platform, we found it very expensive to run, to update and to resolve security issues. We were spending more on development costs than marketing. It just wasn’t working. At the end of 2018 we switched over to Shopify. Not only is it 1/10th the cost to run, but we can make most of the updates ourselves and Shopify handles all security issues. Plus the themes just look much more modern. While not as customizable as Magento, if you are a small or medium-sized business, it should allow you to do everything you need to run a successful business online.
-Jeff Moriarty, Moriarty’s Gem Art
Mike Lindamood, an owner of two eCommerce storefronts, has had a similar experience with Magento. Although he attests to the capability of a Magento website, especially to oversee the status of both of his eCommerce websites, it sounds like external pressure from Adobe is forcing his hand. Since platforms are like living, breathing beings, a system that was once the best eCommerce platform for a business may become outdated as needs change and updates occur.
We have had great success with Magento as our eCommerce platform for a decade now, however, with Adobe discontinuing support for version 1 and essentially making everyone upgrade to the new platform of Magento 2 we will be moving our websites to another platform next year. Having to make the security updates ourselves throughout these years has become burdensome and too much for us to handle in house. We are currently looking into migrating our sites over to BigCommerce early next year so they will do all of the upgrades for us. We will miss having all of our websites under one account and being able to share data (Magento was the only platform that could handle multiple websites under one roof), but Bigcommerce offers some great features that will hopefully help us forget about the ease of managing multiple stores that Magento provided.
-Mike Lindamood, WalletGear
One of the other considerations to take into account when building an eCommerce marketplace is the accessibility and marketability of the website and its products. As Alexander Kehoe from Caveni Digital Solutions has explained more in-depth, there are some platforms that allow for much more flexibility in terms of SEO optimization and other important search engine features & functionality.
We’ve used almost every eCommerce platform under the sun, both for ourselves and for our clients. WooCommerce has really been the one that stands out to us, the adaptability of the platform makes it the best to use for the rapidly changing circumstances of the eCommerce world. While alternatives like Shopify have appeared promising at times they can never really capture the same freedom that WooCommerce offers. Another downside of investing entirely into a Shopify-based platform is that your website will often lose out on essential search engine optimization. Alternatively a platform like WooCommerce can be configured to be far more SEO friendly which means more traffic much faster. All in all, WooCommerce has really been the best in our experience and we have no intentions of changing any time soon.
-Alexander Kehoe, Caveni Digital Solutions
Whereas Caveni Digital Solutions has the cumulative experience of building platforms and learning from mistakes of the past, Jeff Neal of The Critter Depot has dealt with those ramifications first-hand. For an eCommerce business just starting out these effects have the potential to have a greater impact on overall accessibility and eventually profitability. Effects like these can become hard to undo the more you invest in the platform you’ve chosen, especially after uploading all of your products. Migrating items to a new store can become a chore but may be required down the line.
We use Shopify as our eCommerce platform. One great thing about Shopify is how easy it is to get a store up and running. They automate the merchant integration, taxes, and having shipping calculators available. It also has a large library of apps, which makes it very easy to customize your specific store. As an eCommerce platform, Shopify is probably the best option.
But, our biggest frustration is that it’s a lousy platform to optimize SEO. Their blog is very basic and bare-bones. It’s not easy to identify which title header you’re using. Adding media into blog posts is cumbersome, and the template page to compose your article is user-unfriendly. SEO is our biggest marketing strategy. And because Shopify has a lousy SEO offering, we’re always trying to find a way to migrate to WordPress and WooCommerce.
-Jeff Neal, The Critter Depot
Even though it was simple enough to get Jeff’s platform running, the tradeoff of poor SEO capabilities may be having an effect on his website as it currently stands. Shopify greatly restricts the amount of SEO customization you can accomplish with limits on plug-ins, rich snippets, code simplification, and much more. That’s where WooCommerce and other WordPress integrated platforms have a much larger strong suit when it comes to optimizing all of these potential marketing opportunities.
Lastly, we’ll hear from an eCommerce store owner that has a more technical perspective on which platform to choose. Although some individuals have the technical capability to customize a more advanced platform if that’s something you may see yourself struggling with. At Falcon Marketing we’re more than happy to help you build your website from the ground up.
Choosing the eCommerce platform that’s right for you takes both reflection and projection.
Reflection in that you need to step back and really evaluate your technical skills and abilities. If you’re not terribly technically astute, then Shopify is your better bet. Go some coding chops? Then you might like Woocommerce better since you’ll be able to customize it more (without getting nickeled and dimed all the time). Really know your way around PHP, CSS, and HTML? Then Magneto is probably more your speed.
The Projection aspect comes into play for platform selection in that if you know you’ll be carrying hundreds of SKUs, then Magento might be a better fit for you, thanks to its native ability to quickly modify SKUs in bulk. Just planning on carrying a few dozen SKUs but hope to do high volume (100+ orders a day)? Then Shopify would be good for you since the system will scale effortlessly with you. Figure you won’t get more than a few orders a day? Then WooCommerce is a better option since it’s cheap to run (i.e. just your hosting costs) and relatively easy to maintain.
-Jamie Burns, BulkMunitions
Having built websites on almost all of the described platforms, it’s difficult making the correct choice for you and your business. Whether you’re still in the planning stages of creating your eCommerce platform, need an overhaul on an existing website, or need to boost your sales through expert SEO and marketing tools, please don’t hesitate to reach out to our team of all-encompassing professionals. We can help you make the most informed decision using our decades of the collective experience and turn your website into your #1 source of income.