How to Select an Ecommerce Platform for Your Business

How to Select an Ecommerce Platform for Your Business

. 11 min read

When Jeff Bezos launched Amazon.com in the summer of 1995, no one at the time, including Bezos himself, had the faintest idea that Amazon will become the retail market-dominant and ultra-powerful monopoly it is now. And with the rise of ecommerce over the past 10 years, and after seeing the ramifications left by the COVID-19 pandemic, it is no secret that a lot of entrepreneurs and young talents are flocking to the world of E-commerce like never before.

As many people stayed indoors and sheltered at homes in 2020, retailers and logistics companies onboarded thousands of e-commerce workers, professionals, and managers to help get products from the store into the hands of customers. Hiring for these roles saw an impeccable rise in 73% year-over-year — and that demand continues with tens of thousands of jobs available around the world right now.

To that extent, creating an online store has never been easier as well. There are many e-commerce platforms available nowadays available to host your store, all with simple guidelines on how to create one you are done!

In this article, we highlight the most popular ecommerce platforms in 2021 and categorize them by free or paid models, and, in addition, discuss the types of e-commerce platforms that can fit your goals best.


But First, What Factors Should You Focus on When Choosing an Ecommerce Platform?

Not all ecommerce platforms were created the same way.

As you align your business needs, your e-commerce must fulfill a business need. Ask yourself: Is my business still an early-stage startup? Will I be managing a large team? How will my e-commerce platform rank higher and how to utilize SEO? How do I fulfill business expectations when it comes to the logistics of tracking sales, shipping, and rating customer satisfaction?

It is somewhat similar to that of selecting a physical brick and mortar store. A lot goes in while building an eCommerce website, be it the cost, reputation, and risks. And if anything goes wrong, your overall business suffers. Ultimately, you are forced to change the platform, which again demands additional cost and time, let alone the hassles incurred.

Consider these points as well:

Scalability

As your company grows in size, so does your online store. At some point, you would need to grow your products, add more payment options and more web pages to your website, and invest more in customer support. The platform you choose should be able to sustain the scalability of your business operations without setting you back.

The Backend

The backend of your website, AKA your dashboard, must be smooth and easy to use. Make sure the platform you choose offers essential backend tools to support your website. On WordPress, you can select from a multitude of plugins, app management systems, support for SKUs and CSS, and more. It must provide effortless accessibility from inventory management to content management, everything in the back-end.

Price

It’s OK to be price-sensitive when looking for an ecommerce platform to spend your money on. There is no need to spend over your budget or not buy something that doesn’t fit your needs. Feel free to choose a platform that can offer the essential tools, features, and usability that can come at a reasonable price.

Design and User Experience

If you are an avid fan of great design like me, you would certainly understand the importance of having an impeccable UI and UX. Of course, a well-crafted copy makes your website compatible with an interesting design that makes it eye-compelling for the user.

Make it easy for the user to find items on your store and navigate your website.


Types of Ecommerce Platforms

Open Source

In software modulations, open source is a type of software in which the source code is released openly and publicly to users who may use, study, change, and distribute the software to anyone and for any purpose. In the context of eCommerce, this means that you have the freedom to adapt, scale and customize your store to fit your business directions. Some businesses usually prefer open source because they want to provide a unique experience for their customers or make their platform manageable to their intents.

The caveat here is that open source platforms are free but they need a lot of work from the developers you hire to create your online store and maintenance will be your responsibility.

Hosted (Licensed)

A hosted platform is usually known as PaaS (Platform as a Service) or SaaS  (Software as a Service). It is the kind of platform where another company takes care of the hosting and maintenance of your online store and they are responsible for any maintenance and bug fixes. The framework is normally closed to developers as it is less customizable than open source and it requires a monthly or yearly subscription to be paid.

This is perfect if you are looking for someone to handle the behind the scenes of your platform while focusing on the business itself without worry.

Headless (Custom)

Headless Commerce is kind of like the buffet of eCommerce platforms. It separates your front-end design from your back-end infrastructure so you can engage customers anywhere, including billboards, wearables, smart mirrors, vending machines, and more.  

Headless commerce can be imagined in the form of a vending machine. You control the backend infrastructure while exposing a completely unique frontend design to the customer that you benefit financially from. This could also include smart billboards, smart mirrors, smart wearables, and more!

While this model is usually done by corporations and niche agencies, it is not hard to start a business where this is the type of commerce you choose to be in. It is profitable and provides a great customer experience if done well. Just ask the Japanese — they definitely know how to run a vending machine empire.


Best Ecommerce Platforms for Your Business, Ranked

Shopify

The growth that Shopify has seen over the last five years is one for the history books.

Even those not working in eCommerce already know about Shopify.

Shopify is a PaaS company that helps entrepreneurs build their online store. You don’t really need tech skills or a huge budget to create your store, making it a fast and affordable way to start selling online.

Shopify has seen tremendous growth that made it host over 1 million businesses and is known for its ease of implementation, prices, and design as it offers built-in tools to help you with your marketing efforts in creating, executing, and analyzing your campaigns on Google and Facebook.

If you want to build a Shopify store, you can choose from over 100 templates with built-in features, plus a ton of apps and integrations like ReferralYard and Stack Discounts to extend your business capabilities, grow your sales, and acquire more customers. Thanks to a comprehensive admin panel, you can access everything from product and inventory management to financial reports and website analytics in one place.

Key Features

  • Online store with customizable themes, Shopify POS apps, multiple sales channels are part of Basic Plan
  • Also in Basic Plan, unlimited products, manage products and inventory, track sales, and growth trends
  • 100+ mobile-ready themes and hundreds of apps to enhance store functions
  • Integrates with most social media forums
  • Possible to create regular web content as well — static pages, blog posts, contact forms, and so on
  • Downtime is minimum with round the clock support

Plans

  • Lite – $9 per month
  • Basic – $29 per month
  • Shopify – $79 per month
  • Advanced – $299 per month

The Lite plan only allows you to sell on Facebook and in physical locations, as well as integrate a Buy Button on an existing site.

If you’re an enterprise seller, check out Shopify Plus, which is geared towards larger businesses. You’ll get dedicated customer support to help build a Shopify custom theme, write code, and get your site up and running. Keep in mind that there is no set monthly price with Shopify Plus; everything is done by quote.

Magento

The open-source eCommerce platform, Magento offers a myriad of useful and exciting features. From small to enterprise-level firms, numerous companies are benefiting their online stores from Magento’s flexibility and power.

Key Features

  • It builds your shop efficiently so that you can run your business well
  • It offers endless possibilities for customization to shape your business the way you want with lots of templates, widgets, and add-ons
  • Magento performs exceptionally well in the ground of SEO to increase your online visibility
  • The platform also supports sales channels such as Amazon
  • If you go for an open-source solution, then you can either install and setup yourself or go for a trusted hosting platform

Plans

Magento doesn’t offer fixed prices. You have to get in touch with their sales team and pricing will be based on annual Gross Merchandise Value (GMV) and Average Order Value (AOV).

Wix

Wix has become pretty well known over the last few years, in part due to budget-busting marketing campaigns starring A-list celebrities like Jason Statham and Gal Gadot. Today, Wix is the biggest player in the website building landscape and hosts a whopping 160 million websites.

Key Features

  • Wix’s features are hard to beat in their price range—the most advanced plan costs max. $23 + VAT monthly
  • comprehensive website-building features as well as priority customer support
  • unlimited videos on your site and 50GB of website storage
  • All plans have the same amount of ecommerce features with the option to add more tools and integrations from a wide range of external apps as well as Wix’s own apps
  • Wix uses an intuitive drag-and-drop editor—you don’t have to code anything

Plans

Wix is available for free for as long as you want. If you need professional features like your own domain name or ecommerce, you must choose from one of their premium plans ranging from “Combo” to “Business VIP”. The cheapest ad-free plan with a custom domain name costs $14 per month.

BigCommerce — Best For The Big Players

BigCommerce is a reliable enterprise ecommerce platform for big businesses. If you’re selling (or plan to sell) hundreds of products, you may find BigCommerce’s offerings attractive. With other ecommerce store builders, you typically need to pay for add-ons as you grow, but BigCommerce includes all features at no extra charge.

Key Features

  • BigCommerce has more built-in sales tools than competitors and advanced SEO and multi-channel integrations
  • Each plan includes hosting, website builder, marketing tools, and room for additional integrations
  • Tools to manage shipping and payments
  • 99.99% uptime
  • Annual conference on e-commerce
  • POS (point-of-sale) solutions

Plans

Bigcommerce offers a range of monthly priced plans, suitable for SMEs wanting to start an online store, all the way up to professional plans aimed at existing and established retailers wanting to expand online. For the latest and most up to date prices visit Bigcommerce’s website.

WooCommerce—Most customizable, requires WordPress

WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce plugin that can only be used on WordPress websites. Before installing WooCommerce, you need to subscribe to any web host you like (e.g. DreamHost, BlueHost, SiteGround), buy a domain, set up a WordPress site, and install a website theme compatible with WooCommerce. Then you can download WooCommerce and cherry-pick the features relevant to your online store.

Key Features

  • It’s easy to use, reliable, and supports a ton of extensions and integrations for your online store
  • The best part about using WooCommerce is its flexibility—you get tons of choices for the design and extensions of your online store
  • Everything is customizable, including costs, domain registration, hosting and payment processing
  • Email marketing, advanced SEO tools, security, sales-enhancing features, and various other extensions are available may require paid subscriptions
  • In terms of payments, WooCommerce comes bundled with PayPal (for accepting credit card and PayPal account payments), BACS, and cash on delivery for accepting payments
  • You can even run an affiliate marketing business off your WooCommerce store

Weebly

For SMBs looking to build a budget-friendly website, Weebly is a great option.

To get started with it, you do not need to be tech-savvy, just the basics would suffice. It also offers blogging to promote and market your products by adding relevant articles. Additionally, you get tons of exciting and professional themes.

Square powers Weebly’s transactions; so, you can trust the platform for all your payments. The easy-to-use platform offers free service for basic use, but you can upgrade it to Pro version with $12/month and get $100 Google ad credits along with a free domain.

Big Cartel — For Artists and Makers

If you’ve got T-shirts, paintings, jewelry, or other crazy stuff to sell, you’ll feel at home with Big Cartel.

Big Cartel is the only ecommerce platform around which lets you sell online for free, and is best suited to selling individual products (such as art pieces).

Key Features

  • Start your free store with up to five products with the free plan
  • Add one image per product with product options and categories
  • Choose to accept credit card or PayPal payments, or both
  • SSL encryption
  • Basic order management via the Big Cartel dashboard
  • On the free plan, it’s not possible to have a custom domain. Nor will you be able to add multiple images per product or track inventory
  • Enable inventory tracking
  • Full code customization

Since minimalism is Big Cartel’s forte, you won’t find the platform weighed down by too many features. At the same time, the free plan gives you enough to set up shop, sell and receive payments.

Plans

Three premium plans are available that allow you to sell different numbers of products:

Platinum – you can sell up to 25 products at $9.99 per month

Diamond – 100 products at $19.99 per month

Titanium – 300 products at $29.99 per month

OpenCart

OpenCart is a quite popular PHP-based eCommerce platform. Personally, I’ve worked on it for a project and the experience was good enough – if not excellent.

You may find it that it isn’t super actively maintained – but it’s still there and being utilized by a lot of web developers. You get support for a lot of extensions while having most of the essential features baked right into it.

For some, it may not be the best “modern” eCommerce platform but if you want a good open-source PHP-based alternative, it is worth a try. In most of the web hosting platforms with one-click app installation support, OpenCart should be available to setup.

Prestashop

Keeping in mind the diverse requirements of different businesses, Prestashop helps you create a fully customized store experience. It offers features, functionalities, and performance needed to create and grow your brand. Add your products quickly, configure their features, and customize them with ease.

Prestashop is currently available in over 75 languages to help you expand your user base, run multiple digital stores using a single back-office to reduce your cost, and increase convenience.


Summing It All Up

Global statistics confirm it: the eCommerce industry made $2.3 trillion in sales in 2017, which is projected to double by 2021.

If you are ready to surf beyond the brick and mortar business, it’s high time for you to build a scalable digital store using a reliable and feature-rich eCommerce platform. Choose the right service provider based on your business requirements and budget to get brownie points that can save you from the future hassle and provide a profitable business in the long run.