The Five Best Ecommerce Options For Your Business
Which is right for your business?
In 2017, Ecommerce is where the money is—and where the competition is. Because of the growing consumer-driven online market, there are more Ecommerce companies in 2017 than ever before, and they are constantly improving and expanding their functionality to make the digital shopping experience as convenient for the customer as possible.
And Ecommerce is quickly becoming critical for any business to get right; the number of online sales is increasing faster than offline sales, and the internet influences almost half of in-store purchases.
With so many options, which Ecommerce software should you use to build your website?
There are a few factors you should consider before making a selection. First, it’s significant to note that SEO is important when it comes to Ecommerce. People looking for a product are going to Google it—93% of all internet activity starts with a search. If shoppers can’t find your website, you aren’t going to make many sales. While some Ecommerce companies only have the simplest SEO features, there are some that have advanced SEO options. You want one that has independent page titles, navigation links, URLs, meta descriptions, image ALT tags, and H1 headings, as well as integrated blogging, 301 redirects, and etc. If an Ecommerce software does not have many of these features, then it’s probably not the one that’s going to make you the most profit.
Social sharing is another SEO feature that’s crucial to the success of your sales. Currently, social media influences the purchasing behavior of 74% of online shoppers, especially those in Gen Y. 60% of retailers who utilized social commerce in 2016 reported that they gained new customers from various social platforms. It’s a long held precept of marketing; if you want to be most effective, go where your customers are. And in today’s world, they’re on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, etc. If you don’t have social commerce, you’re missing out on a huge opportunity to expand your customer base, so if an Ecommerce software doesn’t have ease of integration with social media, it may not be the best option for you.
Another feature that may be obvious to any developer or designer, but is still worth mentioning, is mobile functionality. Your Ecommerce software needs to have a “mobile first” approach to your shopping experience. This is vital. This is no longer something that can be brushed off and labeled with secondary importance. In 2016, Google announced that mobile has surpassed desktop in product searches. One third of all Ecommerce purchases during the 2015 holiday season were made from a smartphone. And current statistics show that 40% of users will go to the competitor after a bad mobile experience. DON’T become a bad mobile Ecommerce experience. Explore the mobile functionality on an Ecommerce software before selecting it.
With these considerations in mind, there are five Ecommerce giants that stand out.
Magento is an open-source, flexible Ecommerce platform that boasts powering about 20% of Ecommerce websites, including those of huge businesses such as Samsung, Coca-Cola, and Burger King. They handled $101 billion in Ecommerce transactions in 2016.
There’s a reason that Magento is so popular—it’s the full Ecommerce solution, offering an abundant variety of features, including multiple payment gateway options, inventory management, API for web services, customer groups, marketing tools such as newsletterss, product bundles, customer service, site management, and much more. Basically, you can make your Ecommerce site look and feel exactly how you wish, and also control the functionality.
If you are not satisfied with the options Magento offers, the platform allows you to integrate third-party solutions, and unlike some other Ecommerce choices, Magento also enables you to use your preferred web host, not limiting you to their servers. Flexibility and customization control by the merchant is a major strength of this Ecommerce provider.
You can test the effectiveness of these features because they are backed by in-depth analytical options, allowing you to understand what your customers are responding to and drive conversions higher.
In addition, it’s both SEO and mobile friendly, which, as we’ve established, are critical. Magento (Enterprise Edition) uses browser detection to present a responsive mobile version of your existing online store, which smoothly integrates with your store’s analytics and functions. It also comes with built-in SEO; Magento offers metadata for products and product categories, Google site maps, generates customizable URLs, and configurations that make it easier for consumers to find you online.
The Community Edition of Magento is free, but the Enterprise version, meant for larger companies, is really expensive, ranging from $15,000 to more than $50,000 annually. The Enterprise version comes with more advanced features, technical support and maintenance, and heavy security, something the Community Edition is lacking in.
Besides price, the biggest drawback of Magento is that you really need to know what you’re doing, software-wise, to know how to use it. If you’re not tech-savvy, it takes a great deal of time to learn and customize the platform to meet your needs, as compared to other solutions that are more easy to implement. You may need to hire a developer, an additional cost, and because you run Magento on your own server, the company is not responsible for site maintenance, adding other costs to your already expensive investment.
WooCommerce is another hosted, open-source Ecommerce solution, and is a free plugin for WordPress. Though the company has only been around since 2010, it already boasts powering 30% of all online stores, more than any other provider.
Because WooCommerce is a plugin of WordPress, which is used by more than 51% of all existing websites (millions), it is a familiar interface. When creating your online store, this familiarity translates into quick and easy implementation, and your customers may also find it more familiar and be more encouraged to shop. It is free and simple, making it the Ecommerce choice for practically all small or startup businesses that may not have much development experience.
With WooCommerce, there are plenty of customization options and you have a great deal of flexibility in the design and function—your site will look professional, but just because the majority of sites use WooCommerce does not mean that your site has to look like everyone else’s. It comes with the widest variety of themes of any Ecommerce platform, and there are numerous apps and extensions are available to further develop functionality and customization.
WooCommerce has integrated blogging for SEO, high security, a large customer support base, all of the features that Ecommerce sites need, and clear-cut analytics (it can be incorporated into your Google Analytics with a paid extension).
While it is free, there are many essential functions that require paid extensions or apps. The cost of these can add up over time. And because it is a free plugin, not an independent platform, some of the features native to other Ecommerce platforms are not supported, such as multiple languages. WooCommerce isn’t compatible with all WordPress themes, either, so there is a chance you may have to change the look of your existing theme to match.
Because WooCommerce is self-hosted, like with Magento, the maintenance of the site is your responsibility. If anything goes wrong or needs to be fixed, then you will probably require a developer to address issues.
Shopify is a cloud-based Ecommerce solution (it can be run from any browser with a web connection). They power more than 500,000 businesses and have sold over $46 billion in revenue. Unlike Magento and WooCommerce, Shopify and its main competitor Big Commerce are not self-hosted; everything is already included for you, and you don’t manage or run the platform, you only customize it according to your needs.
Shopify is cited by vendors as extremely easy to use. They offer easy-to-use tools, an easy-to-understand dashboard…you don’t need to be a developer to quickly learn your way around the software. They offer outstanding and reliable customer support in case you do need help, with a database of FAQ and other helpful resources.
Just like Magento, Shopify is extremely customizable, providing a variety of templates and options for store style, and using plug-ins to increase and further customize online store functionality.
Security is another of Shopify’s strengths. Shopify works with security researchers to hack-proof their systems. They help you meet PCI compliance by routing your customers’ credit cards through extra layers of security, and they do this themselves—no outsourcing to PayPal or Google Wallet—which means that none of the extra security slows your customer’s connection and shopping experience.
Marketing and SEO are also pros of this platform. In Shopify, you can create landing pages for marketing campaigns, a unique feature. They permit custom title tags and meta descriptions, and have integration with Search Console and Google sitemaps. Shopify comes with included analytics for all of these features.
They also allow an option for utilizing social media; there is a “Buy button”, which lets you use Shopify as a Point of Sale (POS)/Inventory option—customers can click to buy your products anywhere they see them online, such as Facebook, WordPress, Pinterest, etc.
Even though the platform overall has great customization options, there are some areas that are not customization friendly unless you purchase a higher tier plan, because they use a unique setup to customize their themes. It is not easy to adjust certain aspects of a page.
Prices vary; the basic plan is $29 monthly, the Shopify plan is $79 monthly, and the Advanced Shopify plan is $299 monthly. The more expensive plans add features and more advanced analytics, but the main difference is that the less you pay, the higher the credit card payment rate.
Big Commerce is another hosted Ecommerce solution that powers more than 90,000 online stores. Some major clients include Toyota and Martha Stewart. Last year, the company significantly upgraded their software.
Users assert that Big Commerce delivers the most comprehensive set of business tools in the Ecommerce industry, and unlike with Shopify, they’re all included in your monthly fee. They offer more intuitive tools than other platforms, and they all work well. They also provide marketing tools, such as Google Shopping and eBay store integration, AdWords ad generator, SEO-friendly setup (category pages & canonical product pages), and social media integration.
Like Shopify, Big Commerce offers excellent customer support. There is an integrated feature called “Big Commerce University”, which includes in-depth videos, how-to guides built right into your store’s dashboard, a setup wizard, an autoresponder email series at signup, and a
consultant who answers questions in a timely manner, so you can solve any issues almost as quickly as they arise and learn how to use the platform most effectively.
Big Commerce updated their design themes in early 2016, but they offer less than half the variety of what Shopify offers and though they are all stylish and mobile friendly, they are more expensive.
Though the pricing is similar to what Shopify offers (three price plans, standard for $29.95, plus for $79.95, and pro for $249.95), Big Commerce does not charge transaction fees on sales, unique among Ecommerce builders, but you are required to upgrade to a more expensive plan if your online store exceeds a certain amount in sales dollars. Shopify is growing faster according to Google trends, which may be a result of pricing or simply the overall experience.
nopCommerce is a free Ecommerce software that, like Magento and Shopify, is open-source. Vendors can host either with their current web host or with nopCommerce hosting parters, so it is a blend between a hosted and self-hosted Ecommerce solution. More than 27,000 store owners use nopCommerce, most notably Volvo, Reebook, and The North Face.
Like WooCommerce, nopCommerce is free and comes with the option to purchase extensions and apps. The platform contains both catalog frontend and administration tool backend functions, as well as a variety of marketing and analytics tools, such as product ratings and reviews and integration with Google Analytics.
nopCommerce has plenty of significant, customizable features, such as multiple checkout options, SMS notifications to consumers, custom shipping methods, and acceptance of all major credit and debit cards. One of nopCommerce’s golden features is the ability of the user to run multiple stores from a single installation and with one administration panel, which simplifies the multi-store administrator’s job.
We mentioned earlier in the blog post that mobile responsiveness and SEO are absolutely essential for Ecommerce, and these are two areas where nopCommerce really shines. All nopCommerce stores are designed to be completely mobile responsive, on any device, and nopCommerce has an SEO feature that integrates URL canonicalization, Google sitemaps, and more.
While overall, nopCommerce is less popular than the other giants and does not receive as high of a satisfaction rating by reviewers, those who use nopCommerce say that for a free platform, it goes above and beyond meeting their needs. There are users who cite performance issues and bugs, and some who say that scalability is an issue, but on the whole nopCommerce does not have any significant problems.
There isn’t one of these that is clearly better than the others, or one that is the worst—it all depends on what is the best fit for your business. You should take into account how much development experience you have, and how much time you are willing to spend on implementation, as well as how much you want to pay for your Ecommerce site. However, any of these Ecommerce giants has proven their worth already, so the only bad choice would be not making one!
Let us know what your Ecommerce experience has been with WooCommerce, Shopify, nopCommerce, Big Commerce, or Magento in the comments!
Shea Duncan – Author
Lead Content Producer
Shea is an expert content writer and is a classic literary nerd! She loves writing highly engaging content and has a knack for making it convert!
Elliot Alicea – Contributor
Co-Founder of Empirical360
Elliot is a Co-Founder of Empirical 360 and is extremely passionate about creating highly effective marketing campaigns. He places ROI above all else!