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 Choosing the right platform for your online store.

With so many e-commerce platforms available it can be mind-boggling getting to grips with which one you should choose for your internet store. You might think it’s like comparing apples to apples, after all, why does it matter as long as people can buy from you? Shopify, WooCommerce and Magento each have different design aspects, functionality and costs and each of these elements affects the experience of your buyer.

As with most things, it all boils down to what you are trying to achieve. Two important factors are how you want your e-commerce store to look and function. Your store is personal to your brand and business and the e-commerce platform you decide to use impacts this. When we build an e-commerce site we discuss the platform that would best suit our clients brand and selling objectives.

We have taken the three leading platforms in the industry and stripped them to the core. These aren’t the only e-commerce platforms available but they are some of the most popular. We asked the three most practical questions we could think of:

Which is the easiest to use?

Which has the best design?

And how much do they cost?

A quick background into each platform

Shopify was the first of the three platforms to arrive in 2006. Based in Canada, Shopify powers roughly 4% of all online stores. The software that Shopify is based on was originally created to sell snowboarding equipment. It has a low barrier entry meaning that it is simple for pretty much anyone to set up and use. In January this year, Shopify broadcast that it was integrating with Amazon, allowing vendors to sell on Amazon via their Shopify stores.

WooCommerce started in 2011 and powers at least 30% of all online stores. It is fundamentally a WordPress plugin, rather than a platform. WooCommerce quickly gained popularity because of its simplicity to install and customise. Users can use the WordPress open source community for support. There are free and paid e-commerce themes to choose from.

Magento was founded in 2008 and is said to be powering at least 8% of all online stores. They have a larger market in both the top 10 thousand and 100 thousand e-commerce websites on the internet.

Magento offers two types of platforms, ‘Magento Open Source’ which has community support and ‘Magento commerce’ that includes premium support with lots of features and extensions.

Which is the easiest e-commerce platform to use?

Shopify is the easiest platform to use for beginners and those that don’t have an existing website. Everything is in one place. Simply sign up and follow the instructions. The interface is clean, modern and straightforward.

WooCommerce is also easy to use, it integrates seamlessly with WordPress. After activation, simply follow the instructions of the set-up wizard. The format is relatively straightforward. If you already know how to use WordPress you shouldn’t have a problem integrating and managing WooCommerce.

Magento is used in medium to large e-commerce sites with a lot of money to invest. The usability is more complex and therefore geared towards web developers. It is the most difficult to use for non-web developers. It is a local installation that requires FTP.

Which e-commerce platform has the best design?

Shopify has great quality, visual themes that are mobile responsive. Their designs are contemporary, modern and sleek. The downside is that the lack of customisation. Popular themes are often overused and there is a risk of ending up with a website that lacks individuality. There is some flexibility to adapt the themes with Shopify’s ‘liquid language’.

As with most WordPress orientated products WooCommerce, design features are pretty limitless. It is easier to use a theme that is Woocommerce friendly, but that being said any theme can be integrated when you know how. The advantage of it being open source is that a heap of developers sell or giveaway incredible looking themes.

Magento is different to both Shopify and WooCommerce. Themes and templates are custom-designed with Magento’s tools. Magento has pre-built templates in their ‘connect store’, which has designs from other companies that can be customised. Alternatively, you can get Magento templates from external resources.

How much do e-commerce platforms cost?

Shopify currently has a free 14-day free trial. There are several different pricing plans available. These range from $29 up to $299 a month. All of their packages include the website, blog and SSL certificate. An SSL certificate is essential for an e-commerce website.

WooCommerce is a plugin and therefore the cost of hosting and purchasing a domain name should be factored in. If you don’t have an SSL certificate as part of your hosting package you may have to pay extra to get one. The plugin itself is free and it has most of what you need to get a basic e-commerce store up and running. Themes and extensions to WooCommerce are available at varying costs. These will increase functionality but vary greatly in price from tens to hundreds of dollars depending on the result you need to achieve.

‘Magento open source’ is free for anyone to use and download but would in all likelihood need the expertise of a web developer. It lacks many of the standard features provided by the other two options. The paid version ‘Magento Commerce’ is around the $22,000 mark. Magento Commerce has an endless list of features, including SEO, marketing and conversion tools, customer service, credits and coupons to name just a few.

If you’re interested in learning more about Shopify, WooCommerce or Magento, or any of the other many platforms available, please don’t hesitate to contact Start Digital today.