A 2017 Review of the top eCommerce platforms on the market

Decisions. Decisions. Decisions.

At a time when the online store model is becoming more popular, one of the key decisions for e-Commerce entrepreneurs is selecting the platform that best fits their needs and requirements. There is a wide range of options available to the online market, each with their own key and unique features, many offering great benefits and better functionality than rival e-Commerce platforms.

We have analysed all the important features in a 2017 review of three of the largest e-Commerce platforms on the market to assist with your decision. This includes everything from price and ease of use to pros & cons of each platform.

Let’s make a start then, and first up is our personal favourite:

Shopify

Shopify is a dedicated eCommerce platform, and as of February 2017 has over 325,000 stores, both small and large, worldwide. The features it offers and the growth potential for each client is the clincher for most businesses when choosing Shopify, but the big question everyone asks is how affordable it is and what are the on-going costs. Well,

Pricing

Shopify has a competitive pricing structure and enables businesses to sell unlimited number of products online. The prices listed below are taken from February 2017.

Basic Shopify Plan: $29 per month (£23)

Shopify Plan: $79 per month (£63)

Advanced Shopify Plan: $299 per month (£240)

For a breakdown of more information click here.

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Main Features

Over 100 themes

Shopify offer a large spectrum of themes all of which are professionally designed with a unique sense of character. The Shopify theme store includes both free and premium options that are all SEO optimised, customisable and include built-in product pages and checkout cart integrations.

Mobile-friendly

Shopify is fully responsive across mobile and tablet devices. A rising number of customers are using their phones to buy products online. Last year, more people used their phone to online shop as opposed to via desktop computers or laptops, which has previously been the norm.

HTML and CSS edit capability

For those with coding knowledge Shopify make it easy to edit theme files. As Shopify Experts we are more than happy to assist you in designing how you want your store to look.

Full blogging platform available

Shopify provides a blog manager to help cater for basic blog creation including tags, authors, categories and publish dates.

Marketing and SEO optimised

Shopify handles SEO considerably better than other platforms by generating easily editable page titles and meta descriptions automatically, offering a good insight for customers. The customisation ability of pages to integrate social media, provide product reviews and discounts are also good for marketing purposes.

Support

Shopify offers 24/7 support via email, online chat and phone. This helps clients solve issues in minutes, which really sets the platform apart from its rivals.

Shopify App store

Shopify has every bit of functionality covered within its own App store. A range of free and premium apps are available to improve the functionality and flexibility of your site.

Pros

Hosting

Shopify offers FREE hosting. Once you have an account and built your store, Shopify takes care of everything else, which is ideal for non-technological minded owners.

Modern and user-friendly admin area

The Shopify backend is very intuitive for every user, with a clean and easy to use interface, including editing the design and adding products.

Speed and security

Shopify integrates with payment providers such as Stripe and Sage and its built-in speed checkout enables customers to process payment with minimal load time.

Point of Sale System

Shopify operates a ‘Buy Button’ functionality, which allows businesses to use Shopify as a Point of Sale option, enabling customers to buy products anywhere online.

Cons

Pricing

With the basic plan starting from $29/£23 per month, costs can pile up after a few premium apps or premium themes have been added.

Multi-language

Not ideal for multi-language capabilities. It is heavily targeted towards North America and UK businesses.

Customisation

Limited customisation available on the cart page.

Preferred User Group

Shopify is usable by both beginners to eCommerce and professionals. The user-friendly design helps beginners follow the step by step process required to create a professional eCommerce store. Professional users can explore the multitude of options and additional features offered by Shopify.

Magento

Magento is a widely acclaimed eCommerce platform, although it requires more technical coding knowledge than other platforms, with some form of web development experience encouraged. It is a good platform for larger, established stores and as of February 2017 it is estimated that Magento is used on 20% of all eCommerce sites online. Judging by Magento’s pricing structure, this it is maybe understandable.

Pricing

The details of the Magento pricing plans are as of February 2017

Free Plan: Available as a download on the official Magento website for small businesses.

Enterprise Plan: $18,000 per year, mainly for large businesses.

Main Features

Responsive structure

Magento is responsive on iPhone, iPad, Android and mobile HTML devices. They offer a range of responsive templates both free and premium.

Customisable template designs

With open source code, all customisations can be easily made to modify the design to your needs, which makes Magento a useful platform for growing your business.

Customer separation

Magento allows businesses to divide customers into groups to determine specific discounts. Customers can be grouped based on user demographics or location for example. Products can be marketed accordingly.

Automated email marketing reminders

Magento provide a range of email marketing tools, assisting businesses to keep on top of marketing opportunities. Trigger emails have proven to be a reliable tool of marketing with a high rate of response and conversion.

Private sales feature

Ability to restrict the visibility level of users, allowing certain users to privately access catalogue items.

Apps and add-ons

Magento has a whooping 5000+ apps and add-ons as a result of the open source community driven platform.

Wish lists

Customers can share wish lists via email from any Magento store. Perfect for birthdays, weddings and events which gives greater functionality and flexibility to your customer.

Pros

Scalability

The biggest advantage of Magento is its perfectly scalable system. It is built with scalability in mind, so going from selling 10 products to 100,000 products is very simple.

Feature Intensive

Due to its open source flexibility and unlimited product storing, Magento has the capacity to give your store unending features.

Large User Community

Magento’s popularity can be advantageous to your business with plenty of assistance available via online forums and tutorials if problems are identified.

Flexibility

The templating options supplied by Magento allow businesses to customise everything to create exactly what they want.

Cons

Developers

Large parts of Magento require a technically minded web developer to assist with the open source functionality. It is an extremely large system requiring a good understanding and experience with core software.

Cost

The free version is ideal, but it doesn’t suit all businesses. If additional support is required, the Enterprise version begins at $18,000 per year (as of February 2017).

Migration

The transition from another e-Commerce platform to Magento is very difficult as Magento is slow at importing data, which may also not be very user-friendly.

Time

Magento requires more dedicated time and attention than most other eCommerce platforms, especially during setup, as the layout and design process is not very user friendly.

Preferred User Group

Magento offers a more complex option for starting and growing larger businesses. For an established business model with a good web development knowledge, Magento could be a good solution.  If small to medium businesses are interested in Magento we would suggest signing up for a free demonstration first here.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is another open source platform. It is a plugin available for WordPress users, and therefore requires a hosted website. WooCommerce has been built to cooperate with most themes on the market and comes with specific design attributes. The bonus of WooCommerce is, if you are already a WordPress user this could be the perfect platform for you.

Pricing – as of February 2017

Free Plugin: WooCommerce is a FREE plugin available through WordPress.

Main Features

Bundled with Payment Gateways

Payment options via PayPal and Stripe and built-in, whilst a range of other options are available for an extra fee.

Shipping

WooCommerce allows free shipping to be included based on key parameters. Real-time shipping costs estimates are also available, but require a paid plugin.

Reporting

WooCommerce offers incoming sale stats and reports as well as inventory levels and general store performances.

Tax Settings

Prices can be displayed with or without taxes. Tax rates can also be calculated and adjusted based on where a customer is located.

Marketing campaigns

Discount options, usage limits and product/user restrictions are all available on the WooCommerce platform for businesses, providing greater opportunities to market products.

Pros

User ratings & reviews

WooCommerce provides the functionality for users to add ratings and reviews to every product. This is not always available on other platforms

Reporting

Organised reporting filtered in specific categories e.g sales by date, by product and category.

Secure

WooCommerce and its POS system are regularly updated minimising any security issues. The benefit of this is that it won’t experience a lot of bugs and will always be compatible with newer versions of WordPress, however, security is still required.

Readily Available Support

WordPress has a large community many of which use the WooCommerce plugin. This community of active users are always on hand to give advice.

Cons

No free hosting

Although WordPress is entirely free, unlike Shopify there is no hosting included which means this will need to be purchased separately.

Themes & Plugins

Basic themes and plugins are ideal for WordPress users as they are either free or inexpensive. However, the premium options are costly.

WordPress

WooCommerce can not be used without using WordPress as the Content Management System

Not feature-rich

Compared with other e-Commerce platforms, WooCommerce isn’t as feature-rich. Modifying features to meet your requirements will be costly and add more hassle to the development along the way.

Preferred User Group

The preferred user group is users who currently own a WordPress website. They can benefit from the WooCommerce plugin, whereas a transition would be required for other users.

Conclusion

Selecting the most appropriate e-Commerce platform for managing, maintaining and creating an e-Commerce website based on the business needs is crucial. It can largely contribute to the overall success or failure of your business.

After an in-depth review undertaken in February 2017 of three of the largest e-Commerce platforms on the market, business owners must weigh-up the benefits and limitations of each system. For small to medium businesses, price will be a key factor in this decision, especially when WooCommerce and Magento are available under a free package.

WooCommerce is an ideal option if your business already has a WordPress website. It provides a more scalable solution and provides more control than other e-Commerce platforms. Alternatively, as a larger business  a more technical option with a wide range of features and the ability to upgrade to an expensive premium option may be more appealing.

However, at Odd Panda Design we would thoroughly recommend Shopify as a fast, easy to use system for both user and administrator and the perfect choice for small businesses.

Hopefully this review has been useful, and before you make any final platform decisions remember to consider your specific business requirements and future expectations before signing on the dotted line.

If we could be of any assistance in your decision, or you would like to contact us about developing your e-Commerce website, please get in touch.

Richard Jess

Customer Relations Manager