How to choose the right ecommerce platform for your small business

How to choose the right ecommerce platform for your small business

How to choose the right ecommerce platform for your small business

This article will guide you through three of the most popular CMS platforms and their major features, differences and price plans, so that you can be sure you’re picking the right content management system for your business.

Deciding on which content management system (CMS) to choose can feel a bit like you’re trying to tap dance through a mine field, fearing that just one little misstep might destroy all the hard work you’ve put into your business. You need not be afraid though, because most content management systems these days are pretty good. However, some are better at particular activities than others, and so depending on the needs of your business, you might want to be careful which one you settle on using.

Shopify

The great thing about Shopify is that they provide you with everything you need to set up and start selling your products to your customers, which if you’re busy, or not particularly tech-savvy, is a huge deal and preferable to having to piece the puzzle together yourself. Shopify also lets you take the platform for a spin before you fully commit yourself to a price plan. There’s nothing worse then being lumbered with a piece of software you struggle to use, but not being able to dump it because you paid lots of money for it. A 14 day free trial is a great opportunity to test out Shopify’s features and see if they’re right for your business.

Shopify offers three different price structures: basic Shopify at $29 per month, Shopify for $79, and advanced Shopify at $299 (monthly fees are paid in US dollars, so you’ll need to take currency fluctuations into account). Which option you choose is obviously going to be dependent on your company’s needs, but the $29 a month plan is undoubtedly the better option for those taking their first tentative steps out into the world of ecommerce. Once you become comfortable in that environment, you might want to upgrade in order to grow your business. This is where you could run into problems with the Shopify platform.

If you’re primarily looking just to sell things, then Shopify is great, because it’s so simple to use. You don’t have to worry about the technical upkeep of your site because Shopify takes care of it for you. However, if when you expand and grow your business, you’d like to include more non-product pages, such as blog posts that explain more about your products, you might start to run into flexibility issues. Shopify is designed to help you sell stuff, not create lots of content.

In comparison to WordPress’s highly customisable blogging capabilities, Shopify’s is pretty basic. Content marketing is a huge possible source of income for an ecommerce site, so not having customisable blogging software could be hurting your chances of growing your brand.

It’s also hard to create a unique look for your site in Shopify, as their basic templates are a little plain. They’re also likely to be used by many other businesses. You can download other templates, but the better and more responsive ones will set you back the best part of a couple of hundred bucks. This might not be a huge issue for you if you just want a means to sell your products and aren’t fussy about the delivery method, but if you’d like to differentiate yourself from your competitors, then this lack of choice might be a draw back, although if you’re a small or local business, it’s unlikely that your local competition is using the same platform, let alone the very same template as you.

An issue that will cause you more serious pause for thought – the cut Shopify takes from your sales. All of Shopify’s price plans charge you a monthly fee for credit card transactions: 2.2% ($29 pm), 1.9% ($79 pm) and 1.6% ($299) for online. This is obviously going to cut into your margins a fair bit if you have high sales and are on the lower monthly price plan, so you might want to consider moving up to the next pricing tier.

Shopify is great for those just starting out in the world of ecommerce, or those not too worried about creating non-selling pages, but if you’re determined to grow your business by reaching out to prospects through content marketing and social media, then you might require a platform change to do this more easily and effectively.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a free plugin for the website creator and CMS WordPress. The software become popular in the early 2000s because it enabled anybody to create a website without needing an advanced knowledge of coding.

The great thing about WordPress is that it is widely used. In fact, WordPress currently supports over 51% of the world’s top websites. Any web developer worth her salt has to be familiar with WordPress, and because of this you have huge flexibility. You’re not tied into only using WordPress’ own people to develop and maintain your site, so you’ll probably be able to find less expensive or local developers to work with.

The WooCommerce plugin, as the name suggests, adds ecommerce functionality to your WordPress. As WordPress is so popular, a lot of people are already very familiar with its design and functionality, and so there will be less of a learning curve when incorporating the WooCommerce plugin. WordPress is also one of the easiest to use CMS on the market. The use of themes makes it easy for just about anybody to create content and publish it on their site.

One potential problem that arises from being part of such a popular platform is that your ecommerce site becomes vulnerable to online fraud. This is obviously something that WordPress and WooCommerce takes pretty seriously, so you’ll need to be sure you keep your site regularly updated and download the latest security patches, as well as consult your developer often, as they’ll know of loopholes that have been exploited by hackers.

WordPress with the WooCommerce plugin is a great next step up and is great for stores with sizable but simple product ranges. A huge benefit of WordPress is that it offers your business the chance to create more non-product content that will add value to your prospects and build trust. You can expand your site out so that it includes reviews or demonstrations of your products, latest industry news, and even updates on your company and its staff. This will really help to humanise your brand and also reach out to more people through content marketing and SEO, as WordPress offers you the ability to customize meta descriptions and alt tags.

WooCommerce and WordPress are open source, so they won’t charge you a monthly fee like Shopify, but you will need to pay for a theme, a host, a domain and various other plugins to help you do specific activities, such as create email campaigns. A WordPress platform is definitely going to be more of a headache in comparison to Shopify, where everything is set up and updated for you, but WordPress does enable you to have much more control and flexibility over how your site looks and behaves, many of these are available as plugins you can simply bolt onto your site.

WordPress and WooCommerce are great for businesses looking to have more control over what their site looks like, or for those expanding out into more non-product areas.

Magento

Magento is an open source ecommerce CMS. Magento brands itself as ‘the world’s most flexible commerce platform’, as well as the most popular with over 250,000 merchants around the globe using their CMS. Magento offers much more control over how your site looks and operates and is definitely not for the beginner. They are aiming their brand at medium to large businesses, or those looking to expand.

Being open source software means that it is accessible to developers and agencies all over the world, so, much like WordPress, you’re not tied to using only Magento’s people to help you develop your site. Magento is also much more scalable, growing with your business. You won’t have to switch platforms once your company gets to a certain growth level, so once you implement Magento, you won’t have to invest anymore time and energy into learning anything else.

Magento’s main advantage over the other two CMS I’ve mentioned is that it offers you 100% flexibility, as well as the ability to differentiate you site from others, which is a much bigger deal when appealing to thousands or even millions of people. You need to create a strong and unique brand image and voice, and Magento’s many different extensions make that easy.

Some of Magento’s biggest strengths are the control it offers over stock keeping and checkout procedures. You can tailor the checkout process to meet your specific company and customers needs, while you can also set up stock keeping units to help you keep track of available stock and highlight to a customer when a product has become unavailable. One of the most important features Magento offers is allowing different currencies to be selected by your customers, which is particularly important if you’re looking to expand your business overseas.

One of the few downsides of Magento is that it doesn’t offer blogging functionality right out of the box, although there are many blogging bolt ons available. WordPress offers a free extension to Magento, so if you’re already familiar with that platform, you can have a blog up and running fairly quickly.

Another potential problem is that Magento is a much more powerful platform. It will require the use of bigger and more powerful servers than WooCommerce and WordPress, otherwise your site will run incredibly slowly and no doubt lose you business, so you’re going to need to take that extra investment into account when calculating your overheads.

Magento is the obvious next logical step when growing your business. It has the advantage of being a one-stop shop. If your basic Magento package doesn’t have a certain feature, then no doubt it is available in their extensions store, allowing your business to grow when you need it too without incurring huge costs by having to move to another CMS.

Choosing the right CMS platform is important, but it shouldn’t be your company’s only concern. Creating a great user experience is key to converting visitors to your website into customers. It’s all very well having flashy images and arty photos, but if prospects can’t easily find what they want, or your checkout process is overly long and complicated, then you could be missing out on vital conversions. To <a href="https://blog.thesocialms.com/websites-design-holding-back-online-sales/" rel="nofollow" target="_blank">check if your user experience is up to scratch</a>, check out this article on the Social Ms.

Posted by James Thomas

James Thomas
James Thomas is the Managing Director of Attract and Convert, who help small businesses attract and convert more of their target customers.

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