Introduction

What is an eCommerce platform?

  • A set of technologies (a platform) in which it has eCommerce capability at its core. i.e. you can take payments for things. And then build your application / online ecommerce site/business, etc on top of it.
  • Benefits of having an ecommerce platform and choosing the right one?
    • Main features of an ecommerce platform to look for and consider:
    • Content management capabilities
    • Promotion and discount code tools
    • An easy-to-use checkout
    • Search engine optimized code and layout
    • Reporting tools
    • An integrated blog or articles section
    • Email marketing integration
    • Multiple payment options (Credit card, PayPal, PO, Terms, etc.)
    • The ability to scale up with your platform
    • Client management
    • Invoicing
    • Automation

What are the popular and best platforms?

Some with used and that come up in comparisons and reviews all the time.

  • WooCommerce
  • Shopify
  • Magento
  • Wix eCommerce
  • SquareSpace
Popularity of ecommerce platforms

Popularity of ecommerce platforms

Market share for most popular eCommerce platforms 2019.

5 Best eCommerce “Platforms” Compared & Reviewed (2020)

Note that WooCommerce is slightly ahead with 25% market share, and Shopify on 20% market share.

Interest over time

Interest over time

Interest over time from Google.

The scores awarded by Google Trends on the “interest over time” line graph express the popularity of that term over a specified time range. Google Trends scores are based on the absolute search volume for a term, relative to the number of searches received by Google.

This clearly shows the degree of interest in these eCommerce platforms puts Shopify as number 1.

How to choose?

  • Go for the best?
  • Go for the most popular?
  • Alternative strategy:
    • First thing, what type of payments you are going to be taking?
    • Then what are the other important things you need to consider?

Think about the types of payments that are being taken by your eCommerce store:

  • Retail items / physical goods (e.g. Amazon)
  • Digital items / digital content (e.g. iTunes)
  • One off payments for access to content? And / or subscription payments for membership? (e.g. Netflix, Dappad)
  • Do you want to take off-line payments too? Over-the-phone?

Retail: Amazon, Not on the High Street, Etsy, ASOS
Digital: iTunes/App Store, Google Android Store, Amazon (like kindle, film purchase), Shutterstock
Subscription: Netflix, Dappad, HelloFresh, Graze, Nespresso

Important things to consider
Find some one else who already uses it!
Research, research, research.
Price

  • Build / development / creation.
  • On-going usage / maintenance
  • Fees for additional features / plugins / upgrades? (e.g. Shopify some of add-ons are quite expensive to buy/subscribe too)
  • Fees for payments and other fees

Customisability

  • WYSIWYG / Graphic UI.
  • Editable code / API integrations.
  • Do it yourself vs. need a developer to do it.
  • Meets your requirements / adaptable.
  • Web pages vs content pages vs payments pages.

Ease of use

  • For customers.
  • For you to build the website.
  • For you to upload products.
  • For you to operate / manage your business on the backend.
    • Delivery management.
    • Inventory management.
    • Dealing with your customer enquiries.

Customer support & community

  • How good is the customer support?
  • Are they contactable when you need them?
  • Multiple channels (tickets/chat/phone)?
  • Community of users helping each other?
  • Developer community
    • Troubleshooting?
    • New features / plugins / add-ons?
    • New themes?

Feature richness

  • Think what features you need vs nice to have?
  • Does it do everything your business needs?
  • Think about what features your business needs?
  • Important features e.g. CMS, Discount codes, reporting, etc.
  • The web front end:
    • Customisability
    • User friendliness
    • SEO performance / customisability

Future requirements

  1. Will it have all the features you need for the future?
  2. Does it have expandability so it can grow with more features if you need to build them later?
  3. Will it scale with your business? E.g. user access & management, e.g. bulk load of new products, etc.

Examples through case studies

1) Case study 1 – A start-up shoes retailer with a small budget (Shopify eCommerce platform chosen)

This was a start-up shoes retailer with a small budget, we decided to go down the route of using Shopify.

Main requirements:
1. Visually appealing website front-end.
2. Integrated solution for taking payments, managing inventory and delivery and fulfilment.
3. Self-manageable.

Why Shopify?
1. High quality templates and customisation.
2. Good integrated tools.
3. Easy to use backend.

2) Case study 2 – bespoke & Braintree.

This was an automotive backplate photo library and ecommerce store. It was a start-up with a larger budget needing an eCommerce store for digital photography downloads and a keen eye on visual quality. We went the direction of a bespoke payments integration / platform creation & Braintree payments gateway.

The main requirements:

1. High visual fidelity – it had to look stunning and special.
2. Integration with their image library infrastructure – It needed to be a full integration with their photo library platform (custom).
3. Very bespoke purchase flow requirements – Different elements of the user experience were unique, including the pricing calculator which required bespoke development.

Why bespoke and Braintree?

– They had a bespoke aesthetic not achievable on existing platforms
– They had a higher budget
– They had a price calculation flow and checkout / payments flow that was unique / not achievable on an existing platform

3) Case study 3 – MemberPress & Stripe.

This was a career development subscriptions platform, we built in MemberPress & Stripe.

The main requirements were:

1. Ease of use backend for the client – a simple familiar WordPress type interface.
2. Extension of an existing WordPress website – needed to extend an existing site.
3. Protection of digital content/downloads – it was important content was password protected / account protected.

Why MemberPress & Stripe?

MemberPress is a low-cost solution to bringing client/member registration and login to a website. It also gives a familiar interface and protects the downloads from being freely shared. In addition, the client already had a live merchant Stripe account, and MemberPress integrates well with Stripe out of the box – so this was the recommended platform in this scenario.

A bit more about payments

  • AUTHs / Authorisations? In the four corner / our party model – an AUTH or ‘authorisation’ is needed from a card payment, to enable you to fulfill the order/release goods. An AUTH is a promise from the card networks that you will be paid the money.
  • Settlement, and time to settle. Do note that from time of authorisation, there is usually a delay of 2 or more days between when the payment was captured and Authorised, and then when the payment is settled into your merchant account.
  • Transaction fees & other fees? Note that different parties in the payments chain will take a small amount of the transaction cost. Typically you will be paying 1.5 – 2.5% of the transaction amount in card fees – depending on the payment service provider or payments gateway.
  • Other & alternative payment methods. It’s important to recognise it’s not just card, think about acceptance of Paypal, Apple Pay, Android Pay and other payment types.
  • What about Fraud and risk? This is the topic of another full blog post and then some. Note when taking transactions online you want to minimise the risk of fraud by setting appropriate fraud rules in your payments gateway, and additionally you need a way of coping if a charge back were to happen.

Next steps and useful resources

Here are some useful resources and next steps when conducting your own research:

  1. Top 10 eCommerce platforms 2020 compared and rated https://www.ecommerceceo.com/ecommerce-platforms/
  2. Top 21 eCommerce platforms and rate comparison https://merchantmachine.co.uk/ecommerce-platforms/
  3. Great comparison of top 5 eCommerce platforms https://www.codeinwp.com/blog/best-ecommerce-platform/
  4. Good review and comparison including Shopify, Wix, SquareSpace, WooCommerce, Magento https://websitesetup.org/best-ecommerce-platform/
  5. Good comparison infographic: https://metacake.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/07/Metacake-Store-Platform-Comparison-copy.pdf
  6. Good price comparison table: https://merchantmachine.co.uk/ecommerce-platforms/

Conclusions

So how to choose the right eCommerce platform, it’s all about doing the right amount of research, finding people have used it and no the pluses and minuses, and then taking the plunge! Don’t just go for the most popular or the best – find the best one for your niche/line of business.

Author bio

This has been a blog about how to choose the right eCommerce platform for your start-up. I’m Kevin Gordon from Digital Technology labs, we build eCommerce sites for clients, and before this, I spent 4 years as a payments professional working for Worldpay

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