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Thinking of starting an online business?
In this post, we’ll discuss one of the first and most important decisions you need to make when building your own online business:
Choosing the right E-commerce platform.
We’ll begin by explaining what E-commerce platforms are and their different types and classifications.
We’ll also discuss the following:
- Key Features to Look for in an E-Commerce Platform or Website Builder
- The Best E-Commerce Platforms and Website Builders to Choose From
- Pros and Cons of Each
- The Best Tips on Choosing Your E-Commerce Platform
Ready? Let’s dive right in.
What Are E-Commerce Platforms?
An eCommerce platform is a software that provides all the tools and systems to start and operate an online business.
It lets online business owners manage front and back-end operations like inventory management, website design and operation, mobile commerce, marketing and sales, warehouse fulfillment, and more.
Types of E-Commerce Platforms
There are 3 main types of E-commerce platforms. Let’s learn more about each one and how they differ.
- It provides the highest level of control over your store.
- You can modify all aspects of the code
- Very popular in the early days (and still is) with companies that have dedicated IT resources and manpower so they can have full control of the operation.
- You’ll be responsible for hosting, security, patches and update releases, PCI compliance, website design, merchandising and marketing, SEO, and others.
Software as a Service (SaaS)
- Removes the technical difficulty of managing the e-commerce software because you can simply “rent” the platform/software and focus on running the business
- In general, it’s more cost-effective versus open-source
- All the technical stuff will be handled by your SaaS provider
- Allows you to simply log in to your account with the Saas provider and operate your business from anywhere
- You buy a license for the software to be used to run your online business for a specified period of time.
- Similar to open source as you’ll need to find your own hosting solution and do the installation and updates yourself. But since it’s not open source, you’ll have to pay for the licenses before you can use them.
Platform as a Service (PaaS)
- Used mainly for linking your e-commerce system into other systems, typically found in Business-to-Business (B2B) setups
- If your customers are other businesses as well, PaaS can let you interface your system with theirs using Application Programming Interface (APIs)
Key features of Ecommerce Platforms & Website Builders
What are the most important elements that a superb E-commerce platform should have?
The following is a list of things you should be on the look-out for when assessing your options.
- Easy-to-use website builder with lots of theme options – Very handy to have especially if you want to get your site up and running fast.
- Built-in eCommerce features like: analytics, SEO tools, product management, discounts, promotions, website editor, etc.,
- Multiple Payment Options – your chosen eCommerce provider should be able to support your preferred payment option and support the country’s currency
- Wide API support and API call volume – flexibility to use and adapt various APIs without limits
- Hosting, uptime value, bandwidth – Crucial in making sure your website is fully-operational and optimized for speed all the time
- Security – PCI-compliant and offers SSL certification along with other essential security features
- Intelligent Site Search Functionality – Should allow customers to easily look for products via the Search option
- Social media integration – Built-in integration to social media networks lets you market and sell directly to potential customers
- Business Intelligence – Lets you gather and analyze data from your transactions so you can optimize your site and services better
- Mobile-friendly eCommerce – Fully-customizable mobile experience that makes it easy for customers to purchase via their mobile phones
- Strong Content Management System – Lets you easily customize content and elements in your website to improve user experience and site efficiency
- Excellent Product Management – Should be able to efficiently manage product and catalog for effective merchandising
Best Ecommerce Platforms for Filipino Online Shops
It’s not about which one is the most popular, it’s about picking the best one that suits your needs. And for that, you need to know each platform’s strengths and weaknesses along with everything that they offer.
The following list aims to help you make the right decision.
|Platform||Pricing (starts at)||Ease of Use||Performance||Design||SEO||Integration||Support|
Shopify is a fully-hosted platform aimed at business owners who want a hassle-free experience in building an online store.
You can easily create your store using pre-built templates and a simple step-by-step process for adding products and other key eCommerce features.
- Beginner-friendly, easy to set up
- Clean and simple interface
- Quick load speeds
- Multiple channel and social selling capabilities (Facebook, Instagram, eBay, Amazon)
- 1-click upsell
- Abandoned cart recovery
- Check-out process can’t be customized
- Not the best pick in terms of SEO/ranking capabilities
- You need to pay for transaction fees if you don’t want Shopify Payments
- Price of apps quickly stacks up (apps are plug-and-play features for boosting your store’s functionality)
Beginners, small businesses
WooCommerce is a free plug-in for WordPress sites that provide eCommerce features and functionality.
While you do have to shell some money for web hosting, security certificates, payment options, etc., the open-source nature of this platform lets you cheaply add eCommerce functions to your site with a good amount of customization to boot.
- Since it’s used with WordPress, the SEO capabilities and features of your website is top-notch
- Your site has to use WordPress
- Not for absolute novices in website building. Also, you’ll have to perform the maintenance yourself
- No customer service support
- Users who own a WordPress website who want a free and easy-to-install plug-in that lets their site have shopping cart functionalities.
Considered as one of the most flexible and scalable options among all eCommerce platforms. It offers the same features and functionality of other popular platforms but allows for more scalability as your business grows. Not for the novice online business builder, however, as it does require a fair bit of know-how in terms of website building.
- High scalability
- Offers a wide range of built-in features
- Allows for multi-channel selling (FB, Instagram, Pinterest)
- Great SEO tools
- Industry-leading uptime
- Not the best option for beginners due to its fairly technical nature
- No 1-click upsells
- Small businesses looking to scale up
Magento is considered by many as the best option for large-scale businesses that need a feature-rich and highly-customizable eCommerce site. That being said, it’s not meant for small businesses or those with little background on web development.
- Has the most extensive feature set
- Enterprise-level software that’s perfect for medium to large scale businesses
- Strong SEO and marketing features
- 1-click upsells
- Highly customizable and scalable
- Not for beginners—you need to have professional web development experience to build and manage a site using Magento
- Medium to large retail businesses that have the budget to build a powerful and highly-customizable eCommerce site.
This eCommerce platform has been around for almost 2 decades and currently serves more than 17,000 merchants both big and small. Their closest competitors on the list are Shopify and BigCommerce.
- Great for starting eCommerce businesses
- Easy to learn and use
- Plenty of integration features and expansion modules
- Multi-channel support needs a boost
- No loyalty program feature
- Small and medium-sized eCommerce companies who need a quick online platform solution without breaking the bank.
Squarespace’s main draw is its simplicity. A novice website builder will easily figure out how to create a great-looking website using Squarespace’s interface.
However, business owners who need a more robust and flexible eCommerce solution might find Squarespace’s too-simple approach to be limiting.
- Very easy to use
- Great choice for basic stores
- Wide range of stunning templates and themes to choose from
- Ecommerce integrations need improvement
- Payment options fall short versus other platforms
- Business owners who need a dummy-friendly website builder that offers plenty of stylish themes and has strong content-building features.
Volusion is a hosted eCommerce platform that hosts everything for the user (similar to Shopify). This includes designing your store, adding products, choosing payment options—everything you’ll need to get your store up and running. It might feel a bit limiting though for more advanced users especially those who rely on SEO and organic or paid traffic.
- Efficient inventory management and order-fulfillment features
- Competitive pricing
- No transaction fees
- Limited theme options
- Expansion and integration features fall short versus other platforms
- Users who want a platform that provides a complete solution for their eCommerce needs without breaking a sweat. Marketing and SEO features are lacking, however.
Wix is first and foremost a website builder with the added benefit of easily adding eCommerce functionalities.
Like Squarespace, it’s simple and easy to use, making it a good option for start-up businesses who just need basic shopping cart functionalities on their website.
- Great, novice-friendly interface with drag-and-drop editor
- Competitive pricing
- Perfect for running start-up and simple stores
- Multi-channel and Cross-selling features missing
- No marketing automation features
- Small online shop retailers looking to sell a few products
Weebly is an all-inclusive website builder with Wix and Squarespace as its main competitors.
It provides everything that you’ll need to build a website and focuses on making the whole process of website building easy for the user albeit at the expense of losing some degree of control.
It’s a great option for starting businesses that require an affordable eCommerce solution.
- Very competitive pricing
- Drop-and-drop functionality
- Decent feature set
- Content Management system could be improved
- Marketing features are lacking
- A great choice for users who want a simple website builder with eCommerce functionality bundled in. Not a solid option, however, in terms of scalability.
PrestaShop is an open-source website builder and eCommerce solution established in 2007. Being a self-hosted platform, users are free to choose the server in which they will install it.
This makes it more flexible compared to other “pure” hosted eCommerce platforms like Shopify but requires a bit of knowledge in website creation.
- Highly configurable because of its open-source nature
- Wide range of modules, templates, and themes to choose from
- Free to install with options to pay for themes and modules
- While free, the trade-off is that you’ll have to configure it to work on your website and lose on conveniences that fully-hosted sites like BigCommerce or Shopify provide
- Users who have a bit of website building know-how and want a cheap and highly-customizable shopping cart functionality to add to their website.
How to Choose the Right Ecommerce Platform for your Business
With each eCommerce platform offering its own advantages and disadvantages, how do you choose the right one for your business? Here’s a quick list of things to consider to help you make the right choice.
As with any other purchase decision, pricing is a key factor.
How much you’re willing to spend for a product or service boils down to finding that value-sweet spot that provides the maximum return on your investment.
What are the most essential features that must absolutely have?
What would be also nice to have?
And what stuff can you live without?
As you’ve seen in our list above, there’s a myriad of options and features on each platform.
But which are the ones you really need? Be absolutely critical of this especially if you have a limited budget.
It’s simple, really—the more themes and design options, the better.
Note, however, that you probably wouldn’t be changing designs too often so this really shouldn’t be a top priority (but just nice to have).
Your site speed is crucial in the customer experience. Even a second of delay is enough to ruin it for someone who was supposed to buy something from your store.
Good eCommerce platforms offer site speed optimization options to avoid any performance bottleneck.
Ecommerce businesses are often targeted by hackers.
Protect yourself by choosing a platform that has strong security features which include: HTTPS and SSL support, availability of PCI-DSS compliant payment options like PayPal, Stripe, SecurePay, etc., Google Captcha option, e-commerce security plug-ins, among others.
It should support a wide selection of third-party applications via APIs. Having the ability to integrate other systems into your own platform allows you to have more flexibility and customize your site based on the features you need.
Examples of third-party integrations include: content management systems, analytics, payment providers, social sharing, shipping, etc.,
A good eCommerce platform should have enough flexibility to let your business easily scale.
Most of the platforms we have on the list above offer sliding prices based on the size of your store.
It’s a fact: more people are using their smartphones and tablets nowadays than computers. This means your eCommerce provider should provide top-notch features for optimizing the experience for browsing on mobile devices.
You’d be missing out on potential sales if the user experience is less than desirable.
The first crucial step in running an online business is choosing an eCommerce platform.
The right one will get your business up and running fast, while a bad pick will have you spending more time and money trying to fix all sorts of problems.
Remember: There is no perfect eCommerce platform or website builder. Each one has its own pros and cons and it’s up to you to decide which one strikes the right balance of elements that fits your needs.
Pick an eCommerce platform that ticks the most boxes in your checklist.
If you know what to look for at the start, you’ll have an easier time choosing an eCommerce platform that’s perfect for your needs.