A few weeks ago we had a look at whether WooCommerce was a good platform for scaling an eCommerce business. Scaling is important, as you want a platform that can grow with you. That way, you don’t spend a fortune starting up and you don’t lose customers by engaging in a significant platform upheaval just as you’re breaking through into the big time.
Luckily for eCommerce businesses and their developers, there’s a wide choice of platforms available.
All of them allow you to get your shop front up and running while they deal with the technicalities of security, payment processing, visual appearance, SEO and all the other things that make the site tick.
Your job is to keep the products sourced and arrange delivery (although much of that can be automated these days, with third party logistics plugging directly into your site).
We’d say there are three main considerations when you’re looking to start up and grow an eCommerce operation: WooCommerce, Magento and Shopify. Here’s a quick look at all three.
Power and scalability come as standard with Magento. It’s the site that some of the largest online retailers in the world base their sites on, and for good reason – it will cope with anything that’s thrown at it, as long as the hosting is up to scratch. There’s a thriving community of developers and creatives making extensions and themes, so you’re never far from expertise when you need it.
- Very powerful
- A large ecosystem
- It can grow with you.
- Quite a steep learning curve to get started
- Quite a lot of technical knowledge required
- Can be expensive for a small site.
A huge player in the eCommerce world, part of WooCommerce’s success is down to the fact that it’s essentially a plugin for WordPress. That means it’s easy to add eCommerce functionality to an existing WordPress site or to get a store up and running from a startup hosting package in a few clicks. And it’s 100% free and open source, too.
- If you know WordPress, you’ll know WooCommerce
- It’s free to get started
- It has a great support network
- Good for SEO
- Many of the plugins and extensions are not free – and they can be expensive for startups
- Plugins and themes are often quite resource-hungry, and you’ll need plenty of them to make vanilla WordPress your own
By far the simplest of all the systems to pick up, Shopify is different in that it’s all hosted and run from one central hub. In other words, you just have to create an account, open your shop and start posting your products on there, rather like adding videos to YouTube. While that makes it very attractive for startups with little technical knowledge, you do cede quite a lot of control to Shopify.
- Simplicity itself to set up – you can have a shop up and running in minutes
- Because it’s a service, help and assistance is provided by the company itself, as well as from the ecosystem
- A good range of plugins and themes that you know will be compatible because they’re managed by Shopify itself.
- Shopify takes a cut of all your revenue (although you can reduce this by paying more up-front with various subscription models)
- You cannot use third-party plugins that aren’t authorised by Shopify
- You have no control over server speed and outages (although they do tend to be pretty solid).
No wrong answer
As you can see, all three have their pros and cons, so your choice will probably come down to how technically savvy you are, or whether you’re prepared to invest more up-front for a great site in return for more of the profits when the shop becomes successful.
Whatever you choose when you’re starting out, you always have the option of migrating, so just choose the one you feel most comfortable with when setting up.