19 Mar GuideLines: Choosing the right E-commerce platform
We’ve had a few enquiries lately from companies considering their first foray into the world of e-commerce. It’s great news that some confidence seems to be returning to UK small businesses, and a solid online storefront can make a real difference to independent retailers of all shapes and sizes.
Unsurprisingly those new to the world of online retailing have little or no knowledge of the different e-commerce solutions available. It is however very important to consider your options early on in site planning. Which solution you choose can have drastic implications on costs, build times and the day to day running of a web store.
There are 100s of differing e-commerce platforms available; from a quick set up Shopify store through to bespoke enterprise edition Magneto package. There is no one-size fits all solution, but where do you start?
We’ve grouped some of the most popular platforms into a handy overview with some pros and cons from a potential site owners perspective. This is by no means an exhaustive list but hopefully helps explain a little of the options available.
As always we love to hear from new start-ups so if you’ve got a e-commerce venture you’d like to get off the ground drop us a line for an informal chat.
- Great amount of control over the store with detailed statistics and analysis available.
- Mainly suitable for sites selling large volumes/ numbers product lines.
- 24/7 customer support for any site queries.
- Lots of customisation options and add ons available.
- They tend to have a big learning curve in order to get the best out of the platform.
- They can be difficult to navigate quickly.
- Will likely be frustrating if you don’t have any knowledge/ experience of HTML or have no previous experience in running an e-commerce site.
These solutions are mainly suitable for larger more complex online stores with product lines numbering in the 100s to 1000s. They are likely to require too a high level of technical expertise for small business owners to confidently set up and manage purely on their own, therefore expect to incur larger web development and ongoing maintenance costs.
- Thousands of themes are available providing almost unrestricted design options.
- A large number of quality extensions/ plug-ins are available to suit a variety of needs.
- The back end is quite logical and quick to navigate once you are accustomed to its layout.
- These platforms are not natively e-commerce solutions and therefore utilise plugins which can be restrictive and won’t work with all themes.
- At first glance the back end can look daunting and does take some time to learn.
- It is wise to install additional security plug-ins for online trading which come at an additional cost.
POPULAR PLATFORMS INCLUDE:
These platforms offer a large amount of flexibility and will often require a lot less developer costs; mainly due to the high number of quality base themes available.
If you’ve previous experience of editing a WordPress site the WooCommerce Extensions will be easy to handle. However, for those not already familiar with the WordPress/ Joomla back end, this will require a reasonable time commitment.
- These platforms have been set up specifically for dealing with e-commerce websites.
- The back office area for day to day order management and adding stock lines are easy to navigate with a little practice.
- Although growing in number they lack as large a range of well designed, pre-built themes in comparison to WordPress.
- As these are open source/ free to use platforms there is no direct customer support and trouble shooting via community forums can be hit and miss.
- A lot of the plugins/ extensions have a tendency to cause unexpected bugs that can be problematic to fix.
Once your website is up and running these platforms offer simple back end systems that are easy to navigate for novice users. The lack quality themes however often requires a lot of developer time to heavily customise or create new themes from scratch.
- These offer the simplest and quickest solution for new traders to get online.
- 24/7 support & simple tutorials from within your browser.
- There are a good selection professional looking pre-built themes.
- All charge monthly fees to use the service and transaction fees (which will be on top of any payment merchant fees).
- Template themes all have greater layout limitations then other platforms, so some layout compromises may have to be made.
- Not really suitable for retailers with a large number of product lines.
The quickest way to set up and run an e-commerce site, with good support and advice available for those lacking IT confidence. This does come with an ongoing monthly subscription cost, and additional transaction fees will have an impact on your bottom line. Great for testing the waters but once established many companies will move to away to more custom solutions.