Firstly, what is an eCommerce platform?
An eCommerce platform is an online store that allows businesses to sell their products and services on the internet. The size of the eCommerce and online sales industry has grown massively, due to the costs of starting an eCommerce site being low compared to those of a traditional brick and mortar store.
Rather than building their own website, most businesses turn to an existing eCommerce platform that makes uploading, and selling their products easy. These can be scaled for virtually any application required, with a whole host of options that are built for different types of businesses.
Before choosing an eCommerce platform, you need to analyse which additional features each platform offers you that will aid your company growth:
- Design: themes and customisation options
- Products: selling items and services on your website
- Sales support: payment gateways and promotions
- Apps and add-ons: how easy it is to expand your site
- Digital Marketing Integration: visibility of your website across different channels
- Analytics: order information and visitor data
To summarise our points below, Shopwired, Shopify and Magento each offer similar solutions for businesses to sell their products online, however, there are two factors to consider. The first is the time it takes for you to set your store up, and the second is the ease in how your website will expand as your business does. In our experience, Shopify outperforms the competition on both as a result of its simple user interface, and the ability to customise elements to tailor the system to your particular business.
Through the development of multiple eCommerce sites over the years, we’ve found that the power of eCommerce solutions lies in customisation. No two businesses are the same, especially when it comes to back-end processes, therefore it’s crucial that when expanding into an online environment that this integrates with your current operation. Custom builds aren’t as daunting as you might think, with entirely new designs and individual feature customisations giving you extra functionality than you had before, with the added benefit of knowing your site is secure and you have a team you can immediately get in touch with them, without waiting 3 days in a response queue.
This is the first choice you’ll have to make once you’ve selected an eCommerce platform, but each one has a different approach to how your shop looks online.
- Shopify has over 100 free themes you can choose from, and paid themes that start from $140. Although these seem expensive compared to…well…a free theme, the themes are well considered and integrate all of Shopify’s excellent features.
- Shopwired offer 19 free themes, with a bespoke section on their site that promotes their own design team, who will build a custom site for you at prices from £1195 + VAT.
- Magento is an open-source platform, which means anyone is free to develop using their system which means there’s thousands of free and premium themes across the web. The downside of these themes is that there’s often limited support.
- Shopify allows you to add an unlimited amount of products no matter which of their plans you select. It’s also incredibly easy to add a new product to your store, which can even be done from a mobile device. Shopify also allows you to configure a huge amount of product options that both personalise your store, and help users navigate. This can integrate seamlessly into your existing systems, as you can add in SKU’s and barcode information, as well as inventory tracking if you’re selling a number of variations.
- Shopwired and Magento offer a similar amount of product information, however Magneto’s open source nature results in a less user-friendly approach to adding products, however the result is similar to the other platforms in terms of the information you can add.
Sales support - payment gateways, promotions etc
- Shopify has a huge amount of payment gateways (which far outweigh their competitors) including PayPal, SagePay, WorldPay and many more. Shopify also have their own payment system that integrates into your store and is incredibly easy to use, even offering their own Shopify POS system which allows you to integrate offline sales into your online platform. Shopify’s checkout process also allows for discount codes and promotions to be created.
- Shopwired currently don’t offer the same service as Shopify in terms of having their own payment system, however they do offer some external gateway options such as PayPal, Barclaycard and SagePay, although the documentation around these isn’t as substantial or helpful.
- Magento again feature the most mainstream payment gateways and also provide discount and promotional code integration, however development and configuration of this is again much more dependent on the technical capabilities of the business.
Apps and Add-Ons
- Shopify for us is the perfect platform for integrating additional features. Firstly, Shopify has its own app store full of third-party approved and self-developed apps, each of which can be added into your store easily.
- Shopwired offer a limited amount of apps and extensions, some of which are free to use and some that require monthly payments. The payments required for some plugins may seem insignificant, but it’s easy to rack up a large monthly extras bill for some features you’d expect to be included.However the real benefit of Shopify is the ability to create customisations within the system itself, that displays in your dashboard and can assist eCommerce platforms seamlessly link into your other business functions. For our client, World of Wool, we created a range of custom apps that solved issues many businesses face when expanding their eCommerce platform. The apps and customisations allowed: Extra Product Data, Faceted search, VAT validation for business customers, Blogging for enhanced exposure online, and a custom shipping system.
- Magento have a massive amount of plugins, however, these on the whole are more complex to implement and cost much more than the Shopify and Shopwired equivalents.
Digital Marketing Integration
The value in this lies in the research that companies do beforehand, creating a digital marketing plan that not only enhances their appearance on search engines by optimising their pages to appear for commonly search for keywords, but also what other channels companies can use to sell their products, such as email marketing and social media. By having a documented plan that identifies and targets a particular audience, businesses can increase sales much quicker.
- Shopify again proves the worth of its extensive app development, with popular eCommerce and digital marketing integrations available as standard, such as Mailchimp and Google plugins. For businesses serious about their online presence, who are operating in competitive landscapes, Shopify’s customisation features again give it traction on the other platforms. By directly editing metadata and also having the ability to add structured data which can increase click-through rates on search engines like Google, Shopify websites do a great job of promoting your business. t of apps and extensions, some of which are free to use and some that require monthly payments. The payments required for some plugins may seem insignificant, but it’s easy to rack up a large monthly extras bill for some features you’d expect to be included.
- Shopwired and Magento feature built-in SEO options including metadata and more technical elements such as sitemaps and robots.txt files, social network integration for sharing products and services, plus apps that can result in additional features.
- Shopify has an integrated eCommerce reporting tool that allows you to see how many orders your site has gained as soon as you login. Once you click through to orders, you can segment your orders based on which ones are new, plus look in more detail at which ones have been paid for, and at which stage of the order process they’re currently at e.g. packing/shipped. Using the Shopify dashboard it’s incredibly easy to add in Google Analytics tracking codes, meaning you can analyse both your orders and visitor information.
- Shopwired offers advanced reports and visitor analytics, and a simplistic overview on their dashboard showing a selection of orders and values.
- Magento requires plugins and additional installations to run eCommerce analytics within the dashboard itself. You can add a range of analytics platforms, from Google Analytics to custom eCommerce dashboards, however again as these are made via custom developers, support is an issue.
World of Wool - the world's favourite place for crafters to buy wool, turned to Applied Digital to create a new eCommerce site capable of supporting their multi-million pound turnover. See the result here.
Alternatively, get in touch with our MD, Steve, for advice on how you can improve your online sales.