E-commerce platforms – By the year 2023, it’s estimated that e-commerce purchases will rise from 14.1% to 22%. With that in mind, it’s never been more important that your business chooses the right e-commerce platform, as this will be key to your future success.
Thankfully, there are a huge variety of e-commerce platforms to choose from, which means you’ll be able to find the perfect package no matter the size of your business or the sector you operate in. To help you choose the right one for your business, we’ve put together a list of some of the best options available, along with an overview of the main features and benefits of each platform.
E-commerce platforms: Shopify
- Shopify is the third-largest online retailer in the US after Amazon and eBay
- More than 1 million merchants use Shopify in 175 different countries
- 87% of merchants use the Shopify App Store
- Revenues of $2,929.5 million in 2020, an 86% increase over 2019
- Shopify has paid over $850,000 to more than 300 ethical hackers to help it resolve security issues
Shopify is one of the most popular e-commerce platforms thanks to its ease of use, customisation options, and flexible payment options. The service also boasts more than 4,200 apps, a great range of SEO and marketing tools, and integrates seamlessly with other e-commerce platforms and social media.
Shopify sales features
One of Shopify’s key strengths is its sales features. Chief among these is abandoned cart recovery, which will prompt your customers to resume shopping. This has never been more important, as research shows that as of March 2020, 88.05% of online shopping orders were abandoned.
Shopify can also be configured to auto-calculate shipping rates, and for businesses who are out on the road, the platform offers a handy POS card reader.
The platform also allows you to create customer profiles so you can send targeted communications based on customer behaviours and preferences – a tactic that has been proven to increase conversion rates and foster customer loyalty.
Shopify design and customer journey
Shopify’s design experience is another of its key selling points, particularly for those with limited technical skills. The platform allows businesses to create websites without the need for a web developer, and for those who have coding skills, you can customise to your heart’s content.
The platform offers more than 1,200 themes and templates, all of which are professionally designed, customisable and – importantly – mobile responsive. Research shows that mobile commerce will outpace non-mobile commerce in 2021.
Shopify inventory management
No matter what price plan you opt for on Shopify, it comes with unlimited inventory, making it great for both small and large businesses. The platform can simplify inventory management too, enabling products to be sorted by category, season, sale, price, vendor, inventory level and more. Apps will help further by allowing your business to automate reminders and forecast demand.
Shopify payment options
Shopify offers its own payment gateway, Shopify Payments, though this isn’t available worldwide. Unfortunately, Shopify is the only platform to enforce its own transaction fees, but if you’re eligible for Shopify Payments you can avoid paying these.
Besides all the usual third party payment providers, you can also configure your site to accept payment options including Apple Pay, Amazon Pay and cryptocurrencies.
When it comes to security, Shopify has it covered. It handles protection against cyber threats, runs updates, and meets all compliance requirements. This high-level security is included in all Shopify plans, including SSL security and it’s Level 1 PCI DSS compliant.
Shopify marketing and SEO
Shopify is designed to make marketing simple, and you don’t need to be an expert to get the most out of it. The platform enables you to create and manage email and social media campaigns, get useful insights into what’s working and how to make improvements and even automate a range of tasks including post scheduling and prioritising products you want to promote.
The platform will help take care of your businesses SEO requirements too, including header code, alt text for images and customised URLs. Useful prompts also appear when adding products to help you optimise your listings.
Shopify audience insights/analytics
Shopify’s analytics offer a high-level view of your sales performance. The dashboard is easy to interpret with clear metrics to help you keep an eye on conversion rates, activity on different channels, and the location of your customers. You can compare results between different time periods and monitor trends over time. You can also keep track of your customer engagement including returning customer rate to help you inform your customer retention strategies.
Currently, Shopify’s analytics don’t include blog insights. This means you will need to link with your Google Analytics for this data and a more in-depth view in general.
Shopify multi-channel integration
If you’re already selling on other channels and looking to have your own e-store, or you’re thinking of creating a multi-channel strategy, Shopify offers a seamless shopping experience with other channels enabling you to easily expand into Facebook, Instagram, Amazon, and eBay. Each of these platforms requires a specific app, but many of these are free and easy to use.
Shopify order processing and shipping
With Shopify, orders can be completed either on a manual or automatic basis. You can configure your site to automate common tax calculations using default sales tax rates.
Another useful feature is syncing POS between the app and online store, a feature available to customers who are on the Basic plan and above. Qualifying businesses can also get a free credit card reader which is handy for those who sell at events.
Shopify has an excellent shipping information centre to help businesses set up shipping processes, optimise rates and manage labels and tracking. The platform has partnerships with USPS, DHL Express, UPS, and Canada Post, with more shipping options available via paid apps.
Shopify’s simplicity makes it one of the greatest e-commerce platforms for online merchants who are just starting out. The dashboard is easy to navigate, it’s super customisable and you don’t need any technical skills. Everything you need to get going is ready out-of-the-box. Even the basic price plan is enough to cater to the needs of most fledgeling businesses.
Shopify is a hosted solution, which means it’s good for businesses who expect high levels of traffic. You don’t need to worry about not having enough bandwidth – all you need is an internet connection and a web browser.
- Easy to use
- Good value for money
- Free hosting
- Good for dropshipping
- Good range of free templates
- Good range of apps
- Transaction fees for third-party gateways
- Limit of three options per product (though you can still create up to 100 variants)
- No integration with MailChimp
- Some areas of CMS such as custom fields can be tricky to manage
E-commerce platforms: Magento
- Magento powers 0.7% of the internet, accounting for 12% of the e-commerce market
- In 2020, Magento’s revenue increased by 4% to $826 million
- More than 270,000 merchants and 400,000+ community members
- There are over 200,000 Magento developers around the world
- Magento handles more than $100 billion in gross merchandise every year.
- Magento has held the top spot on the Internet Retailer 1000 list for four years in a row.
Magento is well known in the e-commerce platforms industry. It was acquired by Adobe for $1.6 billion in 2018, and is a powerful open-source e-commerce platform that’s known for its flexibility and functionality. It’s free to use, though businesses will need to factor in additional costs, such as hosting, programming support and maintenance. There is also some technical input required, which means it can take time to get up and running.
For merchants seeking greater functionality, paid versions are available.
Magento sales features
One of Magento’s key strengths is the way it enables businesses to tailor the shopping experience. Merchants can display promotions and listings based on a variety of information, such as purchase history, location, wish list, customers with abandoned carts and more. You can automate rules to up-sell or cross-sell to particular customers.
The platform offers a range of product listing, bundling and grouping options that make catalogue management easy, a useful Elasticsearch facility that provides suggestions for misspellings so customers can always find the right products, and the ability for merchants to display two or more products side-by-side for comparison.
Magento inventory management
Magento’s user-friendly admin panel helps merchants manage billings, inventory and customer data. You can assign products to multiple sources and track inventory by location, while batch import/export and tax rates are defined by location. Another neat addition is the ability to customise messages alerting shoppers of low stock levels, which means that you’ll receive a notification when stock needs replenishing.
Magento order processing and shipping
The Magento interface makes it easy to manage order processing: there’s a one-page checkout facility, SSL support and the option to checkout without registering for an account, while merchants can easily create multiple shipment invoices and credit memos.
Magento offers a variety of shipping options. Shipping to multiple addresses can be managed in one order, and the platform provides real-time rates from a number of shipping firms including UPS, FedEx, USPS and DHL. Merchants can set flat fee rates per order or item and table rates via a variety of options including weight, destination and price.
Magento payment options
If you build your store using Magento, customers are given a wide range of payment options – they can checkout using a credit card, PayPal, Authorize.net and Google Checkout, and can also use payment modules such as Cybersource, ePay, and eWAY. An instant purchase checkout option can also be set up for repeat customers.
Magento is highly secure and is Level 1 PCI-DSS compliant, which is critical for businesses that rely on their hosting provider for robust security. Magento offers a free security scan tool that allows merchants to update malware patches and detect unauthorised access.
Magento design and customer journey
Magento offers a wide range of free and paid-for templates, and while these are completely customisable from both the front and back-end, they may need more technical knowledge to adapt. If you’re a dab-hand, you can also create variations of your store for different countries, brands and campaigns.
Magento’s swift checkout facility is part of a well-curated customer journey. This also includes excellent categorisation, well-designed templates and good SEO, and drag-and-drop functionality for easily creating and managing content.
The platform’s power is impressive, supporting up to 500,000 products and 80,000 orders an hour. It supports HTML5 and offers easy image size adjustments and video.
Magento marketing and SEO
Magento offers a variety of discounts and other promotional tools, and merchants can set up price rules – such as by time or customer value – to trigger promotions based on specific requirements. Businesses can also create, customise and automate communications including newsletters and promotions, and integration with Amazon Seller Central and Google Ads is supported.
With SEO-friendly URLs, Google sitemap integration, tags and meta descriptions, Magento is great for SEO newbies. The platform also gives you complete control over navigation links and customising page titles – the latter of which helps manage how products appear in search engines.
Magento is a flexible platform that offers users a lot of freedom, but it better suits merchants with technical skills or those who are willing to work with a programmer or designer. For some, the CMS may be difficult to navigate and new users might find it a steep learning curve, although Magento has an active community of developers and programmers who are on hand to help with issues.
- Free, open-source solution
- Wide range of features
- Good community support
- Extensions and other costs can make it expensive
- Can be a steep learning curve
- As it is open-source, getting support can be a challenge
E-commerce platforms: Wix
- Wix is the biggest player in the website building market and hosts 160 million websites
- Wix powers over 600,000 e-commerce stores
- Over 44,000 apps are downloaded daily from the Wix App Market
- For the fiscal year 2019, Wix reported revenues of $761.1 million – an increase of 26%
- Reached 200 million users globally in 2021 after adding more than 31 million users in 2020.
Wix is a website builder with good functionality for e-commerce businesses. It offers a lot of creative control, and the feature-rich platform offers a wide range of tools to help you create a beautifully designed store. One of its main key advantages is that it offers free and reliable web hosting.
Wix has a good free plan and a range of paid premium plans to suit all budgets. Some of Wix’s top premium features only cost a little extra and can make a significant difference to your site. There’s also a high-end plan called Wix Enterprise.
Wix design and customer journey
One of Wix’s strengths is its great design templates. The platform has more than 800 designs available, all of which are professionally designed and fully customisable.
It also offers loads of visual tools to bring your site and products to life; you can add video or animation effects to an element in a heading, menu or photo, there are also zoom, fade-out, spin, parallax and reveal effects. There are more than 100 fonts to choose from or you can upload your own.
It’s important to remember that you can’t switch templates after your website goes live, so make sure you choose the right one for your store, both short and long-term.
Wix sales features
Wix has an impressive selection of sales features straight out of the box. There are no rules about product types, which means both physical and digital products are supported, along with appointment bookings.
Merchants can add up to 15 product images per item, and a variety of languages are available without the need for configuration. Wix also offers abandoned cart recovery, subscription forms and video integration.
Wix inventory/product management
Wix lets you sell an unlimited amount of products and you can create and distribute a variety of discount and promotional codes. The platform also facilitates the mass import of products via CSV files, saving you both time and hassle.
Other apps are available that enable you to equip your store with guest checkout functionality, inventory tracking, social commerce and more.
Wix order processing and shipping
With Wix, everything you need for processing orders is available in one easy-to-use interface. This enables you to configure your site to automate invoices, add notes to orders and to update multiple orders simultaneously.
Wix allows you to set shipping and tax rules from the dashboard, including rates by weight, price, product. You can also apply flat rates and free shipping, easily print out labels and calculate real-time shipping. Merchants can also track shipping using a barcode scanner.
Wix payment options
Wix supports a variety of different payment options, including PayPal, Stripe and WorldPay. Unfortunately, though, these aren’t yet available in every country.
All Wix websites come with built-in SSL security certificates and the site is Level 1 PCI DSS compliant. The checkout process is secure via HTTPS / TLS encryption.
Wix marketing and SEO
Unlike other platforms on this list, Wix doesn’t come with a wide range of built-in marketing tools. However, it does offer a range of marketing packages called Ascend, which include SEO and social media tools, lead capture forms and more. Wix also offers a good package for creating emails.
Wix does offer a good range of built-in SEO tools, however, including default meta tags, customised URLs, sitemaps and canonical URLs. Wix offers a personalised SEO starter pack to help pick keywords and get you found online.
There’s a host of SEO apps available from Wix’s app market if you need extra functionality such as keyword support.
Wix multi-channel integration
Wix doesn’t currently support multi-channel selling. There’s a choice of third-party apps such as Ecwid which offer additional functionality.
Wix is one of the easiest to use e-commerce platforms on this list; it offers an endlessly useful drag-and-drop editor and a handy preview function, making it ideal for merchants who want to create a striking storefront but don’t have specific design skills. The platform is also scalable which means it’s suitable for anything from small portfolios to small-to-medium stores. Larger stores that need to manage bulk orders may be better suited to platforms like Shopify.
If you rely on Google Analytics, take note: Wix only connects with third party analytics if you have a connected domain.
- Intuitive drag-and-drop interface
- Good selection of design templates
- Variety of useful features
- Good marketing functionality
- Limited reporting and analytics
- Your site is not transferable if you decide to leave
- Content cannot be transferred between templates
E-commerce platforms: WooCommerce
- There are more than 4.4 million active stores currently using WooCommerce – more than 7% of all websites
- 93.7% of all WordPress e-commerce websites use the WooCommerce plugin
- 22% of the top 1 million e-commerce sites use WooCommerce
- There are 980 plugins for WooCommerce on WordPress.org alone
- Customer support offered across 58 countries
WooCommerce and WordPress are both free and open-source, but as with Magento, additional costs are involved. These include hosting, domain fees and paid apps. With a wide variety of free apps available, you should be able to control costs if needs be.
If you don’t want to pay development costs, choose a theme by a coder with WooCommerce experience. This will help ensure that it is compatible with the latest version of WordPress.
WooCommerce sales features
In addition to physical products, merchants using WooCommerce can sell digital downloads, subscriptions and appointments. There are no limits on product listings or images, and the platform is flexible with unlimited customisation.
WooCommerce offers excellent categorisation options help to customers find what they need and you can show related products to encourage cross-sell and up-sell. The WooCommerce widget, for example, enables merchants to showcase items, including those in the sale or recently viewed. To establish trust, vendors can show reviews and ratings on product pages.
WooCommerce also offers the ability to link to affiliate products on other sites, but unfortunately, it does not currently offer abandoned cart recovery.
WooCommerce inventory/product management
WooCommerce has good inventory management out-of-the-box. Merchants can track stock levels and get notifications for low and out-of-stock items, keep stock after an order cancellation, and hide out-of-stock items. If you have extra requirements there are a number of free and paid apps.
WooCommerce payment options
WooCommerce accepts payments via Stripe and PayPal, and merchants can also take credit card payment, Direct Bank Transfer or Cash on Delivery.
The platform is regularly audited by Sucuri, an industry leader. Don’t forget that your store’s security is also reliant on your hosting provider.
WooCommerce order processing and shipping
Order processing is simple and straightforward, with WooCommerce offering all of the functionality you would expect; merchants can enable a guest checkout option, the platform offers a shipping calculator on the shopping cart page, and you can restrict options available based on a customers’ location.
It’s worth noting that order IDs in WooCommerce are non-sequential due to the fact it uses the default WordPress ID approach. If you want to use sequential order numbers, use the Sequential Order Numbers Pro plugin.
WooCommerce design and customer journey
WooCommerce offers a wide range of design themes, both free and paid. Every business type and style is taken care of, and all themes have an intuitive user interface to help you display and manage your products to their best advantage.
The templates are customisable but it’s important to be careful when choosing this path, particularly if you have limited programming experience. When you update the theme, all modifications will be overwritten.
WooCommerce marketing and SEO
WooCommerce enables merchants to configure the platform in order to send notifications to customers at critical stages – for example, a thank you or cross-sell offer after sale. Vouchers for discounts and free shipping offers can be triggered, and you can also get plugins to improve search functionality, enhance analytics and much more.
WooCommerce runs on WordPress, which is widely recognised as one of the best platforms for SEO. However, unlike Shopify, the platform doesn’t have SEO functionality built-in, and instead you get built-in code that is optimised for SEO.
With a bit of work and a well-chosen app, this needn’t be a problem. Make sure your URLs and page titles reflect what you’re selling and how your customers search for them. Keep your site navigation simple. You can also improve your SEO game by adding alt text to images, keeping your product descriptions short and catchy, and ensuring content isn’t duplicated.
WooCommerce is great for vendors who want to sell through an established WordPress site, or for those who want to build one from scratch. The platform is scalable, great for SEO, and endlessly customisable, and because it’s built on WordPress, the user experience is excellent.
For merchants who want to get up and running quickly, WooCommerce is a great choice, though some technical skills may be required for sites that need specific functionality. However, hosting is not included with WooCommerce, so if you’re expecting high volumes of traffic, choose an option that can keep up with your bandwidth usage.
- Excellent range of design templates
- Large, helpful community
- Free core software
- Flexible and customisable
- Good SEO
- CMS and setup can be a challenge for users with limited technical skills
- No centralised support
- Additional costs for web hosting and security
E-commerce platforms: PrestaShop
- 76 languages available
- 108,000 stores worldwide
- 1 million community members
- 108K paid sales modules
- €2.5m sales via PrestaShop Checkout
PrestaShop is an open-source, self-hosted e-commerce platform that is known for being reliable and highly configurable, though this may require some technical skill. You can download it for free and change it to suit your needs
PrestaShop sales features
One is PrestaShop’s key features is its multi-store option, which allows merchants to connect several stores with different domain names and manage them through a single admin panel. The platform supports both digital and physical products, and a handy combinations generator enables the creation of product lists with a number of variants.
Automated abandoned cart emails prompt customers to return to your store. You can also automate emails to follow up a transaction, which creates opportunities for up/cross-sell or encourage newsletter signups.
PrestaShop translates into over 25 languages, which makes it a great option for businesses with a global reach.
PrestaShop multi-channel integration
PrestaShop’s Store Manager app integrates eBay and Amazon with your store, and there are a number of other social and e-commerce platforms available. Some incur a charge, though there is currently a 14-day free trial available.
PrestaShop inventory/product management
PrestaShop’s inventory management is straightforward and intuitive: vendors can manage complex inventory with one click, can import and export quickly, set minimum sale quantities and add a customised message when items are out of stock.
To keep your store running at the latest version, PrestaShop has a one-click button.
PrestaShop payment options
PrestaShop vendors must set each payment gateway up individually. This is fairly easy to do but be costly, although some of the main suppliers such as PayPal, Klarna, Stripe and Amazon are free. The platform also detects customer location and can configure taxes and exchange rates accordingly.
PrestaShop is PCI Compliance ready. However, this does not mean that it is PCI-compliant. Vendors will need to buy an SSL certificate and check in regularly on security patches.
PrestaShop design and customer journey
PrestaShop offers over 1,000 modules and themes, some of which are free and others that are made available as one-time purchases. As modules are created by different developers, vendors need to make sure they are all compatible.
The platform publishes a directory of PrestaShop experts which can help vendors optimise and improve their stores.
PrestaShop marketing and SEO
PrestaShop offers a number of key marketing tools are available as free add-ons, including MailChimp, email marketing, live chat and tools to optimise conversions. A wide variety of paid apps are available for greater functionality.
PrestaShop offers a good range of SEO modules, although most will cost you. Vendors with modest budgets can prioritise lower cost apps for adding schema, alt text and tags.
PrestaShop order processing and shipping
PrestaShop offers a handy one-page checkout out-of-the-box, and it also features several other checkout and shopping cart tools to help ensure compliance with specific country laws.
The platform has a small number of free shipping add-ons and a wide range of paid options. Using these, vendors can select a single shipping platform or install the plugins of each carrier. You can then set parameters for each carrier, including shipping costs, ranges, sizes, free shipping and more.
PrestaShop suits companies who need a budget-friendly option, as it comes with most key e-commerce features out-of-the-box which means most of the functionality you need is available without extra plugins or add-ons. Merchants who want a lot of customisation will need to be familiar with CSS, PHP, and HTML. Or, of course, you can hire a developer.
- Highly customisable
- Good security
- Good marketing tools
- Managing some elements of CMS can be a challenge
- Can be difficult to scale-up
- No centralised support
Which of the e-commerce platforms is best for you?
Shopify: One of the most easy to use, professional-looking e-commerce platforms with everything you need to get going with little technical expertise. The platform suits a wide variety of businesses, with free hosting included, it’s a great choice for merchants with high volumes of traffic.
Magento: A popular, open-source platform that’s highly customisable and boasts a variety of features, though users with limited technical skills may struggle. The platform offers great SEO through WordPress, built-in upsell and cross-sell functionality and impressive third-party integration.
PrestaShop: Flexible, low cost and highly customisable, PrestaShop is a good solution, for those who want easy-to-use e-commerce platforms. It has a range of great marketing tools, although customisation and some aspects of the CMS require technical skill.
Wix: The platform’s drag-and-drop interface and a variety of great features make it a good choice for merchants with limited technical or design skills. It has a range of marketing tools but lacks reporting tools out-of-the-box. The site is not transferable so customers need to be sure of their choice before purchase.
WooCommerce: This option is perfect if you already have an existing website – particularly if it’s ranking well – that you want to turn into an online business and sell products on. WooCommerce is also scalable, built through WordPress so technical skills are not necessary, and can be great for SEO.
Things to consider when deciding between e-commerce platforms
We hope this guide to the best e-commerce platforms has helped you decide on the right provider for your business, no matter its size or the sector you operate in. However, before you make your final decision, we’ve rounded up a few key points you need to consider.
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Choose one of the e-commerce platforms that will grow with you
Make sure you consider how your business might grow over time before you sign up. This can be challenging when you’re first starting out, so it might be best to opt for a platform that offers good flexibility and scalability. If budgets aren’t set in stone and you want to avoid unexpected costs, it might be best to choose a provider that is ready to go, out-of-the-box.
Choose your apps and extensions wisely
If you need to control costs, be selective with the apps you get and be sure to keep in mind the extra fees for third-party gateways.
Every plugin requires adding more code, which in turn adds an extra layer of complexity to your site that can impact your site speed and performance. Obviously, you want to make sure that your site offers the best user experience possible, but it’s important to be judicious in the plugins you choose.
Make security a priority
Making sure your e-commerce site has a good level of security is vital to your businesses’ ongoing success – your customers need to be able to trust you with not only their hard-earned cash but also their personal data. It’s important to remember that while most platforms offer out-of-the-box security protection, standards and compliance requisites can change over time and it’s your responsibility to keep on top of this.
Think about SEO
SEO, or Search Engine Optimisation, refers to the tactics, tools and activities businesses use to increase high-quality, organic (or non-paid) traffic to their websites. Without a good SEO strategy you may miss out on clicks and sales.
Most e-commerce platforms provide at least a basic level of SEO, but you should consider things such as customisable URLs, metatags, and sitemaps to ensure your site ranks well in search engines.
Consider customer support
Customer support differs greatly from platform to platform. With open-source platforms such as Magento and WooCommerce, support provision is complex because every site has a different set up and unique functionalities. However, the good thing about open-source is the large and highly-engaged community that’s available for query resolution and advice.
It’s a good idea to consider your support requirements, your budget and your technical abilities before you build your site. There’s little point in creating a complex site on a platform where support is limited and you can’t troubleshoot issues yourself. Every moment your site is inactive is a customer lost.