Setting up a business online is quite challenging when the sole source of income would be this particular online platform. A lot of factors need to be taken into consideration when setting up your online store as it doesn’t mean just the display of goods online. It means a lot more than displaying goods – you are here to sell your goods. And the online platform is your voice – you need to find a way to build a rapport with your customers online so that they are interested in your product and they make a purchase.
So when you set up the best e-commerce platform for your small business, there are a large number of factors, such as the demographics of the audience that you would be targeting, how do you want to display it to them, how easy would it be for them to reach your products, the kind of integrations you wish to implement and finally, the budget, need to be thought of. You should also be aware of the latest eCommerce trends.
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Let us discuss some of the most important points that must be kept in mind before choosing the best e-commerce platform for your online business:
First things first: what kind of product are you planning to sell through the e-commerce platform for your small business? To make it easy, we will divide the product into two categories: one is digital and the other is physical. Digital might be anything, including software services such as anti-virus software. Physical comprises many items that you would find useful in your day-to-day lives, such as clothes, shoes, home décor goods, etc. Now, based on the nature of goods that you plan to sell, you have to decide the e-commerce platform. Certain platforms sell only physical goods. While there are also some e-commerce platforms that would sell digital products, you will have to choose according to the product you plan to sell. There are also some platforms that cater to both the types but these are very few in number and might be a little expensive when compared with the others.
You will have to see the quantity of the product that you would be selling. There are some platforms which have only a limited number of products allowed. You also need to check that do they have a method to track the inventory. What is the method by which you ship your products – do you reflect that also on your website? You must clearly read the terms and conditions of the services that will be offered by the e-commerce platform that you will be choosing. Keep in mind that there are some products like adult products, sexual well-being, and alcohol that are not allowed to be sold on some e-commerce platforms. You must check that the product that you are going to sell is not under this category.
Next important factor that you need to decide is the fact is that if you want to host your store on your own website or do you want the e-commerce platform to host the store website. Well, this is a major decision, and both have their pros and cons. The advantage of hosting a store on your website means that you have the full rights for it. You can keep making the changes that you need to from time and also you can keep monitoring the working of the store. However, the disadvantage is that you will have to maintain the website on your own this would be a very time-consuming task. Maintaining a website mean regularly updating and to make the required changes. On the other hand, you have the advantage of sharing your time and workload if you give the hosting the store job to the e-commerce platform. They will be responsible for keeping the website up to date as per your requirements.
The next step is the designing of the online store. A lot of small start-ups go in for pre-designed themes and templates that have been created by the e-Commerce platform. There are a lot of e-commerce platforms that come for free. There are some that have packages, however, they provide good services in return, and they might also help you in creating an e-commerce store for yourself.
You will need to check the sync with your payment method and the payment gateway the e-commerce platform will give to you as a part of their services. There are many ways to make payments like PayPal, bank gateways that use internet banking, debit cards, and credit cards. Keep in mind the payment gateway has to be safe and secure. This is an important criterion for customers who make purchases online.
It is always important to check with the services that the e-commerce platform has to offer to you. While free platforms are good, it is always good to take paid services. The paid services will give exclusive services that free service will not give you. It may cost you a little but this one time cost is worth the income that it is going to get for you. Even for the packages that the e-commerce platforms have to offer may vary from different platform service providers. It is not about cheaper and expensive. Please see the services that they have to offer to you. Keep in mind important aspects like designing or the number of products that they allow you to sell.
Check for the pricing carefully. While some may tell you the cost of their packages they may letter tell you about some additional costs that come along. You will have to inquire about any hidden costs which might crop up later. These can be costs like setting up cost or themes or some applications. This is especially applicable for those who are looking for a free e-commerce platform.
Last but not least you must always check the legalities involved. You must not get into a dicey situation at a later stage. It is important to understand all the legalities and both the parties must be in sync.
Try doing a background check on the e-commerce platform that you are going to choose for yourself. You must read customer reviews. This will help you give a general idea about the reputation of the e-commerce platform you plan to invest your time and money into.
A number of businesses are starting to find a new life online these days. E-commerce sites are increasing in number every other day. Thanks to people’s interests in shopping online – due to the new technology and smart devices that are available. So startups and middle-tier businesses mostly want to develop e-commerce websites at a cheaper rate rather than spending a lot of money. There are a number of free e-commerce platforms that are available, but often, there is a confusion on which one to choose for our needs.
We will give you a list of choices out of which you can choose the one for your needs.
Since many of the e-commerce platforms are available for free today, people are looking for ways for infusing in new strategies to attract and create a new prospect for sales. These online store systems, as you know, are free of cost and this attracts people to try new ideas and techniques.
But before you go ahead and make a choice among these e-commerce frameworks, there are a few things that you need to take into consideration.
We will take you through these:
If you lack resources, it is recommended that you choose an open source e-commerce framework as it is available for free.
One of the reasons is that open source e-commerce frameworks are available for free. You have a lot of power over the design aspects and other control functionalities. The solutions that follow open source frameworks are combined with features that are evolving with the new versions being launched. You always have control over aspects, such as the themes, hosting, and plugins, which will be the major part of your store.
But you will always have to think about the other side when choosing an open source framework. Some of these include:
Your developer or coder should be proficient with the open source platform that you have chosen. It would be your responsibility to find out or hunt for the server where you would be hosting if you are managing this part by yourself. You will yourself have to take care of functionalities that include security, maintenance, and speed optimization, etc. for your site.
The sad part is that unfortunately, no dedicated support is available – if you are expecting a support executive to turn up to your doorstep then definitely, open source is not your thing.
Now that you know what are the positives and drawbacks of an open source e-commerce platform and have decided to move further ahead with these, we will take you through some of the most interesting e-commerce platforms.
One of the popular WordPress plugins – Woocommerce – with this, you will have to install WordPress on your host and then install WooCommerce plugin on your site. The Woocommerce plugin transforms a WordPress site into an excellent online store along with features, such as coupons, inventory management, and product pages.
So, we have already seen that Woocommerce comes with a lot of functionalities within the themes, but there are others that might be critical to the functioning of a store. Woocommerce comes with moving parts – which includes hosting, WordPress and the Woocommerce plugin. It could be a tedious task to manage the hosting, caching and optimization for search engines if you are new to this. Though Woocommerce blends in well with all the themes from WordPress, it is not practical unless it applies only for Woocommerce.
X-Cart is one of the preferred choices of developers when they set out to create an online store. Research says that around 35,000 online stores have already been set up around the world and there will be more coming. Some of the reasons why this is preferred are that it is the self-hosted, free and mostly open source. Considered to be one of the fastest open source platforms available in the industry, you will find that it has numerous attractive characteristics that you always wanted. You can go with a free trial though there is a small one-time payment, charged at $495.
If you do not pay the extra fee, you will not have access to the customer support in case of an emergency. When you choose a paid plan, you will be required to pay for the hosting. The payment plan is $495, which is not a small amount if you are already tight on your budget. You have to be good at coding when setting up your store for the first time. Now, you know when you can choose X-cart and when you cannot be based on the features and the drawbacks listed here.
Someone said that people who love to be in the designing and development career without an academic backup for these can always work on Zen Cart because they know more, in fact, they are very much into it. Maybe, with little knowledge of coding, you can easily build an online empire using Zen Cart. As you are aware, Zen Cart is user-friendly, but not recommended if you are looking for advanced skills.
While these are the positives of Zen Cart, let us find out the drawbacks:
Zen Cart doesn’t provide dedicated support. With Zen Cart, it becomes tedious to upgrade your software. It might be that the templates from zen cart lacks luster, but could be upgraded with some essential features. You might not find a lot of extensions or add-ons with Zen Cart.
This is one of the most widely preferred and used open source platforms from e-commerce. A wide platform is opened up to you with this to reach out to your people. Marketing and other aspects, including discounts, membership plans, and recurring payments are made easier with this. With Magento Open Source, you have complete power over the design and similar functionality of your site. You have the liberty to choose from a variety of e-commerce platforms just like using WordPress.
Though this is available for free, you can always upgrade to a paid version if you are looking for more features. A number of extensions are available as part of Magento, so you never reach a state where there is short of options. Automated marketing is a possible feature as you can always send out notifications to your consumer base. Based on the target audiences’ location, you can always aim to develop multilingual sites, which they can view from their location. You can always customize the user interface as you wish.
Some of the drawbacks are that you will find it difficult to accommodate all the ideas and strategies well as there might be a lack of expertise. This would be a better call for bigger companies as they need some money investment when hiring resources to work on this.
Very easy to use and lightweight, OpenCart is one of the most recommended open source platforms. Also, you can always expect excellent support from a great community out there, which you can utilize as and when needed. It is easy to customize these websites from scratch so it is recommended for startups. Also, the overall cost required for setting up a store is always less when using the open cart.
If you have read across the other articles online, you would have come across ‘Shopify’ in the list – the reason why it has been listed within the top reasons in our article. A number of online businesses worldwide have been using Shopify for the amazing features that it offers. Some of these include ease of mobile shopping and social commerce, which are increasingly gaining popularity across the web. This Canadian-based company was formed in the year 2004. Since then, the journey has been a swift one, with a growing array of features being added up every year. With the growing prominence of social media, now you can collate Shopify with your Facebook account easily.
One of the downsides of using Shopify is the charge you would be liable to pay unless you switch over to Shopify payment system. Also, every time, you plan for an extension with new upgrades hitting the market, you have to invest in some extra money for these. And the coding language used by Shopify, i.e., Liquid, will require an additional cost when you customize it.
Shopify is a great choice when it comes to conventional e-commerce businesses by big business owners who want to launch their shop quickly. But it is expensive as the package comes at a rate $29 to $299 a month.
This is exclusively for SMBs and startups. Being a turnkey, it comprises a set of features that will help in building some interesting and awesome sites, such as eBay, Etsy, and even Amazon. This is best suited for building multi-vendor sites. Of course, there are various other platforms that support the creation of multi-vendor sites, but the support provided by this is awesome. Also, it offers a couple of features, including in-built analytics tools, discount coupon management features, and payment gateways.
The owner of the business is the sole proprietor of the source code for this website (with a license forever).
Like every other framework that has some downside, even YoKart has a couple of downsides such as it requires a developer who has a wide knowledge of PHP if you want to customize the site. Unlike Magento, this is not open source. If you choose the GoQuick or Startup packages, you will get default themes. Since its focus revolves around SMB, it comes with all the necessary features in standard packages. But for large-scale enterprises, customization is required.
The hosted solution is offered at $250 with a one-year license as well. Later you can upgrade it to the higher versions, including GoQuick, GoCustom Lite and Go Custom.
Today, BigCommerce has already powered around 50,000 and more online stores. Also, it is highly popular for being one of the most modern e-commerce software solution providers. A number of giant heads have their sites built on this. In fact, Big Commerce helps businesses of all sizes to get their site up with no hassles. The list of in-built features is so vast that a store owner with minimal or no basic technical knowledge can work with it.
Though small and large businesses can use this for powering their websites, but when it comes to multi-vendor sites such as Amazon might find it quite tricky to work with this. This is mainly because of the fact that it lacks the support functionalities that the other e-commerce platforms are capable of offering. Also, it might not provide a large number of free themes like the others as it comes with just 7 free themes. The others offer a minimum of 20 free themes. But with this, you can enjoy multiple premium themes as well as customization options that will provide your store with a uniqueness.
So, anyone who wants to provide their store with a complete package of features, leaving aside all the hassles of coding, plugin integration, and other technical complexities, this is the best option.
The merchandise value of VTEX was found to be around 1.8 billion around 2 years back. Some of the users of VTEX comprise a list of giants and leading names such as Whirlpool, L’oreal, Staples, Sony, Walmart, Coca-Cola, and others. This cloud-based Brazilian e-commerce platform has come a long way since its launch.
The password free checkout is one of the interesting features that set it aside from the other e-commerce platforms that are available. It has helped in boosting the organic traffic by 30%. Since it is based on the SaaS model, it means the owner will never be able to exercise control over the e-commerce store or the source code.
It might be expensive for small and middle-tier businesses, as it requires a huge maintenance fee. But it could be the best choice for those who are targeting huge turnovers every month.
Custom design is one of the requirements when working with e-commerce stores and TicTail provides you with exactly that. The ease of usability and community support are some of the additional and interesting factors that TicTail offers.
It doesn’t offer payment processors, which is, in fact, a drawback when compared with the options offered by the other e-commerce platforms. But whenever a sale occurs on this platform, you do not have to pay an additional charge for the same.
If you want an excellent platform, which you would be launching locally with plans to go global later – then, this is the best choice. Though we would not recommend it for a large enterprise.
Wix was launched in the year 2006. It was built with the intent of providing small business owners with a number of site building tools and services. If you have ever tried Wix, you would have understood how flexible it is in helping a store owner meet their online store requirements being a one-stop-shop e-commerce platform for small businesses.
The best part of Wix is the presentation or how it allows you to showcase your elements. Wix provides retailers with a large number of template options, payment options along with the most important aspect – SEO.
Wix offers E-commerce plans, starting at US$12.50 applicable every month. This plan is accompanied by in-built SEO tools, free hosting along with a series of mobile apps. Wix is widely used today for the large number of groundbreaking options that it offers.
One of the most popular website and e-commerce platforms for small businesses is Weebly. It is widely used by people across the globe – it has already powered more than 35 million sites – it is omnipresent. It has already won a large number of awards and has been featured in a variety of publications. The platform is preferred for being fast, powerful and easy.
You can control everything from a single drag-and-drop interface panel. It also makes adding products simple, fast and robust.
You have more than 100 professionally designed themes for building and setting up your E-commerce site. Also, all these themes make it easier to edit and customize the appearance of your site based on your requirements. If you love coding, you have the essence of HTML and CSS to make coding easier. If you do not prefer coding, you still can use the simple drag-and-drop control, which comes with an immense amount of versatility and adaptability.
This gives you the power to create your own theme or template. It is possible to build, add forms, videos, audios and even images with your mouse. While you are building your site with Weebly, you can enjoy free hosting services as well. This is often referred to as cloud hosting – i.e., your site can be hosted and served across the entire organization. There is no point of site being spiked by a huge traffic flow as it powers millions of websites along with a huge number of servers.
Since more number of people are using their phones for web access, it offers a mobile-friendly version of your site. This makes it easier for customers to reach your site and order products from your store using their phones. Integrating your site with your payment method is easy when using Weebly. It is your choice whether you want PayPal or Google Checkout. All you have to do is add your products, choose your prices and there you go – you are all ready to go live. It also provides shipping management with Weebly App and Facebook Messenger integration.
Now we come to the last, but not the least, eCommerce patforms in our list
CS-Cart Multi-Vendor is a professional on-premise marketplace platform. The company offers three different editions of Multi-Vendor: the standard is the best for small and medium-sized marketplaces and Plus and Ultimate are for big global online malls. A cool thing about the Ultimate edition is that you can open multiple independent storefronts and manage them through one backend panel.
According to the user testimonials on Capterra and SourceForge, the main advantages of CS-Cart Multi-Vendor are its feature-richness, ease of use, and absolute customizability thanks to open source code. The platform ships with over 500 eCommerce features and integrates with over 70 payment and shipping services by default.
What kind of a business platform are you planning to develop? Do you have any ideas? Or would you like to discuss these platforms further? Then, let us know. We will help you out with your concerns and queries.
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