How do I choose the right eCommerce platform for my business?

All eCommerce platforms offer various features that will help enhance your business’s digital presence and brand exposure. Choosing which eCommerce platform best suits your business, goals and strategy however requires further consideration.

Which is the best eCommerce platform?

There are many eCommerce platforms available today! Choosing the best eCommerce platform for your business is an important decision. We recommend that you do not make this decision alone and engage a digital marketing agency to help guide you to make the appropriate choice for your business. All eCommerce platforms offer various features that will help enhance your business’s digital presence and brand exposure. However, which eCommerce platform best suits your business, goals and strategy? A large number of clients or organisations believe that the overall budget is the guiding factor in deciding which is the right platform for their business.  Our experience is that budget is a factory but definitely not the guiding factor in deterring the optimal client solution. Choosing the best eCommerce platform for you will depend on your business requirements including features, capabilities, integrations, business goals & objectives as well as the level of ongoing support required. All of these factors need to be assessed before you make your choice.

Let’s take an example. You run a suburban business and are considering optimising your digital presence with an eCommerce site so that you can make your products available to the wider community. The site will always provide access to your entire catalogue of products throughout the day and will integrate with your existing website. Customers can purchase what they want, when they want and have the products delivered to them without having to leave their home or business. To enable this investment to deliver a positive return, you will need to use an eCommerce platform that suits your budget, is easy to customise, has plenty of SEO features and can feature all your products without involving too much ongoing maintenance or development.

How do you decide which solution out of the multiple that exist our there is the right alternative for your business? The purpose of this article is to describe the similarities and differences between them and help make the decision a strategic and measured approach.  Taking the example we mentioned earlier, there are some eCommerce platforms with many more customisable themes than others. You might find a theme that closely resembles your business. Also, given the business is located in the suburbs and might not be well known to the broader community, your chosen eCommerce platform will need to accommodate SEO capabilities so that your digital marketing expert can elevate your exposure to maximise your conversion rate.

Before we start reviewing each platform, we would suggest doing one thing to ensure you choose the right platform for your business.

 

Start with a list of requirements!

What do we mean a list of requirements? We mean what are the non negotiables that you need this eCommerce platform to solve. Here’s a list of the most common one’s that we come across;

  • Does it need to integrate with our accounting suite such as MYOB, QuickBooks or Xero?
  • Do we need to integrate with Australia Post or a freight for shipping?
  • Does it need to work with our CRM?
  • Which payment gateways are we going to use?
  • How many products do I have?
  • Are we integrating with a warehousing provider?
  • Will I need ongoing development support?
  • Am I migrating an existing solution or starting from scratch?
  • Am I allowing drop shipping or selling 3rd party products?
  • What is the budget I have allocated for the project?

That is no where near a full list as it will depend on your business needs & objectives. Our suggestion is to start with writing up that list and then start reviewing the below information.

There are many considerations that you will need to make when choosing which eCommerce platform is right for your business.

Let’s discuss the most popular eCommerce platforms (in no particular order!);

  • Magento 2: Developed by Magento, Inc. and now owned by Adobe Inc, this eCommerce platform offers great potential for your business. The platform requires advanced coding skills to establish and maintain. With the ability to input code in accordance with your preferences, this solution offers endless possibilities for customisation. Magento 2 allows expert levels of personalisation and can tailor your eCommerce website to better suit your business. The platform offers superior SEO potential to the competition in our experience and can accelerate the growth of your business. This will allow you to further expand your eCommerce arm into the future as your business reaches new heights.
  • WooCommerce: As a plugin to WordPress, WooCommerce provides an easy-to-use eCommerce platform to integrate with your WordPress website. The plugin is open source and free to install with a WordPress subscription. Although it is free, users will need to pay for web hosting, security and other digital data requirements. The platform does require coding experience, but when built correctly the result will be a high quality and customised eCommerce website. There is a large bank of available plugins that can lower development costs for more complex problems e.g. creating a loyalty program for your eCommerce website.
  • Shopify: Known to many, Shopify offers an easy set-up experience that is highly regarded in the start-up scene. With a relatively low monthly spend, one of the key benefits of Shopify is that you do not need coding skills. To customise your eCommerce site, you can use the simple and straightforward functionality to design a site that can be tailored to suit your business and its branding preferences. The platform is hosted on Shopify’s servers, so you do not need to acquire separate web hosting services or require on-premises space for your data.
  • Shopify Plus: Shopify Plus is the enterprise level version of the Shopify platform. While Shopify is built for small and medium sized organisations, the Shopify Plus version is suitable for larger businesses with multiple divisions and service lines. Both operate in a similar manner, but Shopify plus can process a larger volume of transactions and integrates more readily with 3rd party applications. This means that your eCommerce platform is in a position to process larger volumes and scale without changing the front-end design.
  • Neto: An Australian solution, Neto offers the ability to build, optimise and grow your wholesale or multi-channel eCommerce business with a simple and end-to-end platform. The main difference with Neto is that a business can manage all their retail and POS requirements with a single all-in-one tool. Neto can integrate with other packages and applications, although this does come at an extra cost. A benefit for the Australian marketing is the integration with Australia Post’s eParcel system. This is a great way to leverage Australia’s largest delivery network.

At Sharp Instincts, we are here to help find the best eCommerce platform for your needs. Now that you have a better understanding of the different types of eCommerce platforms that are available (and, of course, there are many more solutions available in addition to those we have listed above), it is important to understand what features to look for in addition to the costs. We will summarise the features of the major eCommerce platforms and their key characteristics. Remember, the suitability of an eCommerce platform will depend on your individual requirements and the needs of your organisation.  The summary and ratings provided at the top of this article rates each eCommerce platform against the features listed below. This is only our professional opinion and is by no means a reflection of the solution that each provider has developed in the market. They are all great solutions!

 

Product size

    • Each eCommerce platform has a different set of features and capabilities. Some require coding skills while others require a rudimentary understanding of technology. While we recommend you engage a professional to set up and maintain your eCommerce site (whether in-house or third party), you can take on the challenge alone if you are starting up and budget conscious. However, to reap the benefits of the platform you will need to develop the site correctly and employ exceptional SEO to enhance its potential.
    • Make sure you consider the size of your organisation, the number of products that you would like to display online, the volume of transactions that you believe will occur every hour and the functionalities that you would like to include in your eCommerce site. The reason being that some platforms are more suitable for a small range of products (e.g. Shopify) whilst some are built to handle thousands of products (e.g Magento). 

Functionality

    • You will need to consider what features you would like to include in your eCommerce website. Here you should review back on your list of requirements and see which platforms offer the most comprehensive solution for your business. There will always be positives and negatives for various platforms, the question is which platform option is the closest to meeting you requirements. 
    • A critical element of functionality will revolve around am I building a completely customised solution, templated solution or somewhere in between. Based on the list of requirements you have come up with, your preferred option should be starting to become apparent.

Setup

    • The setup process for an eCommerce platform varies depending on the provider. Some are easy and straightforward, while others are complex and involving. A digital marketing expert can help navigate you through this process.
    •  A major consideration in the setup revolves around time and cost. If you are in a rush to migrate to an eCommerce platform then ease of setup will be critical. Importantly, don’t forget to factor in your time to the consideration. If you are spending weeks tweaking a website eCommerce platform that is taking you away from doing other things (like running the business!)
    • Engaging a digital marketing agency can help you set up complex eCommerce websites because they have the skills and experience to deploy functioning sites without significant involvement from the business owner
    • Remember, once the site is setup you can then spend more time enhancing it. Making the transition online is the first step, you can then focus on increasing your conversion rate and growing your sales. Over time you can build in more functionalities and add other features. Real world online sales will aways trump trying to predict user behaviour.

Ease of integration

    • It is important to assess the ease of integration with any platform option. Part of your consideration should include integrating your website with warehouse management system, POS system, finance system, payments system, delivery and logistics provider solution and online marketplaces. Each platform has different integration capabilities, plugins availabilities and options for how to integrate. 
    • Check to make sure that you can integrate your essential systems so that all modules speak to each other without errors. While you might not be too concerned about integration, this is a critical piece of importance for all businesses, in particular large or growing businesses, as a lot of operational efficiencies can obtained by making the right decision.

Cost

    • The cost of an eCommerce platform will include the design and set-up, maintenance, integration, optimisation and other ancillary services such as web hosting, data storage, data security and others.
    • Each platform has a different cost and pricing structure so make sure you choose one that suits your budget and payment preferences. For example Shopify works on a monthly + apps model where you get charged each month whereas WordPress requires no ongoing costs to the provider but an initial investment + hosting costs. 

Flexibility

    • The amount of flexibility provided by various platforms is quite stark. The open-source platforms will allow you to build whatever you like and integrate it into the solution (e.g. WordPress or Magento). The closed platforms minimise by the amount of flexibility allowed by their platform by verifying apps or plugins in their own environments (e.g. Shopify & Neto). Which solution is more appropriate for your business will depend on the requirements and the level of customisation you need for your product or offering. 
    • The open source platforms give you more choice and flexibility with a bit more risk as they are not validated and approved by the platform owner. We would suggest looking at the developers history in terms other plugins created, read the documentation and find unbiased reviews of the plugin. Our preference is to minimise the use of plugins as much as possible.
    • For the closed source platforms, you will get enhanced security however often it will only allow you to do what is within the constraints of the platform.
    • A digital marketing agency can help you decide which selection of functions and plugins will work best for the platform based on the current state of your business and your growth goals, without blowing your budget.

Support

    • All eCommerce platforms offer service provider support which may be priced differently depending on the package your have acquired. Usually the support varies depending on the type of service you want because they expect you have engaged a third party professional or have an in-house expert who knows how to work the platform without significant training.
    • Different levels of support can be acquired either on an upfront basis, pay as you go or through service credits depending on the platform package you have acquired.

SEO

    • Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) is important for any eCommerce platform in the current digital landscape. SEO is the act of using various digital methods to increase the visibility of your website when members of the public search keywords in a search engine so that it indexes quickly and appears at the top of the list.
    • eCommerce platforms vary in their ability to provide off the shelf SEO capabilities and on-page SEO customisation. All the platforms we have listed work relatively well with SEO, and we have ranked all of these solutions across Google. If we had to pick one that is the best for SEO, we would pick Magento.

 

  • Platform
  • Number Of Products
  • Functionality
  • Setup
  • Ease Of Integrations
  • Cost
  • Flexibility
  • Support
  • SEO
  • Overall Rating
Platform Magento WordPress Shopify Shopify Plus Neto
Number Of Products
Functionality
Setup
Ease Of Integrations
Cost
Flexibility
Support
SEO
Overall Rating
Magento
Number Of Products
Functionality
Setup
Ease Of Integrations
Cost
Flexibility
Support
SEO
Overall Rating
WordPress
Number Of Products
Functionality
Setup
Ease Of Integrations
Cost
Flexibility
Support
SEO
Overall Rating
Shopify
Number Of Products
Functionality
Setup
Ease Of Integrations
Cost
Flexibility
Support
SEO
Overall Rating
Shopify Plus
Number Of Products
Functionality
Setup
Ease Of Integrations
Cost
Flexibility
Support
SEO
Overall Rating
Neto
Number Of Products
Functionality
Setup
Ease Of Integrations
Cost
Flexibility
Support
SEO
Overall Rating

 

As you can see by our table, we have given our star ratings to each platform for each point based on our experience. 

At Sharp Instincts, we are a digital marketing agency fluent in all eCommerce platforms. We will help pair the right eCommerce platform for your business so that you can enhance your organisation’s reach with a well-functioning and effective eCommerce platform. Before we develop your eCommerce site, we take time to understand your business, your goals and your strategy. We then translate this into a fully-functioning eCommerce solution with end-to-end support. To learn more about how we can help you, please contact us on 1800 189 787 for a no-obligation and confidential discussion.

What do you in the community think of our star ratings? Do you agree or disagree with our ratings of each platform?

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