How to Choose the Right e-Commerce Platform for Your Store
Did you know there are hundreds of e-Commerce platforms out there? Some of them are free, others are premium, some available as hosted solutions, others as downloadable software, some are great and others are terrible.
With so many options out there it makes it obvious for a beginner to ask for a suggestion. We are here to assist you in this matter and help you make the right choice for you and your online business.
Before choosing the right platform for you shop, you should take into consideration the following:
- Self-Hosted Solutions vs Hosted Platforms – What type fits your needs?
- Selling Digital Products
- Payment Gateways – This is an important aspect to take into consideration because many platforms may not support your payment options.
- Pricing and Overall Costs – Free or Premium, people tend to believe that premium solutions are always better, the fact of the matter is that’s not always true.
- License – There can be open source platforms and proprietary ecommerce platforms.
- Ease of Use & Scalability – If you want an all in one solution that doesn’t require much setup involvement, then we have some solutions for you.
Now, we are going to take these features and analyze them alongside popular e-Commerce platforms to make your decision much easier.
1. Self-Hosted Solution vs Hosted Platforms
1.1 Self-Hosted Platforms
These are usually software packages that contain all the files needed for you to run your store. The major benefit in this case is the access to files and complete control over the way they act.
The downside however is that you will have to find a good web hosting solution that supports your platform. Don’t worry though because most hosting solutions support eCommerce. We recommend you to use BlueHost (99.99% uptime and multiple packages for e-Commerce sites).
Our recommendation would be to work with WooCommerce or Magento, the two most complete hosted e-Commerce platforms. They are 100% free and have the benefit of being open-source. There’s one major downside (you will need to install these manually and set them up yourself).
1.2 Hosted E-Commerce Platforms
Self-hosted platforms are great solutions designed for people that don’t want to bother with technical details or the overall setup process and configuration.
These are out of the box shops that you tailor according to your needs. The major benefit in this case is that you don’t have to think about hosting, technical specs or even the installation process.
Another great thing is that you don’t have to worry about payment processing, payment gateways or security.
However, sometimes these options come with transactional fees, and are usually a bit more expensive.
We highly recommend you a hosted solution if you are not a technical person and want to focus solely on shipping and store management.
Our favorite solution is Shopify, a complete platform that offers multiple plans and unlimited customization options. Another great hosted platform would be BigCommerce which is easy to manage and focused on social options.
2. Selling Digital Products
If you business type is focused on digital rather than physical products, then we recommend you to use a platform that is optimized for this.
If digital is your thing, then the overall store management deal should be a bit easier since no shipping is involved.
On top of that, we recommend you to work with well established popular platforms that can help you bring more customers to your digital product.
One large community for digital products like (ebooks, software and guides) would be ClickBank. ClickBank is world-renown as the marketing leader for millions of successful digital products.
In over 18 years since they are active, they helped a lot of writers, developers, experts and affiliates build real online empires from nothing.
It’s a really huge community and if your product is good enough you can start making serious income in less than 6 months.
All you have to do is to sign up as a vendor and get approved. ClickBank will feature you and affiliates will start promoting your product.
Before doing that, we recommend you to build a product landing page in WordPress.
Check out ClickBank
Much like ClickBank, E-Junkie is specialized in promoting digital products through the power of affiliate marketing.
They have a well established community and their packages are quite affordable. Learn more about E-Junkie
Easy Digital Downloads
If you are in search for a self-hosted solution, then we can’t come up with a better option that EDD. This is a practical e-Commerce plugin designed for WordPress users. You just install this one in 2 minutes and start selling.
Check out Easy Digital Downloads
3. Payment Gateways
As you probably have already guessed not all e-Commerce solutions are created equally. This is also reflected in the number of extensions and apps each platform supports.
Still, we consider payment gateways to be a vital aspect of each e-Commerce platform, because let’s face it, without them there’s no actual store.
The official WooCommerce extension repository hosts over 100 payment gateways for you to choose from. These include Square Payments, PayPal, Stripe, Amazon Pay, Authorize.Net, Chase Paymentech etc.
With this being said, we consider WooCommerce a great solution because it makes it easy for people to adopt the payment method that works best for their region.
Check out WooCommerce payment gateway extensions.
Shopify has the most advanced payment solution existing on every shopping cart software ever. In fact they offer regional payment gateways. In total, there are hundreds of payment gateways that you can register and use.
On top of that, to make things even easier, you can install Shopify apps to deal with this task. Learn about Shopify!
4. Pricing and Overall Costs
When it comes to money, there are two options: free platforms and premium platforms. The question that comes to mind now is (Are free platforms at least as good as the premium ones?).
Our quick answer: They definitely can be better. However, there are plenty of things to adopt, optimize and extend in order to attain the performance and features included in a premium solution.
All those extensions cost money and therefore you will end up paying a similar amount of money. On the short term, though if you want to start out with the minimum amount of expenses, then we recommend you to start with a free platform.
Some great platforms that are free and open source are available in our recent article. Therefore, we recommend them all.
Still, as an overall cost-effective solution we would pick OpenCart. The reason why we like it is because it’s flexible enough to build a professional store, but the extensions tend to be more affordable than with the other platforms.
WooCommerce is also an affordable solution because it has a huge community of developers and most extensions are available for free.
5. Platform License
Even though most people don’t seem to place that much importance on this aspect, I’m here to tell you the opposite. The software license can be open-source or proprietary software.
Open-source refers to e-Commerce software that has its code public, accessible and editable while proprietary means you don’t have access to the code behind the platform.
This is something of interest if you plan to develop the platform in the future or hire someone to do it for yourself. On short, if you to add fully customizable options to your store, you will need to use open-source software.
On the other hand, if this is not a concern of yours, then you can use proprietary software.
Examples of Open-source projects – WooCommerce, PrestaShop, OpenCart, Magento
Examples of Proprietary software – Shopify, BigCommerce, 3dCart, LemonStand
6. Ease of Use and Scalability
The ease of use term is quite general, so here is what we mean. Usually we call a platform comprehensive if it meets the following criteria:
- It is easy to install and configure
- It has plenty of tutorials and guides available for free
- It doesn’t require any technical knowledge on your behalf
We consider BigCommerce and Shopify to be the best candidates in this area. Both offer a clean, minimalist environment that focuses on your products. All you have to do is just sign up and publish your products, they will take care of hosting, payment processing and all the technical details.
Which Platform is the Winner?
Shopify is our pick for this battle because:
- We consider it the most comprehensive solution (it doesn’t require any tech skills)
- It is hosted and you don’t have to worry about installing SSL’s or finding web hosts
- Shopify is secured
- It includes the most payment gateways
The winner for open-source category would have to be WooCommerce because:
- It has the greatest community of developers
- It works as a WordPress plugin (this means more flexibility and development options)
- It has the most themes and designs available
- It’s free and extensions are quite affordable