When it comes to choosing which ecommerce platform to use, there are literally hundreds of options, which for any retailer is a bit daunting. Obviously, choosing the best ecommerce platform depends on your businesses resources, and with consumers spoilt for choice, it’s imperative that these are used as effectively and efficiently as possible. Key players in the ecommerce space include Shopify, PrestaShop, BigCommerce, Magento, 3dCart, WooCommerce, Wix, SquareSpace, Volusion, Godaddy, BigCartel, and Moonfruit.
Hosted solution model
Most of the ecommerce platforms are hosted solution models, e.g. Shopify, with transaction charges and marketed as free to get started. Initially the pros are obvious, with no outlay and low cost monthly hosting plans starting on average at $29.
However, there are cons:
- Most of the big ecommerce platforms have a tiered offering. These are monthly payments, ranging from $29 through to the top tier costing between $179 – $199. If you start out on the lowest tier, there’s the likelihood that you’ll quickly become frustrated that you don’t have access to some application that you can have at the next level.
- You’re locked into using the platforms’ servers, so you’re reliant on these being maintained and working at least 98% of the time.
- Typically, on the lower level hosting tiers, you’ll also have to pay transaction fees of between 1.5% – 2.0% on each sale you achieve.
- Although you have a choice of ‘template themes’ to choose from, it can still be tricky fitting your vision into somebody else’s design.
- The opportunity to integrate with another supplier’s application may not be possible, as you don’t own your platform.
- Finally, and most importantly, you’ll have to consider the fact that if you want to sell your store, this may prove difficult, if you’re locked into a big ecommerce platform. And if you simply want to cancel your account all your hours of hard work maintaining and creating your store will simply be deleted.
Magento Open Source
Then there’s Magento Open Source (formerly Community edition), a scalable, open source and SEO (Search Engine Optimisation) friendly ecommerce platform. With over 250,000 installations, Magento is one of the most popular ecommerce platforms world-wide. Magento 2, which went live earlier this year after beta testing since 2015, is proving extremely popular with most new online stores. Magento was also named a leader in B2B commerce by Forrester’s Wave report for Q3 2017.
I’ll start with the cons:
Although there are thousands of templates available, it can be tricky to install a new template yourself and you’ll need to be a bit techy! Plus, if you’re using Magento 2, there are currently limited templates on offer in comparison to Magento 1, since it is so new! However, that still means you have a huge selection of slick modern themes to choose from. You’ll also find it hard to use this platform without any Developer input. There is, however, a great Magento Community Support network that thousands of people use to discuss tech issues.
The Magento Open Source Benefits:
- Self-hosting – The key benefit of Magento Open Source is that it’s self-hosted, which means you are not tied into a specific package and hosting. It means you can take advantage of being able to shop around for a good hosting company and if you’ve experienced too many ‘outages’ with your current supplier, you can easily move.
- Agile – As it’s open source and agile, Magento can help you adapt and survive the ever-changing retail environment.
- Scalable – Magento has the largest and most versatile offering of customised and tested extensions, including Responsive designs that work across all users’ devices. Just about any payment gateway can be integrated into the Magento platform
- Control – Most importantly you have access to the backend code which gives you more control. Plus, you have the flexibility to work with a third-party supplier of your choice rather than one approved by your hosted shopping platform.
- Analytics – You can use Magento’s built-in analytics to attract customers, which are a marketers’ dream. These built-in analytics include:
• New customer acquisition
• Average order value
• Repeat orders
• Purchase timing data
One of our clients found that these reports revealed that customers acquired during a holiday season had, on average, the lowest lifetime value (LTV). However, strategically-timed and targeted re-engagement and a customer incentive program helped improve their customer retention rate. This data helped identify which channels were providing the best return on investment (ROI), and allowed them to adjust their advertising spend accordingly, i.e. by increasing spend of specific Google AdWords campaigns, as these were proving more successful in acquiring loyal customers.
Magento also allows you to deliver personalized content, promotions, styles, and pricing based on customer profiles, online behaviour, and purchase history.
Conclusion: what is the best e-commerce option?
Choosing an ecommerce platform for your online business can be difficult and you might be tempted to use the most well-known provider offering you the cheapest and easiest solution. However, this is a decision you could come to regret when you find that your inability to attract and convert visitors is restricted, not by your products, but by the limited features of your ecommerce platform. You may wish you had spent more time researching the best option, before you invested time and money in a second-rate solution.
Overall, in our opinion opting for the Magento Open Source ecommerce platform gives you more choice, flexibility and control.
Blog post by Joanne Nye, Torehill’s head of digital. She has over 20 years’ experience in web development projects including the Tesco Bank launch, Zurich Financial Services and Espirito Santo Investment Bank. She launched her own e-commerce business in 2009 and uses her learnings from the experience to benefit Torehill’s clients.
Torehill develops Magento Open Source (formerly Community Edition) ecommerce websites. To find out more contact…firstname.lastname@example.org