There are many reasons why a pre-built eCommerce platform might sound more appealing to you than having to hire a web developer to build a brand new one for you. Though, from experience, in most cases the heaviest factor is the ease of use and ability to work closely with a community of other online store owners.
The eCommerce platform market isn't a tiny one, there are literally hundreds of options available – some might have a simple feel to them, but that isn't always enough, while some might feel extremely cluttered, but provide cheaper rates and prices.
You'll encounter beginner difficulties when picking your first eCommerce platform to work with, but right out of the bat – this are the questions you should be asking yourself:
- Stock Size: Always consider your size of stock, and whenever you're browsing for an store platform to use, make sure you're paying the smallest amount of money for the services that you require. Many businesses will provide alternative payment methods for just a couple of products.
- Digital or Physical: This is always the question to ask. What is it that you're selling? Digital or physical goods? It makes all the difference when thinking about shipping costs, etc,. Look for platforms that suit your product needs.
- Payment Method: If you've got issues with using PayPal (the most easy and popular payment processor), you'll need to look into making arrangements, as not all eCommerce platforms favor 3rd party payment processors.
- Self-Hosted or Hosted: Exactly what I was mentioning in the opening paragraph. If you feel you're confident in modifying the look of your online store (on regular basis), look for platforms that will enable you to have a self-hosted version of the store. Either way, most eCommerce platforms provide the ability to modify your store within a live environment.
- Payment Plan: Last but not least, select the platform that best suits your budget. Look for opportunities to pay monthly amounts instead of relying on giving a small percentage of a sale to the company that is hosting your platform.
At this point, all that is left to do is to pick one of the most popular eCommerce platforms available today, and begin experimenting/working with it – until you find something that clicks and you right away know that you'll be using that particular platform for at least a few sales. The above image features plenty of online store platforms that you can try and read more about. We will take a look at the top three.
Shopify is great for selling clothing, furniture and digital books.
With over 120,000 online customers; Shopify is no doubt the leading online platform when it comes to building your own online store. Just late last year, in December, 2013 – Shopify secure a seed funding round of $100M, which puts them way ahead of the competition in terms of finances to use for developing new technology, and reaching new markets.
If I was to start an online store for selling digital books, furniture or clothes – I'd straight away pick Shopify. The reason is quite simple, the extensive Shopify themes and addons directories are somewhat targeted to those types of stores, and there are already thousands of customers doing exaclty the same thing.
The real advantage here is the community support you're able to receive, if there is ever any problems that might occur during the setup and post-setup process. the cheapest plan will begin at $14/month, while the most sought after plan – professional – will set you back $79/month and give all the necessary freedom to begin selling in minutes. Literally.
Volusion will help you sell equipment, home furniture and everything outdoors.
It is almost as a rule that each eCommerce platform will try and provide support for different areas of goods to sell. In this case, I'd go with Volusion if I was about to open a store for selling bikes, food items or modern home furniture – as the styles they provide by default are perfect for such stores.
Volusion's shopping cart software includes features for product merchandising, site design, search engine optimization, online marketing and order processing. Other notable features include mCommerce, Social Store Builder, affiliate marketing and a loyalty rewards program. Volusion also offers additional services including domain names, credit card processing, fraud protection and more.
They're home to more than 50,000 customers (store owners) and have a great track record, while also offering an independent shopping cart software for serious customers. Notable clients include names like Disney and Motorola.
WooCommerce will help you keep it classy!
This is only for those who feel truly adventurous, and are willing to take on a challenge. The WooCommerce WordPress plugin is completely free, but it will come at a cost of learning how to set it up, how to design themes for a new store and how to develop singular plugins to enhance your newly built store. All of these things come at a cost, and usually scare beginner businessman away. However, if you feel like learning more about WordPress & ecommerce, here's a list of very useful plugins I've compiled a while ago.
Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform Has Never Been Easier
We should have plenty of knowledge and questions at our disposal to make the best possible choice for choosing the right platform for our very own online store. If you're looking for advice, then I'd probably suggest going with Shopify first – but only because it provides a transparent experience of how online shopping works for the merchant, and the customer. You can also check out this chart to compare all major ecommerce platforms.