Top 3 E-commerce Platforms for Startups
E-commerce once took the world by storm and is now a multi-million dollar skyrocketing industry that has become one of the most lucrative prospects for online business owners. A startup wave has given rise to various e-commerce platforms for startups that power multiple businesses worldwide. Given the multitude of options, which platform will do justice to your business plan and help you succeed in the whole e-commerce game?
So, here you are. You’ve come up with a new product (or service) idea and you’re ready to share it with the world, but … you hit a couple of snags: you have no technical chops and zero knowledge of how to effectively sell online, you are on a super tight budget and under a lot of pressure to keep up with the standards set by e-commerce ‘giants’, and you need to quickly jump into business. Simply put, you’ll have to build a product-selling and money-making ‘machine’, but with limited resources and in no time. Sounds crazy, right? If it were not for e-commerce platforms for startups, it would be completely and utterly insane!
And just what exactly is an e-commerce platform? It’s a user-friendly merchant solution that allows you to launch your online store and create a vibrant shopping experience for clients. It offers you full functionality for setting up, developing, and growing your business. An e-commerce platform for your start-up will be the backbone of your online presence, so picking the right one is one of the most fundamental decisions you’ll have to make when entering this space. However, with so many solutions available, you may quickly find yourself stuck on the best e-commerce software for your business, especially if you have no tech or e-commerce background.
If you are in the market for the best e-commerce shopping cart, it’s a given that you’ll need a remarkable website design. But what else makes for a killer e-commerce solution that will get your customers to go on a shopping spree and churn out the revenues that it promises? While easy setup, great UX, tools and features, customization, flexibility and cost are all important factors to heed, some of the best e-commerce CMSs capitalize on mobile friendliness, social media integration, SEO, dedicated support, and the do-it-yourself approach.
There are several solutions that have established their strong credibility among retailers and shoppers alike, and are widely lauded today as the best e-commerce platforms for 2017. Here’s a rundown of the 3 big industry players that definitely stand out from the crowd and are likely to work for most entrepreneurs. Read on for our e-commerce solutions comparison and review of each platforms’ key strengths and weaknesses to help you navigate a tricky journey to finding the best match.
BigCommerce is indeed the big thing for e-commerce. It’s one of the largest and most reputable players favored by stores of all sizes – from small merchants to well-established billion-dollar brands. BigCommerce equips businesses with a simple, scalable platform focused on translating your data into insights and strategies to connect with your customers and grow your sales. Laced with powerful features, out-of-the-box tools and social channel integrations, it allows you to build a high-performance store without having to mess with the code.
The key ADVANTAGES of BigCommerce make it the whole package for any online retailer:
- Ease of use
A clean, modern interface and clear directions for getting started make the whole setup a piece of cake for you. Just follow a simple step-by-step launch process, and there you go!
Big thumps up to BigCommerce for adopting a mobile-first approach, thus offering well-designed, responsive storefronts and ensuring smooth mobile experience!
- Comprehensive feature set
The platform ticks all the right boxes when it comes to functionality: a website builder, shipping quotes, advanced reporting & analytics, strong SEO tools, sales & marketing capabilities (including the Abandoned Cart Saver to recover lost sales), and so many more. These tools will give you a lot more horsepower to manage merchandising and engage with customers.
- BigCommerce University
A thriving support knowledge base has been established to equip you with help resources, solutions, video guides, tutorials and trainings. Have the world of e-commerce education at your fingertips!
- Social channel integrations
As a young start-up, you can now spread the word faster! BigCommerce boasts integrations with eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, Google, etc.
- Transaction fees
Some common CONCERNS associated with Bigcommerce include:
- Limited customization
BigCommerce lacks flexibility in customizing your website’s appearance – the biggest frustration for a power user!
- Lack of free themes
Bigcommerce offers only two free templates (with style variations you get 7). They are neat and tidy, but pretty plain. So, you either compromise on these, or pick a paid one.
- Sales volume limitations
While their monthly pricing seems reasonable, at least at the lower levels, (Standard – $29.95; Plus – $79.95; Pro – $249.95), customers that exceed certain revenue limits are forced to switch to an Enterprise plan that charges sky-high fees.
On balance, despite its disadvantages, Bigcommerce has everything you’ll ever need to build a very functional online store, get off the ground and scale up as your business grows.
Brought to you by the creators of WordPress, WooCommerce blends prowess of an outstanding retail solution and the powerful WordPress ecosystem. It is a free and open source, full-featured shopping cart plugin that lets you build your online business on WordPress or turn your existing website or blog into a full-on storefront. Woo has become the rage, especially among low-budget startups and small retailers looking to derive maximum returns from minimum investments while expecting the arsenal of high-level features to outwit the competition.
The BENEFITS commonly and justly attributed to WooCommerce include:
- Full store ownership
Being free and open source means the whole control over your store rests with you alone without being locked into contracts or proprietary software. You install any extensions you need, build an authentic website, and streamline your operations.
- Freemium pricing model
WooCommerce is a breather for small retailers who are just starting out in online selling. It won’t cost you a cent to download it. There are also tons of commercial plugins and themes available to enhance your store and make your brand stand out.
- Tight WordPress integration
If you’re WordPress savvy, then using WooCommerce will be a walk in the park. It’s fully functional, super flexible and completely customizable. You also get all the goodies that come with WordPress, like a blog, forums, calendars, and other content add-ons.
- Massive collection of themes
With its broad gallery of customizable feature-rich themes, WooCommerce allows you to slice and dice them (or even design a new one) so that your website looks, feels and works exactly the way you want it to.
- Extensive functionality
WooCommerce is a complete toolkit for building an online business. From inventory management, logistics, payment processing and accounting to reporting & analytics, marketing campaigns and SEO tools (including Yoast SEO plugin and All in One SEO Pack) – Woo has it all to cater for your business needs.
- Focus on millennial market
Going mobile-friendly has become imperative these days if you want to appeal to the audience of picky millennials. WooCommerce lets you tap into the growing number of mobile and tablet users who want to shop on the go.
Now the DOWNSIDE of WooCommerce:
- Learning curve
If you’re not familiar with WordPress, then get ready for a bumpy ride in the beginning. You may even need to hire a programmer to get you set up.
- Extra pay
Although WooCommerce is free to install, it isn’t always a no-cost solution. First, you’ll need to pay for hosting, security and speed before you can start selling. And then, more complex functionality usually comes with a pretty hefty price tag.
- Limited scalability
If you’re doing large scale e-commerce, selling thousands of products and processing hundreds of orders a day, the system is simply too limited to withstand huge heaps of traffic and can become a little unwieldy for that scale.
There’s always a flipside, but if you’re just starting out and not going to open that big of a store, Woo is a great way to get your e-commerce feet wet.
With Shopify, you are just a few clicks away from giving wings to your online market. It is by far the easiest and quickest way for you to get started with e-commerce. With an abundance of ‘must-have’ features and its focus on social commerce and mobile shopping, the platform continues to lead the pack for new store launches. Admired and used by small and middle-size online merchants and startups, it also has the scalability to grow with the business and is capable of handling large retail operations.
The real excellence of Shopify lies in the gamut of its STRENGTHS:
- Simplicity above all
It’s a turnkey solution that makes every function super simple. ‘The three easies’ pretty much summarize it: easy to set up, easy to customize, and easy to use. Pure drag and drop – no tech or coding skills required to go live with your online shop. A web host, an expertly designed CMS, and a handy, intuitive dashboard will make your life a breeze!
- Tons of awesome templates
Where the platform really shines is its eye-candy, professional, and mobile ready themes that can fit any brand. Just check out their swag and wow your customers by the stunning look of your store!
- Top notch apps and tools
Shopify offers hundreds of powerful add-ons (free and paid) to extend the functionality of your store. The platform comes packed with essential e-commerce features to help you kick-start and grow your business. These include the ability to sell directly on social media powerhouses, reports and analytics, marketing and SEO tools, and many more.
- SEO best practices
With Shopify you can easily make your store well geared towards SEO so that your site shows up high in search engine rankings. H1 headers, title tags, Meta descriptions, a built-in blog, a SEO wizard, customer reviews – all make for SEO success. Shopify also has a cleaner software structure that search engines love.
- World-class support and strong community
Shopify is a safe choice to go with because of their dedicated round-the-clock customer care and large community. What a relief to know that their gurus are always there to help you with your issues and glitches!
- Secure transactions
What makes this service unique is its own in-house payment gateway to process credit/debit card and PayPal payments and ensure seamless sales and shipping processes.
- Affordable pricing
There are several monthly subscription packages you can choose from based on your needs and budget: Basic – $29, Shopify – $79, Advanced – $299. At $29 for a website launch, unlimited products and all major features, the pricing seems too good to be true!
As great as Shopify is, it also has its FLAWS:
- Tricky customization
One major downside of Shopify is the limited ability to tweak the checkout page. If you want more bells and whistles to custom-tailor your store, you’ll need some coding expertise.
- Coding issues
The platform has its own Ruby-based template language called Liquid, so it probably won’t be easy to find a developer well-versed in it, if you need more advanced customizations.
- Sneaky transaction fees
If you don’t use Shopify Payments and decide to go with the third party payment gateway, there will be additional transaction fees on every sale that can eat up your profits very quickly.
- Pricey plugins
While Shopify plans charge very moderate prices, there’s a catch. Many extensions for additional functionality will spike costs and may soon put you out of a budget.
Although these limitations can hamper large operations or fast-growing stores, they are not a deal breaker for small to mid-sized outfits successfully powered by Shopify around the world.
Finding the Best E-commerce Platform for Your Startup
E-commerce is an awesome way to make money! And it’s absolutely necessary for building and propelling your brand. By launching an e-commerce marketplace, you are exposing your products to zillions of online shoppers. However, picking the best e-commerce software can be a tall order if you want to minimize the challenges that each platform is going to present. Our list of the best e-commerce platforms for 2017 is a good place to start looking, as all three are definitely doing a decent job! We hope it will streamline your choices and help you make an intelligent decision.