The e-commerce industry is constantly developing, and at the same time, thanks to technological progress, it offers more and more opportunities. Do you want to start your own store? One of the most important decisions to make before starting your business is choosing the software that will allow you to sell. Which online store to choose? What to pay attention to? We suggest and compare several popular solutions.
What is an e-commerce platform?
If you run a brick-and-mortar store, you’ll agree that managing the purchasing process, products, prices, and inventory is quite complicated. In the case of virtual trading, you need software that can handle all these operations. Its task is also to ensure data security, which is extremely important. The system should also support marketing and SEO activities – thanks to this, acquiring customers will be easier. It is a kind of backbone that significantly simplifies many issues related to running an e-shop and in many cases means that advanced technical knowledge is not needed for this.
There are plenty of e-commerce platforms. Each of them has different advantages, offers a different set of functions and method of operation. Systems dedicated to both small businesses and the largest online stores are available. This variety means that everyone can choose a tool tailored to their needs. At the same time, however, it may make this decision difficult.
Open Source or SaaS?
Platforms for online stores can be divided into two basic types: Open Source and SaaS (Software as a Service). Does that tell you nothing? Does not matter. We’ll briefly outline the pros and cons of both types of systems, making it easier for you to make a decision.
Open Source Platforms
Open Source platforms are designed to be installed on your own server. This provides much more freedom and independence. The open source concept means that they can be developed by multiple developers and offer a variety of plugins or add-ons to extend their functionality. Their other advantages are:
– adaptation to the needs of both small and large stores (scalability),
– the possibility of selling any assortment,
– the ability to change the appearance of the store,
– the ability to edit the source code,
– access to marketing tools,
– wide range of SEO activities,
– access to technical support.
SaaS platforms are also called subscription platforms. They allow you to create a store without the need to invest in your own hosting, installation or backup. They usually offer a complete set of tools necessary to sell online. You can use them on a monthly subscription basis. The advantages of such a solution certainly include:
– ease of setting up a store and its operation,
– quick configuration,
– no need to purchase hosting
– less investment at the beginning,
– access to all necessary functions without the need to install plugins,
– access to technical support,
– no need to adapt the store to legal standards – the service provider takes care of it.
The specificity of SaaS platforms, however, means that by using them, you are only a tenant of the virtual space in which you run your store, and not its owner. The condition for its operation is to pay the subscription. Moreover, it should be remembered that such systems can create many limitations and are therefore usually not suitable for demanding users.
Open Source platforms – popular solutions
Let us remind you – Open Source platforms have definitely fewer restrictions, but also greater challenges. These types of engines are recommended primarily to at least intermediate users who know the basics of e-commerce, have technological knowledge or want and can use external help in this area. It is also a solution for those who want to freely develop their business. What is worth choosing in such a situation? We cover several popular platforms.
PrestaShop is currently one of the most popular e-commerce platforms operating all over the world. It gains recognition mainly due to the lack of fees. However, this completely free platform is also appreciated for its combination of simplicity with high functionality. Installing the engine on the server is very simple, as is setting up the store. So it is a good solution even for beginners with basic technical knowledge.
PrestaShop provides various templates that allow you to change the appearance of the store, as well as many plugins that allow you to increase its functionality. Unfortunately, they are largely paid. However, the platform creates very large opportunities, also in terms of individual store customization. Developers often create solutions based on the engine that respond to the needs of specific users.
The most important features of PrestaShop:
– a free Open Source platform,
– access to many plugins (mainly paid) that allow you to expand the store’s functions,
– the ability to customize the appearance of the store using templates,
– simple operation from the administration panel,
– frequent updates to take care of security, but you have to install them yourself.
The PrestaShop store can be suitable for beginners (the platform is free, which allows you to limit the initial cost) and for larger stores.
Magento is a very universal system dedicated primarily to larger stores. It facilitates the management of large quantities of products and can be expanded with various additional functions. It is available in two versions: free (Community Edition) and paid (Enterprise Edition), which gives you more options.
The most important features of Magento are:
– availability of a free script (Community Edition) with quite extensive functions,
– many possibilities of expanding and extending the store’s functions with plugins (free),
– the ability to run several stores from one place,
– the ability to operate a mobile store,
– complicated installation and modification,
– quite complicated service through the administration panel,
– quite high requirements as to the server capabilities – usually requires the use of a dedicated server.
The store created with the use of Magento is very functional, although the implementation and operation of the system are quite complicated. This solution is primarily for those who manage several e-commerce platforms and many different products, and at the same time have efficient hosting and a generally larger operating budget.
WooCommerce + WordPress
WordPress is a free CMS that allows you to create many different websites. It is used by both small private sites and large sites of well-known companies. Thanks to the WooCommerce add-on, it also allows you to create stores. This is a good solution for those who already use WordPress. However, the platform is very intuitive, so it is also suitable for beginners. Its great advantage is that it is free.
The most important features of solutions based on WooCommerce and WordPress:
– a free Open Source platform,
– suitable for beginners and advanced,
– ease of use,
– expandable with the necessary functions,
– high level of security and frequent updates,
– wide possibilities of personalizing the appearance of the store thanks to templates,
– very good integration with SEO,
– possibility of integration with various forms of shipping and payment,
– easy integration of the store with the company’s blog.
WooCommerce integration with WordPress allows you to create a professional-looking, functional and truly free store (excluding the cost of your own domain and hosting, of course). This is a very versatile solution, but recommended especially for small and medium-sized trading platforms.
SaaS platforms – popular solutions
SaaS (subscription) platforms are great to get you started. All it takes is a small investment and literally a few minutes to set up the store to start working. Their disadvantage may be the lack of independence and certain limitations, e.g. related to the positioning of the online store or customization, but this does not change the fact that many people praise this type of solution very much. What do you have to choose?
Shoplo is an international service offering numerous features, including multi-channel sales (Shoplo Multichannel). It offers various subscriptions aimed primarily at small and medium-sized stores. It provides many useful functions, however, available mainly in more expensive packages.
The most important features of Shoplo are:
– subscription system – various subscription thresholds from several dozen dollars per month,
– limited functions and quantity of products in basic packages,
– 15-day free trial period,
– the ability to customize the appearance of stores using templates or configurator,
– subscription sale and virtual products,
– the function of recovering abandoned carts,
– possibility of integration with courier companies, accounting and warehouse management systems,
– the ability to create an integrated Facebook store,
– customer communication panel – messages from various platforms in one place,
– access to marketing tools.
Shoplo provides relatively simple configuration and operation, and many interesting functions. It works well with small and medium-sized stores, including those selling virtual products or subscriptions!
Shopify is an international e-commerce platform that is hugely popular around the world. Shops created on the basis of Shopify are adapted to UX requirements, but templates that allow you to change the look are paid. It is a universal system that allows you to sell different types of products through a store that can be launched in a few moments.
Shopify’s key features include:
– subscription system – various subscription thresholds, from $ 29 per month,
– commission on the sale,
– an international platform, recommended for sale abroad,
– compatibility with social networks – the possibility of selling via Facebook,
– limited personalization options,
– responsive themes,
– no possibility of advanced product management.
Shopify can be the perfect solution for those looking to sell overseas. The service is simple to use, and the various subscriptions make it easy to scale up your business.
Which online store to choose?
So how do you choose a platform to run a store?
– Start by defining and writing down your expectations in detail. Compare them with the possibilities (e.g. financial or technical), and you will probably easily decide whether an Open Source or SaaS platform will be better for you.
– Then you can independently analyze the offers of available systems in terms of the necessary functions and features. An even easier solution, however, is to send a query to specific platforms with a request to select a package to meet specific requirements.
– On this basis, you will probably choose a maximum of 2 or 3 interesting websites.
– Before you make your final decision, take advantage of trial periods wherever possible.
– If you are still hesitating, compare not only the prices, but also the other benefits offered by the platforms – often these are various discounts that can be useful when running a store.
Remember that when choosing a platform, your needs and feelings are the most important! Therefore, it is not always worth following reviews and opinions that are usually biased.