Chris Murphy, Digital Innovation Specialist at GC Business Growth Hub, has put together a guide on the five main ecommerce platforms available, detailing their key features and what you need to consider when choosing the platform for your business.
The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly accelerated the pace of digital transformation. With restrictions imposed across the world, consumers and businesses had to quickly move to the online space to buy, sell and interact with one another.
For some businesses, this meant creating an online shop to serve existing customers. For others who worked exclusively with trade clients, this was an opportunity to move into a new market and start selling directly to the consumer. Whichever the case, it has become evident that over the past year many companies have prioritised ecommerce, positioning it at the core of their business models and rightly so. According to Gartner research, digital commerce has become a growth accelerator for most organisations and those with digital commerce will see higher growth than those without.
Setting up an ecommerce website can be an important investment for many businesses though, so you must ensure the right digital approach is taken. You don’t want to pay over the odds but cheaper isn’t always better and a platform that supports the needs of your business today may not necessarily support your business of the future.
Comparing different platforms, weighing up the potential benefits of one platform over another and establishing which is the best platform for your business, can be difficult. Some of the most important factors to consider include price, technical support, payment options, ease of use, features, themes, scalability, functionality, SEO optimisation, mobile friendliness and security.
In addition, you’ll need to plan ahead to ensure that you choose a platform that can support future growth.
In this guide we will explore some of the most popular ecommerce platforms for SMEs that can rapidly transform your business.
Pros: Easy to use, great support, multiple pay options, smart phone compatible
Cons: Cost, transaction fees
Shopify is a scalable ecommerce platform that allows you to create your own online store, which is ideal for businesses looking to grow rapidly. Shopify provides 24/7 support with easy setup and navigation for beginners.
The platform is available in a number of different versions, from Lite to Advanced, and fees can increase accordingly. A monthly fee applies to use the platform’s services and there are transaction fees if you don’t use Shopify payments.
Setup is straight forward, and the platform provides easy to understand instructions on how to customise your site, add products and manage business operations through a simple central dashboard.
The platform is Payment Card Industry (PCI) compliant and works with over 2,500 apps. All sites have SEO optimisation built in and you can manage all of your business from your phone. Customers can also access your online store and make purchases via their mobiles. There are a whole host of payment options for customers, ranging from PayPal and Apple Pay to Amazon Pay and even Cryptocurrency.
Pros: Free, no transaction fees, good SEO
Cons: Security not included, cost of plugins, tech support
WooCommerce is a free, open-source, ecommerce plugin for WordPress. It is designed for small to large online merchants using WordPress. It is completely customisable and flexible platform, WooCommerce gives you total control over your online store.
Setup is simple, with a number of different themes to choose from and a wizard to take you through the process.
Customers will find the site easy to navigate and there are plugins and extra functionality available at a cost.
It is mobile friendly, which means that you can make changes and access your products and services from your smartphone.
The platform collaborates with Google Analytics to provide up to date information and statistics on all your business happenings via an easy to understand dashboard.
Although use is free and there are no transaction fees, tech support can be lacking and lots of plugins come at a cost which can add up. And since it requires hosting, security is down to the business owner.
Pros: Beautiful designs, free trial, easy to use
Cons: SEO performance, high transaction fees
Squarespace is a good choice for SMEs that want a creative look and feel to their ecommerce platform, offering a variety scalability and customisation options.
Setup is as simple as picking a template and making the desired adjustments to suit your business needs, and free trials are offered so you can test useability. Templates are fully adaptive and flexible with a clean-cut interface, making it a user-friendly experience for both the business and the customer, performing perfectly well on mobiles too.
You can monitor your businesses performance with analytics which provides an overall view. There are built in security features and support is available 24/7.
Transaction fees are applied and charged at 3%, which is higher than other platforms. SEO doesn’t perform as well as Wordpress, but there are plug ins available to improve this.
Pros: Low cost, easy to use, free set up
Cons: Limited templates, SEO performance, speed
Wix is perfect for small scale SMEs looking to launch an ecommerce website quickly as it provides a platform where you can build your store and get it ready to go using the free plan, with fees charged when you go live.
It is easy to set up and use, with drag and drop functionality. The cost is low, including a lifetime free plan but there are only a limited number of templates, speed can sometimes be an issue and it doesn’t perform as well on SEO as other platforms.
Pros: Security, Support, SEO
Cons: Limited free templates, Tricky set-up
BigCommerce is ideal for established SMEs looking to grow. The platform is available in four different versions and each offer a host of built-in features.
Setup can be a little trickier than some of the above and the platform provides only a limited range of free templates. Security is of the highest standard and they offer 24/7 support.
There are plenty of payment options for customers and there are no transaction fees. The interface is easy to use, good for multi-channel selling and SEO performs well.
The platform makes scaling up easy but this can quickly become expensive for larger stores.
Choosing an ecommerce platform is dependent on the business and its needs. To summarise your key considerations when choosing a platform are:
- Scalability of your business
- Number of products you have
- Integrations required
And if in doubt our Digital Innovation team are on hand to support you, get in touch using the details below. We’ve worked with numerous clients over the last year, and Dunsters Farm is a great example of how our digital innovation team helped a business ignite their digital transformation journey during the pandemic. How Dunsters Farm branched out to home delivery across the North | GC Business Growth Hub
If you’re an SME in Greater Manchester that has the ambition, capacity and drive to grow, the Hub’s specialist Digital Innovation Advisors are here for you. They’ll help you identify the key things needed to become digitally innovative and guide you on your digital transformation journey.
Chris Murphy, Senior Business Advisor - Digital
With several years’ experience managing National Digital, Chris now uses his experience of working with private and public sector organisations to help businesses utilise digital technology to grow. He is always on the lookout for emerging technologies that can help Greater Manchester businesses to grow and transform Manchester into one of the world’s top 20 digital cities by 2020.