One of the biggest choices you will have to make before you even build your e-commerce store is: which e-commerce platform is best for my online store?
There are a ton of options out there and there’s no single best option that fits everyone. We will try to put everything in perspective for you so you can make the right choice.
You have two main options: hosted or self-hosted. Both have their advantages but we recommend hosted if you don’t have any prior experience building e-commerce websites. With hosted solutions, you also get dedicated support and downtime is slim to none. The downside of hosted software is that you will have to pay a monthly fee, and sometimes it can be pretty high for a starter.
Quick definitions: A hosted e-commerce platform simply means that the provider hosts the website, backend, software etc. for you. These are more of a prefab idea and are less customizable than self-hosted solutions.
Self hosted means that you have to arrange the hosting yourself and manage the website and hosting.
When I first started in this business, I hadn’t even heard of Shopify. Today, it’s become one of the largest e-commerce platforms around. Shopify offers very customizable and there isn’t much I can’t do with Shopify that I can do elsewhere.
One of the main advantages in using Shopify is their app store. Just like on your smartphone, Shopify has an app store where you can download addons for your store to add functionality. This is much easier to use than installing external plugins and another huge plus for technophobes.
Shopify pricing starts at $29 per month for the basic plan, which allows more than enough space to get you started. You pay a 2% transaction fee on every sale. This will be reduced later if you upgrade to a larger plan, such as Professional or Unlimited.
Another giant in the hosted e-commerce space is BigCommerce. It is comparable to Shopify but less customizable and slightly more limited in my opinion.
The Standard plan costs $29,95 per month and includes unlimited bandwidth and storage with a 1.5% transaction fee per sale.
I find BigCommerce less customizable than Shopify though the admin panel is slightly cleaner and easier to work with.
Another popular hosted e-commerce platform, Volusion offers less than the above two solutions. Unfortunately, it is not very customizable and only comes with a single template to build from. It also isn’t nearly as expandable as Shopify or even BigCommerce.
Volusion is cheaper than the other 2 mentioned and starts at just $15 per month. But given the serious limitations of this platform, I don’t recommend using them.
So which hosted e-commerce platform wins this one? I strongly suggest going with Shopify as it just has the most options. It also has the largest user base and great support.
Magento is one of the largest platforms in e-commerce and has been around ever since I can remember. It is used by most self-hosted e-commerce stores and comes with plenty of features.
With Magento, you should be able to build your complete webshop without too much hassle and have enough ways to customize the look and functionality.
One of the downsides to using Magento is it’s large framework. Many users experience long loading times and performance issues with Magento because of this.
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, not a standalone platform like Magento. If you are familiar with WordPress (perhaps you’re a blogger), this might be your preferred choice. Note: WooCommerce is only available on self-hosted WordPress installations, not with a free blog on WordPress.com.
A big advantage using WooCommerce is that it’s a plugin for WordPress. You get the flexibility of the largest CMS in the world while using a strong E-commerce platform at the same time.
WordPress also comes with plenty of plugins, both free and paid and is therefore highly customizable.
I stongly prefer using WordPress combined with WooCommerce. Because WP is open source, it is regularly updated and community support is always available. Almost any issue can be fixed with existing plugins or simple quickfixes found online.
What is your opinion? Which platform do you prefer? Hosted or self-hosted? Let us know in the comments.