The best e-commerce platforms on the web

By Raels  |  6 January 2016

3 platforms that will help you sell online

Ah, the age old question, I've heard it a thousand times: “Whats the best e-commerce platform for my website?”

Just between you and me, I’m going to let you in on a little secret: there isn’t one. I like to think of software like cars, there are tonnes of options, brands, makes and models to choose from but ultimately it boils down to your key needs and, usually, budget. Choosing an e-commerce solution is no different. Over the past 10 years I’ve spent countless hours playing with almost every e-commerce platform under the sun, and I've whittled them down to my three favourites.

1. Shopify

Shopify

Shopify is a cloud-based solution that is super quick and simple to set up, even for the non-tech savvy out there. Armed with a credit card and a little bit of mouse clicking, you too can be the owner of a shiny new online shop in just a few hours. In addition to being a very straightforward platform to work with, Shopify also doubles as a point of sale (POS) system if you sell in person as well as online.

That’s right, just download the app to your smartphone or tablet and use it ring up sales the next time you’re selling down at the local markets. Best of all, sales data and stock level automatically sync next time you’re online. Pretty neat. You can even buy the POS kit which includes cash drawer, barcode scanner and receipt printer to make you look like a total pro.

What it’s great at:

  • It offers a simple point and click setup and it's easy for non-tech savvy to navigate.
  • It offers some rather pretty templates out of the box, with more available for purchase.
  • It also lets you sell in person (with the mobile app), which is awesome for SOHO (small office/home office) businesses that sell online and face to face.

What it’s not so great at:

  • Customisation options are fairly limited when it comes to more complex products and pricing rules. It lacks some advanced features that are commonly seen on other platforms.
  • Template choices can be limited and costly
  • Transaction fees can be pretty high if you have a high turnover.

2. Woocommerce

Woo

Woo is the most popular e-commerce plugin for WordPress. It’s pretty much become the de facto choice in recent years. Woo is a logical choice for many people who have an existing WordPress website and want to add the ability to sell stuff.

One of the best things about Woocommerce is that it’s “FREE”. See what I did there with the quote marks? You should know by now that nothing in this world is truly free. The main trade-off with Woo is that to get it working with all its bells and whistles, and to make it look pretty, is going to take some elbow grease. Depending on the payment options you want to accept, and shipping providers you want to use, you will more than likely need some additional plug-ins (some of which cost $$). Woo also looks very vanilla out of the box and really needs some quality design work done to make it feel integrated with the rest of the your website. For those who are already in WordPress Land and are happy to spend some extra time tweaking a few knobs then Woocommerce is a great option.

What it’s great at

  • Woo works inside WordPress and is very expandable in both design and functionality.
  • It's “free” and well supported by the WordPress community, with lots of plug-ins available.
  • It's ideal for sellers looking to add E-Commerce functionality to their existing WordPress site

What it’s not so great at

  • Your online store will look pretty boring out of the box. Look at either doing some extra design work to get it up to standard or choose a premium WordPress theme that includes support for Woocommerce.
  • When using lots of other Woo plug-ins to extend functionality it can be a little like balancing a dining table on a wine glass. If one of the plug-ins breaks or is updated it can have flow-on effects that will need attention.
  • Support is limited to a forum only. If things go wrong, the forum or your friendly developer will be your first port for call.

3. BigCommerce

BigCommerce

I’ve been using BigCommerce since it was called “Interspire Cart” many moons ago, and have always been a raving fan. It is originally an Australian product, and has since gone multi-national.

What drew me to Interspire in the first place was its simplicity AND it’s complexity. Sounds crazy right? But I feel that BigCommerce delivers the best of both worlds. Simple enough for the sales team to manage products and process sales, while still giving developers and power users all the tools they need.

The flexibility around editing themes is awesome in BigCommerce, and even the templates included out of the box are pretty damn good looking. BigCommerce is ideal for medium to larger stores that have greater complexity around products, product bundles, promotions, discount groups and shipping. Australia Post shipping calculator and most Aussie banks are supported out of the box, making it quicker to get your store live. BigCommerce now lets you sell offline too via its integration with Square, meaning it offers similar functionality to Shopify.

What it’s great at:

  • Your store will look pretty out the box, with lots of flexibility for developers to work their magic.
  • It's straightforward for anyone to administer, while also catering to complex business rules.
  • Hosted solutions means you hit the ground running and you never have to worry about web hosting or backups again.

What it’s not so great at:

  • It is a full Software as a Service Product (SaaS) so you can’t grab a full site back-up (other options are there to download products data, images and pages, etc.)
  • Monthly fees can be little higher than other platforms.
  • Premium templates can cost a pretty penny.

Now that you’re thoroughly overwhelmed, remember: think about your businesses goals and what's most important for you. If you’re still totally stuck then get in touch and we can chat more about your options.

Written by Raels  |  6 January 2016

Raels is managing director of Mettro. She is a highly experienced business strategist and design visionary.