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December 24, 2018

What is the Best Ecommerce Platform for SMBs?

“By 2020, brick and mortar retail spaces will be little more than showrooms.” – Eddie Machaalani and Mitchell Harper, Co-Founders of BigCommerce 

This is the new commerce reality: Physical retail shops are dying out as the transition to digital speeds up and intensifies. 

Over the course of 2017, more than 8,000 shops across the U.S. closed their doors forever; an all-time record for store closures. 2018 is facing record-breaking numbers as predictions cite the number of store closures at around 9,000.

The alternative that every retailer is turning to lives in the online world. Ecommerce provides merchants with a low-overhead, high-yield opportunity that is becoming increasingly popular with consumers.

Last year, ecommerce sales accounted for more than 13% of all retail sales. By 2022, experts surmise that digital retail stores will account for 17% of all sales in the U.S.

It’s for these reasons that a sizable number of ecommerce platforms have emerged in the online ecosystem, providing owners the digital storefront they need to thrive.

With so many options to choose from, veterans and newbies alike can have a hard time deciphering the pros and cons of each service.

We’re going to help make sure that you understand who leads the pack so that you can build the most prosperous e-business possible.

Below is a comparison of the top three names in the ecommerce world: BigCommerce, WooCommerce, and Shopify.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce makes the bold claim of being the number one ecommerce platform. But it’s not hard to understand the company’s chutzpah when the brand’s website touts that its, “. . . merchants grow 28% year over year, nearly 2x the industry average.”

BigCommerce sites are highly customizable and easily scalable. Its cloud-based software is leveraged by nearly 100,000 stores across 150 countries and has helped merchants generate more than $8 billion in sales.

Outside of the platform’s stunning templates, intuitive interface, and high-quality customer support, BigCommerce offers a slew of features.

BigCommerce also enables customers to create custom domain names and features various SEO-focused tools like sitemaps, custom URLs, meta descriptions, a myriad of tags, and more.

While other platforms are either made to host your store or to work with your own hosting, BigCommerce is platform agnostic; this makes it a powerful option for retailers that seek expedient growth. Brands can begin using the platform’s SaaS solution, transition to their own BigCommerce-integrated WordPress site, and eventually utilize BigCommerce’s API with whatever custom infrastructure is most beneficial.

Additionally, this service provides a robust analytics system, customer segmentation lists, and built-in blogging features; a nice touch considering the power of content marketing.

When it comes to storefronts, BigCommerce provides tons of value through its products reviews, zoomable images, recently viewed products section, assorted search filters, wish lists, and social sharing components.

BigCommerce’s checkout elements are what really make the platform shine, however, as users can gain access to an abandoned cart saver (which BigCommerce claims can recover an average of 15% of lost sales), accounts or guest checkout options, single-page checkout processes for reduced friction, or other components designed to drive more conversions.

Moreover, BigCommerce offers native integrations with eBay and Amazon, can be leveraged as a Facebook shop, and accommodates multiple currencies and multilingual support.

Because BigCommerce is a beast, some features take months or even years to roll out, so change isn’t also created at high speed. And like any tool, BigCommerce has its technical challenges, and is reported by some to be a tough platform to master out of the gate. Offering such a robust suite of features means that the learning curve can be significant. But if you want to play with the big dogs, you need a tool that can support your efforts. 

WooCommerce

Much like BigCommerce, WooCommerce  makes the fearless assertion of being, “. . . the most popular eCommerce platform on the web.” Once again, however, the company backs up its gusto with over 33 million downloads, powering more than 28% of all online stores. Woo is a powerhouse. 

Unlike BigCommerce, however, WooCommerce is a free, open source shopping cart plugin for WordPress, effectively turning anyone’s site into an online store.

While the WooCommerce plugin is free, users will find themselves running into quite a few web hosting fees and add-on extension purchases needed for more advanced features;. But it is nice to get started without any out of pocket expenses. 

WooCommerce has built a prolific name due to its affordable nature, easy integration with WordPress, and feature-rich offerings. 

Here’s what comes free with a WooCommerce download: Users can expect access to an all-around mobile-friendly design that looks great on all devices, one-page checkouts, the ability to sell physical and digital products, and geo-location elements that simplify calculating a customer’s shipping and sales tax.

WooCommerce’s product organization categories and inventory management system make both the customer and admin experience easy to navigate.

Much like its competitors, this platform also features account or guest checkout options, product reviews, and informative analytics features that help to increase sales. 

Since WooCommerce integrates with WordPress, users benefit from the platform’s SEO-friendly nature so that ranking in the SERPs is not only possible, but a core practice.

Like any tool, WooCommerce has its challenges. The platform has a very steep learning curve and is not recommended for novice merchants. Moreover, users will likely find themselves spending quite a bit of cash on one-time purchase and subscription-based extensions to bolster their user experience and sales abilities. Also, if you need to put in a support ticket, don’t expect a speedy response; customer support is reportedly often slow.

Despite these downsides, however, WooCommerce is a powerful system for those that are familiar with WordPress and have some experience in the ecommerce world.

Shopify

It’s hard to discuss ecommerce without pulling Shopify into the picture.

Shopify is a fully hosted ecommerce platform that places its focus on ease of use. The company has been quite successful in this regard, as it hosts over 400,000 stores and has helped generate over $34 billion in sales.

Shopify is likely to be the most affordable solution on the list and comes with a fair number of features; however, considering the company’s focus, it often lacks the advanced capabilities that many online merchants are after.

Shopify features account and guest checkout options, consumer segmentation elements, and the ability to leverage Amazon FBA or integrate with several different drop-shipping apps.

On the product management front, this service does feature a robust inventory management system and product organization aspects, and the ability to sell physical and digital products. 

Additionally, Shopify provides its users with abandoned cart recovery emails, geo-location tax calculators, email marketing integration with platforms like MailChimp, various social integrations including Facebook sales pages, product reviews, detailed analytics, SEO features, the ability to display your storefront in more than 50 different languages, and the Shopify app for managing your online store on the go.

Since Shopify is focused on simplicity, however, users can often find themselves disappointed with the limits on product variations, a complete absence of wholesale features, and the multi-page checkout process. Much of this can be resolved through various addons, but those will quickly add up to a hefty price tag. 

Shopify also sends those who are ready to checkout to a Shopify purchase page. This may not be a big deal for some, but many brands like to maintain a professional and self-sufficient appearance. If that’s a priority for you, Shopify is likely not your ideal platform.

Ecommerce is a dynamic, highly competitive space, but given its power and growth, it’s well worth diving in. If your business is ready to take to leap into online sales, one of the platforms above will likely be a perfect match. 

Have you used any of these platforms before? If so, please feel free to share your experience below.


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Conscious online marketer, web executive, and multi-faceted writer Tina Courtney has been creating and fostering online innovations since 1996. Tina has assisted many clients in maximizing online production and marketing efforts, and is a staff writer for SiteProNews, one of the Web’s foremost webmaster and tech news blogs. She’s produced and marketed innovative content for major players like Disney and JDate, as well as boutique startups galore, with fortes including social media, SEO, influencer marketing, community management, lead generation, and project management. Tina is also a certified Reiki practitioner, herbalist, and accomplished life coach.  Learn more on LinkedIn, Facebook and Google+. Visit My Google+ Profile

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