eCommerce platforms do everything from managing inventory and margins to allowing users to create accounts, wishlists, and view past orders. While solutions like Pay Pal can offer a quick way to accept payments, once you have a growing list of products and customers you’ll need something that’s a bit more high-octane.
Since we have spent so much time analyzing different platforms and weighing the pros and cons of each I thought it would make sense to share this with all of you. This will also be the beginning of many posts to come about Magento which is the solution that we decided to go with and has been a very big part of my everyday life for the past two weeks. Ready to go? Let’s dive in!
Out of the platforms we reviewed Shopify was easiest to use to get a site up and running as quickly as possible. If you don’t know much about coding and you don’t need many customizations Shopify is a quick and easy way to get a store up and running on the web. There are easy-to-use templates that allow you to customize your store without having to write a line of code.
The big problem with Shopify is that you have to make a major sacrifice for the ease-of-use that it brings. Customizations are limited and while you can tweak some HTML and CSS, Shopify made the huge mistake of creating their own programming language, Liquid, for customizing templates.
This brings me to another drawback which is a very limited template library with under 200 templates available for Shopify. This means that there is a good chance that the site you build with Shopify will look like many other sites. These are the sacrifices that you make for simplicity and for some people these sacrifices are well worth it. So let’s review:
- Incredibly easy to setup
- Easy to make small customizations
- Inexpensive and great support
- Limited customization options
- Small template library
- Limited reporting options
Big Commerce is probably the biggest competitor to Shopify and they both run on the same value proposition of getting a store up and running as quickly as possible. The differences between these two platforms is small and I see the main difference being that Shopify has nicer themes out of the box but BigCommerce allows you to better customize your site and doesn’t require you to learn some random programming language unique to it.
Most of the free BigCommerce themes look pretty junky compared to the built-in Shopify themes but you can buy third party themes and customize until your heart is content. While Shopify is focused on companies selling products in the US, BigCommerce has solid support for shipping product all over the world.
- Easy to setup
- Use HTML/CSS for editing themes
- International shipping support
- Ugly built-in templates
- Customizations are more complex than Shopify
- Limited third party app support
.COM is king in the domain world and there is no doubt that Magento is king in the eCommerce world. With companies like Nike, NorthFace, and many more using Magento it is the best solution out there hands-down. Magento does have a hosted solution that competes with Shopify and BigCommerce called Magento Go.
Like Shopify, Magento Go requires you to make similar sacrifices with a fairly limited template library and very limited customization options. If you are looking for a hosted solution that works out of the box I’d actually recommend Shopify over Magento Go.
However Magento Go is a small part of Magento’s business, the real-deal platform is Magento Community Edition and Enterprise Edition. Magento (both CE and EE) is the most advanced and customizable eCommerce platform on the planet, period. With thousands of themes and an incredibly rich third-party plugin library there’s a reason why giants like Nike are using this platform.
Of course, just like Shopify’s easy-of-use comes a price, Magento’s advanced features also come at a price. Magento was built by developers for developers and you will need an intermediate/advanced knowledge of HTML/CSS/PHP in order to really take advantage of everything that Magento has to offer.
We are using Magento CE and hosting it with Managed Hosting from Rackspace which is absolutely awesome. Since I’ve been writing HTML code since the mid-90’s and spend every single day writing code I love all the geeky customization options that Magento allows and you really can’t get more advanced or feature-rich than Magento.
- The most advanced and complete eCommerce solution
- Huge template library with thousands of third-party templates
- Incredibly customizable
- Advanced reporting and inventory management options
- Large and rich third-party plugin library
- Requires extensive knowledge of HTML/CSS to customize
- Very steep learning curve even to do simple tasks like installing a theme
- Limited support options and online documentation
You may wonder why I didn’t cover Volusion in this review however after a very deep dive into all of these platforms I honestly don’t see them as a real player at this time. You also may wonder why I didn’t mention WordPress and while people like WooThemes have done a great job adding some slick commerce features through WooCommerce WordPress is a blogging platform first and an eCommerce platform second.
While you can certainly build an online store using WordPress I’d only recommend this if you feel that blogging will be a very important part of your store so you feel you need to have this deeply integrated into your store. We still use WordPress for the Fashion Metric blog and simply host this using the sub-domain blog.fashionmetric.com.
As always I would love to hear from you! Feel free to share your own experiences with any of these platforms or ask any questions you might have. Comment and let your voice be heard!