15 May 2019

Which eCommerce Platform?

There is now so much choice out there, how can you be sure you are choosing the right eCommerce platform for your brand and therefore business.

With literally hundreds of eCommerce Platforms that range in price, features, whether they are hosted (SaaS) or you need to host it (On-Premise), self service or need an agency to build it and so on, where do you start? It can all be quite mind boggling and worse still, choosing the wrong one can be a very expensive exercise!

This article really only touches the tip of the iceberg when it comes to choosing the right eCommerce Platform for your business. Getting proper advice and consultancy around this can save you a lot of money and in turn make you a lot of money, by making the right choice! However, in this article, I have given you a starter for 10.

So, out of the hundreds of eCommerce Platforms, there are really only a few that people are really talking about; Magento, BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce, SAP Commerce Cloud, Shopify (and Plus) and Woocommerce. I also chose these ones as they all have a place somewhere, depending on the merchant size and objective of the site.

Let’s kick off with some of the questions I would be ask you, before I would even start recommending a platform to you:

  1. How much revenue do you plan to take through your site in year 3?
  2. How many products (SKU’s) will you be selling?
  3. What 3rd party systems will your eCommerce site have to integrate with (talk to) i.e. order management, warehouse management, accounting system etc.
  4. Will this site be B2C, B2B or both?
  5. Will you need a lot of content to sell your product i.e. videos, pdf’s, long product descriptions?
  6. Will you and want a tailor-made design or happy with just buying a template?
  7. What is your approximate budget for this project. You must also consider ongoing hosting, support and continuous development. .

Answering these questions will quickly help you understand at a high level which platform is right for you. Magento, BigCommerce, Salesforce Commerce, Hybris, Shopify (and Plus) and Woocommerce are NOT much of a muchness, they are all very different and suit very different business sizes and objectives.

So, now to try and help you decide which platform, based on what your answers may have been…

  • Magento is the right solution for you, no matter what you answered above. It is a great platform that will suit all shapes and sizes, but it is hard to learn and get used to. It will give you great results, but you will have to have a good budget behind you to get going and continue to maintain it. In my opinion though, even though Magento has a free version you are allowed to commercially use, I would only be choosing it if I had the budget and was therefore taking over £1mil per year in online revenue.
  • BigCommerce is the smart choice for those under the £25mil per annum turnover. If you are under £500K, then the BigCommerce Essentials Packages (standard, Plus and Pro) started packages are perfect. Over the £500K, then BigCommerce Enterprise is the answer. BigCommerce Enterprise allows you to have a tailor made design, hook into all sorts of 3rd party systems using their open API’s and you can launch a B2B site. It is very easy to learn and they will support you every step of the way. The total cost of ownership (TCO) is lower than the others, due to their SaaS solution where they host your site and will perform upgrades and security patches as part of what you pay for.
  • Shopify is totally the baby for you if you are starting out. They have a really easy to use control panel where you can build your own eCommerce site with very little technical knowledge. Like the BigCommerce Essentials packages, you can be up and going over a weekend! However, if you want to start creating your own user journey’s that are not the ‘usual’ eCommerce ones, then you start to get a bit unstuck. They also charge a fee for each new feature you may want and this is if they have it! If you want something they don’t have, then you are in trouble and you’ll find it harder to integrate with 3rd party systems. There is of course Shopify Plus and again, great for the lower end merchants, being quick to get off the ground. Beware of the hidden costs and how much they charge you for success i.e. the more you turnover, the more it will cost. However, if you are a Shopify fan and you are moving to the next level in your business, then this would be a good choice, as the learning curve is zero.
  • Woocommerce is a great fit if you have a lot of content you need to upload in order to sell your products, but the eCommerce feature set is nothing like the ones above. This is for merchants that are selling a small number of products, less than 20-50 and are not relying on their site as a revenue stream, but mainly to market their products. It is probably the cheapest solution in this list, by the way. However, if this now scares you from using Woocommerce, but you are a WordPress fan, then BigCommerce is there to help you! BigCommerce have created a plug-in for their platform that enables you to have all the advantages of an Enterprise grade platform, but still use WordPress for all your content.
  • Salesforce Commerce is one of the big boys out there! Great platform for those taking over £25mil per annum. They give you all sorts of merchandising tools to help you better sell online and you will literally be able to do anything with this platform, but be ready with a big budget!
  • Hybris, again, this is one of the big boys! It is for the same type of merchant as Salesforce Commerce and also comes at a high price. If you can afford the price ticket, then you will definitely get the results.

Having said all this, it is one thing choosing the right eCommerce platform, but you must also, very carefully, select the agency you commission to build your site! There are a lot of agencies out there, as my fellow agency owners will testify to, that say they can build you x site with y platform and at a super z low price, but sadly we have seen too many failed projects. In my next blog, I will give you some hints and tips on how to choose the right agency and not let your money fall into a bottom pit! If you can’t wait, then just give me a call and I will be happy to help.

If you need help with choosing the right platform, then don’t bury your head in the sand, get in touch with us and we will be really open to helping you.