In this article we will list and compare a series of free and paid ecommerce systems that in the last 2 years have found greater success by the public; for each named platform we will identify strengths and weaknesses .
There are so many ecommerce platforms used by companies, which is why we focused only on the best 6 used this year. Here are the most used e-commerce platforms in 2021 : Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Magento, Squarespace and Prestashop. Each of them is suitable for a certain type owners, let's find out together which is the best for your business.
WooCommerce was born as a free add-on to be installed on the open source WordPress CMS.
Its interface is extremely intuitive therefore you will take just few minutes to learn to use it. In fact, according to a recent research made by Statista, it is the first most used ecommerce in the world. (Source: https://www.statista.com/statistics/710207/worldwide-ecommerce-platforms-market-share/)
The graphic elements in this case are managed with WordPress themes, which can be downloaded for free directly from the Wp platform or through the most popular online repositories (such as Envato Market - Theme Forest - .etc)
Through this last channel it is also possible to find thousands of paid themes, the prices of the individual themes vary from 20 to 100 euros depending on the required features.
Even the features are 100% customisable, always through the installation of third-party plugins which can be free or paid. For example, it is possible to connect with third-party software such as MailChimp or MailerLite to manage contact lists and do marketing automation, it easily integrates with the most popular CRM's such as Salesforce.
PayPal is the payment method natively integrated in WooCommerce, however, always through the installation and configuration of add-ons (and sometimes a little programming) it is possible to add other payment methods.
Being an open source project, it is very easy to find all the information necessary to keep the platform updated, for this reason it is recommended for companies to be followed by agencies or who have an internal department of developers that are able to modify and optimize the platform in the short term, this obviously implies higher maintenance costs to be incurred (server costs, development cost). The downside is the vulnerability of open source platforms .
Precisely because WordPress is the most used CMS in the world, it is subject to hacker attacks on a daily basis, this compromise the health of the website.
WooCommerce is recommended for those who have to manage small product catalogs, up to 100/150 products in the catalog and for those who do not generate a high traffic of daily visits.
Unfortunately WordPress, if not supported by a good server and overloaded with plugins and add-ons, can suffer quite a lot.
Shopify is a platform that, through paid services , allows you to create your own online store and customize it through various configurations. It is a " SaaS " (software as a service), so there is no need to download any files and perform any installation. In fact, you just need to register by creating an account and immediately you can start configuring and managing the online store.
This means that it will be possible to create your own online store with very little technical skills behind it.
Through an internal store it is possible to choose the graphic theme (a lot of choice both free and paid) to use and customize according to your needs, without having huge technical skills. After that you can start the creation of the product list, the categorization of the products, following with the import through a CSV file. Being mobile-friendly, you can manage the system from any desktop device, tablet or smartphone.
Shopify integrates perfectly with the HubSpot CRM, a great advantage for all super-structured companies that analyze daily data to better optimize the customer journey. In few words, when a customer makes an online purchase, the data is imported in this CRM which then it begins to track their behavior within the site.
Shopify is a paid software and earns a percentage in commissions on sales, after a free trial of 14 days it gives the possibility to choose from the monthly subscription plans that we list below:
Prices may change over time, to stay updated on prices, we recommend that you always consult the company website.
Being a SaaS, Shopify does not require any software installation on your server , just create an account and proceed with the configuration of the online store, starting with the basic settings up to the choice of the theme.
Then we move on to the organization of the catalog and the insertion of the product sheets, specifying in each one all the information useful to customers, adding photos and various descriptions.
BigCommerce is a paid-for, "hosted" eCommerce platform. The platform is mainly aimed at people without much in the way of web design skills, but it also allows more tech-savvy users and developers to take things further by tweaking the HTML and CSS of BigCommerce stores.
BigCommerce is intended for larger companies, or mid-sized enterprises in search of scalability and versatility. The solution might be tougher to work with than Wix at first, particularly if you’re a beginner, but it can also scale to suit your business.
The platform includes 12 free templates to use, professional reporting, for those who like to expand their traffic - blogging functionality. We are still testing BigCommerce, but we think that it's worth of attention.
To create an online store, you’ll need to click into the tab for “Business and eCommerce plans”, which offers the following:
It is an excellent website builder, with a refined design, very easy to use, suitable for those looking for a design aimed at enhancing images, therefore particularly suitable for those who work in the clothing / fashion, design sectors and for creatives.
In fact, templates available are not many (less than 70) however they are simple but stylish - enhancing the graphic content, this obviously must lead you to further enhance your own contents both in terms of aesthetics and quality, in fact if low resolution and low quality images are uploaded - the desired effect would not be obtained.
However, more minimalistic themes are also available that enhance the icons and product listings. It is not possible to modify the css and the scripts of the theme but the platform offers the possibility to add custom scripts. Finally, we should mention that all the themes are responsive.
In order to use Squarespace you need to register and subscribe to a monthly subscription that varies from € 24 per month up to € 42 per month.
The management of the product sheets is very intuitive and allows you to manage all the essential parameters to optimize the product sheets and make them attractive to search engine spiders.
In detail, the proposed plans (and the related transaction commission costs ) are as follows:
All plans include hosting, CMS and various templates to manage pages design; among the payment methods that can be implemented you can find Paypal and Stripe (with Stripe it will be possible to manage Apple Pay transactions).
We do not recommend Payapal as the proposed plan is complex and inconvenient, in fact they apply 3.4% on the commission + fixed fee + additional fees in case of international transactions.
Magento is one of the most complete and complex open source CMS platforms. It has an almost endless list of features built into its native system. The administration area, with a minimum of knowledge becomes quite easy to manage.
Magento + Akeneo, that is a Product information management system, is a perfect mix for companies with a huge amount of products.
Magento is supported by a very strong community. Among the native features that the platform makes available in the frontend, you can find the product comparison, insights, management of related or similar products and checkout without registration; On the backend, you can have the management of invoices and returns, the possibility of managing shipping costs at 360 degrees, managing payments by credit card or integrate a custom module.
Through various connectors it is possible to connect the platform to other marketing tools, such as systems for managing emails or CRM for managing the customer base.
As for the templates, the CMS supports many templates ready to be published however it is not easy to customize them, in fact the support of a skilled frontend developer who can search for resources on Magento Connect or on ThemeForest is required, here the cost of the theme can vary from 75 to over 100 € and more.
Magento Enterprise. There is also a paid version ( Enterprise ) launched about 3 years ago, its annual cost varies according to the turnover of the e-commerce site. For example, for sales up to $ 1 Million, the license cost is around € 20,000 and the commission percentage on turnover is around 2.2%. The more the turnover increases, the more the license costs increase while the commission costs decrease.
Compared to the free version, Magento Enterprise gives the customer the opportunity to get in touch with the official assistance service.
Given its complexity, we can say that it is not a platform for everyone, especially if the owner is not from technology or does not have a team of developers, or better a specialised agency.
The management of updates and troubleshooting must necessarily be done in the development environment and in case of changes made by several members of a team it is preferable to install a code versioning system (bitbucket) in order to have control of the flow of changes made in each single file with the aim of minimizing bugs.
Prestashop is a French based open source CMS platform designed to manage small / medium sized shops, compared to Magento it is less complex to manage, however for particular customizations the support of an agency is always required.
Among the main features of Prestashop we can say that the management of the product catalog is very valid, it is designed to sell infoproducts, can apply discounts on shipping costs, manage coupons and discount vouchers. The statistics panel is complete and provides the most important information to keep turnover data under control.
Template management is based on Smarty, written with PHP. Smarty is one of the best template engines because it is designed to completely separate graphics from programming and content, so that web designers and developers can work safely without stepping on each other's toes.
It is possible to configure different themes for each store or groups of stores, through Prestashop Addons (the official marketplace) you can download a lot of modules to customize your ecommerce site even more. (some resources are free, others are paid, prices vary).
It is the Prestashop version with hosting and database managed directly by them, you do not need to purchase them separately. This in many cases can be a disadvantage for those who need to customize their ecosystem, useful instead for those who want to approach Prestashop and try the platform and do not yet have clear ideas on which is the best ecommerce solution for their business.
In fact, to be able to sell online, all the best eCommerce platforms already have the essential functions natively, all are supported by a large communities that helps developers and managers to solve more or less complex problems on a daily basis, the same as regards the possibility of customisations by downloading add-ons available online on their marketplaces.
The huge difference that can affect the choice of a system rather than another is certainly the budget, the availability of a developer (or a team of developers), the business model , the number of orders processed daily, and the market / i in which to invest.
Another feature that all these platforms have in common: they are SEO Friendly. It means that they are born and designed for being recongnized on search engines, however for this activity an initial study by a professional is required in order to be able to define and propose to the company the best strategy to be visible on the search organically.
Our team has gained experience to be able to provide support for small, medium, big size businesses by consulting on which steps are needed in order to have a quality eCommerce.