eCommerce
22 min

eCommerce platforms: which is the best for your business?

September 20, 2021
eCommerce platforms: which is the best for your business?

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  • Onectus is a startup and mobile e-commerce technology provider.
  • We will help you to build and scale your awesome ideas following Agile values.
  • Our scope is to build products of perspective businesses as well as guarantee the best start and scaling strategy based on our knowledge achieved in years of activity.
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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 .

Most used eCommerce list in 2021

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

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.

Is WooCommerce worth it? Advantages and disadvantages

In summary:

  1. Free plugin;
  2. Easy to set up;
  3. A minimum of technical knowledge is required on the functioning of CMS;
  4. First most used CMS in the world;
  5. Endless free online resources;
  6. Thousands of free or paid plugins / themes available online;
  7. Requires a performing server;
  8. Vulnerable open source system;
  9. Ideal for product catalogs up to 100/150 product sheets;
  10. It integrates with the main payment methods;
  11. It integrates with the best CRM platforms;
  12. Ideal for starting to approach marketing automation.

Shopify

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:

  • Basic Shopify , at $ 29 per month (2% commission on sales): recommended for those who have just started investing online and do not yet know the main dynamics. Contains the essential features to start selling online.
  • Shopify , at $ 79 per month (1% commission on sales): the evolution of the basic account with the same features plus some features that allow, for example, to manage gift vouchers, abandoned carts and fraud analysis.
  • Advanced Shopify , at $ 299 per month (0.5% commission on sales): recommended for large companies that manage to earn every month without problems, itincludes the ability to automatically calculate shipping costs and can manage up to 15 accounts.
  • Shopify Plus: The monthly fee is variable and is calculated on annual turnover volumes, starting at $ 2000 per month. Unlike the classic Marketing automation present in the basic version, the PLUS version provides Flow, which allows you to integrate with CRM such as Salesforce or HubSpot, the automated management of customer filters and tags; finally, it is possible to configure up to 10 different and independent stores (different graphics, different currencies, etc.)

Prices may change over time, to stay updated on prices, we recommend that you always consult the company website.

How does Shopify work?

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.

Shopify: is it worth it? Advantages and disadvantages

In summary:

  1. Ease of use
  2. It does not require technical knowledge
  3. It does not require server-side installations
  4. There is no need to have a freelancer or a development agency
  5. You don't need to buy a hosting service for it to work
  6. It integrates with HubSpot
  7. Infinite customizations (templates / graphics / features)
  8. Assistance 24h
  9. Paid software (3 plans)
  10. Commissions on sales
  11. Some features are paid
  12. Some graphics are paid
  13. Ability to connect to the backend anywhere, even from tablet and mobile with the appropriate application
  14. Apps (or plugins) to use - most of them are paid.

Bigcommerce

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.

More features:

  • the ability to sell an unlimited number of physical or digital goods, in categories of your choosing and using shipping rates of your choosing
  • a drag-and-drop page builder
  • integrations with Paypal and a wide range of other payment gateways
  • unlimited staff accounts
  • search engine optimisation (SEO) features
  • automated image optimisation, using Akamai Image Manager
  • integration with various third-party apps
  • discount coupons and gift vouchers
  • product review functionality
  • the ability to tweak CSS and HTML
  • professional reporting

To create an online store, you’ll need to click into the tab for “Business and eCommerce plans”, which offers the following:

  • Standard – $29.95 per month: Sell up to 50k per year with no transaction fees, 24/7 support, unlimited staff accounts, leading payment gateway integrations, special credit card rates, single page checkouts, integrations with leading POS solutions, marketplace integrations, HTTPs, and dedicated SSL. Mobile app, shipping quotes, discount rules and coupons, and product ratings.
  • Plus – $79.95 per month: All the features of Standard, but you can sell up to 180k annually, and get special credit card rates through PayPal and Braintree. There are customer groups and segmentation available, an abandoned cart saver, stored credit cards, a persistent cart and more.
  • Pro – $299.95 per month: All the features of “Plus”, as well as the ability to sell up to $400k annually, access even better credit card rates and implement custom SSL and faceted search.

Bigcommerce: is it worth it? Advantages and disadvantages

In summary:

  1. Lots of features for online sales
  2. No transaction fees included in the costs
  3. Lots of SEO functionality for ranking
  4. Support for sales on multiple channels
  5. Scalability for a growing business
  6. More complicated for beginners to use
  7. Requires some coding knowledge
  8. Comes with annual sales thresholds to consider
  9. Not ideal for multilingual selling

Squarespace

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:

  • Business : € 24 / month (3% commission - € 1.4 + € 0.25 European cards | 2.9% + € 0.25 foreign cards): basic functionality, unlimited insertion of product and category data sheets, management of basic discounts.
  • eCommerce Base : € 28 / month (0% commission - € 1.4 + € 0.25 European cards | 2.9% + € 0.25 foreign cards): all the functions of the basic module are provided and additional ones are integrated between including customer account management, checkout within your own domain, similar products and products on Instagram
  • Advanced eCommerce : 48 € / month (0% commission - 1.4 + 0.25 € European cards | 2.9% + 0.25 € foreign cards): all the functions of the previous plans are provided, it addition you will have the management of the recovery of abandoned carts, the creation and management of gift cards, advanced shipping, advanced discounts, unlimited availability labels and the ability to interface with their API for order and inventory management.

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.

Squarespace ecommerce: is it worth it? Advantages and disadvantages

In summary:

  1. Easy to use
  2. Quick setup
  3. Intuitive builder
  4. Beautiful and easily configurable templates
  5. Useful if the photos available are beautiful and in high resolution (take care of the size!)
  6. Few templates available
  7. Not suitable for geeks
  8. Lack of app stores to integrate third party software
  9. Great customer service
  10. Extra fees when receiving payment

Magento + Akeneo

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.

Is Magento worth it? Advantages and disadvantages

In summary:

  1. Very heavy platform, it needs an excellent hosting service
  2. Migration activities (from another platform to magento or vice versa) not easy to manage
  3. High security levels
  4. Platform updates to be done in the development environment
  5. Very complex creation and configuration of themes
  6. Recommended for those who can annually incur costs for the management of the platform (updates, bugs, maintenance)
  7. Recommended for those who have an internal team of developers or an agency that works vertically on Magento
  8. Recommended for those who need to work with multiple stores
  9. Recommended for those who need to work on multiple markets.
  10. Modular and customizable platform based on the customer's business needs
  11. Comprehensive documentation, support forum
  12. Certified training and resources available online

Prestashop

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).

Prestashop Cloud

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.

Is Prestashop worth it? Advantages and disadvantages

In summary:

  1. Easy to use
  2. Modular platform
  3. Well-stocked marketplace
  4. "Cheap" software in terms of hardware resources
  5. Community active online
  6. Suitable for small/medium size ecommerce
  7. Requires the support of a developer in case of changes and / or updates
  8. Too frequent updates and bugfixes
  9. Prestashop Cloud is valid for beginners
  10. Unsuitable for large e-commerce and for those who need many customisations over time

Conclusions

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.

Let's build something great together!

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