For several growing mid-market businesses, selecting the right E-Commerce platform is the key to unlocking performance. Understandably, a comparative analysis is the obvious next step because this decision carries wide-ranging implications.
Now, I have a set of parameters that have been used in this evaluative analysis. While they will give you an almost exhaustive idea about the usability of these E-Commerce platforms, you must remember that every entity carries pros and cons.
Prepare a list of use cases which are specific to your business needs before reading ahead. That’ll help you gauge your immediate benefits more closely.
Often dubbed as the industry leader, Shopify was recorded to have a global merchant count of over 600,000 in May 2018, as per Shopify & You. In fact, it’s got some pretty impressive statistics in its court.
Take a look at the Google Trends comparison. Shopify wins hands down.
Since 2008, Shopify has experienced a voluminous growth across the globe. It rose while competing with and leaving behind front-runners like Magento and WooCommerce.
If you conduct a market share search for the major E-Commerce platforms, you’ll also discover that Shopify is gaining customers from its competitors like BigCommerce and Volusion. That is a probable indicator of how consistently the company improves its services and upgrades its tech.
Of course, it is losing customers to Wix (better interface, perhaps) and BigCommerce (more affordable pricing in comparison) at the same time. But the number is in no way alarming or even disturbing to Shopify’s rising stature.
Ease of Use
The setup is simple enough. You get a handy dashboard area where you can customise the site, add products, import listings from any previous store on another platform.
The forms are descriptive. You get the option to test the site before it’s launched. There is a live editor to reflect any changes immediately on the store. It offers an app store with over a hundred add-on directories. And, you can bring in custom coding(HTML & CSS) as well.
As of May 2018, Shopify offers three packages, namely Basic, Regular, and Advanced, at $29, $79, and $299 per month respectively.
While all three bundles allow unlimited product listings, customer log-ins, and similar customer support features, the Basic pack doesn’t include professional reports, gift cards, and abandoned cart recovery. And, only the Advanced option lets you avail real-time carrier shipping.
You can find beautiful and responsive themes on this E-Commerce platform. With multiple designs, different fonts, mega menus, instant Ajax loading, built-in sliders, etc., these themes also offer support for a range of stores with varying inventory size.
Social Media Integration
On the Shopify App Store, you can get a variety of options to enhance your social presence, promote your products, and increase the follower count.
Customising your online store with social sharing buttons is possible. You can also create shoppable Instagram galleries, use Facebook Messenger to let your customers recover abandoned carts, and use autopilot add-on to post every new listing on FB and Twitter.
It also offers SEO options, like meta descriptions, titles tags, image tags, page URLs, etc. to be edited as per need.
You get 24*7 support on phone, email, and live chat. It also operates a knowledge base, which works like a community. You can search for an issue, and if anyone has ever talked about or addressed the same, you’ll find the thread and be able to resolve the problem.
Since Shopify has a large user count, its knowledge base is quite rich as well.
The Shopify server is Level 1 PCI DSS compliant. It’s pricing plans offer 128-bit Free SSL protection. The online stores get a 99.94% uptime guarantee, data backups, vulnerability management, https URL, the green padlock on your URL(which means that the traffic to and from your web store is encrypted,) and access control.
As compared to the other three platforms, Shopify is expensive. You will have to pay for a monthly subscription as well as an additional fee for transaction processing. However, to skip the latter, you can opt for Shopify Payments.
Despite having several attributes, the default key product-description parameters are limited in number.
A close second to Shopify, WooCommerce is known as a customisable E-Commerce platform. In fact, this WordPress E-Commerce plugin is used by 94% of all WordPress E-Commerce websites, reports Barn2Media.
Its an adaptable and extendable open source solution that’s pretty popular for its flexibility. You get to view the code, modify it, and contribute to it as and when needed.
Except for Shopify, WooCommerce is the most popular solution the industry has to offer.
BuiltWith claims that WooCommerce is used by about 1.5 million existing stores, which amounts to 42% of total E-Commerce sites. However, a better case for the plugin is built by the changes noted over time in its popularity.
Ease of Use
WooCommerce is as easy to work with as Shopify, with a single exception- setting up the store.
Since it’s a WordPress plugin, as opposed to Shopify which is a subscription-based service, you can’t work with it to set up an online store directly. You will need to sort out a domain name, rent a hosting service, install WordPress, and get a theme established on it.
In comparison to Shopify’s one-click sign-up, it’s a bit of a downer. However, it’s better than what you get with Magento and OpenCart.
You can use any specialised WordPress hosting service to take care of these initial steps, and the rest will be taken care of by the simple on-screen setup wizard.
While the software costs you nothing, you will need to pay for hosting, SSL certificate, domain, transactions fee, and extensions to support additional payment gateways, SEO, etc.
WooCommerce is all about helping you list and sell your products online as smoothly as possible. But, it doesn’t offer any designs of its own. Your WordPress theme must handle that.
However, you will find themes in the market that are:
What Woo does is offer you an online store theme, called the Storefront, and its child themes at different prices, so that you can customise your web store without much hassle. You can find over 2000 Woo-specific themes on the WordPress theme directory, ThemeForest, and Mojo Themes as well.
Social Media Integration
Social sharing buttons get added to your store products page automatically by the plugin. You can use a shortcode to extend them to other pages, widgets, events, etc. You get to pick the layout and select the social networks that are to be displayed.
Since WordPress is deemed one of the most reliable content creation platforms regarding SEO, you can easily modify the meta tags and text to facilitate ranking by targeted keywords. You can also use additional plugins, like the WooCommerce-dedicated Yoast SEO, to optimise the web store.
You have WordPress forums, a big community dedicated to the E-Commerce plugin, as a support system. You can also create an account on Woocommerce.in and get help there.
A strong password and regular updates are vital to staying secure on WordPress. With WooCommerce, however, you will also get SSL security. Just make sure it’s enabled on every page of your store.
To avail advanced protective measures, like malware scan, one-click security check, brute force protection, etc., you will have to download plugins.
You will be spending some time on the initial setup and management. If you aren’t into programming, you will have to pay for this customisation.
For every extension added to the store, you must consider the price and compare it against your budget to stay within the affordable limit. Plus, maintaining the web store is your responsibility.
The customer service with Woo is not as straightforward as you may want. If you prefer researching issues online and reaching a solution, there is enough community support and online blogs to offer assistance. However, it lacks 24*7 customer service. And, there are no reps to talk to.
At the first mention of Magento, the top three things that come to mind are ‘usability’, ‘customisation’, and ‘community’.
What alienates it from the others, however, is its tech-oriented user base.
You see, like WooCommerce, Magento also requires you to deal with hosting, installation, setup, and configuration, before you can begin using it. However, unlike Woo, you can’t just hire a WordPress hosting service and be done.
You need high levels of programming and web development knowledge, or professional assistance, to cope with this portal. Reasonably, it’s not recommended for beginners.
As per a SimilarTech report, around 28,905 websites in 2014 were based on Magento in the US alone. Between 2016 and 2017, as per a Builtwith report, the number of sites built using Magento increased by 48,000.
Over 250,000 websites around the globe are built using this software, including that of the ABC (Leading Spanish national daily newspaper) and OnePlus. It is being used for 16% of the top one million websites on the web, as reported by Aaditri Technology in December 2017.
As for popularity, despite the raging growth of Shopify, Magento remains a close second, as per Google search rankings, owing to its expansive feature set.
Ease of Use
It comes with a well-designed and thought-out user interface. However, unlike Shopify, it doesn’t provide a setup wizard.
Its inbuilt multi-lingual support puts the others at an obvious disadvantage. It offers more than 5000 add-ons and apps, an advanced interface, and robust customisation capabilities.
With Magento, the level of personalisation is as high as it can get with E-Commerce platforms. You have unrestricted freedom to modify the entire code. Of course, you can utilise this advantage only if you possess in-depth know-how of HTML/CSS and web programming.
Since there is no question of an automatic setup here, you don’t pay anything to Magento for that purpose.
But, what you do pay for includes:
The Magento community has many differently styled and priced responsive themes and templates to suit a wide range of products. In fact, it provides more free templates than Shopify. And, its paid themes begin from a mere $1 while the same for Shopify starts around $80.
Social Media Integration
It offers extensive SEO capabilities, like independent navigation links, page titles and URLs, meta descriptions, ALT tags, etc. You can integrate blogging features in your web store with the help of free extensions as well.
This enterprise E-Commerce platform is an open-source solution and boasts of an active population of volunteers and users.
Magento was created using open collaboration, and despite it being acquired by Adobe in 2018, it continues to be decentralised. That gives it the benefit of a well-knit community.
The official website also offers a knowledge base with FAQ, troubleshooting, and How-to guides. You get tech resources, developer documentation, and forums. Plus, you can reach out to the certified Magento solution partners for a consultation
Most E-Commerce solutions aren’t 100% secure. Although Magento is technically advanced, it has become especially proactive about safety since its version 2 release. It regularly announces patches to deal with vulnerabilities regarding code execution, cross-site scripting, information leakage, etc.
Magento is not user-friendly. Despite unlimited customisation capacity, it needs you to be a somewhat expert to play with it. It requires large storage for installation. And, many simple actions, like SEO based URL altering, are more complicated than necessary.
It’s a recourse intensive E-Commerce platform, which means that you can’t use cheap hosting here. Plus, the absence of direct hosting makes it tough to set up the store.
The oldest among this lot, OpenCart has a peculiar advantage over all others- It costs the least.
With a lightweight core, no hidden price structures, and a simple set up, OpenCart stands behind around 317,000 live web stores as of 2017, the developer Daniel Kerr reports.
The recently released OpenCart Cloud version, however, offers a quick store setup, is perfect for beginners as well as code-naive folks, and charges a premium yearly subscription after a 14-day trial.
Kerr claims that OpenCart was the topmost E-Commerce software supplier of China in September 2014. In August 2015, Kerr stresses, OpenCart was way ahead of Magento and WooCommerce with a smashing 6.42% of the total e-commerce website volume in its lap.
With regular updates that the platform receives frequently, it’s reasonable to hope that OpenCart will soon enough rejoin the race for the ‘most popular’ title.
Ease of Use
There is a clean and orderly sample dashboard. The product information spans across many tabs and results in clear descriptions. The discount engine is good enough. As you advance with customisations, applications, and development, you’ll be able to tweak and use all features necessary to run a Webstore properly.
You can run a functional E-commerce website using OpenCart for free. But, there are charges to be paid for services like domain and hosting.
The good news- OpenCart lets you upgrade as you make progress. It doesn’t require potent hardware and server support. So, you can begin with a low-cost model and improve upon it with time.
The free waivers include features like administrative management, unlimited categories and listings, multi-lingual support, multi-currency support, and the permission to add around 36 payment gateways including Amazon Payments, Skrill, and PayPal.
The open-source platform gives you a lot of control over the code. You can make manual modifications and tweaks.
There are over 1500 free extensions. If you wish to purchase add-ons like SEO Backpack, Sales Motivator, Intuitive Shipping etc., you can expect to pay around $20-$100 a year per module. Again, this is optional. The need for such an upgrade will depend on how coding-adept you are.
There are plenty of free responsive themes. Purchasing from third-party resources, like TemplateMonster, is an option as well.
Social Media Integration
The SEO and social integration with OpenCart fall in the same league as Magento, Woo, and Shopify. Plus, with plugins like Social Login, you can add over 35 platforms, collect emails, gather demographic information, and eliminate spam, all for free.
The internet is brimming with information about OC, including forums, blogs, and third-party documentation, that can help you with the standard framework.
There is a premium support feature for the cloud-based OpenCart, available at $99 per month, that offers extensive help for installations, profiling issues, bug fixes, module consultation, query handling, and regular reports.
OpenCart Cloud gives you a good enough protective shield. However, with the open source platform, you’re responsible for integrating the right extensions and downloading the latest patches to keep vulnerabilities covered and threats at bay.
OpenCart is often deemed less Search Engine friendly than the rest. It is more difficult to customise for non-programmers.
The standard open-source platform has minimal official support to offer. Although the cloud has a robust assistance program in shape, it is not a very impressive service as of yet and requires a few upgrades to become a well-endowed E-Commerce Platform.
Ah, yes! Time for the verdict.
Well, as I often say, there is little unique in the way two people analyse any business solution. That applies to E-Commerce platforms as well.
Therefore, before picking the winner of the ‘Magento vs Shopify vs Opencart vs Woocommerce’, I’d suggest you consider this comparison table.
|Deployment||On-Premise & Cloud-Based||On-Premise||On-Premise & Cloud-Based||On-Premise & Cloud-Based|
|Stock Keeping Unit (SKU) Restriction||Unlimited||Unlimited in All Except the Cheapest Plan||Unlimited||Unlimited|
|Pricing||Free download||Subscription-based plan||Free download & Paid Enterprise Version||Free Download|
|Preferred Users||Preferred Users||Small and Medium Businesses||Large Businesses||WordPress sites|
|Ease of Use||Moderate||Very Easy||Very Easy||Moderate|
|SEO Friendliness||Low||Very High||Moderate||High|
Hosting your storefront, as opposed to listing your products with a third-party host like Amazon or eBay, multiplies your control over the business proceedings. But, everyone encounters roadblocks in a new endeavour. As will you, to the point where you’ve tried and tested a few, liked some, and disliked others.
It will take time and a few attempts before you can precisely point out features that make up the best E-commerce platform for your business.
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