This article has been contributed by Jan Guardian.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform is one of the most critical decisions for a business when moving its operations online. With open-source platforms like WordPress, Magento, and PrestaShop, and SaaS like Shopify and Wix, there’s no shortage of options in the market today. Some offer ease of use while others offer feature-rich functionality and complete customizability. Choosing one over the other can be challenging.
Examining each platform for its ease of use, functionality, customizability, and security will help you identify the best platform for your needs. Choosing the right solution will help you deliver memorable customer experiences, streamline your operational efficiency, and create phenomenal growth opportunities.
In this article, we’ll compare the top 5 eCommerce platforms in the world so that you can understand which of them is a better fit for your online business.
Used by nearly 2.8 million live websites globally, WooCommerce is a force to be reckoned with. Although it is only an extension built for the open-source WordPress platform, WooCommerce is currently one of the most popular eCommerce platforms with over 30% of global market share. Let’s find out the reasons behind its wide adoption.
Image source: Kawaii Box
WooCommerce is open-source software. It is licensed under the GNU General Public License v3.0, which makes it free to use and distribute with a royalty-free license. However, merchants should be aware of hidden costs, such as a hosting service and a domain name, which will require budget.
WooCommerce comes bundled with a number of great features, such as:
- WordPress content integration
- total control of the checkout process
- simplified coupon system
- flexible shipping destinations
- advanced SEO functionality
- supports an unlimited number of products.
However, it does not support bundled products natively. It also lacks support for PDF invoicing and product swatches, which are essential for most eCommerce businesses. While you can add most of its lacking functionality using extensions, you would need to purchase multiple subscriptions costing anywhere from $49 to $199 annually for each extension.
Ease of Use
WooCommerce’s popularity is a testament to its ease of use. Configuring and using WooCommerce requires very little technical proficiency, making it ideal for first-time entrepreneurs starting an eCommerce business. If you’re familiar with WordPress, managing a WooCommerce site will be a piece of cake for you.
WooCommerce is completely customizable. Thanks to WordPress’s massive extension ecosystem, WooCommerce users get access to unlimited design and functionality options through free and paid third-party software, which gives eCommerce business owners great control over their store appearance and the ability to add specific features to tailor their business needs.
Unfortunately, WooCommerce’s popularity and heavy dependency on extensions make it an easy target for hackers. The fact that WooCommerce is a WordPress extension makes it even more vulnerable and requires additional precautions to ensure sufficient security.
WooCommerce is an easy-to-use solution for first-time business owners. However, it has several significant shortcomings, such as dependency on third-party extensions and higher vulnerability to compromise, that might limit its adoption.
Next up is the most popular eCommerce SaaS in the world today — Shopify. If you’ve ever lurked on Reddit or come across posts looking for recommendations for eCommerce platforms, Shopify is by far the most recommended one. Let’s see why.
Image source: Partake
Shopify is a subscription-based eCommerce platform with plans ranging between $9 and $299 per month, with the functionality being dependent on the subscription plan you choose.
Shopify provides its clients with a full-featured web store already with its Basic plan, thus allowing merchants to sell an unlimited number of products using a variety of sales channels. It also offers additional features, such as advanced customer reporting and calculated carrier shipping, but they are available for the Advanced Shopify plan users only.
As for Shopify’s disadvantages, one of them is SEO-friendliness, as it forces a standard URL structure on its users. Besides this, many users find it difficult to create sub-categories on this eCommerce platform.
Ease of Use
Shopify is second to none in terms of ease of use. New users are only required to sign up and purchase a subscription to the platform to start using it.
Shopify has an extension store with hundreds of themes and extensions. On the downside, developers wishing to work with the platform need to learn ‘Liquid’ an open-source template language created by Shopify, which is limiting its widespread adoption and customizability.
Shopify manages the maintenance and security of the platform for its users. However, Shopify isn’t bulletproof as the company has experienced significant vulnerabilities with its API and internal security breaches.
Shopify is an excellent platform for beginners and those who aren’t confident in handling their stores. However, in terms of functionality, pricing, security, and SEO-friendliness, it lacks behind many of its competitors.
PrestaShop is an open-source PHP-based platform that supports a MySQL-based database system. Launched in 2007, the platform has evolved quickly to become a preferred choice for over 300,000 merchants worldwide.
Image source: Freshly
Similar to other open-source solutions, PrestaShop is distributed under the OSL and is free to use. However, merchants still have to pay for hosting, domain, SSL certificates, and additional extensions needed to enhance your store’s functionality.
PrestaShop offers over 500 built-in features, such as unlimited listings, advanced SEO capabilities, a large selection of payment options, custom promotions, and advanced navigation to name a few. It allows creating multilingual web stores with 75 languages available out of the box. However, PrestaShop doesn’t support multicurrency setup natively, while some other platforms, such as Magento, do.
Ease of Use
PrestaShop is easy to set up and use: it has few dependencies and requires few resources to install and manage. It has a slick and intuitive dashboard to allow merchants of all technical levels to work with it.
PrestaShop is completely customizable and provides enough room for flexibility. As with all open-source software, you can edit its code in every way possible to make your store meet your business needs. You can enhance it with additional features by integrating thousands of extensions and themes available on PrestaShop Marketplace. However, keep in mind that the extensions available for PrestaShop are more expensive as compared to many other eCommerce platforms.
PrestaShop is mostly secure and stable. Critical security vulnerabilities have been recently found in some of its extensions, including PrestaShop Checkout and 1-Click Upgrade, but they were quickly eliminated. It should be noted that the responsibility to configure and secure the software remains with the store owner and server administrator.
PrestaShop offers ease of use, therefore, it is more suitable for businesses with fewer demands. If you are looking to create a high-performance and feature-rich website that will scale in the future, you should consider other options.
While Wix may have been long considered a platform suitable for static websites, it has gained rapid adoption by eCommerce businesses over the past few years. Let’s see how it stands up against its competitors.
Image source: Cleverchefs
Wix is a SaaS offering plans between $17 to $35 per month for eCommerce websites, giving it the upper hand when it comes to pricing. The platform provides a free hosting service to Wix clients on their server, which is also a great advantage for merchants on budget.
Being rather cheap, Wix doesn’t have all the features required to run an eCommerce business effectively. While Wix claims to support an unlimited number of products, a significant flaw in their offering is the lack of support for unlimited custom product attributes. Most businesses require custom product attributes as not all products sold online can be defined by color and size alone.
Ease of Use
Wix is extremely easy to use and offers one of the most user-friendly drag-and-drop page builders. Its ease of use and no-coding required approach to building websites is what makes it extremely popular.
Beyond the page builder and apps offered on its marketplace, Wix doesn’t allow much room for customizability. As a proprietary software, it doesn’t provide nearly as much flexibility and scalability as other open-source platforms do.
As a SaaS, security in Wix stores is managed by the platform’s developers. While it has been plagued by vulnerabilities in the past, it isn’t considered an insecure or a weak platform nowadays. Wix uses HTTPS/SSL to encrypt and protect user’s data.
Wix is more suitable for smaller stores for artists and dropshippers, as it is easy to use and free. However, it is not suitable for large businesses that require high performance and load speed, as Wix websites are sometimes slow, especially on mobile devices.
Magento is an open-source eCommerce platform that’s feature-rich, fully customizable, and extremely secure. It is one of the top eCommerce platforms in the world today, powering nearly 10% of the top 1 million eCommerce websites worldwide. Let’s explore why Magento is a preferred platform for over 200,000 online merchants.
Image source: Fred Perry
Magento has two primary editions: Magento Open Source distributed under the Open Software License 3.0 and free to use, and Magento Commerce starting at approximately $1,600 per month. As Magento is self-hosted, one should add here the cost of hosting services as well.
Magento is one of the most feature-rich platforms that offers eCommerce business owners a vast set of unmatched functionalities out of the box. For instance, Magento uses Elasticsearch, a powerful search engine, that allows for advanced search functionality, including filtering and custom sorting, which is missing in other platforms. Furthermore, it uses Varnish caching to reduce the load on the server and decrease page load times significantly. As a result, Magento stores can achieve page load speeds as low as 1–1.5 seconds.
Magento has one of the most powerful catalog management systems in an eCommerce platform, and it can support an unlimited number of products. It provides complete control over all products, product attributes, and categories, making it easier to create and manage products.
Perhaps, the biggest strength of Magento is that any functionality that it doesn’t offer natively, can be custom built with the help of professionals.
Ease of Use
In terms of ease of use, Magento lags behind its competitors. It needs to be installed and configured on a server before use, which requires some level of technical skills or even hiring a professional Magento agency. However, the flexibility and customizability that Magento users get back are worth it.
In terms of customizability, Magento stands out as a clear winner against most eCommerce platforms. With custom-built or third-party extensions and themes, merchants can customize their websites’ design, content, and functionality in every way possible to meet their particular business needs.
Magento is considered to be a lot more secure and stable than many other eCommerce platforms due to the use of HTTPS/SSL and WAF. When appropriately configured, Magento stores are little prone to being hacked. However, store admins are required to secure their servers by themselves and manually configure the platform.
Magento supports virtually every use case and can scale infinitely with a business. If you’re an artist seeking to sell your artwork online, Magento might be overkill for you. That is unless you’re looking for a platform that can support hundreds of paintings in varying frame sizes to be purchased by a global audience. In which case, Magento will work just as well, if not better than every other platform on this list. It is ideal for businesses seeking a rock-solid platform capable of supporting their operations for years to come.
To Sum Up
All eCommerce platforms have their strengths and weaknesses that should be carefully considered before you choose the best one for running your online business. Although there is no one-size-fits-all solution in the market today, Magento comes close to being the perfect eCommerce platform for all needs and for businesses of all sizes. Shopify and WooCommerce are the most optimal solutions for small shops scaling their business online. Wix is beginner-friendly and good for small business websites as well, while PrestaShop is mostly for medium and large enterprises.
About the author: Jan Guardian is the Chief Business Development Officer at Staylime, a Magento development company headquartered in Redwood City, California. He is passionate about sales, marketing, and emerging technologies.