Choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business is crucial for the success of your online store. With so many options available in the market, it can be challenging to decide which one is the best fit for your business needs, especially if you do not understand the differences between such platforms.
In this article, we analyze five of the most popular options available - Adobe Commerce (previously known as Magento), Squarespace, Shopify, Webflow and WooCommerce. However, before diving into the specific features of each platform, it's essential to understand the difference between closed and open source eCommerce platforms.
Closed Source vs Open Source
Closed source platforms are proprietary, meaning that the source code is not available to users, and you are limited to the features and functionality that the platform offers, with customization options being limited. Closed source platforms are often easier to use, but they come with monthly fees, transaction fees, and other costs.
Closed source eCommerce platforms like Shopify are often marketed as "easy setup" solutions that offer a range of out-of-the-box features and functionality. While these platforms are ideal for small businesses starting out, they can become limiting over time as your business grows and you require more customization options and control over the platform's features.
On the other hand, by allowing you to modify the source code, open source eCommerce platforms provide more customization options, flexibility and control over the platform's features and functionality. This makes them ideal for business that offer a unique product/service which requires more than off-the-shelf eCommerce software, such as vendors, booking companies, digital downloads and more.
One of the main advantages of using an open-source platform is that they are easy to scale up or down when required. This is thanks to the fact that most services used are by subscription. Therefore, one has the flexibility to cancel a subscription which is no longer needed and in the same manner, subscribe to a new one that the business might need.
However, open source platforms require more technical knowledge, skills and responsibilities, such as registering a domain name and site hosting. In most cases, it is recommended to outsource to specialists who would be able to set up and maintain the open-source platform.
Adobe Commerce (previously known as Magento)
Adobe Commerce is an open source eCommerce platform that is popular among businesses of all sizes, offering a range of features, including multi-store functionality, advanced product management, and customizable checkout options. The open-source nature of Adobe Commerce means that it can be customized to meet the specific needs of your business, making it a flexible and powerful platform.
However, it is not for everyone. The platform requires a high level of technical expertise to set up and manage, and the learning curve can be steep. Additionally, Adobe Commerce can be resource-intensive, meaning that it may require a more powerful server to run efficiently. Moreover, due to its low market share, there is a limited number of experts who are able to develop and maintain such systems, which tends to make running an eCommerce platform on Adobe Commerce more costly.
Popular among small businesses and creatives, Squarespace is a closed source eCommerce platform that is known for its ease of use and its range of stunning templates, which make it easy to create a beautiful online store. While innovative features such as integrated payment processing, customizable product pages, and easy inventory management are offered, the fact that it is a closed source platform means that customization and flexibility options are limited when compared to some of its competitors.
Nevertheless, while Squarespace may not be suitable for businesses with more complex needs, it remains the second most popular eCommerce platform globally, offering professional creative websites for an affordable price.
For those looking for one of the previously mentioned ‘easy setup’ platforms for their small to medium-sized business, Shopify might be a viable option. It is easy to use, and it offers a range of features, including a customizable storefront, integrated payment processing, and easy product management.
That being said, one should keep in mind that Shopify charges transaction fees on top of its monthly subscription fee, which can eat into your profits over time. Additionally, flexibility is limited and nowhere near what is available with open source platforms such as WooCommerce.
Webflow's eCommerce platform offers a moderate level of open-source customization and flexibility, as well as a range of features designed to help businesses succeed in the eCommerce space.
However, when compared to competing open source platforms such as WooCommerce, it does not quite come out on top. Since Webflow is primarily a visual website builder, its eCommerce plugin library is relatively limited when compared to what is offered by WordPress. In fact, since it has limited customization options for the checkout process and lacks built-in SEO functionality, it may not be suitable for larger, more complex eCommerce stores. You can find a more detailed comparison between Webflow & WordPress/WooCommerce here.
WooCommerce is the world’s leading eCommerce platform, built open-source on top of WordPress and making it a popular choice for businesses using WordPress for their website. However, its range of innovative features and flexibility also make it a practical option for companies who are still using closed platforms and are ready to upgrade the level of functionality of their eCommerce store.
From customizable checkout options to easy product management, and a wide range of third-party integrations, WooCommerce's open-source nature means that it is highly customizable, and it can be extended even further with a range of plugins and extensions
Best of all, WooCommerce is generally the least expensive choice, since a business only needs to pay for hosting and any required WooCommerce extensions.
Open platforms are widely considered as a better fit for most eCommerce businesses, since they make it easy to scale as the business grows. Apart from being highly customizable and functional, the popularity of WooCommerce can also be attributed to the fact that it offers lower startup costs and an environment where it’s easier to control expenditure.
What should I consider when choosing an eCommerce platform?
When choosing an ecommerce platform, it's important to consider factors such as the platform's features, scalability, ease of use, support, security, and cost. You should also think about your specific business needs and how well the platform will meet those needs.
How do I determine which eCommerce platform is best for my business needs?
To determine which eCommerce platform is best for your business needs, you should consider factors such as your budget, business size, product offerings, marketing goals, and technical capabilities.
What are the benefits of choosing a hosted eCommerce platform versus a self-hosted platform?
Hosted ecommerce platforms typically provide easier setup and maintenance, as the platform provider takes care of hosting, security, and updates. Self-hosted platforms provide more control and customization options but require more technical expertise and responsibility for maintenance and security.
How can I ensure that the eCommerce platform I choose is scalable for my business's growth?
Opting for an eCommerce platform which is open source such as WooCommerce makes it easier to scale for business growth, thanks to increased flexibility in terms of third party integrations and customizable features.
What kind of support should the eCommerce platform provider offer?
When selecting an ecommerce platform, it's important to consider the support options available. Look for providers that offer reliable customer support, resources for troubleshooting and training, and frequent software updates.
What are the costs associated with different eCommerce platforms?
The costs associated with different ecommerce platforms can vary depending on the provider and the specific features you need. Some platforms charge a monthly fee, while others such as Shopify charge a transaction fee or a percentage of sales. You should also factor in any additional costs for customization, third-party integrations, and hosting.
Can I integrate third-party tools and plugins with my chosen eCommerce platform?
Yes, many eCommerce platforms such as WooCommerce offer integrations with third-party tools and plugins to help enhance your website's functionality and user experience. It is a good idea to check with your chosen platform provider to see what integrations are available.