7 January 2022
Why you should set up (and use) Google Analytics for your business
If you look back at the past 15 years, eCommerce has been steadily growing, and chances are if you’re reading this, you don’t need to see the stats to believe it.
With the past two years shuttering the brick and mortar retail experience for months at a time, online sales have experienced a record-breaking high which has left some reassessing their eCommerce platforms.
If an increase in digital traffic has left you worrying you aren’t presenting your products or managing your orders as best you can, then you’ve come to the right place. Taking a look at some of our favourite players in the eCommerce game, and how they can help your business, you can get 2022 off to a good start.
When it comes to our favourite choices for eCommerce platforms, two of our top choices closely echo the global market but if you’re looking for something a little more… how should we say, heavy duty; then we also have an option for you.
If you’re going off of global figures, the most popular option would be Squarespace. Which makes sense considering it’s role as an out-of-the-box solution for many small businesses. Coming in at a close second would be WooCommerce, which has grown tremendously over the past few years, most likely due its accessibility and variety of features. Firmly earning it a place as one of go to choices.
Another of our favorites is the increasingly accessible Shopify, (which would rank at a respectable 5th globally). Designed with the not-so-tech savvy user in mind, it can still result in a professional and reliable eCommerce experience for both you and your customers.
If you’re looking for a wildcard, look no further than Magento. While it’s never been the most popular platform, or dominated a large chunk of the UK’s market share (or that world’s, for that matter), it’s a robust solution, with a strong reputation for handling large retail websites.
If you’ve bought online from Screwfix, Paperchase or Made in the past few months, then you’ve also had a hands-on experience using a Magento site. The more you know!
With global retail e-commerce sales forecast to reach $6.5 trillion by 2023, it’s no surprise that online shopping is big business. And, the software you choose could make or break your customer journey.
Before we get into the nitty gritty of each platform, there’s the caveat that the opinions you’re going to read belong to the author, with a few factual tidbits thrown in for good measure. For every developer that loves Magento, there are ten more who’d rather swallow their space bar than work on it. That being said, the same goes for WooCommerce, Shopify and every available eCommerce platform you can think of.
Developers can be opinionated, but this one is here to help you form an opinion of your own. After all, each of the three packages I’ll discuss has its uses, and it all depends on you and your business needs as to which fits the bill.
If you’re looking for a simple solution, look no further than Shopify. A Shopify website can be set up by somebody with zero experience in building and maintaining websites. All you need to do is pop over to the Shopify website, provide basic details such as your business name & email, and your new eCommerce website is created.
Shopify’s control panel has been designed for people with limited experience in managing websites; it’s highly intuitive and makes it easy for site managers to find what they’re looking for.
Shopify also has the advantage of offering a number of free themes that can be chosen with a few clicks of your mouse, turning your new eCommerce website from zero to hero in a matter of minutes.
The platform also offers its own payment gateway, which means after providing some basic banking details, your business should be able to start taking payments near instantly.
Following Shopify in simplicity is WooCommerce.
WooCommerce can be used in two distinctly different ways; first of all, it can be used on a plan through WordPress.com, which works in a similar fashion to Shopify. However, the most common way of using WooCommerce is a standalone installation; this is where you or your developer download copies of both WordPress and WooCommerce and host them on their individual servers. Having a developer with experience in PHP, command line, and other tools is essential for the latter option.
WordPress/WooCommerce’s control panel has been refined over the years. Still, with more options and deeper menu structures, those with limited experience managing websites could find themselves a little daunted compared with Shopify’s experience.
But, like Shopify, WooCommerce also offers several free themes that can be chosen and installed with a few clicks of the mouse. One place WooCommerce differs is its payment gateways; WooCommerce doesn’t handle payments directly and instead relies on external gateways such as PayPal or Stripe.
Now, Magento is an entirely different beast. Magento is a PHP application currently owned and developed by Adobe and a community of developers. Unless you’re a developer, knowing the ins and outs of Magento won’t be of much use, so I’m not going to go into too much detail here. Still, anybody wanting to set up a Magento website needs strong knowledge in PHP, command line and various other tools, such as Composer.
When developers use the word simple, we mean can it be used by somebody with no experience in website development and programming.
Is Magento simple to use?
The answer here is a resounding no.
Free themes can be obtained for Magento, as with Shopify and WooCommerce, but installing them is a much more involved process. Magento also accepts several different payment gateways, the majority of which come through external plugins similar to WooCommerce.
This is where things start to get interesting. Some of the solutions above look cheap on the outside and could remain cheap if your business is happy with a simple website with limited functionality. When it comes down to deciding on eCommerce platforms, a longer-term view is required.
Shopify currently offers 3 different monthly packages:
Each plan comes with a different set of features, and as you’d probably expect – the more you pay, the more that’s available to you. With each plan comes a reduction in payment processing fees too.
Whilst you could set a Shopify website up for as little as $29/£21.75 a month, that doesn’t always end the story. Within Shopify, there are a bunch of extensions that would be required if you want to offer up more advanced functionalities, which can range in price. Some are free, and some will cost you a monthly fee.
From a development perspective, if you are looking at a few customisations to your theme (colours, fonts, etc.), you would be looking at a small cost. However, if you want to pay for some bespoke functionality, Shopify, unlike the other two options on this list, doesn’t allow for direct development onto the platform. For bespoke functionality, an external, handmade solution would be required, increasing costs considerably.
WooCommerce is relatively similar to Shopify if you go through WordPress.com. WordPress.com offers one single eCommerce package, which costs £36 a month. This comes with a bunch of functionality, including a WooCommerce install that will allow you to sell your goods over the world. WordPress.com also offers some easy-to-use but advanced SEO tools, analytics tools, and more.
Once again, if you’re looking to extend the functionality of your store, you will need to employ the help of plugins. WooCommerce plugins vary tremendously in cost, from 100% free to hundreds of pounds.
When it comes to WooCommerce stores, we recommend avoiding the hosted solution and setting up a standalone website. WooCommerce differs from Shopify in that it can be set up and run by a developer on a server not owned and controlled by the WordPress organisation. The costs to employ a developer for your WooCommerce website will vary depending on the extent of functionality required. As with Shopify, if all you’re looking for is a straightforward website with a few design changes (fonts, logos, etc.), then your bill won’t be one to fear. However, as you might expect, this will increase should you want to create some new functionality to enhance your store.
One of the main advantages of WooCommerce is that it’s developed in the PHP language, which allows developers to build directly on top of the system, minimising the effort required to communicate directly with your store.
Once again, Magento is the platform that stands out from this list. Magento does not at this time offer a hosted solution similar to Shopify and WordPress.com and would require the hands of a developer to get you up and running completely. We would describe Magento as an enterprise-grade solution and is tiered towards websites handling anything between a thousand and a hundred-thousand orders and products.
Costs for Magento tend to be much higher than WooCommerce and Shopify due to the nature of the platform and the fact that these stores are usually much bigger and more complex.
Magento is once again developed in the PHP language, meaning it can be built upon; however, many developers agree that implementing processes and project structures in Magento is much more complex when compared with other platforms. With Magento, developers have a much higher barrier to entry than with either Shopify or WooCommerce, and prices/estimates will generally reflect that.
Ultimately, we’re not here to tell you which path to walk down, but we can give you the tools to make a more informed decision about which platform is right for you.