If you want to start selling online, you need to pick the best eCommerce platform for you. In its simplest form, an eCommerce platform allows customers to purchase products and services from your online store. However, with well over a hundred eCommerce platforms out there, it can be tricky to choose the one that will best suit your business needs. This comparison of four of the biggest eCommerce players – Prestashop, Magento, WooCommerce, and Shopify – will give you an overview of which platform might work best for you.
Prestashop is an opensource eCommerce platform that launched in 2005 from Paris, France. Around 270,000 businesses use Prestashop, and they offer a forum with almost two million posts to help you navigate the platform.
Prestashop Pros: Prestashop is free, and it’s pretty simple to install and set up. There is also a large community of Prestashop users on the official forum – over a million in total – who can help you to troubleshoot any issue you night have. It’s a user-friendly platform that won’t take you too long to learn. If you just want a simple store that functions effectively.
Prestashop Cons: Although Prestashop boasts a large and active forum, they don’t have any official support team. This means that if you can’t find a solution to your problem in the forum, then it’s up to you or your developer to fix it. It can also be expensive to implement a fully functional theme and extensions, and you’ll probably need someone with a good technical eye to help you use them.
Choose Prestashop if you…want to get started quickly and easily and don’t mind studying or hiring a developer if you want to expand your store.
Magento is another opensource eCommerce software that first became widely available in 2008.
Their client list is pretty impressive, including big names like Coca-Cola, Burger King, and Ghirardelli.
Magento Pros: Magento has a large and growing community that can help you to maximize your eCommerce options using the platform. It offers a huge number of plugins which you can use to add functionality to your online shop, many of which are extremely cheap. You can use their free community edition to start your store without any financial commitment. Magento is also extremely SEO friendly so you can easily rank highly in search engine results.
Magento Cons: Magento is a little less simple out of the box, and it certainly requires some knowledge to use effectively. This is particularly true for the free version. Magento’s code can also be quite slow, partially because it requires a lot of space on servers. It can take a fair amount of customization to really optimize your Magento store’s performance, and unfortunately, there aren’t a huge number of developers who are deeply knowledgeable about the platform.
Choose Magento if you…want an eCommerce solution that will grow with your business, and you’re happy to search for a good developer to help you optimize it.
WooCommerce is generally agreed to be the most popular eCommerce platform available. The platform launched more recently, in 2011, but already powers almost a third of all online stores.
WooCommerce Pros: The big advantage of using WooCommerce is the fact that it’s free. Although there are plenty of free content management systems out there at the moment, WooCommerce is probably the one with the best out-of-the-box functionality. It also offers a huge number of plugins so it’s easy to customize WooCommerce to suit your specific style and requirements. They also provide plenty of analytic tools so you can easily collect data about your sales.
WooCommerce Cons: Unless you’re pretty savvy when it comes to WordPress and eCommerce, you might find WooComnerce tricky to use. You need to study a bit if you want to use it effectively. And although WooConmerce itself is free, a lot of the plugins aren’t, so you might end up spending some money to customize your store anyway. It can seem to hide some hidden costs that are included in other platforms like Shopify.
Choose WooCommerce if you…want a cheap and easily customizable eCommerce platform and don’t mind studying up a bit on how to use it.
Shopify was founded in 2004 by three online store owners who wanted to create a more efficient eCommerce solution.
It is now one of the most popular platforms with over 165,000 users.
Shopify Pros: Unlike many other providers, Shopify offers a 24/7 customer support system to offer you simple solutions to any issues that may arise with your store. It is also perhaps the easiest platform to use, so it’s suitable for all sorts of users regardless of their technical expertise. Shopify also takes care of security for you, so you don’t have to fuss around with plugins and patches to keep you and your customers’ data safe. With Shopify, it’s easy to focus on marketing and selling rather than the technical ins-and-outs of running an online store.
Shopify Cons: Shopify price start from $29 a month, extending all the way up to $299 a month for their advanced package. This can make it pricer to use than opensource systems, although you might save the money that you would have spent on a developer.
It also has a limited number of extensions so it’s not as customizable as other platforms. This means that your options when it comes to appearance and selling are more constrained, so it can be harder to communicate the specifics of your brand to your customers.
Choose Shopify if you…want a simple eCommerce platform that handles everything for you, even if you have to pay for it.
Clearly, there’s a big difference between the various eCommerce platforms that are currently available. However, this helpful overview should give you a sense of which of these four popular options would work best for you and your business. Whatever your needs may be, there’s an eCommerce platform out there to suit you.