As consumers abandon physical stores to buy online — 51% of Americans, in fact — and the eComm economy grows, we are met with a number of options for platforms. There’s no one-size-fits-all solution — and each platform has its pros and cons depending on the sort of functionality you need for your online store. Here we’ll take a look at the six top eCommerce platforms getting straight to the point of pros, cons, pricing and the bottom line.
MARKET LEADERS & THE TOP ECOMMERCE PLATFORMS
Magento is the leading eCommerce solution online, closely followed by WooCommerce.
Magento continues to dominate as the most popular eCommerce platform used by the Alexa top 1 million websites with 19.64% market share, but WooCommerce isn’t far off taking top place.
According to data gathered by SimilarTech, WooCommerce is the fastest growing platforms in the eCommerce space based on adoption rate. Currently, the Automattic-owned platform holds 17.65% market share.
Despite leading the pack in market share, Magento trails second-to-last in terms of growth at 8.2%.
The top six platforms in terms of market share are Magento(19.64%), WooCommerce(17.65%), Shopify (10.03%), PrestaShop (7%), OpenCart (3.43%) and Virtuemart (3.25%).
Magento is an eCommerce platform, originally launched in 2008 and now owned by the eBay group. The platform, which is based on PHP, powers more than 250,000 merchants worldwide, handling $100 billion in gross merchandise volume every year.
Due to its open source nature, it has an active community of 150,000 developers who contribute to improving the platform and building extensions.
The Magento Community Edition (CE) is free for small and medium businesses, and the Magento Enterprise Edition (EE) is $18,000. Extensions cost extra.
- Flexible and open source. Magento has a huge community of more than 150,000 developers and specialists at its disposal who work on the core software and extensions.
- Ownership of the software. Compared to SaaS (software as a service), when you use Magento you have ownership and access to hosting.
- Huge number of extensions. If there’s some kind of functionality you want to add to your store, it no doubt already exists as an extension you can buy from a Magento extension marketplace.
- Feature-rich. You can run multiple stores for different countries, target markets and brands with different pricing, content and payment systems from a single Magento installation.
- Free community version. The Magento Community Edition (CE) is free for small and medium businesses.
- Difficult and time consuming to customize. There’s a steep learning curve that comes with using Magento. While it’s hugely customizable, non-technical users will need help from a developer.
- Enterprise version is expensive. The Magento Enterprise Edition (EE) costs $18,000.
- Expensive to set up and maintain. Magento is much more expensive to run than competing eCommerce platforms.
- Need to purchase hosting. Hosting is an additional cost.
There’s a reason why many big brands like Nike, Ford and Samsung use Magento — it’s reliable and scalable. While $18,000 might not seem like much for companies with money to burn, smaller and medium businesses will scoff at the high setup cost, so these kinds of businesses should give the CE version a go first. However, the platform is suited to big businesses that need enterprise-level software and are happy to pay for website development.
Launched in 2011 by WooThemes, WooCommerce has quickly gained prominence as the go-to eCommerce solution for WordPress websites. If you don’t use WordPress you can’t use it — WooCommerce is a plugin that works on top of WordPress. WooCommerce is also an open source project.
In May 2015, WooThemes and WooCommerce were acquired by Automattic, the company behind WordPress.com. WooCommerce now powers 380,000 online stores.
The WooCommerce plugin is free to download and use. Extensions are extra and are usually a monthly or yearly subscription.
- It’s free. The WooCommerce plugin is free to download from the official WordPress Plugin Directory.
- Flexible and open source. Like Magento, WooCommerce has a big community of developers and agencies who build extensions.
- Huge number of extensions. If there’s some kind of feature or functionality you want to add to your online store, there’s an extension you can buy from a WooCommerce extension developer or marketplace.
- Easy setup. It’s much easier to get an online store up and running — and with fewer administration costs — than Magento or Prestashop.
- Easy to customize. WooCommerce is designed to work with any WordPress theme, of which there are thousands or free and paid options.
- Ideal for content marketing. Since it’s built on WordPress, you can leverage its customizable blogging tools to market and build your brand.
- Works with WordPress. Anyone using WordPress can easily use Woo.
- Can get expensive. The more extensions you add to your store, the more you’ll be paying each month in licensing fees.
- Doesn’t come with hosting. You’ll need to take care of setup, hosting and maintenance yourself. Though, Pagely has made a point to make this much easier for you.
- Not easy to customize for new users. While basic customizations are fairly easy, if you want to change how your online store looks you might need to hire a developer.
If you’re already using WordPress, you’ve no doubt heard about WooCommerce and may have even tried it. It’s easy to install the plugin and a store up and running, whether you want to run a small shop or a large, complex store. If you want to customize your store and aren’t comfortable editing WordPress, be prepared to hire a developer to help you out.
It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when you start out researching the different eCommerce solutions available, but once you sit down and work out your business’s needs and then compare them to the platforms available, it’s actually quite straightforward figuring out what’s going to work best for your business.
Here are my recommendations:
Do you run a large business, anticipate the need to scale, and have the resources to pay for developers? Then Magento is for you.
If you already have a WordPress website and/or you want to focus on drumming up business via content marketing, check out WooCommerce.
Is your website running on Joomla!? Stick with VirtueMart.
Are you a developer looking to set up an online store and anticipate making customizations to your site’s code? WooCommerce, OpenCart or VirtueMart could be your best bet, though you might also want to look at Magento CE.
Lastly, solepreneurs and entrepreneurs who want an easy solution to get an online store up and running quickly should check out Shopify.