If you’re looking to launch an online store, you’re going to want to spend some time researching eCommerce platforms to help you lay the foundation for a bustling digital business. Your eCommerce platform serves as the magic (read: software) behind your online storefront, helping you list and manage your entire inventory. There are so many big-name services from which to choose, how do you know which one is best?
It helps if you know what you need out of a platform and what each one can offer you. The best options serve not only as digital storefronts but also as all-around tools to help you grow, manage, track, and promote your business, all from a single user-friendly interface. Some things to look for in a good eCommerce platform include:
- The ability to customize your experience with a wide variety of third-party plug-ins and tools that help you meet specific goals.
- A well-designed website and online store that are both mobile- and desktop-friendly and function seamlessly with mobile commerce.
- The ability to accept a wide variety of credit card types and payment gateways.
- Advanced reporting, with data and analytics to help you measure, track, and analyze your sales data so you can constantly adjust as needed.
- Complete order and inventory management tools to help you stay on top of your supply levels, what’s selling out, etc.
- A full blogging platform that helps you build a strong content marketing and search engine optimization (SEO) strategy.
- Comprehensive, built-in SEO tools that help you leverage organic search to make more sales and to make your products easier to find online.
- Around-the-clock customer service and technical support to keep your store up and running with minimal downtime.
The Biggest Players in the eCommerce Game
Though there are hundreds of eCommerce platforms out there, we’re focusing on a few of the industry’s biggest and most well-known. Browse this list as a great introduction to some of the more popular options on the market.
- Shopify – Canadian eCommerce heavyweight Shopify was launched in 2004 by three guys who were looking for a simple way to open an online store to sell snowboarding equipment. Now, over 15 years later, Shopify employs more than 4,000 people, rakes in over $1 million annually, and serves over 820,000 merchants and 1 million active users.
Shopify is built for small- to medium-sized businesses, but the company offers an enterprise version, called Shopify Plus, to cater to larger companies. There are over 5,300 businesses using Shopify Plus, including MVMT, Bombas, Leesa, and other companies that have forged their way by being eCommerce disruptors.
- Magento – Magento is another one of the world’s eCommerce platform giants, serving over 250,000 merchants Unlike Shopify, Magento is free, open-source software written in PHP that’s available to anyone. It was originally developed in 2007 and, thanks to a hefty investment from eBay, has grown exponentially in the past decade. In May of 2018, Adobe acquired Magento for $1.86 billion and launched a new service called Commerce Cloud.
Magento is a popular platform but is generally favored among larger companies with bigger tech budgets. The fact that it’s open-source makes it highly customizable and provides users with 100 percent control over how the shop looks, feels, and operates. This means that it often takes a more tech-savvy team to operate, but templates are available to simplify the process.
- WooCommerce – WooCommerce is similar to Magento in that it’s an open-source option but, rather than operating as a full-scale platform and host, it serves as a plug-in for WordPress. Despite the fact that it offers fewer features and functionality than the two aforementioned options, WooCommerce is still extremely popular and owns about 25 percent of the market share.
Part of the reason why WooCommerce is so widely used is that it’s free and because it’s surprisingly flexible, allowing it to adapt to a wide range of store sizes and industries. However, there are a few drawbacks. For example, it doesn’t offer the same number of SEO features and built-in marketing tools that Shopify and Magento do.
- SalesForce – You probably know of SalesForce because of its uber-popular cloud-based CRM service, but did you know that they offer a high-tech eCommerce platform, too? The San Francisco company is the oldest on this list, having been founded in 1999 by a former Oracle executive.
SalesForce is a good option for companies of all sizes because it uses your sales as a metric for how much you pay for the service. In other words, the price of a SalesForce license is based on a percentage of each store’s sales. It’s known for its fast, easy implementation and impressive customer support.
- BigCommerce – Founded in 2009, BigCommerce has grown to be a strong competitor in the eCommerce landscape, used on nearly 20,000 websites throughout the world. It’s important to note that, like many of the products on this list, BigCommerce is an SaaS product, which means you pay for a license to use it each month.
BigCommerce comes with hosting, payment, and advanced marketing tools, making it particularly desirable among mid- to large-sized businesses that are in the midst of rapid growth. BigCommerce features a user-friendly interface and templates, which means that it can be mastered by all kinds of users and doesn’t require extensive training or tech resources.
Finding the Right Platform for Your Business
Finding the right eCommerce platform is an important part of launching an online store. The reality is that your chosen platform will do a ton of the heavy lifting for you, from managing your inventory to helping to promote your brand every step of the way. To prevent any setbacks or disappointments, be sure to spend ample time researching your options before you commit to one.