The best ecommerce platforms for startups

Image courtesy of India7 Network at Flickr.com

When a company or individual does business on an electronic network, typically internet, it is called ecommerce. Ecommerce is valuable in all the major market segments such as business to business, business to consumer, consumer to consumer and consumer to business. This practice has allowed firms to establish market presence by providing a cheaper and more efficient distribution chain for their products. Companies such as Target have used this means to set up an online store where the customer can buy anything from clothes, appliances to toys.

Nowadays there is an array of platforms to choose from to set up direct sales from websites. But as the offer of these platforms has increased, it has become more difficult to select the appropriate platform that will fit a company’s needs. The advances in technology and the rising competition of online stores have raised the bar on what a platform must do for you. It used to be about offering easy setup, some level of customization and include standard features; now people are searching for mobile friendliness, social media integration, good user experience, SEO, modules for content marketing and customer support.

There are two major types of platforms being offered today: hosted, in which the company will host your store, and self-hosted, in which the company will provide you with software, but you have to get your own Web hosting. Haris Bacic from Adficient SEO agency says “For stability purposes, I recommend going with hosted versions because you always have dedicated support and chances of it going down due to hosting are slim to none. The downside of hosted software is that you will have to pay a monthly fee, and sometimes it can be pretty high.”

Here are two of the most recommended platforms to choose from if you are looking for a platform to venture into the ecommerce business.

Image courtesy of Shopify at Flickr.com

Shopify:

Since it was founded in 2006 by Tobias Lütke, Scott Lake and Daniel Weinand it has rapidly grown from a small competitor to one of the leading ecommerce solutions. The company today, empowers more than 200,000 online retailers. Their most notable clients include General Electric, Amnesty International, Tesla Motors, Encyclopedia Britannica, Foo Fighters, GitHub, and many more.

Its most important features include easy setup, quick loading speed and safe payment gateways. It also provides hundreds of templates to customize your landing page and give it any look you want. In terms of SEO, the platform helps by enabling custom title tags, Meta descriptions, canonical tags to prevent duplicity and it generates an XML sitemap for your online store; all these features will help your store be Google friendly without having to be an expert on the subject of technology. And to make things even better, Shopify has a great customer service, including a very complete FAQ record and agents available to assist you 24/7 via chat, email or phone.

One of the weaknesses of Shopify is that it has a limited option to change the checkout page. It offers very minimal control over it. So if you want to design your own checkout page, this platform is not suitable for you. However, this seems to be a problem in most hosted platforms, so looking for one with this feature is probably a waste of time.

Bigcommerce:

This platform is basically the same as Shopify. However it does offer more built-in features. So for example with Bigcommerce, you will get a fully functioning website with unlimited bandwidth and storage, along with the liberty to add as many products as you wish and ecommerce features like gift cards, reviews and ratings, and basic marketing tools.

The platform is very easy to set up for people with no we design skills, but it is also possible to change things a little if you would like to personalize the look of your store and know about HTML and CSS. In terms of page loading speed and security, it is pretty much the same as Spotify.

Customer support might be a bit more complete than the competition. Bigcommerce has extensive guides, a comprehensive setup wizard, auto-responder emails functionality, video guides and more.

Its downside however would be the pricing. Prices range from $30 to $80 a month or more and you also have to pay a 1.5 percent transaction fee, in addition to other credit card processing fees. But although it seems to be more expensive than Shopify, it does offer more features and more customization.

Keep in mind that as your business grows, Bigcommerce will switch you to an Enterprise plan if you start making more than $125.000 in revenue. This means that rates will rise to $900 to $1,500 a month. So that certainly means that businesses that plan to stay at the lower pricing plans would have no choice but to move to another platform.

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