A Comparison of ECommerce Platforms and their Providers

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Our earnest attempt to facilitate your e-commerce journey:

Here we will attempt to provide you with a fair comparison of ECommerce Platforms and their Providers, with an in-depth understanding of the pros and cons for each of them.

Starting your own e-commerce business is a highly challenging and exciting journey with lucrative prospects. However, lack of proper guidance can make it an arduous task, which is why we are making an attempt to provide you with a step-by-step procedure in our E-Commerce Start-up Guide. After you have defined the ownership structure for your business, identified your ecommerce niche as in the products you want to sell and gained an in-sight about how to choose an e-commerce service provider, the next step would be to choose your e-commerce platform. This part can be quite overwhelming because of the sheer number of platforms available in the market today.

Three broad options for e-commerce platforms:

To create your e-commerce website, you will need to decide which of the following options you want to choose from:-

  1. Use a programming language like PHP, Java, ASP.Net etc to create your e-commerce website from scratch. You will obviously need to avail the services of a professional e-commerce service provider that specializes in Web Designing, Web Development, Website Hosting and E-commerce services.

Advantages of creating your e-commerce website from scratch

  • High level of customization
  • Scalability is good
  • You can get all the features and hosting space you want.
  • You will get a fair in-sight into the back-end panel and how to handle the same before the website is live
  • Most of all, the website created will be completely yours (unlike hosted solutions which we will discuss about a little later)

Disadvantages of creating your e-commerce website from scratch

  • Initial investment is high
  • It is a time-consuming process
  • You need to get into a lot of detailing to attain perfection.

Although there are several languages, the following is an outline of three most popular ones:-

PHP: The main advantage of using PHP is that it is an open- source language. It is also extremely user-friendly, easier to understand as compared to other languages, scalable and fast. However, it requires a certain level of experience and expertise.

Java: Java has good device functionality as well as a strong support system as a language for web development. However, it usually slows website performance and end-users who have not installed java will not be able to view the features.

ASP.Net: It has good built-in features as well as automatic state management for web page controls. The disadvantage is that the view state can adversely affect the performance.

  1. Build your e-commerce site using a ready-made e-commerce platform provided by Magento, Open Cart, ZenCart etc. This is one of the most preferred options available to e-commerce enthusiasts owing to several advantages as discussed below. Basically, these platforms have a number of shopping cart templates that an entrepreneur can choose from and avail the services of a web developer or even a professional e-commerce service provider in order to build the desired e-commerce website around it.

Advantages of using an e-commerce platform:

  • This is much faster as compared to building your e-commerce website from scratch using a programming language.
  • A wide range of attractive design templates are available to choose from.
  • Most of these hosted solutions can be downloaded free, so initial investment is less.
  • Third Party integration has already been incorporated.
  • Back-end is user friendly.

Disadvantage of using an e-commerce platform:

  • As the templates are pre-made, there is limited scope for customization.
  • You may not find all the features that you want in one platform.
  • A monthly fees may have to be paid in some cases.
  • Upgradation or scalability might be a problem when your business expands.
  • Hosting may not be provided.

Although there are plenty of options available to choose from for e-commerce platforms, let us take a look at the two most popular ones, Magento and Zen-Cart.

Magento: This is an open source e-commerce web application developed by Magento Inc (erstwhile Varien). It offers features like multi-site functionality, mobile templates, loyalty programs and flexible product catalog options. A layout file and blocks are used for controlling display options.

Advantages of Magento:

  • It is a free platform.
  • Since it has a large community of users, there are plenty of online forums and platforms available for ample support and clarification of all your queries.
  • It is integrated with Google Analytics, Google Checkout etc so that you can keep track of important visitor and conversion statistics for effective marketing.
  • It is highly user friendly, SEO friendly and offers a variety of features.

Disadvantages of Magento:

  • If your hosting service is not good, it will lead to poor user-experience. In fact, you cannot use it on a shared host.
  • It is highly resource-intensive in terms of space and memory occupied.
  • The coding is complex and requires an expert developer.

ZenCart: This is a PHP-based online store management system that provides feature like image enlargement, mini-cart, newsletters, quotes, search options and discount coupons.

Advantages of ZenCart:

  • It provides ample scope for customization as the templates can be changed by users.
  • It is an open-source platform and highly user-friendly.
  • It is easy to install and ideal in case you want to sell more than 20 products.
  • It has good features like unlimited extra pages, multiple languages as well as multiple sales and discount offers.

Disadvantages of ZenCart:

  • The back-end or admin panel is a little complicated.
  • It does not offer certain features like Ajax usage, e-bay integration, Point of Sale Order Management, Glossary tool, and “membership only” categories and products.
  • OS Commerce Contributions need to be converted to ZenCart for use.

3.      Use a complete hosted package of an existing online marketplace like Shopify, BigCommerce etc

Advantages of using an existing online shopping website:

  • It is an all-in-one package with hosting solutions, Web designing/ development and third party integration, all clubbed together.
  • The back-end is generally user-friendly and is ideal for generating important user statistics for marketing.
  • Initial investment is low.
  • Support services are good.

Disadvantages of using an existing online shopping website:

  • The primary disadvantage is that your e-commerce website will never be your own, it will always belong to the parent site. Your store will always remain dependent on the parent store.
  • Customization is limited as the platforms are pre-made.
  • You might not find all the features that you are looking for in one package.
  • It proves to be expensive in the long run because there are monthly charges plus charges to be paid to the parent website for every transaction.
  • Options for upgradation might be limited once your business expands or diversifies.

The most popular options here include Shopify and BigCommerce. Let us take a look at both:

  1. Shopify: Shopify was introduced in 2006 and offers four types of monthly plans namely Basic, Professional, Business and Unlimited. A transaction fee of up to 2percent is charged for every transaction along with a 14-day free trial period. Hosting services, as well as a number of Shopify apps are offered as part of the package. The downside is that a transaction fees of up to 2 percent needs to be paid to Shopify for every transaction on your site. Besides, the Domain Registration service is expensive (approximately 25 USD) and the shipping support is limited. Shopify uses its own programming language called Liquid instead of standard programming languages.
  1. BigCommerce: This was launched in 2009 and has grown extremely popular ever since, as it provides ease of set-up and navigation, good Customer support services and a wide base of users across the world. However, E-bay integration and Responsive Design integration and certain features like live chat option are not provided.

Conclusion:

There are definitely a wide range of options available for you in order to choose your e-commerce platform. Our only advice to you is to take your time and comprehensively view the options from all perspectives before making a final decision.

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