Ecom Platforms: How to Choose a Platform to Suit Your Business

Choosing between ecommerce platforms is a crucial decision for any online business. It affects how your store functions, its ability to grow, and the costs of running and maintaining it. 

There is a wide selection of ecommerce platforms that you could use for your next online business. In case you wondered, there is no such thing as the ‘best’ ecom platform; rather, there are just some that are more popular than others.

Among these, you’ll find major players like Shopify, Woocommerce, Bigcommmerce and Magento (Adobe Commerce), along with several others. Therefore, choosing one that aligns well with your business is crucial, as you will commit to the platform for many years.

Furthermore, in this guide, we’ll explore these popular platforms plus a couple of other entry-level ones. Additionally, we’ll discuss what makes each one unique, and help you understand how to match a platform’s features with your business size, the types of products you sell, and your target market.

Whether you’re starting a new online business or looking to improve your existing store, rest assured that this guide will provide the information you need to choose the best ecommerce platform to meet your current needs and support your future growth.

Lastly, we will discuss key factors such as technical scalability, user-friendliness, cost, and the variety of additional tools and services offered by each recommended ecommerce platform. Our goal is to simplify your decision-making process in selecting the most suitable platform for your online business.

Understanding Your Business Model

When selecting between ecommerce platforms, it’s essential to consider how well it aligns with your business model. The size of your business, the types of products you sell, and your target market are key factors that should influence your choice.

There’s no such thing as the ‘best ecommerce platform’. Each one offers different features and capabilities, making some more suitable for certain business models than others.

While there are many other ecommerce platforms to consider, such as PrestaShop, OpenCart, Zoho Commerce, and 3dcart, we will be focusing on what we consider the main six in this guide: Shopify, Magento (Adobe Commerce), Woocommerce, Bigcommerce, Wix, and Squarespace.

We have chosen these platforms based on their extensive usage, diverse feature sets, and their appropriateness for a wide range of business sizes and types. By understanding your business model and aligning it with the right platform, you can ensure that your ecommerce store has the functionality and scalability it needs to succeed.

Ecommerce Platforms to Look At

Shopify 

Ideal for businesses of all sizes, Shopify is particularly user-friendly for small to medium-sized businesses. It offers a range of customizable templates and an extensive app store, making it a versatile choice for various product types and markets.

Learn about Shopify

WooCommerce 

As an open-source platform, WooCommerce is the most popular of all ecommerce platforms. It offers great flexibility and is particularly well-suited for small to medium-sized businesses that already use or plan to use WordPress. It’s ideal for businesses looking for a customizable solution without the need for extensive technical resources.

Learn about Woocommerce

BigCommerce

BigCommerce caters to a wide range of business sizes, offering scalability and a variety of built-in features. It’s a good fit for businesses looking to grow quickly and those with a diverse product range.

Learn about Bigcommmerce

Magento

Magento (Adobe Commerce) is best suited for medium to large businesses that require a high level of customization and control. It’s a powerful platform for businesses with a wide range of products and those targeting a global market.

Wix

Wix is best for small businesses or individual entrepreneurs who prioritize ease of use and simplicity in design. It’s a great choice for businesses with a smaller product range and those just starting in ecommerce.

Squarespace

Known for its sleek designs, Squarespace is ideal for small businesses and creatives who want a visually appealing online store. It’s particularly well-suited for businesses that sell unique or artisanal products and value aesthetics highly.

By understanding your business model and aligning it with the right platform, you can ensure that your ecommerce store has the functionality and scalability it needs to succeed. Each platform offers different strengths, so it’s important to choose one that not only meets your current needs but also has the potential to support your business as it grows.


Ecommerce Platforms: Technical Scalability and Flexibility

Choosing an ecommerce platform that can grow and adapt to your business is crucial. Technical scalability and flexibility are key factors in this decision, as they determine how well a platform can handle increasing traffic, more products, and expanding market needs.

Magento and BigCommerce

Both Magento and BigCommerce are known for their scalability. Magento, with its robust feature set and customization capabilities, is ideal for medium to large businesses that anticipate rapid growth or have complex needs. BigCommerce offers excellent scalability, with various built-in features and tools designed to support business growth without compromising performance.

WooCommerce

WooCommerce stands out for its flexibility. Being an open-source platform, it allows for extensive customization, making it a great choice for businesses that need a tailored ecommerce solution. Its flexibility is particularly beneficial for small to medium-sized businesses that require a platform to adapt to their specific needs.

For less technical users, platforms like Shopify, Wix, and Squarespace offer a more user-friendly experience:

  • Shopify: Known for its ease of use, Shopify provides a straightforward setup and management process, making it ideal for entrepreneurs and small businesses without technical expertise.
  • Wix and Squarespace: Both platforms are designed with simplicity in mind, offering intuitive drag-and-drop interfaces that allow users to create and manage their online stores with minimal technical knowledge.

Another important consideration is the type of platform: fully hosted or self-hosted.

  • Fully-Hosted Platforms (Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, Squarespace): These platforms manage hosting, security, and updates, reducing the need for technical maintenance. They are ideal for businesses that prefer a hassle-free, all-in-one solution.
  • Self-Hosted Platforms (Magento, WooCommerce): These platforms offer more control over the ecommerce environment, including software ownership and customization. However, they require a higher degree of technical knowledge for setup, maintenance, and updates.

In summary, the choice between technical scalability and flexibility depends on your business’s current needs and growth plans. Fully-hosted platforms offer ease of use and lower maintenance, while self-hosted platforms provide more control and customization options.


What is ‘Headless’ Ecommerce

Headless ecommerce represents a modern approach to online retail where the front-end (what the customer sees) is separated from the back-end (where the data is managed). This separation allows for greater flexibility and customization in how the storefront is presented to customers.

In a headless ecommerce setup, the front-end, typically a website or a mobile app, communicates with the back-end through APIs (Application Programming Interfaces). The back-end, which includes the database and server-side processes, handles business logic, data management, and integration with other systems. This architecture allows for changes to be made to the front-end without affecting the back-end, and vice versa.

Benefits and Reasons to Choose Headless

  • Flexibility in Design and User Experience: Headless ecommerce allows businesses to create unique customer experiences without the constraints of traditional ecommerce platforms. You can design the front-end however you wish, using any framework or technology that suits your needs.
  • Omnichannel Capability: It enables seamless integration across various customer touchpoints, such as websites, mobile apps, social media platforms, and IoT devices. This omnichannel approach ensures a consistent and personalized customer experience.
  • Faster Performance: Since the front-end is separate, it can be optimized for speed and efficiency, leading to faster page load times and a smoother user experience.
  • Easier Updates and Iterations: Making changes or adding new features to the storefront is easier and quicker, as developers can work on the front-end without disrupting the back-end operations.
  • Scalability: Headless architecture can easily adapt to growing traffic and expanding product lines, as the decoupled nature allows for more scalable solutions.
  • Better Integration with Modern Technologies: Headless ecommerce is well-suited for integrating with modern technologies like AR/VR, AI, and personalized marketing tools, offering businesses an edge in innovation.

Choosing a headless ecommerce approach is particularly beneficial for businesses that require a high degree of customization, plan to expand across multiple channels, or want to provide a unique and fast user experience. However, it’s important to note that headless ecommerce might require more technical expertise and resources to implement and manage.


Ecommerce Platforms: Financial Considerations

When choosing between ecommerce platforms, understanding the financial implications is crucial. The cost structures vary significantly across different platforms. It’s also important to consider setup costs, monthly fees, transaction fees, and the long-term financial impact of your choice.

Shopify: Monthly Charges 

Known for its straightforward pricing, Shopify charges a monthly fee that varies depending on the plan. Additionally, there are transaction fees for payments processed through external gateways. The ease of use and minimal setup requirements make Shopify a cost-effective solution for many small to medium-sized businesses.

Magento: Free Open Source Platform

As a self-hosted platform, Magento doesn’t have a monthly fee for its open-source version. But it does require investment in hosting, security, and maintenance. The total cost can be high, especially for Magento’s Commerce version, which is designed for large businesses and comes with additional advanced features and support.

WooCommerce: Freemium WordPress Plugin

WooCommerce itself is free as it’s a WordPress plugin, but costs can accumulate from web hosting, themes, plugins, and potential development work. While it offers more control over expenses, the total cost can vary greatly depending on the level of customization and scalability required.

BigCommerce: Monthly Pricing Plans

BigCommerce offers tiered pricing plans similar to Shopify. It includes hosting, security, and a range of built-in features. While it can be more expensive than WooCommerce, it often ends up being more cost-effective than a highly customized Magento site.

Wix and Squarespace: Both platforms offer tiered pricing plans, including the cost of hosting and security. They are generally more affordable for small businesses and are a good choice for those looking for an all-in-one solution with predictable costs.

Self-Hosted vs. Hosted Solutions

Self-Hosted (Magento, WooCommerce) platforms often have lower initial costs but can become more expensive in the long run due to hosting fees, security updates, and the need for ongoing development and maintenance. They offer more control but require a higher investment in technical expertise and infrastructure.

Hosted (Shopify, BigCommerce, Wix, Squarespace) solutions typically come with a higher monthly fee, but this includes hosting, security, and maintenance, making them more predictable in terms of costs. They are ideal for businesses looking for an easy-to-manage solution with clear pricing.

Customization and Ongoing Development Costs

Platforms like Magento, which offer deep customization, can incur significant ongoing development and management costs. These costs are due to the need for specialized development skills, continuous updates, and potential scalability requirements. While this provides a high degree of flexibility and control, it’s important to factor these potential expenses into the long-term financial planning of your ecommerce strategy.


Ecommerce Platforms: Ecosystem and Integration

The ecosystem and integration capabilities of ecommerce platforms can significantly enhance their functionality and efficiency. Each platform offers a unique range of plugins, apps, and third-party integrations, which can be pivotal in tailoring the platform to your specific business needs.

Shopify: ll-in-One Solution for User-Friendly Integration

Shopify’s ecosystem is one of its strongest assets. The Shopify App Store hosts a vast array of plugins and apps, covering everything from marketing and sales to inventory management. These integrations are typically user-friendly and can be easily added to your store, offering a high degree of functionality without the need for extensive technical knowledge.

BigCommerce: Diverse Solutions for Scalable Growth

Similar to Shopify, BigCommerce boasts an extensive app store with a wide range of integrations. These apps allow for enhanced customization and added functionality, catering to various business needs. BigCommerce’s integrations are known for being robust and seamless, providing users with a variety of tools to optimize their online stores.

WooCommerce: Extensive Customization for Unique Needs

As an open-source platform, WooCommerce offers unparalleled customization through its plugins. The WordPress plugin repository, along with third-party developers, provides a vast selection of integrations. This flexibility allows for highly customized solutions tailored to specific business requirements. However, it often requires a bit more technical expertise to implement and manage these integrations compared to Shopify and BigCommerce.

Magento: High-End Technical Expertise for Complex Solutions

Magento’s open-source nature allows for a wide range of customized integrations. It has a strong community of developers who create plugins and extensions. Magento’s integrations are particularly powerful for businesses with unique or complex needs, but like WooCommerce, they often require more technical knowledge to implement effectively.

The choice of platform should be influenced by the specific needs of your business and the level of customization and integration required. 

Platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce offer extensive, easy-to-implement app stores that are ideal for businesses looking for straightforward, effective solutions. In contrast, WooCommerce and Magento provide a higher degree of customization through their plugins and integrations, catering to businesses with specific, often more complex requirements.


Ecommerce Platforms: Security and Compliance

Security and compliance are critical aspects of any ecommerce platform. The level and type of security features offered can vary significantly between platforms, impacting how site owners manage and protect their online stores.

Shopify and BigCommerce: Out-of-the-Box Security

Shopify and BigCommerce, as fully hosted platforms, provide comprehensive out-of-the-box security features. These include SSL certificates, regular security updates, and compliance with PCI DSS to ensure safe payment processing. The advantage for site owners is the reduced need to manage security aspects actively, as these platforms handle most security concerns at the hosting level.

Magento and WooCommerce: Customizable Security Options

Magento and WooCommerce offer customizable security options, giving site owners more control over their security setup. However, this also means a greater responsibility for ensuring security measures are in place and up to date. For Magento, this might involve regular patching and compliance checks, while WooCommerce users need to manage security plugins and ensure their WordPress environment is secure.

Differences in Security Requirements

Fully Hosted Platforms (Shopify, BigCommerce) platforms typically require less active security management from the site owner. The hosting provider is responsible for securing the server and maintaining the software, which can be a significant advantage for businesses without extensive IT resources.

In contrast, Self-Hosted Platforms like Magento and WooCommerce require the site owner to take a more active role in security. This includes ensuring the hosting environment is secure, applying software updates, and managing security plugins. While this offers more control, it also requires more technical expertise and vigilance.

Compliance Across All Platforms

Regardless of the platform, compliance with data protection and payment industry standards is crucial. All ecommerce platforms must adhere to regulations like GDPR for data protection and PCI DSS for payment processing. This compliance ensures that customer data is handled securely and that payment information is processed safely. It’s important for site owners to understand their platform’s compliance features and any additional steps they may need to take to ensure full compliance.


User Experience and Management

The user experience and management tools offered by an ecommerce platform play a crucial role in its overall effectiveness and ease of use. Different platforms cater to varying levels of technical expertise and business needs.

Wix and Squarespace: Simplicity and Ease of Use

Wix and Squarespace are renowned for their user-friendly interfaces. These platforms are designed for simplicity, making them ideal for small business owners or individuals without technical expertise. They offer intuitive drag-and-drop builders, pre-designed templates, and straightforward management tools, allowing users to create and manage their online stores easily.

Shopify and BigCommerce: Advanced Features with User-Friendly Design

Shopify and BigCommerce strike a balance between advanced features and user-friendly design. They provide more sophisticated tools compared to Wix and Squarespace, such as extensive analytics, advanced inventory management, and more comprehensive marketing tools, while still maintaining a relatively easy-to-use interface. This makes them suitable for a broader range of businesses, from small startups to larger enterprises.

WooCommerce and Magento: Customization with Technical Depth

For WooCommerce, the user experience is deeply tied to its WordPress roots, offering a familiar interface to those already versed in the WordPress ecosystem. It excels in customization, allowing businesses to tailor their online store with a wide range of plugins and themes. However, this flexibility often requires a good understanding of WordPress, making it more suitable for those with some technical expertise or willing to invest in learning.

Magento presents a more complex user management experience, catering to businesses that require a high level of customization and control over their ecommerce environment. While its robust features are a major draw for large-scale enterprises, they come with a steeper learning curve. The platform is best suited for businesses with access to technical resources or those willing to hire experts to manage and optimize their online store.

WooCommerce and Magento provide powerful platforms for businesses seeking a high degree of customization and control over their ecommerce operations. However, this comes with the need for a more hands-on approach to managing the technical aspects of their online stores.

Development and Management Options

The choice of an ecommerce platform can also be influenced by the resources available for development and management:

  • In-House Development Team: If you have an in-house development team, platforms like Magento or a self-hosted WooCommerce site might be more appealing. These platforms offer more control and customization, but they require technical expertise to manage effectively.
  • Outsourcing to Freelancers or Agencies: For businesses without in-house technical resources, outsourcing to freelancers or agencies is a common approach. Platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce are well-suited for this model, as they offer a good balance of advanced features with less need for ongoing technical management.
  • DIY Approach: If you prefer a do-it-yourself approach, platforms like Wix and Squarespace are ideal. They require minimal technical knowledge and offer enough features for small to medium-sized businesses to effectively manage their online presence.

Each of our recommended ecommerce platforms offer different levels of control, customization, and technical requirement, which should align with your business’s capacity for development and ongoing management. Understanding these aspects will help in choosing a platform that not only meets your current needs but also aligns with your long-term business strategy.


Support and Community

The level and type of support and community engagement can significantly influence the user experience and success with an ecommerce platform. Each platform offers varying degrees of official support and community resources.

Shopify: Comprehensive Support and Vibrant Community

Shopify is known for its extensive official support, including 24/7 customer service, detailed documentation, and a wealth of online resources. Additionally, Shopify has a vibrant community of users, developers, and experts who actively share knowledge, tips, and solutions. This strong community support is invaluable, especially for new users navigating the platform.

WooCommerce: Extensive Community Resources

WooCommerce, being an open-source platform, has a vast community of users and developers. While official support is limited compared to a platform like Shopify, the community forums, blogs, and online resources provide a wealth of information and solutions. The open-source nature of WooCommerce encourages a collaborative environment where users can find support and advice from peers.

Magento: Developer-Focused Community

Magento, another open-source platform, has a strong developer-focused community. It offers comprehensive forums, developer documentation, and user guides. Official support is available for the paid Magento Commerce version. But much of the platform’s strength lies in the active community of developers who contribute to its extensive knowledge base.

BigCommerce: Robust Support and Growing Community

BigCommerce provides robust official support, including 24/7 customer service, a knowledge base, and community forums. Its community is growing, with an increasing number of users and experts contributing to forums and online resources.

Wix and Squarespace: User-Friendly Support for Beginners

Wix and Squarespace offer user-friendly support tailored to individuals and small businesses. They provide comprehensive guides, tutorials, and customer support, making them accessible for users with limited technical expertise.

Freelancers and Agencies

An important aspect to consider is the availability of freelancers and agencies familiar with these platforms. Many businesses rely on external experts to set up, customize, or manage their ecommerce sites. Platforms like Shopify and WooCommerce have a large pool of skilled freelancers and agencies that can provide specialized services. This ecosystem of external support can be a deciding factor, especially for businesses that do not have in-house ecommerce expertise.


Making the Decision

Ecommerce Platforms Comparisons

When choosing between the available ecommerce platforms, it’s crucial to weigh the strengths and limitations of each option against your specific business needs. Here’s a detailed comparison of Shopify, Magento, WooCommerce, BigCommerce, Wix, and Squarespace to help guide your decision.

Shopify:

  • Strengths: User-friendly, extensive app store, robust customer support, and strong security features. Ideal for businesses of all sizes looking for an all-in-one solution.
  • Limitations: Less customizable than open-source platforms and transaction fees for external payment gateways.
  • Best for: Businesses seeking an easy-to-use, scalable platform with comprehensive support.

Magento:

  • Strengths: Highly customizable, scalable, strong community support, and suitable for complex ecommerce needs.
  • Limitations: Requires technical expertise, higher development and maintenance costs.
  • Best for: Large businesses or those with unique requirements that need extensive customization.

WooCommerce:

  • Strengths: Highly customizable, integration with WordPress, a large number of plugins, and control over data.
  • Limitations: Requires self-hosting, regular maintenance, and technical know-how.
  • Best for: Small to medium businesses already using WordPress or those needing specific customizations.

BigCommerce:

  • Strengths: Scalable, no transaction fees, extensive features out-of-the-box, and strong SEO capabilities.
  • Limitations: Themes can be less customizable than other platforms.
  • Best for: Businesses looking for a robust, scalable solution without the need for extensive customization.

Wix:

  • Strengths: User-friendly, drag-and-drop builder, and a variety of templates.
  • Limitations: Less scalable and fewer ecommerce features compared to dedicated platforms.
  • Best for: Small businesses or individuals looking for an easy-to-set-up and manage online store.

Squarespace:

  • Strengths: Beautiful design templates, intuitive interface, and good for small to medium-sized stores.
  • Limitations: Limited third-party apps and integrations, less flexibility for complex ecommerce needs.
  • Best for: Creatives and small businesses focusing on design and simplicity.

Matching the Ecommerce Platforms Features with Business Needs

To match a platform with your business needs, consider:

Size and Scale of Your Business: 

Larger businesses or those planning to scale rapidly might prefer Magento or BigCommerce. While small to medium businesses might find Shopify or WooCommerce more suitable.

Technical Expertise: 

If you have access to technical resources, Magento or WooCommerce offer more customization. For less technical expertise, Shopify, Wix, or Squarespace are better choices.

Customization Needs: 

For highly specific requirements, Magento and WooCommerce offer more flexibility. For standard ecommerce needs, Shopify and BigCommerce are excellent choices.

Budget Constraints: 

Consider the total cost of ownership, including development, maintenance, and transaction fees. Shopify and BigCommerce offer predictable pricing models, while Magento and WooCommerce might incur additional costs.


Conclusion

Selecting the right ecommerce platform is a pivotal decision that can significantly impact the success and growth of your online business. Throughout this guide, we’ve explored the unique features, strengths, and limitations of six popular ecommerce platforms. They were: Shopify, Woocommerce, Bigcommmerce and Magento (Adobe Commerce), Wix, and Squarespace.

Each offers distinct advantages, such as the user-friendly nature of Shopify and Wix, the extensive customization capabilities of Magento and WooCommerce, the scalability of BigCommerce, or the design-focused approach of Squarespace.

How to Decide

In terms of decision-making, the key to making an informed decision lies in aligning a platform’s capabilities with your specific business needs. You should consider factors such as the size and scale of your business, technical expertise, customization requirements, and budget constraints. It’s important to remember that the ideal platform is one that not only meets your current needs but also supports your future growth and evolution.

For those facing challenges in this decision, it may be beneficial to consult with a platform selection expert. These experts can provide valuable insights and guidance, helping you navigate the complexities of each option and select a platform that truly aligns with your operational needs and business goals.

Share Your Thoughts

To conclude, we invite you to join the conversation. Feel free to share your experiences, insights, or questions in the comments section below. Your participation can help others in their journey of selecting between ecommerce platforms and enrich the collective knowledge of our community.

Thanks for reading, follow me, please share this, and subscribe below to give me some kudos.

Chris Bradshaw

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About the author

I created Ecom Uprising because I spent more than a decade searching the internet to find the answers I needed to grow the businesses I was working for, and I wished there had been one easy to use resource with reliable information. So here it is.

Thanks for reading, Chris

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