July 27, 2020

New E-Commerce Platforms

Steven Toews

Sometimes it seems like new e-commerce platforms are multiplying faster than e-commerce storefronts themselves. Between Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, and more, there are more e-commerce platforms competing for your hard-earned dollar than ever before.

In a way, this is great news. More competition means better service at lower prices. In another way, however, it makes it more difficult for an e-commerce entrepreneur to know which service to go (and stick) with.

Continue reading below for a quick run-down of the new e-commerce platforms you can choose from in 2020!

Shopify

Shopify is the Canadian King Kong of e-commerce platforms. Launched in 2004, Shopify hosts over 1 million online shops in the United States, the United Kingdom, Canada, and Ireland. Its huge size and long pedigree ensures that you’re getting a reputable and reliable platform when you sign up, but some may be turned off by its hand-holding

Pros

Shopify brings with it several great reasons to choose the platform over its rivals.

  • Excellent customer support

Reviewers rave about Shopify’s 24-hour chat support, excellent telephone customer service representatives, and online help center

  • All-in-one package

Shopify provides e-commerce business owners with a complete package. If you want to design your storefront, market your wares, and review your analytics all on a single platform, then Shopify might be right up your alley.

  • Ease-of-use

To use Shopify, you don’t need to know a lick of code. From creating your store to reading your stats, you can do it all from their easy-to-use interface without learning HTML, CSS, or any other language.

  • Flexibility

If, on the other hand, you’d prefer to get your hands directly on the code, Shopify will let you do that. It offers advanced modes for users with knowledge of HTML, CSS, and the like.

Cons

There are a few downsides to using the Shopify platform. Their importance to you will vary depending on your circumstances and preferences.

  • Jack-of-all-trades

While some might love the ability to access shop design, marketing, and analytics all in a single piece of software, others may not like Shopify’s all-in-one approach. That’s because, while each tool in Shopify’s toolbox is a passable, even good, solution, there are more advanced tools out there for most of the functions you’ll need to carry out.

So if you’d prefer to Macgyver your own solution with multiple pieces of software, you might not need the holistic product that Shopify provides.

BigCommerce

For a pricier and more robust solution than Shopify, many turn to BigCommerce. True to its name, BigCommerce is aimed at e-commerce entrepreneurs who do brisk business and need an e-commerce platform that can keep up.

As a result, it’s significantly more expensive than some of its competitors.

Pros

BigCommerce comes with big advantages.

  • Multiple currencies

Unlike many of its rivals, BigCommerce allows you to sell in more than one currency. This is great for e-commerce firms that sell products that are equally popular in more than one country.

  • Great SEO features

BigCommerce allows you to edit page headers, titles and URLs directly from its platform without digging into the HTML. This can help optimize your site for search engines and lead to higher traffic. 

Cons

There are a few drawbacks to BigCommerce. We’ve already hinted at one in our comments above.

  • Price

BigCommerce comes with a big price tag. The BigCommerce Pro plan will run you almost $300USD per month. Unless you’re moving a lot of product, that might not be worth it to you. Of course, if you’re opting for the beefy Pro plan, odds are that you are selling a lot of stuff, so the price might not actually bother you.

  • Weak lower tiers

Some features that we consider absolute necessities, like shipping integrations and abandoned cart features are unavailable at the lower tiers. When combined with the high price of the best tiers, some users might find themselves going without features that could seriously improve their sales.

Magento

For those with a bit more technical know-how, the open-source Magento might be an excellent choice. It boasts a library of over 5,000 extensions and plug-ins, but that flexibility comes with the reality that development time and budgets will be significantly longer and larger, respectively.

Pros

Magento definitely has its upsides. These are just two of the benefits of using the storied, open-source solution.

  • Great for established small- and medium-sized businesses

This relatively new e-commerce platform works really well for established small and medium businesses who have the budget and cash flow to fund a small web development project. Because the product is open-source, development costs will be less than what they otherwise would be if you had to pay for the underlying code.

  • Flexible

Because Magento is open-source and comes with so many extensions, the sky is really the limit when it comes to designing your store. In the hands of a skilled developer, a Magento storefront can look, feel, and function however you want it to.

Cons

Magento’s flexibility comes at a price in the form of increased cost and time.

  • Cost

Even though it’s open-source, using Magento will be more expensive than using an off-the-shelf new e-commerce platform. The increased complexity leads to higher development costs.

  • Time

You’ll pay in more than dollars and cents as well. It will take more time to develop a Magento storefront than an off-the-rack Shopify or BigCommerce solution.

WooCommerce

Perfect for those who run their site on WordPress (which millions of people online already do), Woocommerce is a WordPress plugin that helps users create a robust e-commerce solution on a budget.

Pros

WooCommerce has a ton of benefits and we’ve listed the biggest ones below.

  • WordPress functionality

Because it is, at its core, a WordPress plugin, WooCommerce is a fantastic solution for people already using the WordPress content management system (CMS). It fits neatly into the 

  • Open-source

Like Magento, WooCommerce is open-source software. It’s free to download and use.

Cons

There are more than a few downsides to using only WooCommerce for your e-commerce solution.

  • No phone support

If you encounter a problem or hiccup in the development or maintenance of your WooCommerce store, you won’t be able to phone up a human for answers to your questions. You’ll need to file a ticket and use their chat support.

  • Steep learning curve

Because this is open-source software, there is a learning curve involved. You’ll need to get up to speed as you go with WooCommerce by using the online help and support forums and user community. This can be daunting for those without a background in HTML, CSS, or programming.

Squarespace

Squarespace, based in New York City, focuses on delivering an extremely user-friendly and off-the-rack e-commerce solution for small- and medium-sized e-commerce businesses. It’s inexpensive, easy-to-use, and offers a ton of support and help for new users.

Pros

While we’ve already touched on some of the benefits of having Squarespace as your e-commerce platform, we’ll quickly describe just a few in a bit more detail.

  • User-friendly

As we mentioned above, Squarespace is extremely user-friendly. They’re widely known for having some of the simplest design features in the business. You don’t need to know how to code at all to set up an online store. That means no HTML, no CSS, and no Javascript. Just drag-and-drop, “what you see is what you get” interfaces throughout the site.

  • Easy on the wallet

Squarespace is very affordable. Basic plans will run you less than $20 per month, while a Commerce plan (which most e-commerce sites will need) starts at $30 per month. Compared to BigCommerce, that’s a steal.

Cons

The downsides are few but not insignificant with Squarespace.

  • Inflexible

The extremely user-friendly nature of Squarespace doesn’t lend itself very well to an extraordinary degree of flexibility. Generally speaking, you get the features that you get and you’re stuck with it.

Of course, that doesn’t mean you don’t get a ton of themes and options for your site. We just mean to say that you’ll have fewer options than, for example, a Magento developer would have.

  • Few advanced features

Similarly, the focus on useability reduces the number of advanced features offered by Squarespace. Your opportunities to dip into the underlying code will be limited. Even where you can do this, we wonder why someone with coding experience would use a solution that’s tailor-made for people without the ability to code.

Final Thoughts

E-commerce company owners really are spoiled for choice in 2020. New e-commerce platforms are popping up by the day, and the options that already exist run the gamut from highly customizable open-source solutions to off-the-rack, user-friendly storefronts. There’s something for everyone in today’s e-commerce software environment.

We strongly suggest that you choose wisely when going with a new e-commerce platform. You’ll need one that suits your circumstances and goals. It can be expensive and time-consuming to change your solution once you’ve become established, and a little bit of careful preparation at the outset can save you a big headache later on in the game.

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