As of 2018, the eCommerce industry worldwide is estimated at almost $3 billion and is expected to grow $4.2 billion in 2020. With most of the world becoming connected to the Internet, it’s natural for companies to take their business online.
Starting an eCommerce business is more than just setting up a website and putting up product listings online, though. Just like running a physical store, it requires the same level of strategic planning. By choosing the right eCommerce platform, your will enjoy business growth, meet objectives, engage better with customers and minimise running costs.
The Pitfalls of Choosing Software as a Service
Several businesses use apps like Shopify, Squarespace and Wix to run their eCommerce sites. These apps are considered Software as a Service (SaaS), in which a third-party provider hosts applications from a cloud-based server.
The provider gives customers a single copy of an application, usually accessed through a preferred web browser or mobile device. Customers then pay these providers a monthly subscription fee. Data is stored locally or through the cloud, depending on the service level agreement of the provider.
SaaS remains a popular web commerce platform, with companies using an average of 16 SaaS apps to run their businesses today. Here’s why:
- Cost-effective. Companies don’t have to acquire and maintain their own software. SaaS also eliminates the need to install and run applications on their own data centres.
- Monthly subscription fees. With payments for software done every month, businesses can predict their budget.
- Scalability. Customers can choose to access more or fewer services over any Internet-enabled device or location.
- Automatic updates. There’s also less of a burden on their in-house IT staff because the SaaS provider automatically performs updates.
Although it has its advantages, SaaS has several drawbacks for businesses that are planning to start an eCommerce platform:
- Connectivity requirements. Since SaaS is hosted on the web, you can’t use the applications offline. If your Internet service goes down, you won’t have access to your software or data.
- Lack of control and ownership.Using a hosted solution means turning most of the control over to the third-party provider. When the latest version of the application is rolled out to all customers, everyone has to use it and they can’t postpone changes or upgrades to the features. An SaaS platform may not be the right solution for you if you want a high degree of control over your apps.
- Security and data concerns. Choosing an SaaS application means entrusting your access management and sensitive information to a third-party provider. Strict measures need to be implemented before sensitive data is handed over to the provider.
What are Your Options?
If you’re less inclined to hand over sensitive information to a third party and want a higher degree of control over your eCommerce platform, SaaS is likely not the right choice for you. There are other popular platforms that you can consider when building your business online, namely WooCommerce and Magento.
WooCommerce is the most used eCommerce plugin on WordPress, one of the most widely used content creation tools on the Internet. It’s an entirely open-source system, giving you complete control to customise your platform. While you have to deal with web hosting expenses, setting up a store on WooCommerce is free.
Made to work with other WordPress plugins, WooCommerce is seamlessly integrated into the content creation tool, allowing you to combine commerce and content. You can choose to edit your website design from a variety of free and premium themes on WordPress.
WooCommerce has several features that make it easy for you to manage your eCommerce site:
- Payment platforms: WooCommerce comes bundled with payment gateways like BACS, cash on delivery and PayPal. You can choose to add other payment platforms from WordPress’ list of extensions.
- Shipping: You can choose to offer flat-rate shipping or free shipping. WooCommerce also calculates tax and shipping fees based on the provided shipping address.
- Taxes: Shipping taxes are automatically calculated on the cart items.
- Stock tracking: An intuitive and WordPress-centric user interface allows you to easily manage your inventory.
- Data control: WooCommerce gives you complete control over your data. You can integrate WooCommerce with a variety of extensions to build your own database.
- Security: WooCommerce is regularly inspected by Sucuri, a website security and protection platform, ensuring that the platform is secure and updated.
Magento is an eCommerce platform more geared towards mid-market businesses and enterprises, although small businesses can benefit from its functionality. Magento offers a free open-source platform for small businesses and a paid Magento Commerce for large companies.
Open Source users can enjoy a variety of features, such as:
- An integrated checkout, payment and shipping system
- Optimal shopping experience across a range of devices
- Ability to transact in multiple countries, currencies and with worldwide shipping providers
- Catalogue management across different types of products
- Easily add capabilities and connectors through Magento’s app marketplace
- Instant purchase for a faster checkout experience
- Search engine optimisation feature that helps boost conversion rates
Magento Commerce offers the same built-in features but has additional, advanced capabilities, including:
- Advanced reporting tools and ready-to-use reports that help you learn more about your customers
- Advanced marketing tools to create custom promotions
- Customer loyalty tools for enabling reward points, wish lists and exclusive events
- Advanced security with web application firewall and DDoS services
- Continuous infrastructure updates
Choosing Your eCommerce Platform
WooCommerce and Magento have different key features, performance and product management. Consider the following when choosing between the two for your eCommerce platform:
- A completely free platform, with payments only for web hosting and certain extensions
- Supports unlimited products
- Includes basic security features
- An easy-to-use platform, ideal for users with little to no web development knowledge
- Offers a free open-source version and a paid premium service
- Open source is self-hosted while Magento Commerce offers hosting
- Enables you to add unlimited products
- Includes advanced security features for Magento Commerce
- Platform use requires basic web development knowledge
To sum it up, WooCommerce is the perfect platform for eCommerce beginners. It’s easy to learn, especially for users who are familiar with WordPress. Since WooCommerce is an open-source platform, it’s free; anyone can download it and set it up on any web host they want.
Magento is the platform to use for business owners who want to scale their eCommerce shop quickly. It’s manageable if you have basic background in web design and development. If you’re willing to pay for the Magento Commerce platform, you’ll enjoy advanced built-in features.
Remember that no single eCommerce platform will fit every user perfectly. When choosing the platform for your online store, consider various factors, such as business goals, security, project management and overall budget.