How to Choose the Best eCommerce Platform for Your Online Business

The Importance of Choosing the Right eCommerce Platform

When you are an eCommerce owner, you need to decide which platform will become your storefront. You can go with a hosted cart like BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, 3dcart, or Miva. If you prefer more control, there are open-source solutions like Magento or X-Cart or WooCommerce. Or if your operation is large enough, you can go with an enterprise solution like Sitecore, Demandware, and a couple of other systems like Episerver.

What Percentage Of Our Clients Are Hosted, What Percentage Is Open Source, And What Percentage Is Price?

About 70% are hosted, 20% are open source, and then the remaining 10% would be on an enterprise-level solution.

So, if I’m an eCommerce owner, what am I looking at? How do I know which platform I need to go with? Because a lot of people ask us these questions and they have no idea and we’re saying, “No, don’t do that. That’s a bad idea,”

How Do I Determine Which Platform I Need To Use?

You have to consider many factors. What’s your annual revenue? Are you doing 10 million a year? Are you doing five, are you doing 100?

Answer all these questions. The answers will determine what platform best suits your business.

Are you going to need some type of custom integrations or any type of custom functionality? Or can you get away with some out-of-the-box solutions? All of these different things will play a part in that decision of which platform you should be on.

Again, as a business owner, you might not know. You’re not an expert. If necessary, seek an outside consultant to help you make that decision.

The most essential thing here is that even we do not know. There is no one-size-fits-all solution. We ask roughly 50 questions to figure out what platform you need.

Do you have any internal inventory management system? Are you going to need customizations for your products? How many products do you have? Is it ten, fifty, a hundred thousand, a million? How many options for each product will you have?

Then factor in delivery. How do you process your shipments? Do you dropship, keep inventory, or do both? How many different warehouses do you have?

There are so many questions. It’s impossible to say WooCommerce is better than 3dcart, or it’s impossible to say Volusion is better than Shopify. You cannot do that. It really depends on your budget and mindset.

We speak to business owners who run twenty million dollar operations. They think two thousand dollars a month is too much for an eCommerce platform that makes them twenty million dollars a year. Again, the mindset sets the direction.

eCommerce Platforms for Small Businesses to Enterprise Level

If you are starting out for the first time, and if you are serious about doing eCommerce, don’t put your side on WooCommerce or X-Cart.

If you are serious, spend the money. Sign up with BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion to get your store going. You’ll pay just thirty to forty dollars a month.

No matter what happens, your store will always be online. You won’t need to deal with technical issues. You won’t need to deal with getting hacked.

WooCommerce and WordPress get hacked all the time. Then you have to deal with compromised data and content. If you are doing less than $250,000 and you are looking for a new platform, you’re probably on WooCommerce or a similar host. Again, I still wouldn’t recommend WooCommerce or OpenCart or Magento.

The exception to this rule is if you are not serious and running side gig. Then you establish, “I really don’t want to spend 40 dollars a month because I don’t know where this is going to go.” Then, yes, you can be on open source with WooCommerce or Magento.

Are you doing more than half a million dollars? I wouldn’t do enterprise, definitely. You should be on something like BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, 3dcart, or Miva. These will all work for you, again, based on your needs and the answers to those 40 other questions.

What If I’m Doing More Than Two Million Dollars? Where Do You Put Me?

Again, you can go with BigCommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus. These are all hosted solutions. BigCommerce or Shopify or Volusion for fifty, sixty, one hundred and two hundred dollars a month respectively, but then they have their plus enterprise versions.

What’s The Difference?

Scalability, which is pretty much the capacity of which you can operate your business on these platforms. It’ll allow you to have more products and a dedicated server. In some situations, it means faster site speed, 99% uptime. I mean, there are tons of benefits of being on Shopify Plus or BigCommerce Enterprise.

One, your load is going to be a lot better. We’re talking about simultaneous sessions. When you are on the basic version, you might get 100 people to our site and you’re okay. If you’re getting a lot of traffic and you’re getting like 2,000 simultaneous sessions at the same time in your cart, it’s going to slow down.

The enterprise or the plus versions of these platforms will give you the peace of mind. They’ll put you on a semi-dedicated server or a dedicated server that can handle the traffic. That’s number one: scalability.

Two, they allow you more functionality out of the box. You can edit the checkout, or change the checkout however you want. Do a pre-checkout upsell, add custom fields in your checkout, so you are able to do that.

Third, you get better support. When you call, you get a human on the phone. Remember, these guys are SaaS companies and software companies. They don’t have the time to be with you on the phone for three hours if you’re paying them 50 dollars a month. That makes no sense.

What If I’m Doing More Than Five To Ten Million Dollars? Where Do You Put Me?
I would still keep you on BigCommerce Enterprise or Shopify Plus, but I think I know where you’re headed with this. And then, obviously, if you’re in the tens of millions, high tens of millions to hundreds of millions, then you’re going to need an enterprise-level solution.

Enterprise is defined as following and I will give you some platforms. Now, we have clients on BigCommerce that do 120 to 130 million dollars annually. So you could be enterprise and be on BigCommerce and Shopify. There are big, big companies, but it really depends on your operations.

Let’s say you’re Electrolux, Intel, or Pearson. If you have a multi-language, multi-continent operation, you are going to need an enterprise. Demandware, Sitecore, and Hybris do this. The process integrates with your internal operations.

Suppose I’m running SAP for my internal inventory management system, process automation, and CRM. I’m not going to want to go with BigCommerce or Shopify.

“Okay, let’s buy the SAP,” I say.

Another reason big CEOs and C levels buy enterprise is that nobody can blame you for buying enterprise. You can say, “Well, I bought a Ferrari, the best model, and it’s going to increase the value of our business whenever we’re looking for an exit strategy.”

The statement’s absolutely accurate. Even so, it doesn’t make sense for small businesses or medium-sized businesses, in my opinion, to go buy a Ferrari to increase your valuation. Many people do that, however. Depending on the operation and the business, it makes sense.

Hosted vs Open-Source eCommerce Platforms

What Do We Suggest That People Use For Their E-commerce Platform?

They should go with a hosted solution. That means avoiding the open-source platforms.

Why?

You get all those added benefits of not worrying, with 99% uptime. Lack of worry plays a huge factor in that decision. It allows business owners to focus on running their business and not have to worry about hiring an IT guy or having an IT department in-house. The host takes care of everything.

Many people think that hosted solutions like BigCommerce, Shopify, Volusion, 3dcart, Miva, cannot handle whatever customizations that they need to do. We have clients who have over twenty-five customizations. These are integrations with inventory management tools, shipping systems, UPS WorldShip.

Don’t go with an open-source solution unless you have an internal IT department, or you’re willing to pay thousands of dollars on a monthly basis on maintenance. Save on costs, and keep your website stable. These hosted carts can get pretty robust if you know what you’re doing.

Open-source like Magento, WooCommerce, Prestashop are no good. Neither are a couple of other ones all out there like X-Cart. Don’t use these systems if you want to make millions in annual revenue. Only use these systems if you’re kind of trying it out.

The only exception to this as Magento Enterprise. They have a team of people working behind it, who will support you. I still wouldn’t put a client on Magento Enterprise unless I know they’re going to need unique customizations to their front end and backend.

Any Other Points To Mention?

Notice that we did not mention Wix, Squarespace, Weebly, or Strikingly. Don’t use these sites. They’re meant for hobbies.

No serious business should ever be on one of those platforms. You could do the same thing on WordPress. By the way, if you’re so impressed with the drag-and-drop functionality, there’s this plugin called Elementor WP Baker.

Just pay one thousand dollars. Just don’t be cheap. Have some designer on Fiverr or on Upwork to set this up for you.

No serious business should be on Weebly, Squarespace or any of these platforms. You are not going to make any money. Even if you do, you’re going to go through so much headache trying to scale your business or online operation. We’ll talk to you guys next week.

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