What is the best eCommerce platform for small brands?
Recently I was asked what the best eCommerce platform is for a small business. You can generally put eCommerce platforms on a spectrum. On one end you have incredibly powerful but complex platforms while on the other side you have basic but simple to use options. For the most part, small businesses are looking to shoot somewhere in the middle, with a platform that can grow with them. Let's run through the more common options.
Wix / Squarespace / Small Site Builders
There are tons of site makers in this category while Wix and Squarespace are the popular ones. These platforms are great for what they are, heck my site is currently a Squarespace site! They are incredibly easy to set up, need almost no dev skills due to their drag and drop website builder and pre-built templates. However, the downside is that you don't have a lot of flexibility with layout and function meaning you are very limited in what you can do. I myself am working to transition over to WordPress.
Want to do shopping cart abandonment emails, structured data, exit page popups, or other eCommerce strategies? They can be difficult to set up with these options due to the lack of customizability.
Want to get your store set up quickly and easily with little fuss? This platform is for you.
Things I love, WordPress. Things I don't love, WooCommerce. WooCommerce doesn't have a lot of native features. You can't even get Google Analytics enhanced eCommerce working natively, which is huge for eCommerce stores. It relies heavily on extensions to get all of the functionality that you would want unless you do some serious custom coding.
This is OK for the most part. The only problem comes with the fact that with so many extensions built by 3rd-party developers, you often run into the issue of them breaking or not playing nicely with one another. This leads to a lot of what I call 'WP Bloat' or having tons and tons of apps that bog down your site. It is better to just have some of this functionality built into the eCommerce platform natively.
This is the happy middle ground in my opinion and is a platform that can grow with a brand. Starting off you can purchase a pre-built template, preferably from a Shopify Partner. This will be a little more work than the drag and drop style of previous site builders mentioned, however, you will have more control of the design of your site. Plus Shopify handles inventory, Point of Sales (POS), accounting (via apps), and more.
Using Shopify built extensions or native functionality, you can easily set up Google Shopping Ads, Facebook Remarketing, Google Analytics, Product Reviews, synch with accounting software, shopping cart abandonment emails, promo codes, gift cards and more. Because these extensions are built by Shopify they are a little less risky to use than from 3rd parties in terms of compatibility and stability.
As your brand grows you can invest more into customized features and designs. This includes almost any type of custom coded page you can think of for landing pages, product pages, and more. Or you can look into the 3rd-party app offerings where you can synch with shipping programs, loyalty rewards, JSON-LD SEO options, and others.
Shopify is the winner in my book for small and medium size businesses. Click here to learn more.
We can chalk up Magento up on the complex side of the spectrum. This platform is highly customizable but is not exactly turn key. If you have a lot of dev skills or have someone in-house who has spent a lot of time within Magento this could work for you. Otherwise, I might shy away from this one early on. Magento is a great choice for medium to large size brands but can be difficult to use.
Custom build eCommerce & CMS
Just no. Don't do it! These are expensive to build and a headache to maintain. The digital marketing world moves quickly and you want a site that can move quickly with you. Stick to one of the major eCommerce systems and CMS's. I'm not saying don't have custom designed site using a platform like WordPress or Shopify, I am saying don't build it on its own unique CMS.
What eCommerce platforms are you working on? What are your favorites or the ones that frustrate you the most? Leave a comment and let me know!