It’s 2019 and it’s kind of hard not to see ads on tv for the latest website builder. Many of these builders work great for making marketing pages, but are they good for an e-commerce store? For those who are interested in expanding your business into the online realm, here is a comprehensive analysis of some web/e-commerce platforms. Hopefully, this will help you sift through the advertising rhetoric. I will only be talking about a few platforms in this blog. There are many others, but these are the most popular.
Squarespace Commerce is relatively new to the e-commerce scene – it’s only been around for a few years. Squarespace – by itself — was originally created to specialize in flashy brand marketing web pages with an emphasis on a user-friendly interface. The platform is extremely easy to learn and does not require any coding knowledge or experience thanks to pre-built themes.
One advantage is that Squarespace handles hosting – so you don’t ever have to worry about a third-party hosting company. The disadvantage to that? Hosting companies usually provide some analytics tools and other useful extensions to help optimize the server-side performance.
If you like using PayPal or Stripe as payment processors, Squarespace Commerce supports them on their platform. However, the problem with that is that these are the only payment processors available. So, if you had planned to use something like Authorize.net, you’re out of luck.
Another technical problem I find with Squarespace is the user’s inability to access file directories using FTP/SFTP. This leads me to conclude that the platform isn’t as scalable as many users would like it to be. Despite not having access to FTP, Squarespace can import CSV files. But sometimes, that’s not good enough.
So what kind of user would be best suited for Squarespace Commerce? Probably a small shop that doesn’t plan to scale to medium or large markets. Small things that require changes or additions can likely be done without hiring a developer for help. If you wanted to keep your Squarespace brand landing page and link it to a separate Shopify site, that’s also possible. However, you’ll end up paying for two platforms at that time.
Shopify’s original intention was to be an all-in-one e-commerce platform and has since expanded to include brick-and-mortar POS systems and hardware. This makes Shopify a truly remarkable option for a starting out business that intends to scale to larger markets.
In addition to the storefront capabilities, when your online sales are ready to scale to the enterprise level, Shopify Plus is ready to take you there. This makes Shopify extremely scalable – for the right price, of course. Since this blog’s goal is mostly about e-commerce and online sales, I’ll just focus on that aspect of the platform – leaving out the POS and hardware capabilities.
Premium and free themes are available for your store which makes it extremely easy to get started without any advanced knowledge. Also, like Squarespace, Shopify manages your hosting, so you don’t have to deal with third party hosting companies.
Unlike Squarespace, Shopify has an app store and developers can create custom apps specifically designed to cater to your needs. This makes the platform very customizable, flexible, and adaptable to any problem your operations may encounter.
Within the developer platform, there are more advanced features. However, like Squarespace, users don’t have direct access to databases or FTP/SFTP access to their own directory. Shopify does employ workarounds for this, though. Shopify says you can access all relevant files directly in their admin dashboard and make changes to your database via their API (application programming interface) using technologies like Ruby, Node, or Python.
Shopify also supports social media integration such as automated chat features, abandoned cart reminders, social media advertising, and more. This level of automation allows your store to run even when you’re not paying attention.
One of the major benefits of having your store on Shopify is the support. Because Shopify handles everything from hosting to hardware, you’ll only have to deal with a single point of contact instead of juggling a team of vendors who support your store.
So what kind of user would be best suited for Shopify? Anyone who isn’t on a budget. When we start looking at the sticker price for enterprise-level operations, you’re looking at around $100,000 – $300,000 per year or more plus development costs on top of that. The features and support are great, so you get what you pay for.
WooCommerce is a plugin for WordPress. For those of you who don’t know, WordPress is a content management system (CMS) and the original intent for the system was supposed to be a blogging platform. WordPress then began to grow thanks to the expansion of their plugin ecosystem over the years and can now be used for virtually anything. From e-commerce all the way to media websites. WordPress also has a pretty good theme market to get people started quickly without any prior knowledge or coding experience.
By themselves, WordPress + WooCommerce are free to use starting out. You just need to pay for a third-party hosting service. Unlike the other two platforms I’ve talked about, hosting is separate from the system software and needs to be provided by a company like GoDaddy. The reason why separating the two is a good thing is because this allows your overall system to be a lot more flexible.
Say you’re not happy with the hosting Squarespace provides because bandwidth is restrictive or overall speed isn’t good because your business is starting to pick up and you have a lot of traffic. It’s not like you can just switch hosting providers. You must move your entire site data/files/configuration/database to an entirely new platform. And that’s if they allow you to have all the data associated with your site. Since you don’t have access to the databases or file directories, you don’t really own any of it.
Like Shopify, WooCommerce can be scaled to the enterprise level and for a variety of different industries. Memberships and subscription sales are available also if you’re offering media in addition to digital and physical products.
Like Shopify, WooCommerce integrates very well with social media. You can link your webstore with Facebook and have automated messages sent to customers who abandon shopping carts for example. Heck, you can even ditch the webstore all together and even just sell products off of WooCommerce on Facebook.
WordPress has a plugin repository just like Shopify’s app store. Plugins allow you to transform your WordPress functionality into anything you want – data visualizations, analytics, email marketing, what have you. Everything is open source, so if you need a specific plugin that doesn’t exist, you can develop it yourself or hire someone to develop it for you quickly.
However, unlike the other two platforms mentioned, you’ll have full access to all your files in your directory and your databases — No workarounds needed. This makes WordPress + WooCommerce one of the most flexible e-commerce solutions.
One of the downsides to using this platform is that you’ll have to juggle several different vendors for adequate support. Every plugin is made by a different company/team/individual volunteer, so if you’re having issues with something on your site, you’ll have to make sure that you’re contacting the right one. In some cases, plugins have little to no support, so you’ll have to head to some forums for solutions and fix things yourself – or hire someone.
So what kind of user would be best suited for WordPress + WooCommerce? Anyone who has the time and patience to deal with an open source platform.
Which is more popular?
Knowing which platform is used more can help those who haven’t decided which route is best for them. This can also give us some idea as to which brands may die out eventually.
According to some experts, the global market share for e-commerce platforms will be dominated by three primary players in 2019.
WooCommerce – 21% of the total global market
Shopify – 19% of the total global market
Magento – 13% of the total global market
In the United States, the market share is divided up a bit differently.
Shopify – 23% of the total US market
Wix Stores – 13% of the total US market
WooCommerce – 11% of the total US market (tied)
Squarespace – 11% of the total US market (tied)
Tags: e-commerce, online store, Small Business, small business solutions, web