You have made the big decision to finally open e-commerce to sell your products online. The enthusiasm is skyrocketing, but there are still some questions that go through your head and do not allow you to proceed as quickly as you would like: which e-commerce platform to choose? How to get through all the available ones and their configurations? Well, there are many solutions and it is normal, at first, to be a little confused.
There are also numerous factors to consider before starting your online business: technical skills, the budget you have available, type of product you sell. In the midst of all these variables, you are stuck and don’t know what to choose. That’s the way it is, right? So don’t be discouraged, I’m here to help you clarify the subject.
By continuing to read this guide, in fact, you will be able to find out which are the best e-commerce platforms you can turn to, the main characteristics they have, and the differences between them. In this way, having a clearer view of the matter, you will certainly be able to choose the best platform for you. That said, I just have to wish you good reading and good luck with your new project!
Before talking about platforms, it is necessary to make a distinction between the various solutions available to create an e-commerce and sell your goods or services online.
The first solution consists of turning to services that allow you to open an online shop with a simple procedure, with a few clicks and paying a low price, increasing according to the chosen plans and your needs. It is, therefore, a possibility to consider especially if you want to open small or medium-sized e-commerce, do not have particular technical skills, and have a limited budget to invest in the project.
The second, on the other hand, consists of buying a domain and, consequently, its own space within the Web, to install a CMS (Content Management System) on it, i.e. software for managing all the contents of the commerce. This solution is suitable, however, for medium and large businesses, if you have some technical skills in this regard (or the possibility of relying on experts) and a more substantial budget to invest.
The third, and last, is to sell your products on existing platforms, such as Amazon or eBay, by creating a special account as a seller. It can be a suitable solution for those who already own a physical store and want to expand to conquer new audiences, even distant ones, through online sales.
After this little introduction, you should have a little clearer picture of the situation. However, there is no platform, service, or type among those indicated that is absolutely better than another. There are different solutions for different situations, to be evaluated case by case. In the next chapters, however, you will find everything explained in detail.
Best e-commerce platforms in 2021
At this point, you are ready to get to the heart of the matter and find out which are the best e-commerce platforms you can use to create your online shop. Read carefully all those that I will present to you and evaluate if they fit your situation, then you can devote yourself to the operational part and create your e-commerce.
Shopify is a much loved and appreciated e-commerce platform, which facilitates operations for those who do not have particular technical skills in terms of programming or Web design but still want to open a store with their own domain name.
Through Shopify, you can buy your domain and create your e-commerce following simple automated procedures. It will be the platform that will host and manage all the technical part while granting total autonomy to the individual stores. The latter, in fact, will not be displayed in a showcase (as happens on Amazon) but will enjoy their space on the Web.
To explain it in an even simpler way: choose and purchase the domain (e.g. your shop.com ) through Shopify, pay a monthly subscription (which therefore includes the use of the platform and the cost of the servers) and Shopify, which appears to be the owner and administrator, provides you with all the tools you need for your online shop.
Among these there is, of course, the possibility of opening an e-commerce site with a blog attached, selling an unlimited number of products, adding more people to the staff with permission to access the management panel (from 2 to 15 depending on the plan), use sales channels such as social networks and create order manuals; Furthermore, you can easily manage SEO (search engine positioning), customers, payments and shipments.
In short, there are no aspects that Shopify has not thought of and everything can be kept under control from the dashboard of the site via PC and mobile app (available for Android and iOS / iPad ). This extremely intuitive and easy-to-use tool is created in a management panel where you can manage your products and inventory, orders, customer data, marketing automation, and performance analyzes.
Having said that, let’s move on to the practical part. To create your e-commerce with Shopify, all you have to do is go to the official website of the service, enter your Email Address in the space provided and click on the Start the free trial button, then you can follow the wizard and customize everyone aspects of your online shop. Furthermore, for 14 days, you can use the service for free without inserting a payment card. At the end of the trial, you can decide whether to continue and choose one of the three available subscriptions or to abandon the service.
The subscriptions, at the time of writing, are as follows: Basic Shopify for $ 29 per month, Shopify for $ 79 per month, and Advanced Shopify for $ 299 per month. The Basic plan, of course, is best suited to start with.
Among the main advantages, therefore, to pull the threads of the discussion a bit, we have the hosting service included, the ability to manage everything centrally, to customize the design with great variability, and to use add-ons to increase and improve the shop functions.
Another excellent solution is the creation of e-commerce on the WordPress platform (the most famous and used CMS for creating sites and blogs) through the open-source WooCommerce plugin, which allows you to manage products, orders, stock, and everything. regarding the sale of goods and services online quite simply. There are various ways to use WooCommerce: among the simplest, which do not require technical knowledge of a certain level and do not require the manual installation of the CMS on a separately purchased Webspace.
The service in question includes the purchase and management of a domain name (without the need to pay annually for the renewal of the latter, because it is included in the price), the automatic installation procedure of WordPress and WooCommerce (to facilitate its initial use), unlimited disk space, pre-installed DV SSL certificate, daily backups, unlimited mailboxes, 10 PEC on the domain, 2GB of SDD disk space, automatic WordPress updates, WooCommerce and plugins, malware scans, phone/email support and so on.
This dedicated infrastructure also ensures optimal performance and high page viewing speed, for a total price of 249 USD per year + VAT. To create your online store, all you have to do is go to the official page of the service (which I linked to you just now) and click on the Buy Managed WooCommerce Hosting button.
Then you must enter the domain name you want to use in the search bar (to see if it is available) or transfer a domain already purchased from another provider and you must follow the wizard that is proposed to you, logging in or registering, to then enter your personal data and payment details and complete everything.
The service will be activated after 24 hours and you can start customizing your online store by entering the customer area using your credentials and then logging into WordPress. Later, by filling out a form, you can enter the main information relating to your e-commerce and proceed with the personalization of the aesthetic aspect.
Among the advantages of this platform, there is certainly the ease of use, because WordPress is an extremely intuitive and simple to use CMS (even if at the same time very professional), the possibility of increasing the functions of e-commerce with a large number of plugins and extensions, and the ability to easily manage products, orders, and customers (also receiving a message in case of purchases). Another positive aspect to report is the assistance, extremely useful if you are a beginner and you have some technical problems (even if they are not common in a WordPress site).
Among the disadvantages, however, there is the need for some more expertise than, for example, Shopify, relating to sales strategy, SEO, and the management of branding aspects. Furthermore, compared to other dedicated platforms, it is a little less complete, because it is still based on WordPress, which is dedicated to the creation of websites and blogs and not of e-commerce.
Magento is one of the most complete and professional solutions among those available. It is, in fact, a high-end open-source CMS, ideal for large businesses and for managing multiple stores at the same time. Its flexibility and the ability to add plugins and extensions continuously updated (free and paid), make it highly appreciated due to the great customization that can be achieved on your e-commerce.
Being a complete service, it also has numerous advanced features for managing different aspects of the online store, first of all, SEO optimization. You will be able to manage the catalog of products (which can be inserted in an unlimited number), payment methods, and every aspect of the store’s aesthetics in total autonomy. This advantage, however, can translate into a disadvantage, since it confuses less experienced people and makes the platform less intuitive than the previous ones.
To create e-commerce with Magento, first of all, you need to contact a good hosting service and purchase the space on a rather powerful and performing server. The dimensions of Magento, in fact, are quite large and, to work correctly, but above all quickly, it is necessary that the server hosting the e-commerce and all its data has good characteristics.
With Magento you will have to do everything yourself: buy a domain and a webspace, then register and download the CMS, install it on the server, and manage your e-commerce. While this allows you to have total control over every aspect of the project, on the other it translates into a higher quantity of aspects to manage and budget to dedicate. Hosting services, however, offer installation packages that can make the task a lot easier.
There are currently three solutions offered by the CMS, divided according to the size and needs of your business: Small Business, Mid-Market & Enterprise, and Enterprise. The CMS itself is free and you don’t need to spend any money to download and install it. The Enterprise option, however, requires a quote to be installed and is dedicated to businesses that have already started and have quite large turnover figures.
Keep in mind that, in practice, to develop e-commerce with Magento, you will still have to make use of the help of experts, to ensure that everything works correctly. In fact, there are many aspects to take care of, working directly on the code.
To summarize, among the advantages of Magento there are: the complete possibility of customizing every aspect of e-commerce, a large presence of themes and plugins that can be installed, a good SEO optimization service, and the ability to manage multiple stores at the same time.
The main disadvantages, however, relate to the complexity of creating and using this CMS and the obligation, if you are not a developer, to be supported by a team of experts to create and manage e-commerce. Furthermore, a fairly high presence of bugs and problems with fairly long resolution times is found (given that this aspect is dealt with by the Magento community).
PrestaShop is an open-source CMS for the creation of e-commerce, which allows you to create and manage your online store in a fairly simple and fast way. As with other solutions seen above, it is necessary to purchase a domain name and a package from a hosting service, to have a server in which to insert the CMS and, consequently, e-commerce. The advantage, however, is that it is a little “heavy” software (if compared, for example, to Magento) and this allows you to reduce the monthly or annual server management costs.
Once you have purchased everything you need, you need to install PrestaShop and create your own online store. In this case, it is not particularly difficult to do so and great technical skills are not required. Even the use of the platform once logged in, is intuitive and within the reach of even the less experienced. First of all, it will be necessary to set a theme, a logo, and the general design (being able to add external modules, that is extensions to increase and modify the functionality); after which you can proceed with the insertion of the products in the catalog and with the management of the e-commerce.
PrestaShop allows you to manage everything through the back office (administrator panel), consisting of the Dashboard, the order, catalog, and customer management menu, and the settings for modules, design, shipments, and payments. The panel is divided in a rather intuitive way, with the possibility of checking the statistics relating to the progress of the store, to improve its performance.
Among the advantages of this CMS are the ease of use, the ability to manage multiple stores simultaneously through the same back office, and the ability to highlight some products. The main disadvantages, however, consist of the rigidity of the SEO settings and a large amount of paid extensions even for making simple changes.
Joomla is the main alternative to WordPress and it is also an open-source CMS that allows, for free (paying only the management cost of the hosting package), to create your own e-commerce to be uploaded within the purchased space on the server.
The service is essentially dedicated to small businesses, has a fairly simple operation, and allows you to fully manage your content, even if you do not have programming skills. Once downloaded and installed, through the use of a user-friendly backend interface, you can easily manage everything, from orders to payments.
Among the advantages of Joomla, we must certainly mention the SEO optimization functions and the ability to translate the site into multiple languages without the need to install additional extensions. It is, in fact, a multilingual native software, suitable for those who want to sell their products also abroad. The disadvantages, however, are that it is “heavier” than WordPress (and consequently WooCommerce) and sometimes downloadable add-ons, such as themes, extensions, and modules, often have bugs.
Other e-commerce Platforms
Among the solutions to create e-commerce, other services can be taken into consideration. Here are some of the most interesting.
- One Minute Site – is an platform that allows you to create your own website or e-commerce with a few moves and for free, using a practical drag and drop editor. It also allows you to take advantage of a free trial of Ecommerce Business, lasting 3 months, to access more advanced features.
- Wix – a well-known platform for creating websites. It also offers the possibility of creating and managing e-commerce. The service is free, intuitive, and simple to use. Furthermore, to add missing functions, you can access the integrated App Market which allows you to download additional functions for free. To start your own e-commerce, however, you need to buy a package starting at 17 USD per month.
- Jimdo – is another good service to open your own e-commerce quickly, in case your need is to sell a small number of products. In a short time, it allows you to buy a domain and, for a basic amount of 15 USD per month, start your own small business, being able to sell up to a maximum of 100 products.
How to sell on existing e-commerce platforms
Among the options I mentioned earlier, there is also the possibility of selling your products within existing platforms. With this method, you can create a showcase in which to display your products and sell them all over the world.
To take advantage of this method, you can use some of the largest marketplaces on the web, such as Amazon, eBay, or Etsy, depending on the type of product to sell and your preferences.
On Amazon, you will first need to create a seller account and choose a sales plan. Amazon, in fact, offers the possibility of creating a free store with some limitations or a store with a monthly payment rate with fewer restrictions.
On eBay, on the other hand, you will have to create an account and decide which type of shop (mandatory for a fee) to open.
Finally, Etsy is a site dedicated to handmade and vintage products. It allows you to open a shop for free, paying only a commission on each advert published (with a variable price).