Since this comes up so frequently, we’re providing a streamlined summary to help choose between four of the biggest platform options out there for running your online store. Every ecommerce need is unique, whether you’re a full-blown online retail store selling hundreds of products, or a news/blog company offering merch product sales as additional revenue stream.
Not sure whether you should use Shopify, BigCommerce, Squarespace, or the popular WordPress plugin WooCommerce? Each has its own advantages and disadvantages. Whichever one you choose is entirely dependent on your situation and what will work best for your organization.
At Chainlink, we’re all about doing what’s best and most economical for our clients. That’s why we wanted to share with you some pros and cons that we’ve identified for each, going over their pricing, design, main features, scalability and editing options. By spelling out exactly what makes each one ideal for certain ecommerce needs, we hope we can make your decision-making process a no-brainer.
WooCommerce (WordPress) versus Hosted Solutions
WooCommerce is a free plugin available for WordPress sites and allows for the most overall customization and full control of your products, store, and overall user experience. However, in order to make all of these controls a reality, you need to have the technical knowledge of how to build a WordPress site.
This includes knowing how to manage a full WordPress site, manage integrations, managing your site’s hosting, and customizing to your design needs. The upside is that you then control everything from your customer’s data to the full customer experience.
For many small business owners, this can seem daunting without the support of a full development team, and for that reason, many of the popular hosted ecommerce platforms such as Shopify have flourished over the last decade.
Hosted platform options like Shopify have the lowest threshold for technical knowledge for overall ecommerce site setup and management. They provide plenty of paid or free templates to get your store up and going, but from there you are limited to the options provided within the platform’s offerings, including what type of data or reports you can run about your customers, visitors, and overall shopping settings.
One of the reasons why WooCommerce is the most popular is because of the multitude of choices for themes and extensions available. Also, WooCommerce comes with support for popular payment gateways so it’s easy to add other payment options using extensions. It can also calculate shipping and taxes.
Most web developers would agree that WooCommerce offers the most customizable options when it comes to ecommerce solutions for a website. However, there is pretty steep learning curve when using WordPress if you are not a seasoned developer. The increased difficulty in learning and navigating the backend of a WordPress site is the tradeoff for a nearly limitless array of customizable features through WooCommerce.
Building a WordPress site to run your WooCommerce store is definitely not the best option for you if you prefer quick and easy solutions to get your online store up and running. However, using WordPress can be the most rewarding because of the extent to which you can make your ecommerce website exactly how you envisioned.
With the help of a skilled programmer (or better yet, development team), you can make your WooCommerce store extremely visually appealing and dynamic. There is a wide variety of templates and themes that can be powered by WordPress, which you can purchase on sites such as Envato Market. If you’re not tech savvy or don’t want to invest in hiring talented web developers, using WooCommerce is probably not for you.
Key Features to Note:
Paid WooCommerce Extensions
Flexibility and Control
Free Payment Gateways
Free Analytics Reports
The large number of website templates available provide a solid foundation for shop owners to select their designs. The templates each come with their own theme settings. However, these theme settings can also be frustrating for web designers who want to offer their clients highly customized website features. Remember that there are dozens of templates, but only about 10 of them are free.
The good news is that Shopify’s templates are already set to be mobile friendly by default. If you have any questions related to design, you can always ask Shopify Support, which is offered 24/7 via phone call, chat or email. The great thing about Shopify is that it has the power to fuel a high-volume business seamlessly while still being quite user friendly.
Key Features to Note
Extensive App Store for Added Features
Automatic Multi-Device Optimization
With this feature, most orders are automatically protected so they don’t need to be individually reviewed.
For example, if you get a chargeback due to fraud on a protected order, Shopify automatically issues a refund and handles the dispute. Shopify’s goal is for you to focus on legitimate sales and growth, not preventing fraud.
Shopify takes fraud seriously even if you don’t use their payment gateway. It gives many owners of ecommerce businesses peace of mind that fraud will not factor in as a cost of doing business for their online stores.
It’s important to consider that the monthly cost does not include the cost of additional applications, which almost every website will need. Some apps are free while some are paid (and the paid ones do have monthly fees that are worth considering before going for them.
Therefore, BigCommerce is definitely not the cheapest option out there, but for someone who doesn’t come from a programming background, it’s worth the extra cost.
You can add unique and useful elements to your site design and functionality by purchasing apps in the BigCommerce application store. This way, you’ll have even more marketing power and you’ll be able to streamline your business to save you time. They add a lot more functions to your store without taking any more of your time, allowing you to concentrate on other parts of your business or life.
Key Features to Note
Super Easy Social Integrations
BigCommerce Community Forum
The archive of previously asked questions/answers is super useful to read through to understand the nuances of the platform, even if you don’t have a specific question you need answered. There are definitely useful tips from other users’ experiences that can help you solve issues you might have with your store along the way.
Hosting & Security
However, it’s important to keep in mind that if you ecommerce site is overwhelmed by video and audio content and full of large imagery, this could still affect its loading speed. After all, even “unlimited” bandwidth has its limitations. If you have extremely bandwidth-heavy content, you have to stay on top of making sure your site’s loading speed is acceptable and consistent. Although BigCommerce claims to have a 99.99% uptime for its websites (compared to 99.5% for ecommerce sites overall), if you push the limit of the platform’s hosting capabilities you could run into problems.
As far as security, BigCommerce automatically ensures updates for their servers. Technical nuances of making sure your site is always functional with fast load speeds is taken care of by BigCommerce. Theoretically, this is a great weight off your shoulders, but you have to also do your due diligence.
Squarespace’s basic ecommerce tools include full control over product variations, inventory management, unlimited product uploads, and enables you to sell physical or digital products. The platform is extremely user-friendly and equipped with a couponing engine, shipping cost options, sales taxes, and other tools to help build your ecommerce site.
Also, when you sign up for a year, your domain name is included in the cost of your purchase.
Squarespace is known for its impressive template library and beautiful selection of themes. Also, Custom CSS can be applied to any template design through Squarespace’s built-in custom CSS editor, which also provides image and font file storage for CSS assets.
However, unlike the WordPress plugin WooCommerce which is open-source, Squarespace is not an open-source platform. This means that only members of the Squarespace team can produce web tools. Therefore, no additional apps, plugins, or extensions are offered outside of what’s built-in to the Squarespace platform.
As long as you don’t have your heart set on super specific customized templates or extensions, Squarespace is a great choice. However, you are much more restricted than if you were using WooCommerce when it comes to tailoring features to fit your unique needs.
Key Features to Note
Easy Product Management
Other super important considerations include how many customization features you want and the size of your ecommerce company/store. At the end of the day, you’ll decide on the right solution for you based on the answers to the questions you ask yourself and your team.
Chainlink Can Help
To find our more about how we can help you achieve your ecommerce goals, take a second to fill out the form below. We’d love to give you a free consultation to tell you what we’re all about.
If you want more free ecommerce insights, be sure to check out more blog articles under our ecommerce category. Also, if you found this guide helpful, please pass it along to a colleague and spread the word about our content. Don’t forget to sign up for our newsletter, where you’ll get the latest and greatest digital marketing tips & insights delivered right to your inbox every week.
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