How to Choose The Best Ecommerce Platform

Whats the best eCommerce platform for your business, how to choose, and the three most important factors that make for a great eCommerce shopping cart.

“What’s the best shopping cart?”

I’m writing this article because I continue to get this question in my advisory practice.

There are almost 90MM answers to the question online, but — surprise surprise — most of those answers aren’t that helpful. Why? Because they tell you to create a spreadsheet with every possible feature you want in a solution down the left side and all two-hundred-plus shopping carts across the top.  Then they ask you to start researching the features available in each cart and check the relevant cell in the spreadsheet.

Just add up the checks, and there’s your answer!

OK, be honest: when was the last time that approach worked for you on anything? Which car to buy? Which person to marry?

The last time I checked, every SAAS company out there promises every feature-set to everybody which makes those feature grids completely useless and paralyzing.

Newsflash: there is no ‘best ecommerce platform’ for you.  No 100% perfect fit. Even if you found it, your business will change, and you’ll need some more features that you can’t anticipate right now.

As with all things, you can’t let this decision prevent execution: decide, move on, and get to selling.  In this article I’ll lay out my preferred method of making this decision and current top shopping cart picks for 2013 and 2014. And I’ll explain why “2014” is significant.

Why listen to me?

“Wait, just who is this guy, and who does he think he is, spoutin’ off about ecommerce platforms and value-weighted decision matrices?!”

Well, I’ll tell you — I started my online store in 2003.  Back then online shopping cart options were limited, expensive, or crappy, so I built a simple PHP-based shopping cart for my store.  It worked well until we surpassed a couple million in revenue at which point we migrated to Magento.

And since I sold my business and started an agency, I have been working with ecommerce retailers running a number of platforms — your Shopifys, your Magentos, your Big Commerces, your Lemonstands, etc. — so I have a working knowledge of them all.

But that isn’t why you should heed my advice.  You should heed my advice because at heart I’m “a business guy” not a programmer.  And choosing a shopping cart should be a business decision.

I’ve found that too much shopping cart advice, particularly the advice from agencies selling hosting or migration services, is from the perspective of an engineer.  They’ll dwell on the features of each cart when we all know it’s benefits that matter: how will this cart help you sell more/better/faster or reduce my costs?

My business was bootstrapped and profitable from inception, and I chose our shopping cart to increase that profitability not curtail it.  I had to think about our business, our team’s strengths and weaknesses, and our overall strategy, and that informed my shopping cart decisions.

I recommend you take the same approach.

The Three Factors and Three Ecommerce Platforms That Matter

I am going to save you a heap of time: only consider three online shopping carts for three reasons.  Yes, there are over two hundred shopping carts you could use (not including custom solutions), but I recommend considering only three for the following vital reasons:

1. These ecommerce platforms are the most popular, and popularity matters

I ran the names of the major shopping carts through Google Trends, and these three are far and away the most popular in 2013.  Granted, “number of searches” does not equate to “installed base”, but I’ll bet you a Katz’s pastrami sandwich that the two are strongly correlated.

Best Ecommerce Platform of 2014 - Google Trends

Your response? “But if every other shopping cart jumped off a cliff, that doesn’t mean I should…”

My answer? True in general matters of conformity and self-expression, but not for software with demand-side economies of scale.

Popular is better.

The more popular the platform, the larger the developer base (benefit: lots of cheap help to customize the cart), the larger the customer base (benefit: more bugs get reported and ultimately fixed), and the more themes, extensions, and third-party solutions exist (benefit: you can make your platform look however you want and do whatever you want for cheap).

So by opting for the more popular shopping carts, you are buying insurance against anything The Future can throw at you and your business. Just Say It Doctor via MetaPictureThis is why you want to know not only the best ecommerce platform today, but which will still be going strong in 2014. Maybe in a year you will start drop-shipping. Maybe you will stop. Maybe there will be a new social network you want to integrate (like in 2008 when you went ‘all-in’ on Gowalla).

Whatever it is, if you are running on a popular platform odds are there will be other users who have the same needs, and solutions will be developed in a reasonable amount of time.

2. These shopping carts are low-cost or free

Your shopping cart decision is a business one, and “free” is a cost that will improve your profitability.  Now, your total cost of ownership for these three will most definitely not be free, but it should be lower than that of carts charging a monthly or annual fee.

Personally, I like my shopping carts like I like my index funds: no-load.

_MG_0058 by pulaw, on Flickr

IRCE was held in Chicago this year, but this photo of The Bean is more compelling than a conference floor shot

One walk around the floor at Internet Retailer this year reaffirmed this. Many of the smaller shopping carts that charge monthly fees didn’t actually view improving the shopping cart as their core business. Instead they considered themselves akin to hosting businesses — their sales goals were to sign up new users, only a small fraction of whom would actually build out a store on the platform while still paying the monthly fee.

(I of course made a mental note to roll out my own shopping cart in 2014.)

3. These three are full-featured

This reason is really a corollary of the first: if the cart is popular and has been around for years, it probably has more functionality right now than a new one coming out of the gates.  Ask anyone who still uses Microsoft Word.

Accordingly each of our chosen three do 80% – 90% of what you will want to do with your cart.  Maybe 100% if you are lucky.  Today.

And the remaining 10% – 20%?  You can customize that yourself or buy an extension to get you there.

An important thing to keep in mind here is that the ecommerce ecosystem is increasingly moving towards Andy Grove’s vision of the laptop ecosystem, wherein component parts of the laptop are provided by individual brands which lowers the overall cost of production (Apple being the one notable exception).

Intel makes the chip, Toshiba makes the hard drive, and so on.

Same for ecommerce — all the component ‘parts’ of your platform are becoming more and more specialized. You don’t make your shopping cart decision based on whether it provides good email newsletter capability (you’ll find another email service provider for that), blogging (ditto), CRM, etc.

The takeaway? Get a shopping cart that does everything a shopping cart needs to do and don’t worry about the other stuff.

Without Further Ado: The Best Ecommerce Platforms for 2014

Woocommerce

Woocommerce is ecommerce solution is built on the back of the ubiquitous WordPress blogging platform.  It’s light, fast, and easy to manage, with great documentation and support.

If you can install WordPress, you can install Woocommerce.  If you can’t, most hosting companies can or it should take all of one hour of a developer’s time.

Grand St

Grand St.’s cool bloggy-style UI (not on WooCommerce, but you get the point)

I’ve used Woocommerce to quickly generate MVP ecommerce sites that look professional right out of the box. Say I’m considering selling umbrellas online. I can get WordPress on a cheap domain within an hour and have Woocommerce installed within two. I can then add some Amazon affiliate products to Woocommerce and start driving AdWords traffic towards the site to see what converts.  Done.

Woocommerce is so easy and fast; I really love the approach.  Its primary advantage is the simplicity, speed, and light-weight.  It’s a great option if you want to ecommerce enable an existing blog or sell a small catalog of products.

Because of the tight WordPress integration, I’d strongly recommend it for marketers who envision using content to drive sales of a small lineup of products — sites like Grand St. or Photojojo, two of my favorite content-driven retailers.

Although you can customize it to do most anything, I wouldn’t want to use it to run a catalog of 20K+ SKUs or a good-sized team or a $10+MM business with heaps of traffic.  It’s just a bit too limited out of the box and would require too much customization for that scale.

Shopify

Shopify [aff] has been around for several years and is one of the better marketed shopping carts.  Their annual Build Your Business competition highlights the ability to get a Shopify store up and running within seconds (along with Tim Ferris’s latest haircut).

Heartwork runs Shopify

Heartwork runs Shopify

And this promise rings true: Shopify is hands-down the easiest of the three to set up.

Why? It’s a hosted solution: Shopify hosts your store and provides such things as merchant processing (which you’d have to integrate with the other solutions).  Couple this with a large library of great-looking themes, and it is as close to ‘ecommerce-in-a-box’ as you will get.

(More and more hosting companies are now offering hosted versions of WooCommerce and Magento, and Magento has its own hosted version called Magento Go which is more of a direct competitor to Shopify).

I’ve seen lots of single founders start with a Shopify store because of the ease of setup, and I think that’s a great idea.  In fact, in my ecommerce advisory practice I recommend that most new, small retailers selling a handful of products start with a Shopify store to get up and running quickly.

If they grow or expand or need more functionality later on, they can always move to Magento.

Downsides?  It’s coded in Rails so your developer base is both smaller and more expensive than that of Magento and WooCommerce (both PHP), so if you want to do a lot of customization it may not be for you (in my experience good Shopify developers are few and far between on oDesk whereas you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a Magento or WordPress/WooCommerce expert).  Shopify also takes a bigger percentage fee off of each transaction in return for their hosting and merchant services — you can get this percentage reduced if you use the other solutions listed here.

But a key for new companies is just to get out there and start selling, and Shopify will let you do that quickly and easily.

Magento (Community Version)

Bonobos Pants selection

Bonobos rocks Magento

Magento ecommerce launched with much fanfare about five years ago and for good reason: they were the first professional-grade, multi-store enabled open source shopping cart.  Because of this, they experienced hockey-stick-like adoption culminating in their acquisition by eBay in 2011.

With eBay’s resources, Magento immediately rolled out entry-level (Magento Go) and premium (Magento Enterprise) options.  Magento Go is a hosted analog to Shopify, and Magento Enterprise is in use by several Internet Retailer top 500 brands, including Bobonos and Warby Parker.

Focus on the Community version.  The Go version has most of the advantages and disadvantages as Shopify, and the Enterprise version is too pricey for most companies under $2-5MM in revenue.

The promise of the Community version is its extensibility: you can make it do almost anything you’d want in an ecommerce shop.  Not everything is bundled into the default version, but it’s either included in the vast array of extensions or you could hire one of the large army of Magento contractors to build it for you for cheap.

The flip side of extensibility is that Magento is a bit chaotic.  If Shopify is Apple software, Magento is Microsoft software: it has every feature under the sun but the features aren’t always that user-friendly to install or access. The code base is so large it can impact performance too, usually necessitating a more robust hosting package running several hundred dollars per month.

If this sounds a bit more challenging and robust than the other two options here it is.  But If you aspire to do something a little out of the box — drop-shipping from multiple vendors, members-only flash sales, auctions — or if you run something more than a small shop, Magento is probably the best option given the extensibility.

How to Decide

Of these three shopping cart option, there is no “best solution” — there is only a “best solution for you”.

Decisions are tough…via MetaPictureYou have to think hard about 1) your business — its size, its strategy, its operations — and 2) your budget before choosing an ecommerce shopping cart.  I believe that the three options are different enough on these two factors — business and budget — that a clear solution will become evident for you.

Here are some questions to get you moving in the right direction:

  • How big is your product lineup?  If it is small and limited, I’d lean towards WooCommerce and Shopify in the interest of keeping things simple and easy to manage.  If you have a large catalog with multiple categories, subcategories, and product attributes then I’d lean towards Magento.

  • How big is your budget?  What are your margins?  Although all three solutions are “free”, Magento will probably have the highest cost of ownership given the increased hosting requirements.

  • What’s your business strategy?  If you are pursuing a drop-ship strategy complete with a massive catalog of products shipped from multiple vendors, consider Magento — the other two may become unmanageable.  If you are launching your own line of branded product, Shopify or WooCommerce will get you there quicker.

  • How technical is your team?  Does someone on staff understand things like FTPing or how a cache works?  I would not recommend Magento to a business unless they have some strong tech skills internally. .

  • How soon do you want to be up and running?  A Shopify store could be launched in minutes, a WooCommerce store in hours, and a Magento Community store in a couple days to weeks.  Just a rough measure of the complexity involved.

I hope this overview helped you think through the options out there.  If you have any questions, or if I could expound on anything, feel free to contact me with the specifics of your situation.

Leave a Comment:

Allen says

This is a great article. These 3 really are the only options anyone should be considering – everything else is either too proprietary or is lagging in the competition.

I personally wouldn’t want to touch Magento unless I’m doing $20m in sales or more. Way too much trouble.

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Brandt says

Thanks for the article!
I am looking to build a webstore for my company Longevity Herbs and Superfoods. I am looking at squarespace, woocommerse, shopify, etc..
I am only going to be selling 20+ products but want to have all the extra features (customer tracking, cart remembering, etc.) that some webbuilders charge extra for. Also a topic I haven’t seen covered in reviews is web security and mobile accessibility. Thanks!

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Drew Sanocki says

Brandt — Woo or Shopify sound like great options to start with a limited product selection. For mobile, you just want to choose a responsive theme that is available for pretty much every cart these days. Like this one: http://themes.shopify.com/?ref=mineralthemes/responsive/styles/new-york

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Drew Sanocki says

Allen — thanks for the comment, and I tend to agree with you. Increasingly I’m recommending “no Magento unless you have a dedicated ecom/tech team”. But the $XM threshold also works. If you are a small non-tech team, I’d go with a hosted solution and avoid a ton of headaches.

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Scott Nelson says

No love for Prestashop?

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Drew Sanocki says

Scott — to be honest I have no experience with it, and from the looks of it on Google Trends, neither does anybody outside of Europe. Doesn’t mean it’s a bad option though — can you weigh in with why you like it? I’m always looking for new shopping carts to try out . . .

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Leo says

Thanks Drew! I’ve invested in WooCommerce sometime ago =) It’s good, but with the new pricing structure, perhaps moving to shopify would’ve been a better idea.

However, for some of the functionalities we have in WooCommerce via Woothemes or 3rd party developers, I found that Shopify would cost way more in the long run.

I tried Magento, but the upgrading issues and the cost of hiring for upgrades is a turn off.

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Ula says

Hi Drew, it is a great article.
I have little bit different list;) http://www.google.pl/trends/explore#q=Magento%2C%20Opencart%2C%20Prestashop%2C%20Woocommerce%2C%20Shopify&cmpt=q
Simply you missed Prestashop and Opencart that were changed recently. I would also sugest these platforms. An Easy installation, easy configuration, many developers, easy hosting.

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Drew Sanocki says

Ula — thanks, but I’d say the same thing to you as I said to Scott: why? Neither are popular in the US, so I’ve very little familiarity with them. Can you summarize the advantages of either?

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Scott Nelson says

Hi Drew. Prestashop.. easy install and no monthly fee were the biggest factors in my decision. Also I’ve never paid for a module, everything that you need seems to have already been built into the install. Unfortunately I can’t compare to other shopping carts, however I will say that the developer base for Prestashop is very small and hard to come by.

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Cat says

Drew,

I’ve been marketing services online since 2007, although I have built a couple ecommerce sites with OpenCart a few years ago. I am now getting in business with a liquidator that has a TON of many different products. From Food Network cutlery to Jack LaLanne’s juicers to Christmas lights. I estimate this will turn into a million dollar business its first year and grow quickly from there. What do you recommend? I have the web dev team but don’t want to over spend if unnecessary. Thanks for a great article!!

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Drew Sanocki says

Cat — both Shopify and Magento can dropship with tons of different products if you use something like Duoplane.com to manage your ops.

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Derek Austin says

Hello Drew,

As Ula pointed out, I think you’ve missed the two biggest open source platforms (Prestashop & OpenCart), they are serious competition against Magento and I think maybe you should take some time to give them a test

Nevertheless, thanks for an insightful article!

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Drew Sanocki says

Derek — man, lots of people weighing in on this. Are you from Europe too? Sounds like I should take it for a spin. I’ll do it this weekend. Thanks for the comment!

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denizhan yeni says

aslan kardeş, türksün türkiyede e-ticaret hızla gidiyor yanlız e-ticaret sitesi açmak bir işsiz için 10 bin tl paran ve 10 bin reklam paran ve büyüklerle boy ölçüşemezssin şimdi , e tedarikçiler toptan alan ve büyük – ticaret firmalarına daha ucuz rekabetten kaybedersin peki yurt dışındaki bir model olup türkiyede olmayan ve onu burda ilk yaparak satarak veya planlayarak melek yatırımcıyla burda facebooke gibi hayali gibi burda yapılacak bir iş modeli varmıdır e- ticaret veya sanal alemde bilgi paylaşırsan kim bilir işssizlikten kurtuluruz.

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Drew Sanocki says

Denizhan — you bring up a great point about the need for scalability, and in that case I would recommend Magento. You are talking about a lot of SKUs there. I would disagree, however, with your point about distributed database architecture and argue that that probably doesn’t apply to 99% of the shopping carts out there. And yes, although I live in NYC I am a die-hard Celtics fan and I do like that trade to get rid of Pierce and Garnett and then the subsequent move to bring in Stevens. We are gunning for two years from now. Thanks for the comment!

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Ted Hust says

Drew,

I agree with you on Woo and Magento. Shopify only in the sense that it’s “popular”. We develop primarily with Miva Merchant for clients that want a hosted solution and that is mostly because (a) it’s by far the most SEO friendly “hosted” solution. With Shopify and others, there are limits to what you can do with URL’s.

The other good thing about Miva Merchant is in my experience, it’s one of the easiest to code around. Within Miva, you have 100% control over the entire template structure. You can customize every aspect. And its full CSS based, so for “designers” that don’t want to mess with HTML, you can do a boat load of look and feel customizations without ever having to touch HTML (although you would need to know CSS). With Shopify, while you can customize 100%, it’s a bit more difficult.

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot with Magento.

Since so many are touching on OpenCart, I do actually own an OpenCart myself, and while I can say it’s a great platform, it’s light weight and pretty easy to customize, it lacks community support.

So don’t listen to the people above. They aren’t understanding your context. You picked the 3 big mover’s.

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Drew Sanocki says

Thanks Ted. Miva has come a long way since the early days.

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stephanie says

Drew, I am a startup – new line with only a few sku’s to start. this is a little off topic but I really appreciated your discussion and I wonder if you could let me know your thoughts on developing in Drupal. I have 2 developers with completely different opinions. one loves Drupal the other loves WordPress… I need simple and efficient. some say Drupal is very difficult to manage, update, etc unless you know code… on the other hand some say WordPress gets hacked a lot and is wimpy. if you can say a few words about your opinion I would appreciate it very much! thx

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Drew Sanocki says

Only a programmer would dismiss WordPress as getting hacked a lot and wimpy. Programmers like Drupal because you can make it do anything, but it’s also complex and not something I’d aspire to learn if I were new to the game. Simple is almost always better. If you can make WP do something passably, I’d start with that.

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Ryan says

I would like to suggest yovigo! It’s free for up to 100 products and has almost all of the features the “big platforms” charge +$200/mo for.

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Ashish says

Excellent post. I am planning to start an e-comm biz and was leaning towards Shopify due to its elegance, its simplicity and a blog (though I assume that blog is not going to be as SEO-friendly as WordPress,… or I am wrong!).

Any idea about other e-comm platforms that are good and also provide a blog?

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James says

These are good suggestions. All decent platforms.

But, by no means does this cover the majority of situations. Magento is way too expensive for 99% of businesses. Just because it’s “free” doesn’t mean it’s actually free. I know from many experiences, that this platform is a time and money sink.

WooCommerce is great for really small merchants. But, if you are a serious business you should use a serious tool that is purpose built. WordPress is not that. It’s a blogging platform with security issues and no official support (for WooCommerce there is, but not WordPress, the underlying platform). It also does not have the features needed for a growing company. But it can be a great place to start, especially if you are comfortable hiring a WordPress developer (pretty easy to find a good one). Just expect to feel growing pains if you’re doing more than ~$200K/year.

Shopify is a terrific place to start, and I would say it’s a better starting point than WooCommerce in many regards. It’s not quite as flexible, but I believe in the early stages usability, professional support and getting up and running trump any cons it has. For many businesses, it will work well and scale up to $200K-$500K/year.

It seems there is a major gap here. If Magento thrives in the ~$3M/year range, how do you scale through the middle stages?

I’m not sure yet. I have completed 2 projects (I’m a developer / studio owner) on LemonStand and so far I believe that is the solution. It’s not right for very small merchants or ones that probably won’t grow beyond $150K/year. For everyone else, It is very adaptable through custom development to handle almost any project spec, and is quite easy to use for the merchant. I learned about it from a colleague, and he literally has made it do things you could never dream of on Magento.
Another nice thing is that official support is provided, even for developers, and it’s affordable to get it.

It has a few quirks, but the team seems responsive so far, although they are working on releasing the next version.

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Drew Sanocki says

James — Agreed on all fronts. I too have played around with Lemonade and like it. As a PHP developer, I find it much easier to develop on than Mage too.

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Drew Sanocki says

Can’t go wrong with Shopify. It’s easy. I do like it, and haven’t found SEO to be a problem. You can run it with wordpress you know —

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Drew Sanocki says

Where’s that fall on Google Trends? 🙂

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Paul P. says

I agree with important conclusion of Pick a tool/platform and learn it well and get started. I recently started a new site and am using 3Dcart, a bit of a glaring omission here. Its a fantastic platform, full featured and reasonably priced and fairly well supported.

No affiliation other than I built a store on it and would not hesitate to recommend to to friends or clients.

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Drew Sanocki says

Paul — I’ve heard good things about 3D, I’ll be sure to check it out. Love sanibel Isl btw.

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David says

Thanks for your article on ecommerce, it really helped. If I start on shopify and later want to move to magento, can I transfer the store over? I would like to move to the multiple drop-shipping but don’t have the expertise yet to do the extra things required. Thanks!

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Dev says

Agree with you on Magento, but not on WordPress. From v.3 WordPress is a serious CMS, far from just blogging platform.

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Ray P. says

Hi Drew,

What a great and insightful article! Thanks a lot for writing this.
At the end of the day, do you think it’s better to create your own customized backend for e-commerce or is it still better to use a ready platform (like shopify etc)?
What do you think is the best drop-ship management platform for Magento?

Cheers!

Ray

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Drew Sanocki says

99% of the time build your own backend is not a good idea. There’s plenty of great software out there and the costs keep coming down. Check out duoplane.com for dropshipping —

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Drew Sanocki says

Thanks for the heads-up.

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Drew Sanocki says

There are a handful of good agencies out there that specialize in these kinds of migrations. It might cost you $1000 – $5000 depending on the complexity of the store. But if you need to jump, that means something is working and you can afford it IMHO.

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Ray P. says

Thanks a lot for the response Drew!
One more question, do you happen to know a good mobile commerce platform?
Read the reviews that Magento mobile isn’t that good.

Cheers!

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Paul Alves says

Hi Drew
Thanks for your insight here – really good stuff. However, I would like to comment on one point, as I believe it has to be said. This will change people’s ideas regards with the best eCommerce platform to go for.
One of the main factors in SEO is and will be “site speed”. So, my point is, from experience with few clients I can tell you that Magento becomes heavier and slow to deal with its data-base soon you load 8-10k products or over.. even if you sit the website in a super-fast server.

There’s other good options out there – example: Saas services such as Venda, very popular with big players, but unaffordable for small business.

You mentioned that WP woocommerce would be a great option when selling a small catalog of products. So, my question :

How many products should we consider selling before moving to something bigger?

Thanks
Paul

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Drew Sanocki says

Paul — great point. This is where the ‘hidden’ costs of Magento are. You need to budget in $$$ for server power. At my retailer, that ran us $500/mo for a dedicated. As for Woo, I’d be comfortable with a small catalog of 20 or so products.

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SumTotal Marketing says

Great response to this post. 🙂 It appears to be Turkish.

It is a very good article. I’ve been exploring the different platforms for a couple of different applications and it seems that I am going to have to learn a couple of them based on what you’ve written.

Do you know of any articles that specifically address SEO related to the various ecommerce platforms?

Thank you.

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Drew Sanocki says

STM: Good question. I don’t know of any articles that address the platforms specifically, but this one does a good job of laying out all the considerations: http://moz.com/ugc/choosing-an-seo-friendly-ecommerce-platform-20-features-to-look-for

IMHO you can’t go wrong with the ones I mentioned. Everything on the front end can be changed if you want to dial in your on-site SEO. And more and more depends on off-site SEO anyway these days.

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SumTotal Marketing says

LOL, great link That was a list of the items I was worried about.

Thank you.

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Chris Dunst says

Just a small note on Woo (I’m not affiliated, just a fan) – you can have way more than 20 products. I’ve developed stores with hundreds of products and never ran into any performance issues. I wouldn’t hesitate to try it for a store with thousands of products. Take a look at this answer on StackOverflow: http://wordpress.stackexchange.com/questions/64592/woocommerce-store-with-30-000-products/73465#73465

Good article though, thanks.

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Drew Sanocki says

Yes, since I wrote this I’ve played around with Woo more and more and really like the simplicity. I think Shopify, Mage, and Woo will be dominating the market over the next few years.

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Donny says

Hi Drew, great article. very helpful for a non-tech newbie like me looking to start an online store.

Just wondering if you got around to checking out Prestashop? It looks packed full of features, but it may require skills I don’t have?

In any case I was hoping to get your opinion on the platform. Thanks.

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Joel says

Thanks for the article, Drew! I’m working on a non-profit that needs to allow multiple organizations to set up their own pages with a front-end editor and then accept donations on that page. Would I need to hire a developer to build it from scratch, or would one of these platforms work as a basis to customize?

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Mason Arnold says

What payment gateway would you recommend with WooCommerce for a lightweight physical product to be shipped nationwide? Thanks!

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Drew Sanocki says

Joel — Magento multi-store sounds like it would be a complete nightmare for this project. Why not try something simple like WordPress MU + Woo or even just a Paypal / Stripe checkout?

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Joel says

Thanks, Drew!
——————————————–
Joel Cheek
Creative Director, Point of Origin
(818) 392-8735
http://pointoforiginmedia.com

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Paola Deprez says

Hi Drew, thanks for this very illuminating article. I wonder if these options are also good to run in Switzerland, or if they are rather customized to be run from the US. Do you know HOST EUROPE?

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Drew Sanocki says

I’m going to say they should work anywhere, but they are a bit more US focused (i.e., one thing that matters elsewhere is mult-language, mult-currency). OpenCart and Prestashop are pretty strong European players from what I understand.

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Paola Deprez says

Thanks a lot Drew! I will have a look at PrestaShop.

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Tokyo Web Designs says

Good article.
Here is our experience, based on having tried all three.

1) WooCommerce – Definitely a great option if you are just getting started in eCommerce and don’t have an overly ambitious set of feature requests. Something we like is that it integrates with WordPress Multilingual Plugin (WPML) and is underpinned by the WooFrames framework.

2) Shopify – Another great option, especially if you are inclined towards a hosted (software as a service) solution. One glaring problem though is that Shopify doesn’t handle multilingual eCommerce. Very BIG problem for most of our clients. If you absolutely MUST used a hosted solution, we suggest Pinnacle Cart. It has much better multilingual commerce support.

3) Magento – Used it on a few projects. Now we don’t touch it with a barge pole! Why? As you’ve alluded, it’s a bloated, cumbersome resource hog that is expensive to maintain. In fact, the Magento Director of Marketing himself has admitted that Magento CE is not really intended for small vendors (<$500,000 annual sales). http://www.internetretailer.com/2014/07/01/magento-will-pull-plug-magento-go-and-prostores

Instead, we recommend PrestaShop which offers practically all of the features of Magento, without the bloat. It is mobile device responsive right from the word go and there are literally thousands of plugins which you can leverage to extend an already impressive feature set. It's our first choice for sophisticated e-Commerce builds.

Furthermore PrestaShop is an ideal solution for mulitlingual ecommerce unlike some hosted well known SAAS rivals (*cough* BigCommerce *cough*) http://www.tokyowebdesigns.com/advice/3003/why-choose-prestashop-over-bigcommerce

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Drew Sanocki says

Great insights. Definitely sounds like I’ll need to spend a little time with Prestashop

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Tokyo Web Designs says

Don’t even consider Shopify or Magento for something like this.

WordPress MU could be the way to go. Don’t even need WooCommerce really. There are some simple WordPress Plugins that you could use to setup PayPal donation buttons.

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Tokyo Web Designs says

I recommend it, Drew.

We have a saying around here.
“Friends don’t let friends use Magento”.

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Tokyo Web Designs says

PrestaShop should be ideal.
I’ve heard some good reports about OpenCart too but I think the community around PS is a bit stronger. Which should be one of the critical factors when you are comparing e-commerce options.

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Rudy Jessop says

I love this article.! on point 🙂

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Drew Sanocki says

Thanks Rudy

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Frederick Sarran says

Does Prestashop has built in features for multi vendor site?

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Drew Sanocki says

Dunno — ask Prestashop

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marc says

What would you recommend for growing companies with 50k to 500k plus products from multiple vendors…also shipping and drop shipping. Any advice would be appreciated.

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Drew Sanocki says

As a shopping cart, probably Magento best suited for this although all the others are coming on strong. I kinda think the back-end dropship management software is more important than the catalog decision here and would think you should check out duoplane.com, ecomhub.com, etc. Start there then choose your favorite cart for the front end.

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marc says

Thanks Drew i really appreciate your help. For the last 5 years plus we have been running off a moded x-cart and i must say i dont feel covered with it esepecially for the future in trying to expand to a larger level. Thanks for the links i will check them out. We are in the parts business and have
large competitors like partsstree or ereplacementparts. We will need to integrate diagram and parts lookup tools which i supose can be used with any cart but now knowing a little more would you recommend anything else? Its just a really difficult decision with everything that is out there but we have to do something because we are being left behind. A down turn has shown us that its time to get with the times or our lively hood will be at stake.
Thanks,
Marc

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Chris Charette says

BuySellFast (http://buysellfast.mobi) mobile-only ecommerce platform is an up-and-coming hosted system that is very easy to configure and costs very little (a dollar per year for the selling tools). It has an upsell option of $1 to notify all your followers when posting a new item to your store. Outside of PayPal there are no transaction fees. It’s best for smaller shops that offer less than 500 products. It has a lot of social features. Without replacing larger web-based shopping cart platforms, it can be used in parallel to feature best selling items.

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Kenny Kane says

Great article, Drew.

I launched my store on Volusion in 3/12 before migrating to Bigcommerce in 11/13. While neither have made your list, I am happy to be on a platform that has great leadership and makes product advancements regularly.

I’ve also seen a huge spike in sales, quadrupling my revenue in just 3 years. I would encourage anyone to check out the 15-day trial.

(I’m a proud Bigcommerce Ambassador.)

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Drew Sanocki says

Kenny — agreed. I wrote this at a time when both those platforms were ready to be put to pasture. Since then they have both reinvented themselves, so I need to pen an update.

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Simol Bhansali says

I use magento for my website http://saree.com

It demands high maintenece cost. Avoid who are just starting up

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Matt Rhys-Davies says

I’ve recently become an enormous fan of Drupal; it is flexible, secure and scalable. It’s a developers platform, and a marketers tool – it will be taking a chunk from Magento’s market share of the next year or two in my opinion.

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Drew Sanocki says

Matt — that sounds great, but never, never use that as a pickup line, ok? “Hey, I’ve recently become an enormous fan of Drupal”

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foduu says

Excellent article as well with informative information thanks for share with us 🙂

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Needfultoyz says

I am building a 200-500 item site that will sell car/truck parts for maybe a 5 different of car makers, and 1-4 vehicles per car maker, Some parts are car specific and some are generic that can work for multiple cars. This is primarily a drop ship website with multiple vendors. I use to use Volusion since 2008 and it was always very limited in what you could modify. I think in the last year or two they started adding lots of things. I just dont want to keep with a hosted system that is restricted. Thus going to a open source cart.

Would you recommend Prestacart for this? What plug ins are suggested? It would need to seamlessly take Customer orders and easily generate one or multiple Purchase Orders for me and price them accordingly based on vendor costs.

I would also like direct integration with Amazon, and Ebay if possible to easily import or get instant updates with my ebay orders. I use to have to manually enter in all my ebay orders. Became a drag!

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Needfultoyz says

Drew, what is your most up to date “picks” ? I mentioned in a previous comment that i want to do a website with drop shipping to a handful of vendors and want it pretty seamless (less manual inputting of Purchase orders) Did i mention i dont want a $99 monthly fee!

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abayomi says

My question now is can I use prestashop or woocommerce as a saas cos I have a huge community wanting me to provide such. I mean can I leverage on their mulistore capabilities to build and host them as saas .

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Jeeni Mackleign says

I read your article and it’s amazing, I would like to say Magento is an incredible eCommerce platform which can help grow your business and take it to a new level with a diverse service and solutions set. The ease of use through a highly functional UI makes this product a great package to use overall. Also Magento Enterprise offers a plethora of unique and game-changing features that can help your store run smoothly and add value to your bottom line. I would like to suggest quite few ecommerce platform software listed on : SoftwareSuggest

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janasya says

I have used Kartrocket.. Its ultimately opencart.. http://www.janasya.com ..

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Bhavesh Koladiya says

There are truly several choices available– some may have a basic feel to them, however that isn’t generally enough, while some may feel to a great degree cluttered, yet give less expensive rates and costs. You need to pick best ecommerce platform for your online store. I suggest SoftwareSuggest.

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TravelMosafer says

I do not consider myself as web developer because I have only build 3 websites during my college days because it was needed for my thesis. Going back to the topic, last 2008 the e-commerce platform we were using was ZenCart. It was so easy to manage and to add some features like chats and calls. And above all, you can immediately optimize the site Title, description and keywords once you upload the products and services. However, this 2016 most web design companies are offering Magento and Shopify as the best e-commerce platform.

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