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The “platform” for an online business refers to the software that runs the website, from the display of marketing pages to handling inventory, checkout, and money collection. Choosing the right platform for online sales is a critical decision that can significantly impact your business’s success. With several options available, such as WooCommerce, Shopify, Adobe Commerce, and more, the selection process can be overwhelming. In this guide, we’ll help you navigate the nuances of each platform to determine which one aligns best with your business needs. Let’s start by exploring the factors you should consider when choosing a website platform for your business.

Choosing a Platform that Suits Your Business Goals

Each platform comes with its own set of strengths and weaknesses. The ideal choice will be the one that fits best with your business objectives. Consider the unique demands of your industry, the projected growth of your online sales, and the level of hands-on management you prefer. This evaluation process empowers you to select a hosting platform that meets your business needs and provides a foundation for future growth and success. Before you choose a website platform, there are several key factors you should consider:

Growth Capability

Pick a platform that can handle an increase in your website traffic and complexity of your business operations (automated marketing, inventory management, tax calculation, etc.) as it grows.

Customization Options

Some platforms are one-size-fits all and trade simplicity for inflexibility, while others are highly customizable. The degree of customization a platform provides is essential as it influences how well you can modify the website to reflect your brand and meet specific technical and business needs.

Security Measures

Consider if the platform provides trustworthy data security and regular updates to protect against any looming threats.

Budget Considerations

Beware options that promise too much for low cost. The expenses of running an online business range from hosting to ongoing licensing fees to hiring professional support. Remember to factor in all the costs over the lifetime of the online store.

Customer Support

Prompt and efficient customer support can make a significant difference in solving problems and ensuring your website runs smoothly. A lack of support can leave your online business offline, sacrificing sales.

Whether prioritizing scalability, customization capabilities, or security features, considering these factors ensures that your chosen platform aligns with your business goals. Let’s dive into the strengths and weaknesses of some of the most popular e-commerce platforms.

WooCommerce (free open source and paid “Express” options)

WooCommerce is an open-source e-commerce plugin for WordPress. It is available in two versions: a free download that requires technical expertise to set up, and a packaged solution for a monthly fee. It has several advantages for those looking for a flexible platform that allows you to customize your website’s look and functionality. The “free” entry cost of its being open-source attracts many adoptees, but the flexibility has enabled it to support larger stores, albeit for a cost.

Benefits

The platform provides an extensive library of plugins. This means many common features for an online store are available as a free plugin. However, more robust feature often require purchase of a “premium” version of that plugin. Pricing ranges from a few dollars to $200+. The WooCommerce platform is also highly flexible, but moving beyond simple customizations will require the use of a developer..

Cost

It is also known to be a cost-effective option because of its large range of choices and free entry point. You can use the most basic all-in-one option costs under $10 a month, or you can select a more elaborate plan with more features that cost thousands a month. You can also go more custom and build your own site with the assistance of agency like New Theory. Pricing for an original, built to spec site ranges from $15,000 to $75,000.

Drawbacks

Although there are many benefits to utilizing the open-source WooCommerce plugin for WordPress, it is also important to note that businesses using WooCommerce are responsible for managing their security, backups, and updates, which may be a drawback for those seeking a more hands-off approach to website management. An agency would typically be used to handle those issues. For the paid “Express” option, this is not an issue however, when it comes to customer support, the less expensive plans offer very little support in comparison to the more expensive plans.

Shopify

Shopify, another popular e-commerce platform, is known for its user-friendly experience for creating a new store. Shopify has grown at a rapid pace over the past 10 years in large part to this store-manager-friendly experience.

Benefits

The platform provides an easy-to-follow process that allows businesses to launch their online stores quickly. The simple setup process and prebuilt options make this platform accessible and popular for those with limited technical skills. Customer support is available to all levels Shopify offers, though higher levels like Shopify Plus offer more robust support.

Cost

Shopify offers four different price options. The basic plan is $39 a month. The midrange plan is $105 a month, and the advanced plan is $399 a month. There is also the “Shopify Plus” level which begins at several thousand a month. The biggest, not-immediately-obvious cost of Shopify is for licensing additional features. Marketing automation platforms, special search tools, and other software offered by third-parties charge a monthly subscription, ranging from $10 to $100 per month. Even a basic Shopify plan can quickly balloon to several hundred dollars per month with the addition of a few subscription services. Working with a Shopify Expert or Agency can help with this financial planning.

Drawbacks

The platform offers less design flexibility than other platforms. It is also important to note that third-party payment gateways have additional transaction fees on this platform. When it comes to scaling a business at the enterprise level, the “locked down”, one-size-fits-most model of Shopify has caused some companies have struggled with custom integrations, such as with company ERP systems.

Adobe Commerce (Magento)

Adobe Commerce, formerly known as Magento, is another popular platform.

Benefits

This option allows for extensive design and functionality customizations, giving businesses more options and control over their websites. Adobe Commerce is known to provide good customer service and can easily integrate with ERP systems as your business scales. This platform also offers advanced security features. Magento has a long track record of ecommerce and is trusted by the majority of the largest online retailers.

Cost

The costs of this platform vary significantly. Adobe Commerce plans start out at about $2000 a month. Adobe Commerce Cloud plans start out at $40,000 a year. Both of these options also require businesses to also purchase licensing fees that are included in each plan.

Drawbacks

The advanced features tailored for enterprise-level needs come at a higher cost on this platform compared to several other widely used platforms. This pricing structure can pose a challenge for smaller-budget businesses aiming to expand their operations.

Looking for More Information?

Do you have more questions about your website? Are you still unsure about which platform would best serve your e-commerce business? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us at New Theory. Our team of digital experts is always ready to guide you through the digital marketplace, helping you make informed decisions that drive your business forward.

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