What’s E-commerce and Why You Should Try It
As the name suggests, e-commerce is electronic e-commerce. In short, you sell goods and services online. Definition-wise, it is as simple as that. Of course, like anything you do online, the practice has its tricks, pitfalls, and its difficulties. So, should you try it? Well, let’s see.
In the post-pandemic world, the online commerce share has taken an 8% bite out of the overall retail pie.
Sounds pretty tame, right? In everyday life, 8% is nothing to write home about. But, considering that the US retail industry rakes up a ridiculous $3.2 trillion, 8% leaves us with “modest” $250 billion.
Let’s be honest – we can live with that. And, looking at the global scale, the e-commerce sales are forecast at “decent” $4.891 trillion, with as many as 2.14 billion people across the globe purchasing goods online.
Needless to say, there’s virtually no chance that the e-commerce industry will stop growing anytime soon. Indeed, according to the ThinkWithGoogle findings, as many as 63% of shopping affairs begin online.
Sure, in most cases, these people finalize the purchase at a brick-and-mortar store, but the e-commerce trend is steering this wheel in the online direction. People will continue buying goods online, and companies will continue adapting to the e-commerce landscape (or die trying).
Making sure that the business you’re running can sell online is paramount in the current world. That’s the bad (to some) news. The good news is that selling online today is not that hard. In fact, just about anyone can do it.
Because there are countless e-commerce platforms out there, you can bet dollars to doughnuts that some of these platforms will fit you like a glove. Also known as e-commerce website builders, e-commerce platforms let you list products, take payments, handle shipping, and more, all without leaving the couch. Not a bad deal, right?
That being said, most businesses (both large and small) stick with Shopify, BigCommerce, and WooCommerce. They’re the biggest names in the game, and you can make any-scale operation work on these platforms. Among these, some are more customizable than others.
Why do most companies use these e-commerce website builders? What’s the difference between them? Which one should you choose? Let’s find out:
Shopify: Starting Point
Shopify is almost 15 years old. One of the oldest and most established names in the business, Shopify is spread across 175 countries. Powering more than one million stores, this is the platform that well-nigh all small- and medium-sized businesses rely upon.
First (though not necessarily foremost), Shopify is fast. Using this online store framework, you can have an e-commerce operation up and running within minutes.
Built on the Shopify platform, the store is always mobile-friendly. And, because more people use mobile devices than desktop solutions, it is hard to overstate how much that matters.
With Shopify’s hassle-free approach, the least tech-savvy team can build and run a respectable e-commerce project. Between its intuitive modules and drag-and-drop interface, Shopify makes the entire experience as straightforward as possible.
The more expensive plans will let you create a full-blown online store, whereas the Lite plan enables you to add products and “buy” buttons to an existing website.
Some customers cite the scalable pricing plans of Shopify as the platform’s biggest appeal. But, in general, its most attractive quality is how versatile Shopify is.
To name one, the platform is marketing and SEO optimized. Embedded social media integration tools, built-in discount programs, easy-to-add product reviews, integrated email marketing, and more. Using these, you can get your name out there without investing a ton into marketing from the get-go.
To name more, Shopify covers all six PCI standards and includes robust SSL encryption, making the platform universal and ensuring secure transactions. Speaking of, Shopify also supports 100+ different payment gateways, including PayPal, Skrill, Amazon Pay, you name it.
The platform is cloud-based, so you don’t have to worry about hosting. The company’s 24/7 support usually leaves very little to be desired.
High-end inventory management tools. Automatic tax calculations. Abandoned checkout recovery. Fulfillment centers. Besides the above-average price tag, Shopify is an undeniable powerhouse that fits most bills.
On the downside, integrating third-party solutions into the Shopify framework will cost you extra.
On the customization front, Shopify has an extensive arsenal as well. First things first, the platform offers diverse custom domains and AI personalization. You can choose from 3,000+ apps, gearing the platform more toward the business’ target audience.
But what sells Shopify’s customization package is the themes. Aside from the 10 included themes that cost you nothing, you can also buy 60+ paid themes from the company’s Theme Store.
Not enough? Visit the ThemeForest page and choose from 1,000+ themes that are there owing to the platform’s immense popularity. Of course, you can also always acquire professional designer’s services and ask them to make you a custom theme.
As long as you can find that perfect sweet spot between familiarity and originality, you can make any theme work.
In the same vein, you can find pretty much any feature that Shopify does not integrate. Extensions, plug-ins, various services, they’re all there in the Shopify’s app store.
Removing themes from the equation, Shopify is also quite excellent at customizing products. Without any coding knowledge, the Shopify network allows you to add products, change the copy, load videos, update images, and optimize pricing, shipping, and SEO.
The platform’s 100 variant limit easily covers medium-scale businesses’ needs. Its native integration lets you automatically push individual products or entire collections across 20 different channels. And the metafields make sure you can customize these products and collections as well as blog posts and entire pages without creating and using unique templates.
Customize discounts. Shopify simplifies (and streamlines) creating unique discount codes, marking down products, and utilizing custom incentive scripts. Using the latter, you can automatically run percentage and amount discounts, volume-based tiered pricing, free shipping thresholds, BOGO programs, and individual discounts.
Customize checkouts. Nothing feels worse (in the e-commerce world, at least) than an abandoned cart. Close, but no cigar. The good news is that you can change the whole thing through Shopify’s checkout.liquid file. We’re talking complete customization. The bad news is that you’ll have to edit the code in the file to make that happen. But, as long as that’s not a problem, Shopify meets any customization and checkout process needs with flying colors.
Customize payments. Build an easy checkout experience. The show, hide, rename payment methods according to the customer’s address, groups, tags, and select products. At this stage, less is always more, making Shopify’s recent one-field confirmation feature an absolute must-have.
BigCommerce: Starting Point
BigCommerce is to large businesses what Shopify is to small-scale enterprises. To an extent. From the e-commerce perspective, these platforms share as many similarities as they do differences. Also, despite BigCommerce catering to high-volume, large-scope stores, its client base counts some reasonable 100,000+ stores.
Nothing to brag about compared to Shopify’s 1,000,000+ stores? Sure. Still, in the e-commerce game, BigCommerce sits at the big boy table, boasting more customers than most website builders.
So, what’s the catch? And, while we’re at it, what’s the difference between Shopify and BigCommerce?
Right off the bat, BigCommerce prompts you to arrange sales taxes and automated shipping. Because the platform is aimed at established, high-volume businesses, these are the things you should set up from the start. On the opposite side, when you’re selling a few shirts every week or so, you don’t have to worry about tax liability quite yet.
Besides enabling standard online payment gateways like Stripe, PayPal, Amazon Pay, etc, BigCommerce also lets you work with bank transfers, check, and money orders.
Apart from that, BigCommerce easily integrates third-party apps. Because that’s the case, you can always connect tools like QuickBooks and Optimizely to the site, making everyday store operation management a comparable breeze.
At the same time, BigCommerce borrows several pages from the industry’s playbook. The platform offers abandoned cart recovery, mobile-optimized checkout, and customer groups. However, its features also include advanced inventory management, equally advanced product filters, as well as Google AMP and Akamai support.
Unlimited products. Comprehensive staff accounts. Limitless bandwidth. File storage. In short, BigCommerce earns its name, big time.
On the negative side, BigCommerce’s cheapest pricing plan starts at $29.95/month, which is more than some small businesses might be comfortable paying early on.
BigCommerce can be customized a great deal. Having said that, its framework is not quite as forgiving to tech newbies as Shopify’s is. More often than not, you’ll have to fiddle with its code, which can be scary to most intermediate users. Nonetheless, you don’t have to be an expert to personalize a BigCommerce-based operation.
Like we’ve said before, the platform’s features include advanced product filters and Google AMP support, so you can make considerable adjustments from the get-go. Plus, again, BigCommerce offers hassle-free third-party app integration, meaning that you can always use these when you feel like the Big C’s functionality isn’t cutting it.
To add more, BigCommerce also comes bundled with a fairly comprehensive Page Builder. Using this visual editor, you can change the site’s entire look and feel without touching its code base.
BigCommerce: The Plug-In Approach
Back to the AMP support though, you can do serious work with this plugin alone. With its out-of-the-box templates and stylesheets, BigCommerce enables rendering every element on the page and moving shoppers through checkout the way you see fit.
You can customize everything that’s relevant to the product, including the cards, detail pages, listing pages, and archive page. The plugin also lets you change the cart page and the gift certificate page. Its seamless dashboard and responsive menu structure makes personalizing the shipping, returns, and checkout pages pretty effortless.
Besides individual IDs, customers can, once again, be separated into multiple groups. Using BigCommerce’s framework, you can direct and manage these customers’ experience on the site, which can have a significant impact on the conversion rate.
Other than that, assuming you’ve at least somewhat comfortable with coding, BigCommerce can be a treat to work with. The platform’s code base, with its modular design and conditional logic, is made very flexible to on-the-fly customization. And, using development tools like Sass and Webpack, BigCommerce makes testing and previewing the site across all devices an absolute breeze.
WooCommerce: Starting Point
WooCommerce’s approach is very different to the two previous website builders. Unlike its neighbors on this list, WooCommerce is not an all-in-one platform. Instead, this is a freeware, open-source plugin that comes from WordPress developers and, you guessed it, works with WordPress.
Today, more than 30% of all online stores use WooCommerce. Assuming you have a WordPress-based website and modest financial means, there’s very little reason to look elsewhere.
Again, WooCommerce is free. It’s a lightweight plugin that lets you add basic e-commerce capabilities to an existing WordPress site. These capabilities include (but not limited to) online payments, customizable shipping options, configurable product listings, the list goes on.
In general, its free package is more extensive than you’d think. The integrated SEO features are nothing to sneeze at. The available themes count thousands, and you can easily optimize them via graphic editors. Of course, you can also edit the themes with custom PHP, HTML, and CSS coding.
Before that, the plugin’s extensive instructional materials, including countless tutorials will let you make any site an e-commerce-friendly place within a few hours.
WooCommerce also supports subscriptions as well as deposits, so you can experiment with different business models. Likewise, the 140 region-specific payment gateways that the plugin’s compatible with will let you accept payment anytime, anywhere.
Despite its modest digital footprint, WooCommerce doesn’t forget about automated tax calculations and real-time shipping rates.
Enabling the mobile-first crowd, WooCommerce is also available via accessible and intuitive iOS and Android apps, so you can manage the site’s e-commerce functionality on the go.
Last but not least, the platform’s public support forum can connect you with like-minded merchants and help you solve various issues with the plugin.
The less positive aspects include the fact that WordPress doesn’t provide free hosting. Also, you might require multiple extensions to match Shopify or BigCommerce’s functionality, and those extensions aren’t always free either.
Because WooCommerce is a plugin and not a standalone e-commerce platform, you can make the site look any way you want. The caveat is that you’re going to have to usually rely on additional themes, plugins, and extensions.
To get the ball rolling, we’d recommend starting with something like Jetpack. Using a plugin like that, you can add custom styling with very little time and effort investments. The layout, the feel, the link colors, and the general theme, you can change it all.
Add a name, logo, and maybe a tagline. Choose the colors that you want people to associate with the brand. As long as you’re willing, WooCommerce’s site identity section (Customize settings in the Appearance category) lets you add these tweaks like nothing.
In the same spirit, you can always change the store’s theme. Go to the WordPress homepage and you’ll find hundreds of free or inexpensive themes there.
Once you’ve selected the theme, WooCommerce makes sure you can always customize the way the visual elements (images, widgets, etc) and the text look on the page. Newbies will benefit from something more straightforward like Storefront, while experts will more likely appreciate something like Booster.
The checkout page and billing options. The tax settings. The shipping methods and the shipping carriers. You can list ‘em till cows come home. The point is, WooCommerce can customize every little detail but, driving the point home, not without third-party assistance.
If you already have a sizable client class and would like to move the business online, then you should look into BigCommerce. This is the platform that covers large retail needs like nothing else.
If you’re running a small operation on a WordPress engine, then you’ll feel most comfortable with WooCommerce. It’s free yet not at all as basic as one might expect.
And if you want to set up a store within hours, Shopify is your best bet. Thanks to its helpful visual cues and simple language, you should be able to do so with no prior experience at all.
That said, in the right hands, Shopify can be a very powerful instrument.
That’s where the Wonderment Apps team comes into play. Our experts will set you up for success, guiding you through the entire process. We’ll make sure that your e-commerce business runs smoothly and attracts repeat customers like never before.