Before we figure out what is the best eCommerce platform and software available if you are building your own online store, let’s briefly define what exactly is an eCommerce “platform”.
There are so many different good online store builders available for you today, it gets pretty confusing really quickly especially when all the different builders suggest they are the best.
This is why it is important for you to understand what exactly is an eCommerce platform, and how it is different from an average website builder.
Our own definition of a “platform” is an online store builder which has the flexibility for you to keep adding more and more advanced functions to help leverage even more growth when you are ready.
Some of the best platforms include (more discussion below):
(Note: There are other self-hosted open source platforms such as WordPress. For this article, we are focusing on Shopify and BigCommerce as we have experiences using them. See our discussion on hosted versus self-hosted eCommerce software here)
Before we get into why they are great platforms below, let’s set the stage to see why you may need a powerful “platform”, and not just another average, run-of-the-mill website builder.
ARE YOU SUFFERING FROM THIS?
Let’s say you are just starting out with a very simple eCommerce site. You’re selling a handful of products, uploaded some beautiful product images, wrote some enticing product descriptions, and connected it to a shopping cart and you’re off to the races!
You promote your store using a variety of marketing techniques and people start to notice and visit your site. You’ve discovered that your visitors love what you have to offer, and they are purchasing! You’re now in business!
As your sales start to grow (which is just awesome!), you’re starting to get really, really busy.
You have to keep managing and growing your sales channels (how many social media networks are there again??), you have to create new marketing material, answer (sometimes angry) support emails, manage your inventory and working capital, shipping, analyze your sales reports, handle taxes and the always dreadful bookkeeping.
Your family and friends are asking why you’ve disappeared, your kids want you to play with them, your spouse / significant other is wondering if you have a new love affair with your computer…
O-M-G…. what do you do??
WHY YOU NEED A TOP ECOMMERCE PLATFORM
This is where a top eCommerce platform comes into play.
The best eCommerce platform allows you to keep adding tools to your online store not only to help your business grow, but just as importantly, the tools can free up a significant portion of your time so you can focus on other more important things (personal and professional).
The conventional website builder, while great and has some good eCommerce tools for you to use, more often than not, doesn’t have a solid platform for you to keep advancing your business to the next level.
This is not to say that these website builders are no good – let’s just say that they are designed to help an online store only to a certain point. Once you reach that level (which is awesome), you will need a more advanced and flexible ecommerce platform to help you climb to a higher place.
MARKETPLACE – EXTENSIONS AND APPS
Some platforms call them extensions, some label them as apps. For the sake of simplicity, let’s just consider them the same things as they are created to make your life easier.
There are a number of categories of functions that you can add to your online store, including:
- Sales & Marketing
- Shipping / Fulfillment
- Inventory / Order Management
- Customer Service
- Reporting / Analytics
Here are a few real examples of how apps / extensions can help save you time and energy:
An accounting app can integrate your store with specific accounting software. So you don’t have to manually export data, put them in the proper format, and then import them into your accounting software.
The accounting app will allow your online store to “talk” to your accounting software, and your financial data will automatically get integrated into your accounting software, saving you from hours of administrative work on a monthly basis, not to mention it will save you from making costly mistakes.
eCommerce platforms allow you to pick and choose from a number of different accounting apps, to synchronize with your accounting software.
Order Management App
Traditionally, the manual way to get products to your customers is to receive a sales notification, export this data into an Excel spreadsheet and send it to your warehouse / fulfillment center to have them send out your products.
Or if you are just shipping your goods from home, you might have to copy and paste your customer’s address into a label printing software, then print them out which can be a real pain when you start to get more sales.
An order management app allows your online store to automatically communicate your orders to your warehouse or fulfillment center in the right format. So when you get sales, the shipments are fulfilled without you having to deal with any administrative work.
Or, the app can automatically aggregate all your customer shipping addresses, hook up with a printing software, and automatically start printing your shipping labels with 100% accuracy.
These are just a couple of real life situations where apps or extensions can come in handy, and rescue you from a lot of grief.
These tools can help you systematize or automate a lot of manual work, so when a sale takes place, all these other functions will kick in automatically without you having to be there to initiate and do all the grunt work.
These “systems” will also help ensure accuracy, as you know when you start to get tired, mistakes are inevitable.
Again, while you might not need these more sophisticated tools at the beginning, if you start to grow your business, you’ll need to get them eventually.
This is why you shouldn’t just pick any good ol’ website builder if you are serious about building a successful eCommerce online store. There is only one of you, and so selecting a solid eCommerce platform that gives you the tools necessary to grow along side with your business is so important.
1) SHOPIFY (500,000+ ACTIVE ONLINE STORES)
Shopify is one of the best eCommerce platform available to you in the market today.
Not only are their storefront beautiful and professional (which is important in convincing your visitors to at least stay on your site to look around), they have a massive library of apps in their marketplace so you can pick and choose which functions you want to bolt onto your store.
While some of these apps are free, some of them are paid. But paying for a useful app to help streamline your business is well worth the investment, especially if your store is growing. These tools can save you time and headaches while allowing you to focus on other important aspects of your business, or just free up some time so you can have a life!
Think about it – instead of paying a part-time or full-time person (or just yourself) to do this for you, using the app is so much cheaper over the long run and because it doesn’t experience mood swings or fatigue, the app won’t make unnecessary errors.
2) BIGCOMMERCE (95,000+ ACTIVE ONLINE STORES)
BigCommerce is another great eCommerce platform that has plenty of apps to help you add more functionality to your store, reduce manual work required from you, to help you grow your business.
These apps can help you promote your products more effectively, automate your daily mundane tasks, and give you a lot more horsepower without taking up any more of your precious time.
Some of these Apps are free, and some are paid. But they are well worth the investment as they can help grow your business while freeing up your time.
In addition to a broad range of apps available in its marketplace, BigCommerce has a very comprehensive set of “out of the box” eCommerce tools that can help you build a very functional online store.
BigCommerce is also one of the best eCommerce platforms today. They compete against Shopify and while both platforms are great, each has its own pros and cons.
CONCLUSION – BEST ECOMMERCE PLATFORM
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