Shopify: Best for Almost Everyone
Shopify is a well-known, well-liked, and reliable dedicated eCommerce platform. As a system for getting a business off the ground and selling fast, it is peerless.
Shopify jealously guards developer access, with templates and plugins pre-vetted. Unlike some marketplaces, you can be confident that there are no hidden surprises in your shiny new store.
And because Shopify has passed the point of market saturation, it’s worthwhile for big players to provide their plugins; credit services like Klarna and shipping companies like netParcel can be integrated with a few clicks.
The admin panel is a touch complex, as Shopify is designed to allow a single account to be linked to multiple stores. But once you’re set up and familiar with where to find everything, it’s a slick, streamlined business management system.
Whenever a client says, “we want to start selling online.” My first thought is, “Shopify.” And for 90% of clients, it’s the right choice.
And that’s where this roundup should end…except there’s still that 10% because Shopify isn’t perfect.
For a start, an all-in-one platform doesn’t suit everyone. If you already have a website, you’re happy with, and you’ll either need to migrate or lease a dedicated domain for your store.
Shopify’s platform is very secure, which inspires confidence in buyers, but the price of that security lacks flexibility in the design.
Then there’s the infamous variant limit. Shopify allows 100 variants on a product. Almost every client runs into that wall at some point. Let’s say you’re selling a T-shirt: male and female cuts are two variants; now add long or short sleeves, that’s four variants; now add seven sizes from XXS to XXL, that’s 28 variants; if you have more than three colour options, you’ve passed the 100 variant limit. Some plugins will allow you to side-step this issue, but they’re a messy hack that hampers UX for both customer and business.
Shopify should undoubtedly be on every new store owner’s shortlist, but there are other options.
WooCommerce: Best for WordPress Users
If you’re one of the millions of businesses with a pre-existing site built on WordPress, then adapting it with a plugin is the fastest way to get up and running with eCommerce.
WooCommerce is regularly recommended as “Best for WordPress Users,” which is a back-handed compliment that belies that WooCommerce reportedly powers 30% of all eCommerce stores. If running with the crowd appeals to you — and if you’re using WordPress, it presumably does — then you’re in the right place.
WordPress has a gargantuan plugin range. As such, other plugins will allow you to sell through a WordPress site. most professional WordPress add-ons will tell you if they’re compatible with WooCommerce. If your business is benefitting from leveraging WordPress’ unrivalled ecosystem, it can continue to do so with WooCommerce.
The downside to WooCommerce is that you’re working in the same dashboard as the CMS that runs your content. That can quickly become unmanageable.
Magento: Best for Burning Budgets
If you have a development team at your disposal and a healthy budget to throw at your new store, then Magento could be the option for you.
You can do almost anything with a Magento store; it excels at custom solutions.
Magento’s primary offering is its enterprise-level solution. Magento has the track-record and the client list to appeal to boards of directors for whom a 15-strong development team is a footnote in their budget.
That’s not to say that a Magento store has to be expensive; Magento even offers a free open source option. But if you’re not heavily investing in a custom solution, you’re not leveraging the platform’s key strengths.