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If you’re in the process of setting up an online shop, then you must choose the perfect e-commerce platform to help develop your digital storefront. There are a lot of different platforms you can choose from, but each one offers slightly different options. Knowing which one fits you and your situation is very important and will help you and your site tremendously in the long run. To help you out, we’ve prepared a handy guide to give you the similarities and differences between three of the biggest e-commerce platforms out there: Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce. Read on to find out more about these services.
Before we begin, it’s important to note that each of these platforms offers a service catered to large, multi-million dollar businesses — specifically, Shopify Plus, BigCommerce Enterprise, and Magento Enterprise. We are not going to be talking about those larger services. Instead, we are focusing on the platforms as designed for small businesses which bring in less than one million dollars through e-commerce sales annually. If your company is larger than this, not all of the information presented here will be the same for your situation.
With that being said, let’s begin . . .
Shopify is a Canadian company founded in 2004. In the past fifteen years since its inception, Shopify has grown to be the platform of choice for over 800,000 businesses in over 170 countries, with total revenue for these companies in 2018 was over 40 billion dollars.
Shopify was built specifically to be user-friendly, and you can tell that from the very beginning of use. Its drag-and-drop interface makes it easy for anyone of any skill level to begin building their site — both noobs and seasoned veterans. This means that anyone can use Shopify without worrying about a learning curve.
As you’re building your site, you might need to get help. Shopify offers complete 24/7 customer support via phone, chat or email — so they’ve always got you covered. This support lasts long after your website is up and running as well.
When it comes to performance, Shopify also does well. It suffers very little lag when loading bigger content files such as images and even videos, which means your customers won’t be chased off by slow performance or other stability issues.
This all sounds great, but it’s important to know that you’re getting what you’re paying for. Shopify offers a free 14-day trial, but once the trial period is over you can expect to pay anywhere from $27 for a basic-version to $279 a month for the advanced version.
Another thing you get when you sign up for Shopify is security. Unlike some of the other platforms, your Shopify subscription includes all of the necessary SSL certificates, so you don’t need to worry about them at all. All you need to worry about is password strength. Shopify will take care of the rest.
Shopify is designed for smaller businesses who need strong visuals on their site to attract customers, but don’t need to worry about intense technical aspects. A subscription gets you a website and a single domain name (one domain per site) and a lot of visual customization options, which is perfect for someone just starting.
Magento originally began as an open-source e-commerce platform in 2007. In 2016, Magento Commerce was released. Magento Commerce is the Enterprise version mentioned above, so rather than worry about what we are going to be focusing instead on Magento Open-Source. This is the smaller version used by small businesses. In total, Magento is now used in over 150,000 websites world-wide.
Because this version Magento is open-source, it is free to download and use. And, like most open-source programs, it has tons of features that users have built into it over the years. This makes it a great option for more advanced users who know their way around an e-commerce platform. You get all of the basics like shopping cart, product pages and more (just like any e-commerce platform) but there are also some advanced features built right in. For example, Magento allows your system to accept coupons and discount codes right out of the box (so to speak, whereas the basic Shopify plan does not.
Magento offers you the ability to inventory and track an unlimited amount of product. However, as mentioned above, Magento can get bogged down once its resources become overloaded with images and large packs of data.
An area where Magento pulls ahead of Shopify is with theme and layout. Shopify comes with many themes and customization options, but it does have limits. The open-source nature of Magento, however, means that there are many more themes out there, which provides more customization options. You can also purchase templates here — Shopify premium templates start at $80, while Magento premium templates start at only a dollar!
You can also add to your Magento experience by downloading extensions, and there are thousands and thousands of extensions to choose from. Many are free, but some require payment. Shopify also has apps and add-ons, but Magento offers way more (again, because of its open-source nature).
One major difference to keep in mind between Shopify and Magento, however, comes down to hosting. Shopify offers hosting as part of its subscription. However, Magento does not. This means that while it might be free, you’re still going to be shelling out money for your web hosting. Often, this negates much of the financial difference between the two.
This hosting, and how you choose to go about it, can also have an impact on security. As stated before, a Shopify subscription comes with security. Using Magento requires PPL certificates as well as the security and certificates of whichever hosting solution you’ve gone with. In short, it can be a bit more complicated with Magento.
As you can see so far, both Shopify and Magento offer solutions for small businesses online. There are pros and cons to each, but we’re not quite finished yet, because we have one more platform to discuss —
BigCommerce is a relative newcomer to the e-commerce industry. Founded in 2009, BigCommerce has managed to stay under the radar until more recent years, but as of summer 2019, it was the e-commerce platform of choice for over 19,000 websites.
BigCommerce boasts an incredibly easy-to-use interface and setup. For those who want to get up and running as soon as possible, it lets you do that with just a handful of clicks. It also offers a wide array of customization options so you can get your storefront to look exactly how you want. There are so many themes and choices, however, that for the average user it can get quite overwhelming! In addition to the vast array of free options, BigCommerce offers many premium templates and themes for purchase — although they can be quite pricey.
Once you’re set up you can easily install third-party applications that give you even more functionality.
Like Shopify, BigCommerce gives you a free trial period (15 days), but once the trial is over the basic plan starts at $29.95. Also like Shopify, that price includes hosting and security — in short, you don’t need to worry about much of the “behind-the-scenes” stuff because BigCommerce will take care of that for you.
The downside, though — and one drawback as opposed to Shopify — is that the price you pay is partially based on the success of your website. Once you pass a certain milestone (for the basic option, it’s only $50,000) BigCommerce automatically upgrades you to the next tier and charges you accordingly. With that much revenue, you might be able to afford it, but for many, this is a definite negative.
BigCommerce is aimed primarily at medium-sized companies that want a rich and vibrant storefront, but aren’t too successful. However, companies that do significant online sales (over $400,000 annually) are encouraged to move up to BigCommerce Enterprise, which offers unique pricing and servicing plans based on each business’s specific needs.
As you can see, Shopify, Magento, and BigCommerce all offer a variety of options to cater to online stores, no matter the size. They all provide customization options that put you in control of the look and feel of your virtual marketplace. Where they differ, however, is in the pricing, hosting options and other more technical aspects.
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