According to Statista, the UK spent £586 billion online in 2017 and approximately 80% of UK internet users have bought something online since 2015.
That number is set to continue growing, so it’s now more important than ever to make sure your website is working as well as it can be, and choosing an e-commerce platform that works seamlessly with your business to turn your site into a reliable source of revenue.
However, with so many different e-commerce platforms available, it can be difficult to know which one is best suited to your business needs.
In this article, we discuss the pros and cons of different e-commerce solutions to help you choose the right one for your needs.
What to Consider When Choosing an E-commerce Platform
With so many different platforms to choose from, each with different features, it can be difficult to know what to look for.
Below, we’ve listed the essential features to keep in mind when reviewing your options:
#1 – Speed
According to Nielsen Norman Group, 47 percent of visitors expect a website to load in less than two seconds, and 40 percent of visitors will leave the website if the loading process takes more than three seconds. If your website can’t keep up, users will spend their money somewhere else.
#2 – Scalability
When starting out online, it can be easy to just choose the most simple option as a test, but doing so can cause you a lot of work if your online brand is successful and you need to set up a new, more dedicated platform for your online store further down the line. To avoid more hassle and cost in the long run, make sure your site is scalable.
#3 – Mobile Friendliness
With new government data saying that almost 80% of Brits accessing the internet “on the go”, it’s vital that your website can be properly accessed via different mobile devices.
A site that isn’t mobile-friendly can prevent users from spending money with you, and even if the site can be accessed on a portable device, if it doesn’t function properly visitors are not going to feel confident about inputting their payment details to buy from you.
#4 – User Experience
Depending on the number of products that you stock, website URLs can become confusing, so the ability to customise the structure of your site and add product names to URLs can help both the users to navigate the site and also help to make your website more SEO-friendly.
The Best E-commerce Platforms For Small Business
Now that you know what to look out for, it’s time to review the different platforms and choose the right one for you.
Pros and Cons of Using Magento
Magento is an open-source e-commerce platform. It provides all the backend functionality you need in order to sell products, process orders and manage stock. Templates are available that effectively create a shop in a box but to be effective a site built on Magento needs to be tailored and set-up for your businesses particular requirements
While there is more set-up required to do this than just adding your products to someone else’s system, it also comes with many benefits including:
#1 – Flexibility
Because Magento is open source, you can tweak the code to your requirements. Magento also allows third party integration to make sure your website works to your requirements.
#2 – Scalability
Previously discussed as one of the things to look out for when choosing an e-commerce solution, Magento ticks many of the boxes, including being scalable.
Magento has been developed to be able to handle hundreds of thousands of products and thousands of transactions each hour, which means your business has room to grow.
#3 – Community Features
There is a large community of Magento users who regularly build plugins and extensions to improve the Magento experience. For example, integrations with common delivery service providers, payment gateways and email marketing services – all designed to make your business more effective.
Using Magento means you get access to these plugins and can use the community to help with any technical issues.
However, there are also some issues that could mean Magento isn’t right for you.
#1 – Complexity
Magento’s flexibility can also mean that you need to invest a lot of time to get the set-up that your site requires.
#2 – Cost
Magento does have a free community version, but if you need vendor support you will have to pay for either the Enterprise or Premium Enterprise version.
#3 – Developers
Magento is an extremely large system that demands developers with prior knowledge to get the best out of it.
Pros and Cons of Using Amazon Marketplace
Amazon is the largest online retailer in the UK and if you’re starting out selling your products, it can be an excellent choice.
Choosing to become an Amazon seller means that you do not need to set up a website of your own and can take advantage of their well-known brand to advertise your products. Below we’ve listed the pros of selling on Amazon:
#1 – Trust
Amazon is a well-known brand, in 2017 the company made more than $11 billion in the UK.
The company managed this by building trust with customers through its secure payment portal, and fast and secure product shipping. By selling on Amazon, your brand will reap the benefits of the ready-built trust associated with the platform.
#2 – User-friendly
The company, that started out as a book retailer, was founded in 1994 and has spent a lot of time and money on making sure its website is user-friendly, meaning your customers love to use it.
#3 – Buyer Guarantees
Users are able to shop with confidence due to Amazon’s customer-focussed returns policies and assurances, meaning people are more likely to part with their money than they would be on an unknown site.
However, selling on Amazon also has its negatives for a small business owner. The cons:
#1 – Brand Awareness
Amazon is a household name. People often search Amazon.co.uk to find products rather than using a search engine or visiting the high street, however, very few people take note of the seller they’re buying from the site. This means your customers are more likely to remain loyal to Amazon, and not to your brand.
#2 – Competition
As you are selling on a marketplace, rather than your own website, visitors might see someone else selling a similar product for slightly cheaper or with a faster shipping time.
#3 – Data Capture
Amazon sellers aren’t permitted to capture customer details such as emails, meaning that you’re unable to market to people who have previously purchased from you or request reviews from them.
#4 – Cost
While there’s no upfront cost to selling through Amazon, they take a percentage of all sales made through the platform. Amazon takes between 6% and 20% which can be a lot of money depending on what you’re selling.
If profit margins are thin it might be difficult for you to make a profit through this channel.
Pros and Cons of Using Shopify
Shopify is one of the most popular options for retailers looking to get online. The system provides a professional looking site with relative simplicity.
There are many pros to using Shopify, including:
#1 – Simplicity
As previously mentioned, Shopify’s system offers a clear interface that is easy to navigate for less tech-savvy business owners.
#2 – Design
In an effort to make your website look as professional and as unique as possible, Shopify offers a huge range of themes that can be implemented on your site.
#3 – Support
Shopify has a dedicated support team that are accessible 24 hours a day via live chat, phone and email.
However, Shopify also has its pitfalls:
#1 – Inflexibility
While Shopify is a good system for less experienced users, making the system so user-friendly has resulted in the platform being quite rigid and unable to accommodate certain specifications without major behind-the-scenes tweaking and paid for add-ons.
#2 – Cost
Following on from the lack of flexibility, the cost of using Shopify very much depends on the number of apps and additional features required to make the site work the way you want. This could see the initial cost of setting up your online store escalating over time.
#3 – Specific Features
Shopify works in a very specific way compared to many other systems., This means that if you ever need to move your site from Shopify to another platform, it might be more difficult than first anticipated.
There is a lot to consider when choosing an e-commerce platform. Each system has its pros and cons but you’ll need to put a lot of thought into deciding which one is right for your specific requirements.