The UK ecommerce market grows every year, and there’s always room in the industry for new businesses. It’s so easy to set up an online store but choosing the right software isn’t easy even though, in theory, you could get an online store up and running in one day. The problem is – there’s so much choice. Here’s our guide to a few of the most popular ecommerce platforms.
Having in-house software is sometimes viewed as the ultimate solution. You can customise in-house payment and ordering systems and you’re not relying on a third party. However, owning a system requires a high ongoing investment. The initial IT set up is extensive (and expensive) plus you’ll need a dedicated team to manage and develop the software. Bespoke software can also be difficult to integrate with other systems and take longer to customise or change than off the shelf versions. Just make sure the benefits outweigh the cost.
An e-commerce platform is a software application that will allow you to manage your online sales. There are a lot to choose from, so we’ve provided a summary of the most popular ones.
NopCommerce is a highly scalable, free opensource ecommerce platform. Being a community lead framework, it’s constantly updated and developed, with themes and plugins that can be highly customised without interfering with the core architecture. One unusual advantage of NopCommerce is the ability to have multiple stores and you can create a marketplace which allows other vendors to sell in your store. For flexibility and the potential for big future growth and change – NopCommerce is the ideal choice. However, you’ll need technical experience or the financial ability to hire a .NET developer for set up and maintenance. Here at JEM, we use NOP to build platforms for our clients who want us to handle their ecommerce. Contact us today to find out what we can build, together.
Shopify is very popular with small businesses and is big in the UK, US and other parts of the world. It provides an ‘all in one’ solution with web hosting and building, payment processing and lots of ways to customise your online shop. There are also lots of add-ons you can integrate later as you need them, but everything comes at a price. Shopify offers three levels of plan – Basic Shopify, Shopify and Advanced Shopify
There’s a big price jump between these plans so make sure you really need any extra features. Shopify offer their own payment system which takes all the usual payment methods, so you don’t have to integrate a separate system. However, although Shopify is good ‘out of the box’, it’s limited when things get complex (especially shipping). For larger companies, there’s also Shopify Plus which is customised, staffed, and priced for big brands.
You can try standard Shopify for 14 days free before you subscribe. Visit Shopify here.
This is another free opensource platform which lets you sell physical and digital products. WooCommerce requires WordPress to get going – but it’s fantastic for small businesses with little web experience. It’s relatively easy to set up and looks good too. WooCommerce is capable (with plug-ins) of handling complex scenarios but almost everything except the basic standard functions requires a plug in. This can become unwieldy if left uncontrolled and cause compatibility issues if lots of plugins are installed. Read more about WooCommerce here.
Another all-in-one, Big Commerce serves both small and large retailers. It has an easy to build website set up for non-technical business owners, though some parts do require an ability to code. It is one of the easiest to integrate with other software such as accounting systems, but it doesn’t come with a built-in payment system, so you’ll need to integrate a separate one such as Klarna or PayPal.
You can get a 15 day trial of Big Commerce here.
If you’re a non-programmer, Wix is a good choice. Visually, it looks excellent and is one of the easiest platforms to use. In addition, they offer the most valuable price plans, starting from around £11 a month. It has its own payments system, Wix Payments, but as there is a fee per transaction it could be cheaper to use another payment system and integrate. Wix processes transactions a bit slower than some of the other sites, so it could take up to two weeks to get the money from sales into your bank account, which could be a real downside if you want fast cash.
There’s no free trial for Wix, but you can access a 14-day money-back guarantee if you’re not happy with the subscription.
Magento is a giant in the ecommerce platform arena, with clients such as Samsung and Nespresso. Huge in the US, it’s great for bigger businesses who have technical staff on hand. If you, or your staff, don’t have web development experience then Magento isn’t one for you. It’s also expensive, but the heavy cost comes with lots of features and advanced software engineering. Magento is optimised to work with thousands of product options – so make sure you’re not paying for a fantastic platform that you won’t fully use. Magento prices aren’t available online, you apply for a quote and there’s no free trial here. But if your business is big, tech savvy and financially able, it’s one of the best platforms out there. Check it out at https://magento.com/
It’s worth looking at all the ecommerce platforms available to see which one will meet your needs best. Every business, and every owner, will need something slightly different. Here’s a list of platforms to research;
Squarespace is often credited with the best visual look with easy to select templates, but when it comes to payments it only works with PayPal or Stripe which may not be the cheapest options.
Big Cartel was created to help independent retailers, and specifically artists and makers, sell their work. It is easy to use and has a free option, but it’s limited in themes and not good for later expansion.
Free to download and lots of options to personalise but difficult to navigate and requires web development experience.
Easy to implement and use, PrestaShop is very popular. However, there are plenty of bad reviews online related to their customer service so approach with caution.
Etsy is an online marketplace where you list your goods alongside other retailers. It’s easy to get going on there, and marketing is taken care of as customers already browse Etsy looking for products to buy. However, it’s not easy to scale up your offering, so if you plan to diversify and expand it might not be suitable.
As your ecommerce business grows, finding a third-party order fulfilment house is a natural progression. Here at JEM we love looking after your customers like they’re our own. But we don’t just do inventory management and shipping.
Our integrated ecommerce fulfilment solutions provide everything you need to manage your online business efficiently. Our order system allows many of the most popular ecommerce platforms to plugin with no hassle and start taking your orders right away.
We link to all the biggest sales channels with an API, including (but not exclusive) to the following;
We can also offer a complete solution covering all aspects of your web presence from website to ecommerce or provide a shopping cart solution which will seamlessly integrate with your existing website. Our complete bespoke website solutions come with full online shop functionality including;
Additionally, we can provide fully supported, in-house websites and through our ecommerce fulfilment platform built using NopCommerce, you can keep track of your online products, orders, discounts, stock levels, offers and many other helpful functions. We send you daily and monthly stock reports, showing you your product levels as well as what stock numbers have shifted over the course of the month.
From our many customers, and 35 years of experience, we’ve worked with companies who use a massive range of ecommerce solutions. Our IT team know what works best depending on your current size and future plans. They know that one size doesn’t fit every company. We are always happy to advise our clients on which platform to choose.