Choosing the right e-commerce platform for your business
Starting an online store with e-commerce can be a tricky thing. A lot more goes into e-commerce than simply selling.
You’ve come up with a grand master plan to take over the business world. You hope to make a million in the space of a year and be living on a private yacht in the Bahamas by year two. That’s the dream of many budding entrepreneurs, right?
Perhaps not. For those of you wanting to get into business to develop your career rather than make a quick buck then you’re already heading in the right direction.
I started my clothing company District23 in November 2013, and launched my first tees in February 2014. The best way for many startups to sell their products is online. The market is huge if you position yourself correctly. District23 began on Big Cartel. Last year it moved to Shopify, and now it’s in the process of moving to WordPress and WooCommerce. But why move around from platform to platform?
Design comes top of the list for me – and it will for most designers who prefer this aspect of business than the admin side. Big Cartel was great for an early startup. But I found it very limited in terms of design early on. Even when I had a paid theme it still didn’t feel right for the brand. When I relaunched District23 in August 2016 I moved to Shopify. I’d found the type of vibe and style I was after on a much more versatile platform. Shopify provided a streamlined experience for integrated apps such as Printful. Everything was taken care of for me. Yet I’m still moving to WooCommerce. I’ll get into the main reason for that shortly, but what I’ve noticed so far is there is no great difference in terms of design capability between Shopify and WooCommerce. Both offer the same kind of flexibility for an e-commerce platform. It all depends on what you’re after.
This is a huge deciding factor when you’re a startup, or a small business that doesn’t see a great deal of turnover regularly. Domain names are cheap as is hosting. But when you use an e-commerce platform you pay extra a month to have your shop hosted. Big Cartel is the cheapest of the three in question. You can have 25 products on your shop for $9.99 a month which is a bargain. Even five products on the free plan isn’t a bad deal. At the top end of the spectrum is the Titanium package at $29.99 a month for 300 products. District23 lies somewhere in between. The Diamond plan at $19.99 a month would cover all my products, however I don’t like the idea of being restricted to how much stock you can have. Shopify however immediately allows for unlimited products. The downside? After a 14-day free trial you go onto their $29 a month Basic Shopify plan which is a huge jump from the basic plan Big Cartel offers. Once I factored in all of my expenses after a year of Shopify I found it leaving me in the red. Hence the move to WooCommerce. As my websites already have WordPress built in the cost is zero. Zero. That’s $29 saved already. The free themes available are high end so there’s another $50-$160 saved. Plus it works exactly the same as Shopify with a slightly more complex dashboard interface.
In terms of behind the scenes experience, Shopify is the easiest to use. Even if you’ve got basic working knowledge of web design, Shopify will for most of the work for you. The hardest thing about any e-commerce platform when it comes to design is adding your products and finding the theme. If you can manage that then the rest will come easily. Big Cartel again is easy to use with an easy interface that will give you all the basic statistics you need to know. Shopify gives you more detailed analytics. You’d expect that as you’re paying almost triple the price compared to Big Cartel. The most complex designer interface for e-commerce is WooCommerce. Even a seasoned WordPress user like myself needed to do some research and reading around getting everything to function properly. The benefit of Big Cartel and Shopify is the platform sets everything up for you. With WooCommerce you need a little bit more experience and understanding of e-commerce to really make it fluid.
At the end of the day this is your business. I can’t tell you how to run it. Everyone will have different opinions. What works for me might not work for you and visa versa. You may find Big Cartel hits all your needs – in which case you’re quids in as it’s the cheaper option. If you want something with a little more professionalism and customisation then its worth giving a free trial at Shopify a try. If you don’t like it you can always leave it. Trial and error is how you learn best about your business. When it comes to e-commerce you can’t go wrong with whatever platform you choose. Do your research and best of luck with your selling!