The Best eCommerce Platforms

Best eCommerce Platform TypeseCommerce for small business seems to be one of those topics that is as exciting as it is anxiety inducing. Many business owners wonder if they’re missing out, others know they are, but no one out there on the web seems to offer straight answers. Too many choices that are too confusing, or costly, or both. It is really difficult to identity which is the best eCommerce platform.

The biggest challenge comes from the nature of the beast. You see, eCommerce can be many things: a simple Paypal button or Stripe with Moonclerk could have you selling online within minutes. You can sell single items, items with variations, even subscriptions.

Some times, the simplest methods work: Lolly Wolly built a multi-million dollar business on rudimentary Social eCommerce through Facebook. But try to sell memberships, downloadable digital goods, or items that ship, and everything gets a lot more complicated. Add to that real-time shipping, multiple currencies, and PCI compliance and it gets even more complicated, real quick.

Divide And Conquer

Part of the problem in figuring out the best eCommerce platform for your business is that the scope of what we mean by “eCommerce” is too vast for a single word to cover, and the terminology that does define the differences can be obscure, or used inconsistently. Some of the major distinctions to be made are:

  • Self hosted vs. SaaS – A “self-hosted” eCommerce solution refers to the need to have one’s own hosting, even if, like most cases, one is actually using a host like Amazon Web Services, or WP Engine*.
  • “Store” vs. “Cart” – Oddly enough, “Cart” may mean many different things. The most common point of confusion is the subtle different between an entire store – which includes the product catalog, order management, customer management, reports, coupon management, etc.– and the cart, that all-important part where visitors add the products, and checkout to buy. A store without a cart is just a catalog. You can also have a cart without a store (as in the case of single-product businesses, or some service businesses.

To overcome this potentially mind-numbing problem, we need to divide it into two parts:

  1. The Best Type of eCommerce Service, then
  2. The Best eCommerce Platform

That is why I’ve put together this chart to better explain the types of eCommerce solutions out there, and in part two, we’ll be able to truly get into identifying the Best eCommerce Platform for your business.

The Major Types of eCommerce Platforms:

Type Examples Pros Cons
eCommerce type Marketplace

Marketplace
eCommerce marketplace for existing products

eCommerce Examples Marketplaces
  • Handles all web technology, store, cart, etc.
  • Handles all payment processing
  • Handles all transaction communications
  • May be fully integrated with, or provide their own shipping solution
  • Very high Search Engine Optimization
  • Promotion within the marketplace
  • Typically not the best for branding – Your brand is diluted among all the rest
  • Fees may be too high to be profitable for some
  • Shipping handled by seller, unless you use fulfillment by Amazon (FBA)
  • May expose customers to competitors
eCommerce type On-demand

On-demand
eCommerce marketplaces that include on-demand manufacturing and fulfillment

eCommerce Examples On-demand
  • Handles all web technology, store, cart, etc.
  • Handles all payment processing
  • Handles all transaction communications
  • Fully Integrated w/ Shipping
  • Very high Search Engine Optimization
  • May have promotion within the marketplace
  • Handles manufacturing and shipping of goods
  • Typically not the best for branding
  • No sale of digital goods
  • May have very high fees
  • Product quality may not be as good as other methods, or limited as to their selection
eCommerce type Crowdfunded

Crowdfunded
Marketplaces where customers pool together and buy as a group

eCommerce Examples Crowdfunded
  • Handles all web technology, store, cart, etc.
  • Handles all payment processing
  • Handles all transaction communications
  • Handles Fulfillment & Shipping
  • Handles manufacturing of goods
  • Typically uses better production methods, which translates to better quality goods
  • Typically not good for branding
  • No sale of digital goods
  • User experience varies
  • Campaign-based sales may not be suitable for sustained sales volume
eCommerce type SaaS store

SaaS Store
Fully hosted, software-as-a-service eCommerce website stores

eCommerce Examples SaaS
  • Handles all web technology: store, cart, integrations, security & compliance, scalability, etc.
  • Can handle all payment processing
  • Handles all transaction communications
  • Low total cost of ownership
  • Customizable (good for branding)
  • Relatively short time to market
  • Proprietary Content Manament System (CMS)
  • Some may not allow for complex customization of layout and/or features
  • May prove tricky to migrate to other platforms
  • No fulfillment, but usually available through, and integrated with, 3rd party
eCommerce type Cloud cart

Cloud-based Cart
SaaS cart only, for integration with other websites

eCommerce Examples Cloud-cart
  • Handles the bulk of eCommerce transactions
  • Can handle all payment processing
  • Tools for customer communication automation tools
  • Allow (requires) use on your branded website
  • May offer live shipping integration
  • May be more limited than fully hosted or self-hosted
  • May not allow for advanced customization of layout and/or features
  • May prove tricky to migrate to other platforms
eCommerce type Self-hosted Store

Self-hosted
Self hosted and managed eCommerce store on one’s own website

eCommerce Examples Self-hosted

(many others)

  • Full control of, and responsibility for, eCommerce technology: store, cart, integrations, security & compliance, scalability, etc.
  • Control over choice of payment processing
  • Combination of customer communication automation tools and owner communications
  • Requires advanced development skills
  • Owner is responsible for all security and PCI compliance
  • Owner must manage all payment processing options
  • Owner must manage shipping options
  • Integrating with other services and features may be cumbersome and require further expertise and expense
eCommerce type Other

Other

eCommerce Examples – Other

(many others)

  • Owner handles all of eCommerce technology
  • Limited payment processing options
  • Combination of customer communication automation tools and owner communications
  • May be too simplistic for some applications
  • User experience may affect conversions
  • May not be robust enough to scale with growth

 
Subscribe to the blog, and stay tuned for the next in a series of posts to help you identify the best eCommerce platforms for business.
 
Nando
 


 
Based on an article originally posted by Ally Digital at Alignable, a community for business owners.

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Nando Journeyman

Hi, I’m Nando Cabán-Méndez, the “Commerce Whisperer”, an entrepreneur with more than 25 years of experience in business and design, and more than 10 years in digital marketing and eCommerce. Here at AllyOne, I use my skills and experience to help online business owners grow their business with best-of-breed eCommerce solutions. In this blog, I share eCommerce, websites, and general digital marketing lessons from my career. Subscribe to updates for great resources.

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