One of the first things you’ll need to consider when starting a new online business is choosing which online shop platform is perfect for you. There are so many e-commerce solutions out there, and this post will discuss their pros and cons, scalability and suitability for different types of business models. Instead of repeating what other sites have already mentioned, I’ll just share helpful charts here for your benefit.
First let’s look at some Google web trends and see how the different search terms compare in popularity within Singapore.
Shopify and Wix leads the pack among other popular e-commerce platforms with Shopify at 58, and Wix at 51. The two are quite neck-in-neck in terms of trending popularity within the past year, perhaps also because Wix caters for non e-commerce websites as well as e-commerce. Wix is also popular amongst Singaporeans as being the go-to DIY website providers. What does popularity mean for you? Well, popularity means that it is much easier to find community help, expert help, and google FAQs especially when you have an issue or problem to solve. High popularity also means there’s going to be a high number of apps you can buy from the appstore.
What features do you need?
Another thing that you would need to consider is what kind of e-commerce features and functionalities you need. Most sites just need a simple product listing, add to cart functions, account creation. However, due to the nature of some businesses, you may encounter more complex features such as:
- Customizations of products
- Product bundles
- Pick-and-mix product sets with discounts
- Different customer types eg. Members/VIPs with different access and pricing shown
- The possibilities are endless!
If you have any feature that would be considered complex, you will need to take a look at the different platforms and see if they provide that and is it part of the basic cost. For example, let’s say you want to allow your customers to purchase Gift Cards. This isn’t provided as part of the basic $29/month plan on Shopify. For that feature, you’d instead have to opt for their $79/month plan. Suddenly, Shopify may not be within your budget anymore. So think beforehand what features you are going to need (or will need in the near future) and find a platform that can accommodate that at an acceptable price point.
According to e-commerce platforms, the top three best platforms for SEO are:
In #1st and #3rd place, are e-commerce platforms that require a professional web developer to build. These platforms are open-source (which means they are free to download) but they’re highly complex to set up unless you have deep knowledge on hosting, servers, installation and customization of open-source platforms. SEO is extremely important because you aren’t going to get sales if nobody can find your store!
Should I use hosted e-commerce platforms or build on my own server?
This is one of the most common question I hear from prospective clients who come to meet me for a consultation. Here are some pros and cons to consider if you’re ever debating on getting a online e-commerce platform or a self-hosted platform.
Online e-commerce platforms (eg. Shopify / Wix)
- Cheap startup cost, monthly cost from S$29/month
- Can stop subscription any time, although shop will not be online anymore.
- Relatively easy-to-use for newbies
- Don’t have to upgrade or perform site maintenance
- There are a lot of limitations/restrictions on functionality and design based on what the platform can accommodate or provide
- Additional features and functionalities are provided by apps, which can add on average $10 to monthly fee (per app).
- Potentially costly in the long term eg. Starter $29/month = $348/year. Second plan $79/month = $948/year.
- On top of 2% transaction fees, there are also online credit card payment fees of 3.2% + 50c
- Cheapest package does not include a lot of basic e-commerce features that come free with open-source platforms (Of course, because they want you to upgrade!)
In conclusion, online e-commerce platforms are ideal for starting out, low-risk, low-investment, and short-term business plans.
Self-hosted e-commerce platform (eg. Magento / WooCommerce / PrestaShop)
- Extremely flexible in terms of functionality and design possibilities (they are endless). Therefore you’re able to build exactly what you need.
- Open-source codes are provided free
- A lot of free features, plugins and modules that are plug-and-play
- Admin system difficulty level is easy (WooCommerce) to moderate (Magento / PrestaShop)
- A lot of e-commerce features come bundled in the base installation
- Larger startup cost, as you’ll need a professional developer to design and set it up for you. Magento development is known to be much more expensive than WooCommerce development too.
- You’ll need to pay monthly for a server (Not much. Around $10/month onwards)
- You’ll need to regularly update your WordPress and plugin versions
- You’ll need to think about website security
My advice for anyone thinking of starting a shop is to look internally at your business and ask yourself these questions:
- Am I just testing the waters with this business? Do I have a small starting budget? (Go for online solutions. Do-it-yourself or join one of our courses!)
- Is this business established / Am I planning to go long-term with it? (Go for self-hosted solutions. Talk to us, maybe we can help you!)
Remember, you can always scale up once your business starts to do well!