With the increasing popularity of e-commerce, many small and large companies are starting to try to sell their products online, either as a base of their business or as a complement to physical stores.
But when choosing the solution / platform on which your store will be based, it is difficult for a non-technical to know the best solution for you. And this can be a critical decision for your business because after investing time and money in a solution, it is very difficult to change and a company can see itself for years stuck to a solution far from being the ideal for their specific situation .
Let’s try to shed some light on the subject here 🙂
First, what Platforms are we talking about?
For the purposes of this article, let’s just focus on what are, by 2018, the statistically most popular platforms in the world.
WooCommerce is not exactly a platform, but rather a module installed on another platform, WordPress. This means that, given the popularity of WordPress as a site creation platform, WooCommerce is also popular, it is easily accessible and it is relatively easy to find programmers who do custom work on WooCommerce since it is also easy to find them for WordPress in itself. Another plus is that it is free.
The main disadvantages is that, given its dependence on WordPress, it suffers from the modular “logic” of WordPress, that is, there is a lot of basic stuff that, in WordPress or WooCommerce, requires the installation of extra modules. involve costs, problems in the store and dependence on technical experts in WordPress. Multilanguage support is the biggest example of this limitation, but other issues that often arise are incompatibilities of WordPress itself, graphic themes, other modules that “interfere” with the normal functioning of WordPress or WooCommerce, etc.
At iFlexi, we have already developed WooCommerce stores for customers (and we ourselves use WooCommerce on our own iflexi.com site) and our conclusion is that it is a good solution for small shops, with few products and little logistical movement, but is not the best solution for companies whose online sales are the center of the business.
Shopify, unlike other platforms in this list, is not a downloadable and installable solution, since it is a commercial solution that belongs to a company that markets, not the platform, but access to it.
The advantage of this approach is that a customer can easily have their shop ready to run without having to worry about issues such as store hosting, and belonging to a company with commercial interest, has a very regular development of new features.
However, the disadvantages in our opinion are critical and we would never recommend such a solution to any company for two major reasons. First big problem: the store will never be yours. At Shopify you are paying for a rental through your store, which means that on the day you fail to pay, you are out of a store and can not take you to another accommodation at another supplier. Unlike the opensource platforms of this list, where a store created with them is yours and can easily accommodate you where you want. Second huge problem: the cost. At the present date, the most economical plan they have is around € 300 per year, and they still have to pay them 2% fee on their sales. This is several times higher than what you normally pay for hosting an opensource store.
This platform shares the same Shopify business model, so it has basically the same advantages, which are a fairly complete and easy / fast to implement store.
But it suffers from the same critical problems, for any company that wants to have control over its own store: high cost (about € 200 per year + 3% tax on its sales); and the shop will never be yours.
If you keep your hands tied and still have to pay a fortune for that privilege is your scene, go ahead with this solution 🙂
Wix is proof that Marketing really succeeds in making consumers blind. With this, in addition to Shopify and Squarespace, we found in the first 4 places of this list 3 solutions that only with their aggressive Marketing, managed to convince more than 3 million companies to pay small fortunes per year for the privilege of never owning their own. own store.
Having said that, and at the risk of repeating itself, what Wix brings is the variety of designs and the speed / ease of implementation of the store, in exchange for generous annuities charged to entrepreneurs (about € 180 a year) and without a store if they do not spend the rest of their lives paying for Wix.
OpenCart has been around the World of online sales for a long time (20 years ago) but its “amateur” character has not allowed it to evolve as much as other platforms, despite the efforts involved, namely in its latest version. It’s an interesting, opensource / free platform, for which there are lots of graphic themes and modules, both free and paid (and generally cheaper than on other platforms). Its backoffice is very easy to use and it is also relatively easy to get programmers who can tinker with their programming to customize a store tailored to the needs of their company.
At iFlexi we have already installed, configured and customized enough OpenCart stores for our customers, and although it is perfectly functional and simple to use, it falls short of other platforms in this list for more advanced features and the ability to add multiple languages and translate the platform. It is not the ideal solution, but for the majority of the companies it serves perfectly, appreciation that we do in the same way to the WooCommerce, already approached.
We have here another open source platform, which you can download and install in your preferred hosting service. This platform has its origins in the old ecommerce platform osCommerce. Despite its popularity (due basically to the popularity of its predecessor), we consider it to be just “one more” e-commerce platform as there are so many in the market that will not go down in history (we only have 10 in this list, but there are dozens of e-commerce platforms on the market).
It has the advantages of an opensource platform, namely the price, and the fact that it has a good network of volunteers to develop it, but it falls short of the average quality / modern design of its graphic themes, it lacks functionalities more advanced and is not as easy to use as others. Honestly, we don’t see any advantages in this solution.
By many considered the best e-commerce platform on the market, with this “advantage” come 2 seized disadvantages. First, it can get pretty expensive. It is true that there is an open source version of the platform, but to use all the potential of Magento, you have to opt for the paid and well paid version. Second, it is a very demanding platform in terms of server resources, which usually means having to hire a dedicated server for Magento only (which in terms of costs, can typically cost 10x more than a shared, more common hosting ).
And there are even more “small” details that can make life difficult: there are relatively few modules on the market to extend the functionality of the platform, which almost certainly involves hiring a programmer who specializes in Magento (and who, are quite expensive); there are fewer options in terms of graphics than there are for other more popular platforms; and, finally, it is a much more complex platform to use from the shopkeeper’s point of view than the other platforms in this list.
So when you ask a specialist to advise you the best possible platform, this is likely to be the answer you get, but do not throw yourself blindfolded. Maybe this is the best solution for Sonae and a Continent Online, but will it be the best solution for your small business?
Being a relatively recent opensource / free platform (with “only” 11 years), PrestaShop has undergone a meteoric evolution, mainly in its last two versions (1.6 and 1.7). Until then, it was just another e-commerce platform like so many others, but recently it has made a qualitative leap in terms of ease of use, variety of graphic themes and modules, and advanced functionality in the base platform.
IFlexi is currently the platform that iFlexi recommends to its customers, primarily because of the rapid and immediate way in which, after installation, you can start selling with a minimum of changes to the basic configurations, excellent integrated multi-lingual support and modern design of its standard theme, which saves shopkeepers from acquiring a premium theme to have a modern store right from the start.
The main problem with PrestaShop is the cost of extra modules. Comparing with platforms such as OpenCart, adding extra features involves purchasing modules that typically cost a few tens of euros, which can quickly add a free platform to the game. But from the experience we have with iFlexi, with hundreds of customers using PrestaShop, it is very rare for a customer to have to purchase an extra module, since the base platform can handle 99% of cases.
This “old lady” of the e-commerce opensource platforms still gives letters and, for a small shop without big ambitions, is a perfectly feasible solution.
However, the fact that, in general, the design of your graphic themes is weaker than on other platforms, the fact that it is a little complex to use and that it lacks some of the more advanced features that are already standard on other platforms, means that in this moment is not a choice we would make. But who knows, if one of these days we will not see the rebirth of this classic?
Well, about this there is not much to say that has not been said about Shopify, Squarespace or Wix, since this is also a platform that “holds” tenants to a proprietary solution of a company with high annual costs (over € 300), and you have even fewer options than these other proprietary trading solutions we talked about. In short, for us, it would not even be considered.
So, what should you do?
Well, ultimately, it is up to each entrepreneur to choose the solution that makes the most sense, depending on what gives priority. Each solution has advantages and disadvantages, the weight of which depends on the profile of each company and the use it will give the store.
Pay more and not own the store, but have a turn-key solution and commercial support?
Do not pay anything for the store and have flexibility in your accommodation, but have some work setting up the store?
Throughout our analysis, we have already made it clear that in different situations, at different times, we have already advised different solutions to different customers, namely WooCommerce, OpenCart and PrestaShop, as we consider that these 3 offer the best balance between costs, flexibility and ease depending on the choice of specific situations analyzed on a case-by-case basis.
Want to see some specific examples of stores we’ve created with these specific platforms:
In conclusion, if we have to choose a solution to recommend for most cases of companies that really want to focus on e-commerce, our recommendation now has to fall on PrestaShop (namely version 1.7).
The Flexi OpenShop Solution
Attention: Commercial plug from here on 🙂
Although PrestaShop (and any of the other solutions) come almost ready to use after installation, there are always a number of settings to do (settings for taxes and languages, configuration of means of payment, etc.). Not to mention the choice of accommodation and the facility itself (which is not such a trivial process).
At iFlexi, we decided to join the advantages of PrestaShop as an opensource platform, with the advantages of proprietary turnkey business solutions. So we created OpenShop, a PrestaShop solution in turn.
The customer only has to choose the domain that you want for your store and in just a few hours we will provide you with a PrestaShop store installed and ready to use, in your domain, pre-configured for Portugal, with your taxes and means of payment, and some other essential configurations and modules developed and / or selected by our team. And have our technical support by email, phone or chat. That is, a turnkey solution, with all the advantages of the most expensive commercial services, but at a very reduced price, in a ready-to-use store that is really your own (you can take it somewhere else if you want).
Think about it: https://www.iflexi.pt/en/iflexi-openshop
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