Online stores have become the modern shopper’s best friend. This is because they offer the products and services that consumers are looking for as well as a dose of shopping therapy, without the need for a trip to a physical store. The E-commerce platforms that a website owner uses can significantly affect the customer traffic that their online store receives as well as the rate of conversions. An e-commerce platform is a comprehensive application that allows a website owner to build an online store and to add plugins and extensions that improve its effectiveness. It is important for the online store owner to choose a platform that offers all the features and qualities that they will need for their e-commerce website.
There are two basic categories of e-commerce platforms, self-hosted and hosted. With self-hosted platforms, the company provides the application but the website owner will use their own hosting service. With hosted platforms, the e-commerce platform company will host the site for the website owner. Hosted platforms are quite stable and secure. However, they can be very pricey.
Qualities of a Good E-commerce Platform
With so many e-commerce platforms in the market, a website owner may be at a loss when it comes to choosing the right one for their online store. However, there are a number of features and qualities that could help them to narrow down their choices. They include:
Stock control: There are platforms that have this feature which keeps a record of the available items. When an item runs out, it is not displayed to the consumers. There are even platforms that can send a message to the stock manager whenever the volumes of certain products become too low.
Single screen checkout systems: A lot of visitors do not have the patience to go through a lengthy checkout process. The user should understand the number of steps as well as the requirements that they need in order to complete an order.
Multiple languages: It is important for the store to have different language options so that users can choose the one that they are comfortable with.
Multiple currencies: This is important for online stores that have an international clientele. It is important for the user to choose the currency that they can easily work with.
Automatically displays related products: Such platforms can increase sales by displaying products that are similar to the ones that the consumer is searching for.
Filters: Online stores often have a lot of products. It is important for the platform to have a filter system that helps online consumers to narrow down their choices.
Zoomable images: This feature allows the user to view a larger and clearer image whenever they place the mouse on a thumbnail. Therefore, they do not have to open a new page whenever they want to see the picture of a product.
A clever search form: This form will return results on words that have been spelled incorrectly by the user.
Real time statistics for site usage: The best platform should offer the website owner statistics about the website. They should know who the frequent visitors are, what people are searching for, which categories are being visited most, and even information on new customers.
Shipping to multiple addresses: This is very important for customers who would like to send gifts to different people.
A wish list: Wish lists make it easier for people to know what they would like to buy for themselves or for their family and friends.
Easy checkout for registered users: Once a user registers on the platform and inputs their contact information and credit card information, they should be able to complete the checkout process in one step.
Manage basic accounting: A platform that can manage orders as well as invoices will make work easier for the website owner.
Easy to customize: The best platform should have themes that the website owner can customize so that the platform blends well with the rest of their website.
Ratings or review section: This feature allows users to leave opinions and reviews about a product that they have purchased. Other clients will be more inclined to purchase a product if it has positive reviews from previous clients.
Comparison of the Major E-commerce Platforms: Shopify versus Magento versus Opencart
Shopify is a hosted platform that is easy to install and use. It has hundreds of themes, making it very easy to customize. It also has more than six hundred extensions and plugins in its marketplace, and website owners can choose the ones that are ideal for their business. Shopify has a very dedicated technical support team which is available 24/7. It also has a very responsive design, and mobile phone users can easily browse and shop for products and services using their mobile phones. On the downside, the checkout page is not easy to customize. Furthermore, Shopify is quite expensive, especially for users who would like the unlimited plan. Individuals who want to enjoy unlimited storage and bandwidth may have to part with almost $180 every month. Furthermore, most of the plugins and extensions in their marketplace are not free, and the store owner will have to pay even more to use them in their online store.
Magento is a self-hosted platform that is used by several large e-commerce companies. It can be difficult to launch at first, but after understanding the basics, the website owner will be able to use it effectively. It is scalable, and it has a lot of features that all businesses could use. There is a community version which is free, as well as an enterprise version which requires a fee. The enterprise version has great security features as well as dependable technical support.
Unfortunately, Magento is not very easy to customize. It can also be quite sluggish, and this can be frustrating to the website owner. The Magento interface is also not user-friendly. In order to enjoy dedicated support and data storage, the store owner will have to buy the enterprise version which is quite pricey.
This is a free, open source and self-hosted platform. It is quite easy to install and use. There is an online community that develops plugins and extensions for this platform. This online community also offers support and answers to any issues that store owners may face.
Opencart is very easy to customize, and it has many categories and an unlimited number of products. It has multiple currency and multiple language features. It allows users to leave reviews and ratings, and it can help the website owner to create a loyalty program for customers. Other features include error logging, printable invoices, sales report, and a calculator that displays the shipping fees depending on the shipping weight. Since it is an open source application, the user can expect more useful and practical extensions and plugins in the future.
Shopify is a great platform as it has a lot of features and dedicated technical support. However, the monthly fee is just too high, especially for small online store owners. Magento is popular with large companies, but it is very difficult to learn and use. It is also difficult to customize it.
Therefore, the best e-commerce platform in terms of prize, usability and support is Opencart. Opencart has so many features that are ideal for all online stores. It is very simple to use, and the interface is beautiful and professional. Furthermore, the online community will provide the user with all the support that they need. The best part is that it is free, and the website owner will enjoy a great e-commerce platform without breaking the bank.