Looking to start building your online store? The first step is to choose the right e-commerce platform for your needs. From my experience, I have found the top three content management systems for e-commerce to be BigCommerce, Shopify and Volusion. Each platform is fully hosted, fairly simple to set up and offers a variety of additional features. In this article I will discuss the most important aspects of an e-commerce CMS and how the different companies compare in each category.
Each CMS offers a free trial to begin setting up and testing out your store. This is an awesome feature because it allows you to try out each platform for a couple weeks and see which one is best for you.
BigCommerce offers five different monthly payment plans. The “Bronze Plan” (or the most basic plan) costs $24.95 per month. This price includes 100 products, 3 staff logins, 2 GB Bandwidth, 200MB storage and $50 free Google AdWords. The subsequent plans offer more of each of those features at a slightly higher price.
Shopify has four payment plans. Each plan can be paid monthly or yearly (for slight discounts). The basic is $29 per month, which includes unlimited bandwidth, 100 SKUs, 100 MB storage, $100 Google AdWords Credit and $75 Amazon Ad Credit. The major disadvantage of the Shopify payment plan is the 2% transaction fee. This means that 2% of all revenues (not profits) go to Shopify. So, if your company operates with a small profit margin, beware of these transaction fees! However, paying more for a bigger plan will include progressively smaller transaction fees.
Volusion’s most basic payment plan “Steel” is $19/month for 100 products and 1 GB data transfer. Like the others, each plan offers more products and data transfer for a slightly higher monthly fee.
Ease of Use:
As I mentioned before, each of the three companies has done a great job at simplifying the process of setting up an online store using their CMS. However, when it comes to the design of the store, any variation from the default templates is not always so simple. BigCommerce has accomplished ease of use by providing a “drag and drop design” feature that allows you to reconfigure the layout of the template without knowing how to edit the programming language. Shopify’s main downfall in terms of “ease of use” is the use of Liquid as their programming language. Even just editing the title tags to help SEO requires learning a new programming language (for most of us who don’t know Liquid).
BigCommerce outshines the other two in ease of use. In addition to simplifying the design process, BigCommerce provides a completely integrated payment platform, integrates with Google Website Optimizer for testing and analysis, and simplifies the process of creating and keeping track of the product options.
If you are planning on hiring someone to create a completely customized template for your store, this section may not be relevant. However, many people are unable to afford such luxuries and rely heavily on the available template designs. In my opinion BigComerce offers the best variety of free templates. There are more than 90 different designs and each one can easily be customized of modified based on your preferences. There are also excellent BigCommerce design partners that are available for template modifications. Shopify has a few free default templates to choose from that are attractive and fairly easy to work with. However, their more professional-looking templates have to be purchased. Volusion offers a variety of free templates, none of which are very impressive by today’s standards.
Marketing & SEO:
Each of the three platforms provide excellent tools to help expand marketing and SEO efforts. Such features include email campaigns, coupon codes, promotional banners, etc. BigCommerce has great SEO and internal navigation. BigCommerce and Shopify both have multi-channel retailing allowing you to sell products from your store through Facebook (and eBay in the case of BigCommerce). Volusion offers a unique and useful affiliate platform to promote your online store. Through this platform, 3rd parties can register with store owners as advertisers, bloggers, advocates and grass-roots-style organizations to help market the e-commerce website.
When building an online store, it’s important that a knowledgeable and patient individual will be able to assist you with any questions that you have along the way. Lucky for us, all three CMS platforms have excellent customer service so there is nothing to worry about in this category!
Based on my experience and research, I prefer BigCommerce because it easy to use and provides great SEO information and analysis. BigCommerce also has excellent design partners that are available to help with template modifications and designs without charging a fortune (as is often the case with web designers). If you’re starting out, and have the time, go ahead and try all three for a couple of weeks to see which you prefer.