When it comes to choosing the right e-Commerce platform for your business it is not a simple choice of one size fits all. Neither is it the case that, once you have taken the plunge, your e-Commerce platform will ride the sales journey with you for all eternity. Rather, like all businesses, and especially retail, the platform has to morph and grow along with your business needs, just as a High Street retailer may move into larger premises as their brand and sales base grow.
Take, for example, UK retailing stalwart Marks and Spencer (M&S). Founded in 1884 by Michael Marks and Thomas Spencer, M&S began life as a Penny Bazaar in a Leeds market. Today, the retailer operates 800 stores in the UK and some 300 stores internationally, as well as a strong online presence. The M&S sales remit has certainly changed!
Whether you are just dipping a toe into the e-Commerce pool or ready to make a splash with a new, enterprise-level solution, choosing the right e-Commerce platform will be vital to success.
This post is adapted from our FREE eBook: Independent Guide to Choosing the Right e-Commerce Platform
You will need to decide whether you want a solution under your full control and on your servers, or whether you are content to use a self-hosted solution. There are a number of pros and cons to be considered with each choice.
Hosted e-Commerce Solutions
Volution and BigCommerce tout themselves as being Magento alternatives, however, they are hosted solutions. Shopify is a smaller scale option.
Pros: Hosted solutions are much cheaper, more stable and easier to use because they are built for the mass market and hence, are more user-friendly. This also leads to the hosting being part of a more expensive server set-up than most individual companies can afford. The advantage, of course, is much better uptime. Plug and play is easy to work with, and add-ons and extensions are easy to install.
Cons: There may be a lack of flexibility, (extensions, plugins, etc.) purely because it is built to suit the mass market rather than your particular requirements. Additional issues could include the inability to customise and fit any bespoke needs that you may have, as well as a lack of functionality. For instance, Shopify is unable to cope with conditional attribute configuration. There is also a level of vulnerability – being part of a shared environment makes it a more attractive target, so if the host gets hacked, millions of sites may be affected.
Self-Hosted e-Commerce Solutions
These include solutions such as IBM WebSphere and .net, Magento.
Pros: This solution will give you complete control and total freedom of choice. It has the capability to tailor-make service provisions to your market requirements. In addition, you will have control over market choices, such as which servers to use. It will also allow you to conduct testing from the live, commercial environment.
Cons: You may be dealing with high monthly costs. Plus, everything will be your responsibility; whether this is maintaining uptime and servers, resolving issues with the web developers or host, and so on. You could find yourself becoming an island away from the developer community. For instance, if your store evolves away from the core to such an extent through the need to customise, it may be difficult to find help. You will need a development platform to test prior to going live, particularly if customisation has been extensive.
Still confused? Consult our e-Commerce Checklist
Not sure if Magneto or Spotify is the answer? Read our Top 10 checklist for choosing an e-commerce platform in our FREE eBook: Independent Guide to Choosing the Right e-Commerce Platform