The global pandemic has shaken the world and as a result, many businesses are now struggling. Almost all physical retail stores have become irrelevant, with many only open to staff to box up deliveries while others have closed trade all together.
Because of this, the digital world has never been more essential. You may already know that you need to move your business online but we bet your next questions are how and what do I use? Here we will cover why it’s essential for businesses to get online, pandemic aside, and compare three leading platforms to help get you started.
Why build an ecommerce website?
Aside from the looming importance of digital presence created by the current circumstances, getting your business online ready is critical for many. Before the pandemic, worldwide ecommerce sales were expected to grow from $2.92 trillion in 2018 to $6.54 trillion in 2023, according to the 2019 Global E-Commerce report by Emarketer. This growth is because of the strong online shopping market in countries like China, the US, and the UK.
South American and Asian markets are rapidly rising, too, with Mexico, India, and the Philippines having more than 30% growth in 2019. Ecommerce is dominating the world, and if your business isn’t riding its wave, you’re missing out on both domestic and international sales.
There are a variety of options to choose from when it comes to selling your products online. Marketplace giants like Amazon, eBay, and AliExpress make your product available to billions of global customers. Amazon alone gets 4.6 billion visits a month.
With your own ecommerce website, however, you’ll have more control over how you present your brand and sell your products. Here’s why:
Apart from your company’s logo, banner, and featured items, you won’t find much room for personalisation in marketplace platforms. With your own site, you can rearrange elements as you please. You can customise your store’s background and foreground colours according to your branding.
Your products in full focus
When you list your products on a marketplace, it’ll be grouped with your competitors, especially if you offer similar prices. Plus, sites like Amazon may change your item’s price according to its algorithm. With your website, you only feature your items at a price set by you.
Apart from a limited About Us page, there’s not much additional content to add on a marketplace site. With your ecommerce store, you can add a blog to keep your audience engaged with updates about your brand and guides on how to use your products. You can also provide a full-fledged About Us page with your company’s history, culture and values. The possibilities for additional content are endless because you have full control.
If you want to create your own ecommerce store easily, providers like Shopify, WooCommerce and Squarespace are your best bets. Though they have similar features, each has different fees, template designs, and search engine optimisation (SEO) capabilities. Take a look at what they offer and how they stack up against their competitors.
Shopify is popular with ecommerce businesses that are just starting out, but it’s also a hit among big brands. Tesla, Oreo, Red Bull, and Nestlé all use this platform to create an online storefront for their products. As of October 2019, there are more than one million merchants on Shopify, and its third-quarter revenue grew to over $390.6 million. This is a 45% increase from the same quarter in 2018. So why is it such a success for businesses big and small?
Easy to set up
You don’t need web development and hosting expertise to set up and use your Shopify store. It has easy-to-follow tutorials, which help you navigate through its interface and answer the forms needed to get your site up and running. And when it comes to items, upload product photos, fill out the name, description, and price fields, and submit your entry. It’ll be up for sale instantly.
There are also several third-party apps that can help you fill gaps and meet your needs.
This platform also offers built-in tools that help you clean up and organise your store. Its Collections feature allows you to group similar products into categories for easy filtering. If you have items that come in different variants (i.e. colours, patterns, sizes, and materials), Shopify allows up to 100 variations for every product. It also lets you create expansive mega menus for your site’s navigation bar, so customers can find the product or category they’re looking for in a few clicks.
Fast and simple customisation
Here, you can easily change your store’s theme without affecting your existing content. Shopify offers over a hundred free and paid templates to choose from, ranging from minimalist to loud styles. If you really want to step up your personalisation game, third-party developers like Colorlib. and Out of the Sandbox offer a diverse number of themes as well.
The most basic Shopify subscription starts at £23 a month, which allows you to upload unlimited products and create discount codes. The package also comes with a secure certification that keeps your customers’ information safe and gives you access to the company’s great 24/7 support.
Limitations of Shopify
While Shopify makes it easy to set up your online store, it doesn’t feature a lot of advanced options. If you’re a power user who wants to optimise every blog post to perfection, this site’s SEO tools aren’t as fully-featured compared with platforms like WordPress. Plus, URL customisation options are also limited.
This platform is more focused on helping you build a unique website for your brand. It’s used by publications like Wired and brands like Lyft and UberEats. And as of recently it’s getting into ecommerce. Here’s what Squarespace can offer your business:
Better and more flexible designs
While Shopify has great themes, Squarespace’s templates offer sleeker and flexible designs. It also categorises its designs according to industry, so you’ll immediately know which ones look great for your business.
Both Shopify and Squarespace’s templates are mobile-friendly, which means they can adapt to any screen size. However, the latter gives you the ability to turn their pages into accelerated mobile pages, or AMP. This simplifies your site, making it load almost instantaneously. Fast loading times are always a plus for customers.
More product options and better presentation
Squarespace takes the cake again when it comes to design, as it has a built-in zoom feature for your items. And it also supports sales for digital products right out of the box. With Shopify, you’ll need to find and install apps to get both features.
Limitations of Squarespace
While Squarespace is a design powerhouse, it lacks in sales features and support compared to Shopify. It only supports PayPal, Stripe, and Apple Pay, while its competitor can take payments from over 100 options. Both platforms provide 24/7 customer service, however Squarespace only offers chat services compared to Shopify’s phone support. And while Squarespace is filled with built-in features, it doesn’t have an app store like Shopify. As such, if you want to add a new feature to your store, third-party developers won’t be able to save you. You’ll have to wait until the company officially releases it on the platform.
WooCommerce is the granddaddy of ecommerce site building. It started as a mere plugin for WordPress in 2000. This little extension could launch a lot of successful online businesses. Now, it powers over 28% of online stores, including big brands like Orange, Singer, and Weber. So what made this veteran ecommerce plugin last throughout the years?
Set up your store for free
Unlike Shopify and Squarespace, which offer paid-for basic subscriptions, WooCommerce offers its powerful platform for free. As such, it also makes a good starting point for budding ecommerce professionals.
WooCommerce runs on WordPress. This makes the platform an attractive tool for power users and SEO experts who want to have full control over their URLs, metadata, and alt tags.
WooCommerce is open source, which means you can customise every part of your store according to your liking. It’s easy for web designers using this platform to edit HTML, CSS, and PHP code to make your store truly unique. And if you want to stick with themes, WordPress has thousands of themes to choose from, compared to the hundreds that Shopify and Squarespace have.
Limitations of WooCommerce
While WooCommerce may be free, it lacks essential features that Squarespace and Shopify already have, like hosting, security, and a domain name. You’ll have to set everything up and maintain them yourself. You’ll also need to buy and download extensions to get more payment options, manage your inventory better, and set up a subscription service.
Shopify, Squarespace, and WooCommerce are all great options when it comes to ecommerce. But they vary greatly when it comes to customisation and ease-of-use. If you’re an established brand that wants a fast and straightforward way to sell your goods, or you’re new to ecommerce, Shopify provides a smooth, no-frills experience.
Care more about the presentation of your brand and products? Squarespace’s templates and diverse customisation options are for you.
And if you’re a seasoned SEO or web development professional who wants complete control over how your website functions, WooCommerce’s WordPress-based, open-source platform is your best bet. Now that you’ve chosen your ecommerce tool, all you need to do is to fill it up with content to create a site that’s unique to your brand and products.