e-Commerce Platforms

Because of increasing competition along with growing demands of customers for everyday convenience and simplicity, the powerful innovation features for e-commerce companies is crucial/critical to their survival in this ever changing social-media technologically driven world. In May 2016, Google reported that mobile usage had surpassed traditional desktop usage for product research. Mobile commerce has transcended into the forefront of every e-commerce company’s design, driving their focus to the consumer shopping experience. However, mobile commerce isn’t the only emerging trend; social commerce has steadily increased its presence. Approximately 74% of all online shopping that occurs is as a result of social media influence, according to one study. Of the retailers too are participating in social commerce, 60% of them claim that they have gained new customers from various social media platforms. In today’s market social commerce is delivering almost instantaneous convenience; giving consumers the ability to purchase items while simultaneously using a social media platform of their choosing.

For a while, search engine optimization and great user experience design where the utmost importance concerning product placement for increased sales; the evolution of e-commerce platforms are designed to capitalize on both mobile and social commerce trends. This growing unification of consumer-utilized platforms is allowing new players who may lack non-technical backgrounds, staying abreast on the keeping of trends and changing requirements of the modern e-commerce practices. Here are what we fill are the top five (5) e-commerce services to help you grow and manage your business:


Shopify:
Hosting over 325,000 active online shops while still focusing on social and mobile shopping commerce, the Shopify is continuously evolving to maintain the needs and expectations of the growing requirements of online stores.

Benefits:
o Offers 100+ shopping/store templates/themes
o Has over 1500 plugins/extensions for commerce functionality
o Ability to sync your online store with your Facebook Business page to sell directly on Facebook platform
o Mobile-friendly shopping cart with seller mobile apps (platform offers the ability to connect owners with app developers)
o 24/7 live chat/phone support with user tutorials and a community forum

However, with these advantages there are some important shortfalls:
o If you do not use “Shopify Payment,” you will receive an additional transaction fee for every sale.
o Many of the extensions related to additional functionality are not free, so, hosting your store on Shopify can cost a little more than expected.
o Shopify runs on its own coding language called ‘Liquid,’ so if you want system customizations, it will be an additional expense.

Why Shopify is a good choice?
If you are a beginner with standard requirements, Shopify will remain the ideal e-commerce alternative. Depending on your budgetary needs, you can select from a range of packages from $29 to $299 monthly. However, it requires unique functionalities needs and features, then it maybe in your better to continue to shop around.


BigCommerce:
Rolling out in 2009, BigCommerce presently hosts approximately 55,000+ online stores and is one of the leading e-commerce service providers. With major manufacturers and distributors such as Martha Stewart, Toyota, SMEs, etc., this platform has the capacity to cater to a store of any size. Bolstering a comprehensive list of built in features, BigCommerce is frequently considered to be one of the best options for business owners who have little to no technical and coding expertise.

Benefits:
o Offers the following built in features: newsletters, coupons, shipping, tax, analytics, etc.
o Does not charge a transaction fee
o Hosts both free and paid themes/templates that are responsive and offer a smooth and seamless mobile experience
o Store integration your store with Facebook, eBay, Google Shopping and other comparison sites
o Robust support with comfortable and convenient setup wizard, educational videos, and extensive guides with visual representations

One fact to note, while BigCommerce offers free themes, it is severely limited in its offerings. To date, it only offers about seven free themes, with most of their direct competitors offering 20+ free themes. However, this platform holds a comprehensive list of premium themes, and also allows for additional customization of these themes to give your store a unique look and feel.

Why BigCommerce is an excellent solution?
If you are looking for a full-fledged store, but do not want the deal with the hassles of plug-in integration –ins and HTML/CSS editing/coding, then BigCommerce is would the be the suggested e-commerce platform. If having to compromise on affordable themes is not a deal breaker for you, then BigCommerce is the comparable alternative to Shopify, with its plans being priced between $29 and $199 a month and doing away with incremental transaction fees.


Magento:
Commanding almost one-fourth of the e-commerce market share, Magento is regularly considered the leader in the market amongst e-commerce applications. Due to its reliability and scalability, many popular name brands (Burger King, Huawei, Pepe Jeans and Liverpool F.C to name a few) use Magento as the base technology for their online stores. This platform is considered one of the best e-commerce applications for enterprises with online stores.

Benefits:
o User experience is easy to use and manage
o Utilizes an open source platform which allows for various types of customization
o Over 9000 plugins/extensions to scale your business
o Abundance of free extensions to enable social commerce for the sale of products/services on social media platform
o Extensive resource library for catered to store management, growth, demonstrations, and a supporting online community of shop owners and plug-in developers to assist you

There is one critical factor to be aware of with Magento, the pricing of its versions: Basic Community version and Enterprise. Its Community version is free, while the Enterprise version is priced at a minimum of $20,000 per year. The Community version hails no comparison to the Enterprise version, which offers a variety of built-in high-end features: customer segmentation, a support module, 24/7-customer support and a much more.

Another factor that should be considered before investing in this product is that the platform has a flexible open source nature making it a bit complex, requiring competent developers for customization. Even though the Community version is not as advanced with its features as the Enterprise, it will still require significant time and money to get your e-commerce store exactly as you want it; taking into account hosting, SSL, extensions, customization, etc.

Would Magento be an ideal choice?
Magento is considered the ideal e-commerce platform for enterprise-sized vendors distributing large volumes of products. The complexity of its store layout and management deems this platform unsuitable for beginners.


YoKart:
With richness in its features and smart model pricing, YoKart is designed with the particular focus on helping start-ups establish an e-commerce community easily. It brands itself as a “one-stop shop” solution for launching multi-vendor stores (i.e., eBay and Etsy). Even though other e-commerce platforms can provide multi-vendor versions of their product, YoKart does this seamlessly.

Benefits:
o “Ready-to-Go” multi-vendor marketplace solutions
o Outside of its framework, you would own the source code and have the ability to customize the portal to your requirements
o Encrypted built structure, meaning any customization would require knowledge of that framework. A person/business would need to be an experienced PHP developer to be able to modify the platform.
o Offers a mobile-friendly platform with a dedicated Android app for marketplaces
o Most features are available across all pricing packages (see below
o Easily accessible resources in the form of easy to read manuals for store owners and merchants, video tutorials, in depth FAQs, and free year long customer support for store management

Because YoKart is relatively new to the e-commerce industry, there are no third-party extensions that are currently available. However, the system does offer built- in analytical tools, over a dozen payment gateway options, and rewards and discount coupon programs management. The biggest downside to this product is its lack-there-of of social commerce capabilities. It presently does not offer merchants to the ability sell on Facebook and other social media platforms.

Is YoKart the right e-commerce service for you?
For multi-vendor stores (i.e., eBay and Etsy) YoKart is a great choice. It offers a start-up package that houses hosted solutions and a one-year license, priced at $250, and allows startups to refine and verify their business model/plan. Their advanced version is self-hosted and customizable, costing $999 (a one time fee), and is intended for businesses with a sound business model. The switch from their startup to the advanced package is quite simple.


Big Cartel:
Targeting artist and other small and home based businesses run by individuals with the slogan ‘We believe in the artist,’ Big Cartel platform has reportedly helped over a million artists in selling their creations online, since its inception in 2005. It is a host system and is extremely, being regarded as the best platform for artists and other creative entrepreneurs to enter the e-commerce arena.

Benefits:
o Simple store set-up and management
o Shop access available on Facebook
o Sound themes that are aesthetically pleasing
o “What You See Is What You Get” code editor for theme customization (including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript
o Easy to use Help Center with detailed guides and FAQs, useful video tutorials, virtual customer support (email), and access to Big Cartel’s Facebook and Twitter accounts

The simplicity of Big Cartel is attributed to its limited functionality, which can be viewed as a major downside for those who are looking for more features than being limited just selling products. Big Cartel’s theme library is also restricted to only12 themes, with only two (2) being responsive/optimized for mobile devices. Also, there are limited add-ons; however, store owners have access to over 500 applications via Zapier integration. The challenges outlined above are because Big Cartel targets a very specific segment. Presently, the application only offers social commerce for the Facebook platform, but given the nature of its target audience (artists and creative individuals), it could include other social networks in the near future and is recommended that it should.

Big Cartel, the right e-commerce solution?
As mentioned before, this platform is ideal for individual artists and creative people and is not recommended for typical retailers. Because of its simplistic stores and economical pricing ($0 to $29.99 per month), Big Cartel allows artists to the ability sell items online easily and with an eye-catching website, thus freeing the artist up to focus on creating their craft rather than managing their online store.

The growth and dominance of mobile and social media as a platform for advertising/marketing and sales shows no hint of becoming a fad of yesterday. Using social and mobile platforms as vehicles to reach new customers and drive sales has become a critical aspect of any e-commerce platform today and for the future. While searching for the right e-commerce solution for your business, be sure to check whether the platform will allow you to capitalize on modern trends and falls in line with your projected needs and goals.

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