If you have a business, you might think that selling your products online is difficult, but it’s not as hard as it once was. In the last couple of years, there have been great strides to getting your business online, and moving beyond the traditional areas of entry such as E-Bay. If you are serious about selling products online, but want to have a professional look to the experience, there are several solutions, which, depending on your level of comfort of code, that can make sense. The benefit of these solutions is you own the experience and you also get all of the money with little or no transaction fees. Not all of the solutions work for all businesses and business types, so I will outline the product and some information you need to know before you jump. Whatever you choose, if you are interested in selling online, the next couple of solutions are your best bet to getting there.
1. Shopify to me is one of the best options for a business looking to dip their feet into ecommerce. It is the only one which is fully hosted, without an option to host yourself. To me it’s solution that offers the best fit for those that want to sell online, but really have no interest in the code (i.e. How it works.) Shopify is great because it takes care of the hosting, it’s PCI Complaint (i.e it meets Payment Card Industry Rules) and an extensive option for free and paid themes. There is a 2% transaction fee for the entry level program, but their top line program waives all fees. You can see the latest pricing here. With a 30-day free trial and the ability to upgrade or downgrade your plan without additional charges is a big plus
2. Magento is the another great option. It is has become the big beast of ecommerce. Recently, it was bought by E-Bay (Paypal). Magento offer several product solutions from community to full enterprise (which are self-hosted) to their new fully hosted option of Magento Go. Unless you’re a real code hound, Magento Community is not a good fit. It is not PCI Compliant, and you really need to want to get your hands dirty. If you have code experience and the money, Magento Enterprise is an awesome product, which will far exceed your wildest dreams. Nevertheless, for the average business looking to get online, Magento Go is a great option. They offer many of the features of Shopify, but there is no transaction fees even at the entry level. Magento offer a 30-day trial and easy upgrade to other options. The Magento Go product is relatively new compared to Shopify. My edge goes to Shopify as it had been in the full hosting business longer, and Magneto is not as quick as easy to pick up when you want to make customizations. As someone who loves code and a challenge, I appreciate Magento and the fact I can deep and dirty with the code. It really is a personal prefernce, thankfully with free trails available from both, you can get a sense which is the better fit. Learn more about Magento Go here.
3. Prestashop is another superb solution for a small business. They are mostly known as a self-hosted solution, where you can get down in the code and do you own thing. More recently they launched PrestaBox, which is there hosted solution. The cost of PrestaBox, is a $10 (Euro) set-up and a 2% transaction fee. What makes Prestashop unique, is by being a European based company, multi-languages are available for your website much easier. Personally, the I have always used the self-hosted option when using PrestaShop. I would also recommend it for business in French speaking areas or countries, as the native language of the development team is french.
The next two options are not ecommerce platforms per se, but they are CMS platforms with a critical mass of installs: Concrete5 and WordPress. They are great fit for companies already using the platform or if they are looking to sell only a couple of dozen products. The main benefit of using these platforms is that they are free and open-source, so you can modify to your hearts content. The downside of these solutions is you need to love code, you are on your own for hosting and, as these are community supported, sometimes you may not get the quick answers that you need when you have questions.
4. Concrete5 is amazing when it comes to flexibility of adding content. You can build whatever you like, and make it easy in the future to change content as you need. However, while Concrete5 is free, some of the add-ons you might need to set-up your store are not. Before you get scared, keep in mind you can build your own add-ons for free (well, you know in your own time), and there are lots of free add-ons. Nevertheless, if you have to pay for an extension or two the prices are fair, especially when compared to to the time and effort it would take to code the same same add-on. Most importantly, the ecommerce add-on found in the Concrete5 marketplace is supported by the Concrete5 development team. Another benefit of this solution is that if you look at the cost of hosting Concrete5 yourself and buying a couple of add-ons, you are saving tons of money compared to other solutions by year two of your Conceret5 project. You can benefit even more if you have an interest in do-it-yourself. The code is not impossible to understand (assuming you get PHP) and make modifications is super simple with their structure of separating out the core when a future upgrade occurs.
5. WordPress. No this is not a typo. Sure you can use WordPress for blogs, but more and more companies are using it as a CMS. WordPress has countless add-ons to sell memberships and allow you to also sell products. To me it’s the perfect solution if you already have WordPress up or if you are looking to sell less than a dozen items. My favourite add-ons for Ecommerce task in WordPress are: WP Easy Paypal and s2Member® Framework, but there are literally hundreds of cart free cart solutions to choose from. Personally, WordPress works if what you are selling is small subset skus, but you want to have the ability to easily add posts/comments on the products right on the page. For higher volume solutions, I would consider one of the other solutions above.
In my view, these five picks each bring to the table something unique, but thankfully they all have the ability to try before you buy. A couple of further notes on my list. I figure most small business do not have the time to get involved in coding their store, that’s why some usual suspects are missing. If you are still looking for other options and have time to tinker with code, I can recommend you look at OpenCart , CS-Cart , Zen Cart and OSCommerce. Whatever you decide, the options to get your online website looking like a professional destination for your customers is better than ever before. Take the time to get the best fit for you and your audience.
Share your thoughts: What solutions have you tried from the list? What did you like/hate about them? What advice do you have in making a selection?
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