Choosing an eCommerce Platform for your Online Boutique
Choosing an ecommerce platform can be one of the most confusing tasks when starting an online boutique. There are many options, considerations, etc. I’ve put together a comparison cart and we soon have in depth reviews of various platforms.
But before you jump in to looking at individual ecommerce platforms. It’s a good idea to get familiar with the various categories of ecommerce platforms
Market Place Solution
Examples: EBay, Etsy, Shop envy, Amazon
A market place solution is a site where you can sign up to post your products and sell through them. Your products are list among other products and customers can shop amongst yours and other sellers side by side. Most sites give you an individual/shop page view. Where users only see your products and brief information about your store but the can easily hop off your page and search others.
These shops usually have low barrier to enter, charging an upfront fee and then an additional % of the sale. Marketplace sites are good for business starting out, to test the market to see if it’ll work, and for crafters or other retail where stock can be a little low at times or your work is customized by person. Some market places are good for visibility because of the search features.
Example: big cartel, big commerce, shopify, yahoo, volusion
A hosted platform means your store is set up and maintained of the website of the company. They give you your own space (not connected to others) and you can set it up there sell like you would your on site. Many of the solutions over templates and other features to help see up your shop and some allow limited customizations.
Although you can change some parts of the site of the site you are still held to the service offered by the host such as payment options, check out process, page template, etc.
These solutions open charge a monthly based on the size of your site
Software Self Hosted Solution
Examples WordPress, woocommerce, jigoshop, presta shop, magneto
The software self-host solution is where you buy your own website hosting (we recommend WP Engine, In motion hosting, and FatCow (aff links)) and you install software to the hosting that allows you to run your shop. You own all of your information and products. Many times the software is free and you can, but add ins such as themes, templates, and advanced shipping options. There are also 2 types on software platforms one is shop only like Magento and Presta shop and the other is extension software that is added to another platform like WooCommerce and Jigshop work with WordPress (I promise it’s much easier than it sounds)
These platforms are the most customize able they are open source (meaning you or your developer) so you can make changes to look, feel, functions, etc. They are good for larger site who want a real business online look, sites who want to use their own name (this options is available with some of the others too) and sites who want to do more than just sell products like incorporate a blog or advertise services, share a lot of content etc.
The cost varies for this solution the software is usually free, hosting can cost between $75 and up (please read my choosing hosting article), add ons and customizations can cost $0 if you know code to a few thousand if you hire someone to do it for you. This solution is definitely for those who are serious and thinking long term about their business.
These are the top 3 types but there are definitely many hybrid solutions out there and other variations like web platforms like wix, weebly, and vista print that offer a shopping cart extension.
The decision of the platform should be really considered but don’t let it hold you back. It is possible to switch solutions if you start with one and then business grows or changes to move to another.
I know many clients who start out on a site like Etsy and then move to their own site.
The major things to consider when choosing is
- Inventory and Sales volume
- How invested are you the business
- Where is the competition?