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The best e-commerce platforms for a web shop

Which are the best e-commerce platforms for a web shop? There’s a large choice of e-commerce platforms available, also known as Content Management Systems (CMS). So the choice can be vast. However, we always recommend to go with those platforms which are best supported by the online community and with plenty of talent available should you need support.

In this article we highlight the main contenders with the above in mind. Ensuring you’re future proofed and not tied in to a developer or agency that only operates on the CMS they’ve chosen for you.

Shopify

When it comes to which are the best e-commerce platforms for a web shop? Shopify is a great e-commerce platform for ‘start-ups’, and for a number of reasons which include;

  • Cost effective
  • Looks professional and very smart
  • It’s very easy to use, not just in setting up but also for processing orders and the day-to-day running of a website
  • Has a 24 hour support team and equally as important it has thriving community of independent developers

There are more plus sides than noted above, but these are the key for consideration. However, with all the plus sides there’s also the not-so-great aspect to, which are:

  • Shopify is not open source and as a result you don’t have complete freedom to do what you want. Ultimately, the site doesn’t truly belong to you
  • For products and main pages SEO is okay but you will have to deal with added terms being added to some URL’s, which limits some of your SEO
Sknhead London uses Shopify and looks awesome

Sknhead London uses Shopify and looks awesome

I almost always recommend Shopify for ‘start-ups’ because you can build out a really clean looking, easy to navigate online shop with ease. One thing that can make your shopify store look truly awesome – although you could say this of all stores – is beautiful imagery. So, it’s worth the effort and a little more spend to acquire some wonderful images.

It’s easy to use from a back-end point of view too. It will last you for quite a few years and you may never need to change CMS. In the future you may feel you need to move to another platform like WordPress or Magento.

Big Commerce

Now I have a confession, we mostly work with Shopify, which is Big Commerce’s direct competitor. There’s not much between them so I’ll not go in to too much detail here. Big Commerce is a another solid and easy to use platform, similar to Shopify and you can have more Staff Accounts.

Pricing is practically identical as are many other features. Big Commerce does not have a proposition to match Shopify’s cheapest offering ‘Shopify Lite’, but then if you’re serious about your e-commerce offering, you would not use Shopify Lite anyway – it’s actually too basic.

Design options, User Experience and Extensions on both platforms are very good and in equal measure. Shopify’s just been around longer and is used by online retailers, ‘considerably’ more often. These are the main reasons why we lean towards Shopify over Big Commerce, but you won’t go far wrong with Big Commerce. Ultimately, it comes down to a personal preference.

WordPress & Woo-Commerce

Woo-Commerce is WordPress' answer to the World of e-commerce

Woo-Commerce

WordPress, and of course Woo-Commerce, cover almost every scenario, present and future…and this is why we like it. Your practically future proofing your business. Unless you’re going truly Global with franchise stores then WordPress & Woo-Commerce more than have you covered. You could argue WordPress is better suited to businesses that are no longer start-ups, and are in the SME space.

This is because it will be more expensive to set up and a little more complex, but that’s the price you pay for future proofing your business. You should definitely choose a Bespoke solution. It will make your website more secure and less likely to crash or be hacked. Even more importantly you’ll spend less time and money on needing to update templates etc

Here’s some other good reasons to use WordPress:

  • Easy to use and navigate through the CMS
  • Arguably the best Search Engine Optimisable (SEO) CMS out there
  • Bespoke can mean both beautiful and unique designs
  • Has a 24 hour support team and equally as important it has thriving community of independent developers
  • Open Source and you own all the code

Here’s the downsides:

  • It will take more development time and therefore cost then the Shopify or Big Commerce solutions
  • If it’s not a bespoke design, then you will need to keep on top of updates

If you have a little more budget and you’re certain of success, then a bespoke WordPress & Woo-Commerce is an obvious choice.

Magento

Mothercare ecommerce store on Magento content management system

Mothercare ecommerce store on Magento

There’s nothing you can’t achieve with the Magento e-commerce platform. Especially from a customer perspective.

You can tailor product pages, even create service pages (offering a paid service). With the new (not-so-new) community version 2.0 it’s much improved on the older version. Magento is far more heavy weight then perhaps you need though, which is important to bear in mind. Global

franchise company’s like Mothercare use Magento providing their franchises with the correct CMS to use and all its plugins. Samsung, Nike, Harpers Bazar and Olympus are just a few other big hitters using Magento.

Magento was built for e-commerce and e-commerce is its raison d’etre. Fully equipped with a plethora of features where other CMS lack.

Here’s just some of the reasons to use Magento

  • Very customer focused
  • Fast load speeds and high performance, especially compared to the competition
  • Loads of plug-ins for almost every scenario you can imagine
  • If there’s not a plug-in you’ll be able to create customised extensions and work flows
  • Excellent for SEO
  • Multiple stores from one login/back-end making it easier to manage your content
  • It’s Open Source meaning you can modify it to your hearts content

And of course, the downsides:

  • You’ll need a developer, either in-house or via an agency. Naturally there’s costs involved in this
  • It can be clunky to use, not as simple as the other CMS mentioned earlier, but this is to be expected when it can achieve so much more than other CMS

Magento is good, very good. The main questions you need to ask yourself is do you ‘need’ all the bells and whistles a Magento e-commerce platform has to offer?

…and a note on which e-commerce platforms to avoid.

Many people will say Wix or Squarespace are amazing platforms, and in their own way they are. However, When considering which are the best e-commerce platforms for a web shop you want: your website to have the capability of an e-commerce store and the SEO potential for search engines, then they’re just aren’t going to cut it. By all means use them for a ‘brochure website’, but when it comes to e-commerce platforms you need a CMS with more guts.

 

Brand Reputation Management on Amazon and eBay

Brand Reputation Management in Market Places

Keeping control of your brand in e-commerce marketplaces

You can sometimes come across some very poor brand images browsing the internet. You’ve just seen one you can’t get out of your head. It’s small, low resolution, badly lit and …oh no, it certainly doesn’t comply with your brand guidelines! In fact, didn’t you discontinue that particular pack variant in 2009?

Product images for your brand can proliferate on online market places such as Amazon and eBay which are now significant sales channels. Not only can they damage the hard work you’ve put into developing and managing your brand, they can also damage your (and your distributors) SEO due to the massive weight given to online market places trumping your own brands organic results. this type of intense pricing competition drives down your RRP and can in turn devalue your brand. What’s worse, if listings link back to you (I’m looking at you, Ebay), they can generate hundreds of spammy links that further impact on your Search Engine Ranking Positions (SERP’s).

But don’t despair – this is a situation that you can actually control. It just takes a little extra vigilance and a more detailed knowledge of how online market places operate. After all, it’s no more in their interests to have brands badly represented on their platform than it is yours.

First you have to make a strategic choice about your brand reputation management in market places and on the web in general.

Do you want your brand to appear in online marketplaces? After all, in a competitive marketplace, you may feel a presence on these channels is a must for your brand while allowing your distributors to sell here supports their business models.

But just because you’re happy for your brand to appear in online marketplaces doesn’t mean you need to lose control of it – you can manage how your valuable Intellectual Property (IP) – AKA your Brand – is presented by resellers.
Amazon enables brand owners to register IP over their brand. This lets you control all Amazon listings for your products and the barcodes associated with them. You can ensure that multiple listings of differing quality does not emerge for your products, and you can dictate which images and copy are displayed. You still need to be vigilant and put in place regular monitoring to ensure new ASINs are not generating with your brands products/EANs…but at least Amazon will take swift action when you identify any misuse of your IP.

However, on eBay, there is no central listing for each product so it is much more difficult to control listing quality. It is also a less transparent platform in that you cannot find detailed information on sellers and contact them. This is my suggested methodology for controlling re-sellers activity on Ebay:

• Compile a list of known resellers and contact them ask them to enforce brand guidelines. Be ready to provide images and content for each listing in order to support the reseller in meeting your guidelines.
• If retailer doesn’t respond and does not amend listings, report to Ebay’s VeRO programme as infringing your IP.

On the other hand, perhaps you’ve decided that you don’t want your brand to appear on online market places at all! This is an easy situation to deal with as all market places are geared up to help you protect your IP and you can act very quickly. However, in order to maintain good relationships with resellers, you should contact them advising them you’ll be withdrawing your product from listing on specific platforms (eg Amazon, eBay). You should also provide a timescale within which this will take effect.

Once you’re ready to remove your brands from key platforms, you need to submit a formal request through their IP departments. For Amazon, this takes the form of an infringement of IP request listing all ASINs which infringe your IP, supporting this with trademark registration details. For eBay, it takes the form of a submission to the VeRO programme, cataloguing all Ebay listings which infringe your IP, again supporting this with trademark registration details.

Whichever route you choose, it’s vital to put in place monthly monitoring to ensure that new listings featuring your IP are actioned as soon as they appear.

…and don’t forget, while you make these Strategic decisions about how and where your brand appears, these decisions will impact on distributors and resellers. You must ensure wherever possible they understand and comply with your guidelines, preferably before they make a commitment to marketplace selling. For instance, ensure that your terms and conditions to resellers include clauses enabling you to restrict their right to sell on online market places.

Now you should be able to sleep at night, knowing that your brand is safe!

Julia Brooksbank

Relton Associates