Choosing an ecommerce platform for your business? Let’s compare two of the top contenders.
We’ve been taking a closer look at top e-commerce platforms lately, mostly comparing the industry leaders against out platform of choice, WooCommerce run on WordPress. If you’re interested in some of our previous comparisons, they are:
Our purpose in writing this series is to examine some of the best solutions on the market for businesses that want to grow their ecommerce store. If you’re just getting started in the ecommerce space, you have a lot of decisions to make, and usually not a lot of budget to work with. If that sounds like you, our first post on Shopify should help you understand your options.
But if you’re an established business, your concerns are a little different. You do have some budget to work with, and you want to invest it in your business. You’re no longer interested in the cheapest solution that will help you keep startup costs low while you get your business off the ground. Instead, you want the solution that will let you expand comfortably.
Now, we’ll start by saying that, if you already a website, that will affect your options. More succinctly: if you have a WordPress site (and odds are good you do, since they power 25% of the web), spare yourself the headache and install WooCommerce. It’s going to be the most straightforward solution, and there are no good reasons to switch.
On the other hand, if you aren’t on WordPress, then now might be the time to make the move. And to discuss why, we’ll have to return to one of the recurring themes on this blog: hosted vs. self-hosted websites.
The hosted vs. self-hosted debate returns.
BigCommerce is a hosted ecommerce platform. What this means is that, for a monthly fee, they will handle most of the back-end infrastructure costs, freeing you to more quickly launch your business. As a hosted SAAS e-commerce platform, BigCommerce will offer you:
- An out-of-the-box ecommerce store.
- A wide range of themes to customize.
- Plenty of plugins from popular apps.
- Dedicated customer services and support.
- Shipping options and payment providers.
The monthly subscription cost for these services begins at $29.95 (+standard credit card transaction fees), and will automatically scale to $249.95/mo. as you bring in more businesses. They manage a lot of the technical aspects and are there to give you support when you need it, but the cost of all this management help doesn’t just come from your monthly subscription fee. You also sign over control of some of your business’ key infrastructure. And while BigCommerce offers a lot more customizability than most hosted platforms, there will still be things it can’t do.
Meanwhile, WooCommerce running on WordPress puts more of the control in your hands. But remember: you have a budget! And with that budget, you’re probably going to find some developers to work with. And if you’re working with developers, the technicalities of hosting and management aren’t things you, personally, have to manage anyway. Instead, you will want a solution that gives you the most options for custom solutions. That’s what WooCommerce +Wordpress offer:
- An open-source plugin with full customizability.
- A library of other, compatible plugins to extend your e-commerce features.
- The power to custom-build any features you want for your store.
- The ability to custom-develop the front-end of your store.
- Plenty of shipping and payment options.
- The most powerful, user-friendly CMS in the world.
What about BigCommerce with WordPress?
Apart from the issue of control, another critical advantage WooCommerce offers which BigCommerce can’t match lies in the content management capabilities offered by WordPress. BigCommerce offers a basic blog, but if you want custom content types, advanced blogging features, or a community forum, BigCommerce can’t help you.
Recently, BigCommerce has begun to offer a new solution as a way of competing with the hold WooCommerce has on the market. They’re now launching a developer beta for using BigCommerce as a SAAS plugin for WordPress. It’s an interesting gamble.
By making this move, they seem to acknowledge that WordPress is the uncontested winner when it comes to providing a powerful CMS. Their attitude on this front is, presumably: if you can’t beat them, join them. Fair enough. According to their own marketing, they want to combine strengths, so that WordPress handles the content, and they handle the commerce (inventory, order management, checkout, product and customer data, etc.).
Unfortunately, it’s not yet clear how this solution will work. In the past, trying to use BigCommerce meant splitting your hosting. Because BigCommerce is a hosted platform, you couldn’t host it on the same subdomain as your main WordPress site. As a result, you would have your store hosted on something like “shop.mybusiness.com,” but your main website would be “www.mybusiness.com.”
Since one of the benefits BigCommerce is trying to push is that their integration will relieve the burden on your server resources, it doesn’t look like this problem is going away.
More importantly, it’s unclear why this would be a better solution than just using WooCommerce, which is already a powerful solution with a large support base and a wide array of ecommerce plugins that can accomplish any need your business might have.
Do you want to future-proof your business? Best stick with a self-hosted solution.
It is somewhat ironic that BigCommerce is best suited for small e-commerce businesses, but that’s probably always going to be the case for hosted websites. BigCommerce is certainly one of the best hosted solutions on the market. Unfortunately, there’s only so much control and transparency you can give up before the restrictions begin to feel suffocating.
At the end of the day, the solution you want to choose for your business is the one that will leave you in the best position for future growth. Unquestionably, that solution is WooCommerce. With full control over your website and your data, and aided by the CMS capabilities of WordPress and its wide support network of qualified developers and plugins, there is nothing holding your business back from future growth.