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A close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms

Written by: Monica McCoy

Last week I spoke with Xavi Orduña, a colleague of mine who specialises in the integration of databases for the AB inBev e-comemerce. We discussed the diverse range of online shop platforms on the market at the moment and took a close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms. We analysed which platforms best meet different business needs.

Xavi provided me with a very interesting comparative analysis looking at 4 of the most popular e-commerce platforms on the market. The benchmark analysis focuses on Magento, Prestashop, Woocommerce and Shopify.

I found the analysis to be so interesting, I knew I had to share it with you with Xavi's permission. This comparative analysis is organised according to each platform's complexity and online shop volume, from high to low.

Let's get started.

A close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms

A close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms

Competitors: Magento, Prestashop, Woocommerce y Shopify

A close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms

Magento is a market leading e-commerce platform with a market share of over 24%. It's highly recommended by many experts for its scalability, efficiency and integrations with other platforms, which let you create a complex online shop.

  • It's an efficient and experienced platform: launched in 2008.
  • Magento is an ideal platform for very complex sites and site with integrations to ERP systems (multiple categories, currency, shops, etc).
  • If offers different versions: Enterprise, Enterprise Cloud and Community.
  • Magento 2.0 launched November 2015.
  • Few experts are available in Spain. Costly labour may be required.
  • It offers lots of plugins, although most aren't free.
  • Lots of templates are available.
  • Upgrading to "Premium" is costly.
  • It comes with support by: Varien Inc.
  • Zend Framework is very heavy, making some Magento sites slower. It's necessary to implement a caché system to boost the site's velocity.
  • The reporting capacity is very poor.
  • The API is difficult to use. It's not very well documented.A close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms

Site: Prestashop

Prestashop is a platform with French origins. It's very popular in France and Spain. It includes a variety of carefully reviewed plugins. The system allows basic multilanguage and adapts to different tax rates of each country. Although the platform is free, the plugins and templates are much more costly in comparison to those found on WordPress.

  • It's an experienced platform: launched in 2007.
  • It offers highly customisable plugins for your project's needs.
  • The cost of plugins starts at 60€ and higher.
  • The current version is 1.7. launched this year, 2017.
  • It's backed by PrestaShop SA (French company).
  • It can be used for complex sites (Multicurrency, Multistore, Categories, etc).
  • Many experts argue that the code architecture isn't user friendly.
  • Earlier versions are difficult to handle.
  • The templates aren't easy to modify.
  • In general, the template designs aren't updated.
  • Although it doesn't require experience or know-how to set up the shop (using the templates), personalising the graphic interface does require specific skills.

A close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms
Site: Woocommerce

This platform combines the dexterity of a highly customisable and efficient e-commerce model with an experienced ecosystem of powerful content, WordPress. The contents manager offers modules, extensions and plugins that perform well in any other web project. Woocommerce is very easy to implement for any web developer and easy to optimise for SEO.

  • Woocommerce launched in 2011.
  • It's sufficient for small or medium sized online shops with a few hundred products.
  • Woocommerce is based on the widely-used platform, WordPress.
  • If you already have a site developed in WordPress it's the ideal platform.
  • It offers a broad range of plugins, although the majority aren't free.
  • Woocommerce offers a good combination of sites.
  • It offers multilanguage (applicable with plugins).
  • Easy selection of the type of currency (applicable with plugins).
  • The API is modern and easy to use.
  • It's recommended to use a hosting specifically for WordPress.
  • WordPress is statistically one of the most hacked platforms on the market. It requires constant updates to keep it protected.

A close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms
Site: Shopify

Shopify is the most effective platform for simple, first-time online shops. It's ideal for those who have a physical shop and want to expand their products to sell online. It's also great for those who want to test a prototype shop before investing in a definitive e-commerce. It offers hundreds of complete templates with great designs that transmit a professional and fresh image.

  • SaaS: Software as a service (Pay as you go).
  • Shopify is a non-open source e-commerce platform with faster growth.
  • It offers a good network of experts.
  • It has a very good API.
  • Most of the apps are based on Javascript to improve performance. This makes Shopify sites slower.
  • It only offers a single currency.
  • The extensions are targeted towards the U.S. market.
  • It's categories are not hierarchical.
  • The product listings are very simple (sizes, colours).
  • Shopify offers a simple and agile payment process to facilitate impulse purchases.
  • Most of the apps are paid monthly. This boosts the monthly cost of adding functions.
  • It's very easy to use the template platform, which makes it great for beginners.

5 parameters to compare

Before choosing an e-commerce platform, consider these 5 parameters and questions to make sure you pick the one that will meet your business needs.

  • Technology: What is the database and programming language of the platform?
  • Security: How frequently is the software updated? What's its level of vulnerability?
  • Flexibility: Is it possible to create complex sites? With multiple categories or customised templates?
  • Location: Is it possible to create multiple shops and manage them with only one inventory? Does it allow multiple languages and currencies?
  • Integration: Is it possible to integrate it with other platforms as an ERP? Would it be possible to amplify the platform with plugins? Is it scalable?

A close look at the top 4 e-commerce platforms

Market growth trend
Tendencias de crecimiento de las plataformas de eCommerce mas conocidas

Market share during 2016

cuota de mercdo de plataformas eCommerce 2016
Source: blog.aheadworks

Why should you use a flexible and experienced platform in general?

  • It's always advisable to use an existing software that is widely used.
  • You have access to a network of experts who can transmit their experience to your project.
  • With a good and extensive system and plugin directory you can amplify the platform without losing any updating capacities. It's important to always implement modifications with modules or templates.
  • Complementary tools for existing e-commerce platforms (payment, inventory, mail, ERP) are already integrated with widely used platforms. This means you'll have access to vast documentation.
  • It's only recommended to develop an e-commerce from scratch if the online shop will have a large sales volume or if the market launch date isn't an issue. For these cases the investment is considerably large.

Conclusion of the e-commerce platform comparison

Now that we've detailed everything you need to know about these platforms, this is our conclusion:

  • Don't use Prestashop for new projects, as it's a bit cumbersome and less flexible, which isn't useful if you need to touch the source code.
  • Use Magento for complex e-commerces, allowing 1000 products in diverse categories, as well as integration with ERP.
  • Use Woocommerce for simple subscription sites when you have resources to update the software. If using hosting solutions, such as Prestashop, Magento or Woocommerce, NEVER touch the core. Always implement them as complements.
  • Use Shopify for microsites, tests or very segmented shops.
  • Implement a unification of SKU in all existing sites.

In my opinion, any of the 4 platforms can be used to implement an online shop. Nonetheless, it's best to use one over the other depending on the scope of your project, .

The idea is for this post to share with you the virtues and limitations of each platform to avoid unpleasant surprises and make it easier for you to make the most realistic and accurate decisions for your future online shop.

Thanks again to Xavi for your highly valuable contribution.

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