It is a common belief among many retail shop owners that starting an online store needs a lot of technical knowledge. Although this was true over a decade ago things have undergone a monumental shift over last few years. Starting, building, running and promoting an online store can be done with zero technical expertise. Most often you need not even hire a developer to get the job done. With numerous tools available online you can build an online store from the bottom up from the comfort of your home.
Before you understand how this is possible you must understand that there are 2 types of ecommerce hosting solutions out there.
- Self-hosted ecommerce solutions – These are ecommerce solutions which are hosted your own servers. After you buy your servers you have installed this software solution on to them before you start building a website. The installation and set up of this needs a help of a developer who is well versed with e-commerce technologies. As an e-commerce entrepreneur with zero technical knowledge, you will have to rely on external expertise to install, setup and build the website. Also, if you want to add certain extensions and make improvements you will need help from a techie. Example: Magento, Opencart
- Hosted e-commerce solutions – Hosted e-commerce solutions are when the servers come with software preloaded on it. These hosting solutions are custom built to run their e-commerce software. These solutions are built in a way that anyone with no technical knowledge can start an online store without reading or learn any technical nuances. A full-fledged online store can be started within few clicks. Unlike self-hosted solutions, if you want to expand site functionality you can do so within few clicks without any help from a developer. This option is ideal for e-commerce entrepreneurs who have no technical knowledge. Example: BigCommerce, Volusion, and Shopify
Choosing a hosted e-commerce solution is the way to go if you want to build an online store without any technical knowledge.
BENEFITS OF HOSTED eCOMMERCE PLATFORMS
Bundled Features: In hosted e-commerce platforms, you can get everything you need to build an online store in one package. And it takes a couple of hours or max a day to set up a store. The platforms are available on monthly subscription. So its pocket-friendly too.
Scalability: With eCommerce platforms, you can scale up and scale down your store’s capacity as per your needs. All you need to do is to move from one plan to another.
No Tech Worries: From hosting to servers to your store security, the platforms take care of all. So you don’t have to worry about anything.
The marketplace offers a wide range of choices in e-commerce platforms. You can find platforms well within your budget and perfectly suited for your business needs.
Since an e-commerce platform will be the bedrock of your business, so it is important to pick the right one for your business. And there are many considerations that should be pondered before picking any choice. Read my earlier post: Ultimate Guide: How to choose the best eCommerce platform?
To make your job further easier, let me give you a quick review of 3 of the most popular e-commerce platforms:
Shopify can be used by all types of businesses- from solopreneurs like bloggers & social media sellers to small and big brands. The pricing and the package of features available on the plans are at par with other ecommerce platforms available in the marketplace. However, though there are a few limitations, which I have listed out in the pros and cons below, there’s nothing major which cannot be addressed.
The platform allows you can create an impressive online store easily. You can manage products and inventories with ease. Shopify allows you to also integrate new payment methods like Amazon Pay and Bitcoin in additional to traditional ones like credit cards. You can create a blog and add it to the store. The app store has over 2000 apps to add more power and functionality to your store. A good platform to take care of wide range of business needs.
Shopify allows you to choose from 5 plans:
- Shopify Lite: Priced at $9 per month, it is a light-weight plan that allows you to sell on Facebook and chat with your customers on Messenger. You can add products to your blog or Facebook Page, and accept credit card payments.
- Basic Shopify: This plan is priced at $29 per month. From building a store to adding some good features to manage it effectively, this plan works well for people who are on the way to start a new ecommerce business.
- Shopify: Priced at $70 per month, this plan is best suited for a growing business and offers additional features like online gift cards, abandoned cart recovery, fraud analysis, and advanced reports etc.
- Advanced Shopify: Although not much different from ‘Shopify’ plan discussed above, this plan offers extra capacity and is ideal for entrepreneurs who are looking to scale up their business. The costs for this plan is $299 per month.
- Shopify Plus: An enterprise plan offering advanced features like unlimited bandwidth, good customization capabilities, and stronger security. This plan is more suited to big brands dealing in large volumes.
Shopify Platform Pros and Cons
|Powers 500,000 stores and generates $40bn in sales.||Shopify charges a 0.5% – 2% transaction fee for customers who don’t use Shopify payments|
|Plans start from as low as $9. The 5 different plans cover the need of all businesses starting from bloggers, sole proprietors to big brands.||Most of the reports are available on expensive plans|
|Offers various payment methods including Credit Cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Amazon Pay, and BitCoin.||You can only send 1 reminder email for abandoned cart recovery. You need to download apps for the more sophisticated recovery process.|
|Good collection of theme library with 10 free and 51 paid themes.||You need to take care of image aspect ratio while uploading images. It doesn’t automatically crop images.|
|Shopify Retail POS ($49) to sell not just online but in physical locations like events, tradeshows etc.||Menu creation is little different and needs some learning.|
|In-built blogging engine|
|App Store with around 2000 apps brings extra features and functionalities|
|Dropshipping apps with an exclusive partnership with Oberlo|
|VAT MOSS (VAT Mini One Stop Shop) compliant|
|24/7 support by email, live chat or phone|
It offers a robust ecommerce platform that can give leading names in the marketplace a run for their money. The BigCommerce ecommerce platform caters to the needs of all ecommerce entrepreneurs and provides a good package of features in each plan. However, each plan has a sales threshold which means you have to upgrade to a bigger plan when you cross the threshold. But, a good abandoned cart recovery makes up for the threshold.
In BigCommerce, you can choose from 4 plans:
- Standard: This plan is priced at $29.95 per month. Here, you get good, beautiful themes to build a store, support for Point of Sale (POS), single page checkout feature, gift cards and integration with Amazon, eBay and Google Shopping etc.
- Plus: The Plus plan offers additional features like abandoned cart recovery, customer groups, and segmentation to reward loyal shoppers in addition to features available in ‘Standard’ plan. This plan will cost you $79.95 per month.
- Pro: Priced at $249.95, Pro is a comprehensive plan that offers features like Google customer reviews, product filtering to help shoppers quickly find products and custom SSL.
- Enterprise: This plan is meant for big businesses who want high scalability, unlimited bandwidth, and robust security.
BigCommerce Platform Pros & Cons
|User-friendly platform with an intuitive interface.||Annual sales threshold for each plan. If you exceed that, you will need to upgrade to next higher plan.|
|Easy to build and manage store without any coding knowledge.||No mobile app for store management.|
|No transaction fees (other platforms charge between 1 to 3%)||Manual VAT MOSS process|
|Built-in product review functionality.||Entry level plan is expensive (but offers a lot more features than competitors)|
|Robust abandoned cart recovery features|
|Flexibility to include a lot of different product variants.|
|Over 40 pre-integrated payment gateways serving 100+ countries and over 250 local payment methods|
|Dropshipping support with 6 businesses|
|No compulsion to use a proprietary POS system; you can connect to the POS software of Square, Shopkeep, Springboard, and Hike.|
|450+ apps on the app store|
|Strong analytics and reporting|
The hosted platform is meant for entrepreneurs who want a multitude of features at low cost. It offers a range of good features like email marketing, inventory management, and CRM integration, etc., but there are limitations in bandwidth restriction, additional fees for SSL and no inbuilt blog engine.
Volusion offers 4 plans-
- Mini- $15/mo
- Plus- $35/mo
- Pro- &75
- Premium- $135
All plans have the following features included-
- Free, Responsive Themes
- Powerful Site Editing Tools
- Drag and Drop Tools
- Add Products in a Flash
- Securely Accept Payments
- Easily Manage Inventory
- Built-in SEO Tools
- Social Media Integrations
- Powerful Reporting
- 24/7 Expert Support
- Helpful Resources
- In-House Services
But the plans differ from each other in offerings. So depending on the plan you choose, you will get additional features like-
Volusion Pros and Cons
|Low cost plans||Bandwidth restriction on plans|
|Powerful Product and Inventory Management||Limited design themes|
|Good payment options||Coding skills required to customize themes|
|POS support||SQL understanding required to create custom reports|
|Mobile app for store management||Additional costs on SSL certification, PCI, and Termination|
|CRM integration||No inbuilt blogging engine|
|Email marketing support|
|App store with 66 apps|
|Solid Knowledge base support to help you at every step of the store building and management|
WHAT TO DO NEXT?
The above reviews are good to quickly know the offerings of 3 popular hosted platforms but I would suggest you not to make your decision entirely on these reviews or the information available on their website. The proof of the pudding is in its eating. Isn’t it? All these platforms offer a free trial wherein you can build a store and try it for the trial period. So, opt for a free trial, play around with its various features and see if you can really build and manage a store without any technical assistance. If yes then go for it.