Given the dominance of online shopping in today’s marketplace, many types of businesses absolutely must have some sort of ecommerce solution. For some time, Amazon has offered an ecommerce platform that allowed retailers to manage their inventory through the Amazon backend, while having their own store. This product is called Amazon Webstore, and has successfully met the needs many business owners have had over the years to keep their businesses running.
In a total surprise to Amazon’s user base, they announced two weeks ago that they are discontinuing the service and closing everything down in July of 2016. This leads a lot of people and businesses in the lurch, reintroducing the need for an ecommerce platform and the burden of finding the solution best for their business. For example, founder and owner of FUNKtional Wearables, Cyndi Blais, was stunned with the sudden announcement, “I decided to move my company’s website over to an Amazon webstore recently. As I have 500 or 600 product variations, this took quite a long time, not to mention costing several thousand dollars. Then with absolutely no warning, the SAME DAY that I completed my move, Amazon announced that their webstore program was going to be shut down. This is frustrating because I trusted that this would be a stable, long term solution and now I’m starting all over again and don’t know what to do.”
In an effort to help business owners in a similar position, we’ve done our homework and found a few solutions, and evaluated which ones may be best for your business type:
Shopify grew to exist out of the founding partners’ own need for an ecommerce solution, starting out as a snowboard gear retailer building an ecommerce store for themselves. As they realized other businesses like theirs needed an ecommerce solution, they decided to build similar platforms for other businesses. Shopify has now grown to become the ecommerce platform for 150,000+ companies.
One of our favorite benefits of Shopify is the simple and stupidly beautiful UX that makes managing the account easy, hassle free, and dare we say a pleasure. Their attention to design bleeds into theme designs, which rank highest by users when compared to other ecommerce platforms. Pricing-wise Shopify is in the middle of the road, starting at $14/month and can go up to as much as $179/month. Another attractive bonus of Shopify is they are one of the only ecommerce platforms that offers the ability to integrate a physical, offline store. This means you can use devices such as iPads as point of sale tools in your physical store, which will synchronize with the online store and ensure products are consistent and inventory levels are updated together. As such, Shopify is a great solution for a business with one or two physical buildings and a moderate inventory, but might not be the solution for large businesses.
As is hinted at obviously in the name, Bigcommerce is a solution designed for larger, high-volume businesses. Serving 55,000 businesses, Bigcommerce compared to Shopify is somewhat easy to use, but doesn’t have nearly the amount of customization features Shopify offers. Despite this, Bigcommerce does come with more tools and functionality out of the box, making this ideal for large businesses with more needs – but may be extraneous for smaller businesses.
One of the features that sets Bigcommerce apart is their focus on your online marketing game and SEO. According to their site, “Every page is designed to rank using tableless themes, optimized titles and URLs, automatic sitemaps.” Understanding that content matters when it comes to visibility and search rankings, built-in to each account is a blog feature as well as an easy to setup platform for gathering customer reviews on products. Today’s search engines couldn’t ask for better content than that. While Bigcommerce is slightly more spendy starting at $29.99/month up to $199.99/month, Bigcommerce is packed with just about any tool you would need for an ecommerce solution – just consider if you need all of it.
The previous two solutions are both hosted sites, which means once you get your store set up, they run the site for you. Magento, on the other hand, is a well established ecommerce solution for the business owner interested in hosting the platform themselves. The real beauty about Magento is the robust suite of features it can offer. While the downside is you may have to hire developers to complete the project, the customization options are limitless. It’s an open source platform, which means you are able to build in any sort of custom functionality, design a totally customized theme, integrate with third party services, you name it. Take all of these possibilities on top of the already more robust feature set than hosted sites and you’ve got a powerful ecommerce solution. But with developers behind you on the project – you can do absolutely anything you want.
Some other ecommerce solutions worth mentioning include WooCommerce, Volusion and Weebly. If you’re just getting started, these are all platforms you will want to at least take a peak at. What we like about WooCommerce is that like Magento, it’s a self-hosted site with WordPress. You cannot use WooCommerce without WordPress as it is a WordPress plugin, but if you do this is an easy solution that gives you more control than hosted sites.
We offer Volusion because it is similar to Shopify, but half the price. The UX is friendly and can be ideal for the same type of client base, but who are watching their wallets a little more closely. The cost savings however come in the significantly fewer template designs and fewer customization options. Finally there’s Weebly – this is the barebones ecommerce solution and as such is dirt cheap. Weebly starts at $0/month with all the ecommerce features they offer for up to 5 pages, giving you a place to get started if this is a side business or you want to see if there’s a market for your product. The most expensive package Weebly offers is $25/month, so really there isn’t much to lose here if you’re testing out your idea.
What do you think? Have you been affected by Amazon’s Webstore shutdown? Are there better ecommerce solutions? Let us know in the comments below.