eCommerce tools have been on a steady rise since the dot-com crash in 2000. At that time, success or failure for many companies hinged on how quickly they could adapt to selling online. Writing for Entrepreneur.com, Himanshu Sareen traces forward from this tumultuous beginning to the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2015 report on the amount of dollars now moving through eCommerce sales: 80 billion.
That number won’t be declining any time soon, as consumers get more and more used to the efficiency and convenience provided by shopping on the Internet. The obvious takeaway is that entrepreneurs who want their businesses to thrive need to get into eCommerce and get the best possible ROI out of it. There is now an overwhelming number of eCommerce providers offering their services — Capterra.com lists over 500 companies in this category. To help you identify top-notch platforms, Sareen has shared his expertise in helping organizations apply technology to reach full potential, detailing the strengths and weaknesses of six major players.
Shopify is not the first in Sareen’s listing (his article doesn’t order the six platforms in any certain way), but it might deserve an initial placement. Shopify offers powerful basic features, which any online seller will need and any can use, since the technical aspects are relatively straightforward. But you can customize this basic arrangement using a wide variety of apps. This means you can create the perfect combination of functionality for your company’s unique needs. And as anyone with experience in deploying business software will tell you, customization is always required. The only question about it is whether you can customize the software to fit your business or whether the software expects you to customize your business to match it. Shopify puts control of that decision firmly in your hands. There are free and paid apps for product pages, shopping carts, and robust back-end integrations (including accounting, CRM, ERP modules).
Also on the straightforward, just-getting-started end of the spectrum is Squarespace. Sareen highlights this platform as an excellent choice for entrepreneur’s who are still using their living room as headquarters. Going towards more complexity, Drupal is touted as a content management system (CMS) that is very flexible; however, it requires some dedicated expertise in order to take advantage of everything you’ll be paying for. Similarly, Symphony Commerce is a great alternative for companies that already have some notable momentum going. The pay-as-you-go pricing for this software-as-a-service (SaaS) may make it a good step forward for a growing business. CommerceHub resides in the same area of sophistication and expense, although it specializes in connecting retailers to suppliers, so it may fit some needs better than others.
Topping the complexity spectrum of this list, Magento is the platform Sareen highlights as very powerful, but with a learning curve that can’t be glossed over lightly. This eCommerce tool is likely to work best if your company has some staff who can give dedicated attention to making Magento work for you. It scales well if you’re looking to make a single investment into a software that can grow with you. And the open-source framework makes it easy to add the extensions and custom features that are most important to your business at each stage of growth. These options range from basic bolt-on visitor tracking logs to powerful integrations with full-fledged CRM/ERP suites.
As mentioned, these six platforms are not the only valuable eCommerce systems available. Depending on your company’s situation, it may be possible for you to vet enough vendors that you find another platform which fits your needs exactly. If time is a key consideration though, since every day severed from that growing flow of eCommerce income could be seen as a loss of opportunity, the six options listed by Sareen give a good starting point. His analysis can help as well in gauging exactly what your current needs are.
The benefit of eCommerce tools can be amplified when the sales-side of your business is interwoven holistically. Integrating online shopping to a robust CRM package, with links to inventory, shipping, ERP, and accounting streamlines your company processes. Avoid the time-consuming and ineffective silos of information by planning from the start to unify these tools. aACE 5 is designed to increase your business velocity, integrating with eCommerce, payment processing, sales tax calculation, email marketing, and other systems.
“aACE has also worked well with third-party software we run on the web and integrated with our online store. We are very happy with the product and service we’ve received from the aACE team!” — Sabrina Fabian, The John Birch Society