There are myriad variables at the core of every successful web store, from the ability to accept payments online, to the project team, the integration partner selected, and even the initial definition of requirements and project planning. And all these things are just a fraction of the other tiny elements that need to come together to create a great online store.
In the light of the above, selecting the right ecommerce platform is one of the key decisions you'll have to make right at the start. This will influence the overall strategy and acquisition costs, as well as the total cost of ownership. Here at Best Reviews we consider the likes of Shopify and BigCommerce to be among the best commerce platforms, but did you know that there are free ecommerce platforms that are just as powerful as these two solutions?
Open-Source Ecommerce Software
When it comes to selecting ecommerce software, the basic criteria should be:
- Low monthly costs.
- A high level of flexibility and versatility, an important aspect for situations such as when you want to add a feature to the platform.
- Third-party support.
- High level of control.
- Ease of use.
Despite this, the reality is that you will need to compromise to some extent to get the ecommerce platform of your choice, because none of them can meet each of these criteria. They may match some of them, but not all; so what's your best option?
An open-source ecommerce platform will immediately sound attractive because it is a free, so at first glance it appears they will help you keep the costs low. However, the best approach to launching an online store is to always look beyond any initial upside and instead focus on the total cost of ownership.
So, for example, the free license of open-source ecommerce software may sound attractive, but did you count the extra costs of additional software licenses, app servers, and hardware purchases? How about licenses for add-ons that will support growth?
Open-source or self-hosted ecommerce software allows owners to have complete control over their store and gives them unlimited options when developing their online store. the prerequisite for this, however, is knowledge of coding. Without that you'll need to hire a software developer, which is a good start but of course this will add to the total cost of ownership. Store owners have the options of software such as OpenCart or WooCommerce, with which they will enjoy the freedom to move to their preferred hosting service and garner limitless possibilities in terms of features.
With that said, a major drawback of such platforms is that IT costs, server uptime, and security settings are all the responsibility of the business owner. In other words, it will be down to you to make sure that the software is up to date, the plugins are updated, and that you have the right security measures in place to protect your customers. All these ‘minor’ things add up, increasing the total cost of ownership.
Hosted Ecommerce Software
When selecting a hosted ecommerce platform, store owners face a set of costs that vary based on their selected feature set. There are standard costs such as initial build or monthly service fees – the subscription plan – but the best thing about hosted platforms is that they all include, by default, the services that self-hosted store owners need to pay separately for: hosting fees, site maintenance costs, up-to-date software, and proper security measures are all bundled in with the monthly charge.
The promise of hosted or paid ecommerce platforms, therefore, is a lower risk of update-related breakages and security breaches, less time spent on site repair, and a greater focus on making sales. And since there would be no security-related issues, you won’t be losing revenue due to the costs of such a disaster. The total cost of ownership is much more than the costs incurred in the pre-launch stage of an ecommerce venture, so if you are planning an online store then consider the following:
- Platform evaluation.
- Discovery costs.
- Design and build costs.
- Third-party integration costs.
- Third-party app costs.
- SEO costs.
- External team members such as supporting developer and project manager costs.
- Hosting and hardware costs.
- Payment related fees.
- Maintenance retainers and development costs.
- Annual licenses for apps and operating systems.
- Anti-fraud tools.
- Other external member costs.
When selecting an ecommerce platform, take into account all of the above and compare the total cost of ownership figures. This will help you make the best decision to support the growth of your online store.
Best Ecommerce Platforms of 2020