The rise of the web has allowed countless businesses to reach a wider market. Not only that, it has given rise to countless new online-only businesses. There's no doubt that the web provides a huge opportunity for businesses, but its important for organisations to make the most of that opportunity. In order to sell your products or services online, your website has to be appropriately equipped.
Building an online store from scratch is a mammoth task, and fortunately, an unnecessary one. Today, there is a huge variety of e-commerce software from which to choose. Most e-commerce software will provide businesses with standard functionality such as the ability to showcase products, take payments online and manage customers. Others will provide more sophisticated functionality, such as online marketing features, the ability to manage or integrate with in-store systems and the provision of APIs.
Which e-commerce software is best for your business depends entirely on the specific requirements of your business. If you're an online-only outfit, then POS integration won't be necessary, but you may get a lot of business from overseas, in which case foreign currency support would be a requirement. This article looks at some of the most popular e-commerce software available, providing an overview of each one to help get you started.
Price: From US$29 (around £17, AUD$31) per month
Shopify is perhaps the most well known e-commerce platform available. It was set up in 2006 by founders Tobias Lütke, Daniel Weinand and Scott Lake who, as the story goes, felt that there wasn't a simple-to-use e-commerce platform available and so built their own. The company claims that: "You don't need to have any technical or design experience to easily create a beautiful online store." Today it powers over 100,000 stores, including General Electric, Amnesty International and Tesla Motors.
According to Shopify, it's possible to get one of its online stores up-and-running within minutes. Users can choose from over 100 templates or they can design the look and feel of their store themselves. It accepts a comprehensive range of credit cards, has Level 1 PCI compliance and 128-bit SSL encryption for security, and it offers 24/7 support via phone, instant messaging or email.
The platform provides a full CMS with which users can manage the functionality and layout of their online store. Users can manage their store on-the-go using Shopify's mobile apps and the platform itself is fully responsive, meaning the store will be optimised for visitors regardless of whether they access it from a desktop computer or a mobile device.
Shopify also offers users unlimited hosting for their stores, in-depth analytics of how visitors are using their store, and functionality for marketing such as SEO optimisation, a discount and coupon engine, gift cards and email marketing tools.
Price: From US$35 (around £20, AUD$37) per month
Bigcommerce was established in 2009 and has since grown to host over 50,000 online stores. It promises to "support your business, not just your store." In addition to offering support via phone, instant chat and email, it also offers articles and videos to help with e-commerce, and access to a team of e-commerce experts who can provide advice and guidance about online selling. Their experts are qualified in both Google Analytics and Adwords.
Like Shopify, Bigcommerce provides a variety of templates and themes to help stores look their best and get up-and-running quickly. Alternatively, users can design their own store or use Bigcommerce designers to do so. The platform incorporates a "complete content management system" that it says allows users to run an entire website, rather than just a store.
Users can benefit from detailed and flexible product management, optimised search engine rankings, along with a variety of integrated marketing tools and analytics. Payments can be accepted via 65 pre-integrated gateways and shipping details can be customised as per the business's requirements. The platform offers automated order processing, flexible tax rules depending on where orders are made and shipped, and support for multiple currencies.