The holiday season is upon us once again, and for many cultures the act of exchanging gifts is part of the holiday tradition. The year end holiday season accounts for more than 20 percent of yearly sales for many retailers, making your online presence more important than ever.
Although brick and mortar stores are alive and well and still account for a substantial amount of retail revenue, internet sales take a bigger bite out of that number every year. Online sales grew by 15% in 2017 alone, and eCommerce is projected to see considerable growth in the coming years.
Whether you have a brick and mortar retail store or you only want to sell online, a well-designed, easy to navigate, responsive website is a critical part of any business. Your website is no longer just a placeholder where your customers can find contact info or store hours. More than ever, a solid sales platform and good SEO (search engine optimization) plan is “how things get done.”
However, there are lots of options available and it can be challenging to select a product that fits your business needs. Three of the biggest online storefronts are Shopify, WooCommerce, and SquareSpace eCommerce. Each product is an established, reliable platform but each has its pros and cons. There are other platforms available as well, such as Magento and Wix, but these are the Big Three.
Shopify is a hosted eCommerce platform. In other words, your shoppers basically leave your site and shop in Shopify’s environment, although they don’t know it. Shopify is a subscription based service, meaning you pay a fee to use their platform, almost like renting a retail space in a mall, except your shoppers never see the rest of the mall.
Shopify’s advantages are its simplicity and its subscription based, all-in-one approach in providing an online storefront. For people who who wish to manage their own products, sales, and reporting once the site is running, Shopify is a great choice.
Shopify’s biggest potential drawbacks are their limited customization options and, depending on your choice of options, their subscriptions costs.
WooCommerce is an add-on feature for websites based on WordPress.org. You can think of it as adding a storefront to a building you already own. Their retail sales environment can be added to any WordPress site during the build stages or after the website is complete. Once WooCommerce is installed, you have control over the storefronts design, appearance, product offerings, and almost anything else.
Since you have control over the WooCommerce code, you can even hire someone to customize it beyond the built in options. You can also extend the built-in WooCommerce features with a variety of free or paid add-on options.
The advantages to WooCommerce are its customization options and lack of subscriptions or fees unless you purchase add-on features. If you are planning a more robust, complex storefront, WooCommerce might be the best choice.
WooCommerce does have its disadvantages of course. Its flexibility is also a drawback – it is a little more challenging for the average user to manage, although not impossible. If you have someone on your team with a little more tech abilities WooCommerce is a great choice. Otherwise, it can be a little overwhelming.
With SquareSpace, you get a compromise that sort of falls between WooCommerce and Shopify. SquareSpace offers a hosted website approach so again, you’re renting space in someone else’s mall. However, SquareSpace allows you to build your website using their templated environment, and then add their own eCommerce option into it. So, you’re renting space in someone else’s building, and then putting a retail storefront in that part of that space.
Of course, there are pros and cons. With SquareSpace, you can have a feature-rich website created without the hosting responsibilities for a monthly subscription. Your costs are based on the options you choose so there is overhead. However, you don’t have the website hosting responsibilities you would with WordPress. Your subscription covers everything.
Although SquareSpace is not purely an eCommerce platform like Shopify, the option to add a retail storefront to it exists the same way WooCommerce can be added to WordPress. However, that storefront will not be as powerful or customizable as WooCommerce, so someone with bigger ambitions for their retail environment may want to look elsewhere.
Shopify gives you an all-in-one, subscription based storefront for a monthly fee. That fee is based on the options you choose.
WooCommerce is an add-on feature for existing websites built on WordPress. It’s powerful and customizable, but not as user-friendly.
SquareSpace is a little of both, providing the ability to create a website and add a storefront for a monthly fee. It is simpler to use, but you sacrifice some features and customizations on both the website and the storefront.
Hope that helps you understand which options would best fit with your online retail ambitions. Please contact us here at GreenCup for all of your website and storefront needs.