Best E-commerce Software for Online Market Places

Shopping cart software is everywhere and I’ve worked with a few of them over the years. Which one is right for you, though? That’s the million dollar question.

e-commerce software comes in two flavors self-hosted, meaning you host it on your own web-server/hosting account. The alternative is you use a hosted solution, where the service provider hosts your site files and data for you. There’s both pros and cons for each approach and I’m not necessarily going to examine the merits of these solutions. Instead I want to talk about what’s available and what good they are for you.

Hosted Shopping Cart Solutions

Again, a hosted solution is a solution where the technical aspects are managed by the service provider.

Pros

  • The technical work is taken out of your hands so you can focus on marketing and selling your product
  • Generally user-friendly or easier to use, since the solution isn’t as complex as a self-hosted shopping cart solution
  • You typically don’t have to worry about knowing code at all. You simply need to enter your products and details into the provided interface

Cons

  • Built to function a certain way and you may not prefer that
  • Limited functionality. You often times cannot extend the functionality of your chosen solution, you’re stuck
  • At the whim of the service provider

Shopify

Among the more popular hosted offerings; they offer good support and a lot of the common functions one would expect from an e-commerce platform.

Why you might consider using Shopify

  • An example of one the sites using Shopify: http://www.abookapart.com/
  • They have a great number of themes to use for your site and they’re pretty good-looking, too.
  • Most all (if not all ) themes they offer are responsive/mobile-friendly. Woot
  • You can further customize your store using CSS or HTML just fine.
  • 24/7 Support is available.

Reasons why you should look away from Shopify

  • It’s built to work a certain way and you may not wish to work that way
  • Unless you’re on their Plus plan, you can expect to pay a per-transaction fee up to 2%. Lame.
  • 3rd party app dependencies. To add functionality to Shopify you often need to use apps. These are built and supported by third parties and so have various levels of quality and cost. One you start installing a few apps your implementation can be tricky and you may find you can’t customize the look and feel of the apps you choose.

BigCommerce

My mom said if I can’t say anything nice…

Why you might consider using BigCommerce

  • No transaction fees
  • Simple product entry tools
  • Simple marketing setup for list integrations
  • Lots of templates to choose from
  • 24/7 Support is available.

Reasons why you should look away from BigCommerce

I did a pretty in-depth write-up of why I don’t like BigCommerce, so below is the tl;dr summary.

  • They don’t backup your data. That’s on you to do… But how? I dunno, download the files via ftp. Database backup? Forget about it!
  • Pain in the ass to develop for. You have to develop live, over WebDav!!!
  • Support cannot help with customization questions, naturally, so the lack of guidance can be a pain

Gumroad

This is an option you don’t hear too much about. I purchased a Sublime Text 2 e-book a couple of years ago and paid through this service. It’s great for creatives who are selling digital downloads, not hard goods.

Why you might consider using Gumroad

  • If you’re a creative selling digital downloads
  • You want something ultra simple and nearly hassle-free
  • Slick checkout process that you can embed in a modal popup for seamless checkout processing
  • Fast support

Reasons why you should look away from Gumroad

  • Not ideal for physical products
  • You can’t sell virtual products such as coaching calls or consultations etc. For more information click here.
  • Limited customization of checkout process.

Cart66

Cart66 is an interesting option because it comes in 2 flavors, self-hosted and cloud. For this entry, I’m going to talk about the cloud offering

Why you might consider using Cart66

  • You can sell subscriptions, physical and digital products
  • Robust feature set
  • Built on the powerful and popular WordPress CMS platform
  • Cart66 handles the tech and the SSL setup for you.
  • You can use any WordPress theme

Reasons why you should look away from Cart66

  • Not as many extensions as something like WooCommerce
  • No 24/7 support
  • Templating requires a bit of hands-on skill if not a cart66-specific theme to get product pages looking the way you want.

Self-Hosted Shopping Carts

Self-hosted options are aplenty and that’s a good thing. You can get the most popular options free of charge and then simply pay for the functionality you need.

Pros

  • Highly customizable
  • Community and premium support channels may exist
  • If you are missing functionality there’s probably an extension for it.

Cons

  • You are responsible for making sure your e-commerce site is running. That means backups, malware detection/fixing etc
  • Requires some knowledge of development and server management
  • Can take a lot more time to set up.

WooCommerce

This is the standard-bearer of WordPress e-commerce shopping carts. Just about any functionality can be achieved via the huge library of extensions available.

Why you might consider using WooCommerce

  • You can sell subscriptions, physical and digital products
  • Robust feature set out of the box
  • A shit-ton of extensions are available for purchase
  • It’s free
  • You can use any WordPress theme
  • Highly customizable
  • Huge community around it

Reasons why you should look away from WooCommerce

  • It’s not easy to use
  • No 24/7 support
  • Lots of templates to alter for customization as your theme may not be styled for use with WooCommerce
  • Can be buggy and break with other extensions
  • Major release updates often have changes introduced that can break your custom templating. This is common.

Magento Community Edition

Magento is the juggernaut of Ecommerce suites available.

Why you might consider using Magento CE

  • Open Source and Free
  • Robust feature set
  • Highly customizable
  • Setup multiple stores
  • Community support and docs are extensive

Reasons why you should look away from Magento CE

  • No support, you must use community support for help and there are no guarantees you’ll get your issue resolved
  • Resource hog, can outgrow shared hosting platforms fairly quickly
  • No bulk inventory management tools
  • No PCI compliance out of the box
  • Hard to use

Easy Digital Downloads

EDD, as it is more commonly known is a plugin that can be used with WordPress, like WooCommerce. It’s among the most widely used options and has a huge library of extensions and is made by one of the more beloved developers within the community, Pippin Williamson.

Why you might consider using EDD

  • Lightweight
  • Great for digital downloads, but can do some physical product sales, too, with extensions
  • Highly customizable
  • Large community
  • Lots of extensions to choose from
  • Not terribly hard to use

Reasons why you should look away from EDD

  • Support ranges from free to paid, up to $299 per year
  • Resource hog, can outgrow shared hosting platforms fairly quickly
  • Interface may seem clunky

X-Cart

A self-hosted php-driven solution for Ecommerce shopping carts. Powerful and contains many great features out of the box for selling a variety of products from virtual/services products, to hard goods and more.

Why you might consider using Magento CE

  • Supports multiple currencies and languages out of the box
  • Highly customizable
  • Newsletter integrations built-in
  • PCI Compliant
  • Mobile ready

Reasons why you should look away from Magento CE

  • Support is off-shore (Russia) which poses time zone challenges depending on where you are in the world.
  • Buggy and updates can break the site completely
  • Interface may seem clunky and not user-friendly

These are but a few of the most well-known options and all of them have their upsides and downsides. I think it really matters what it is that you’re selling. Always opt for a simple solution. Giving up functionality in favor of simplicity is something that will pay off in the long run as you save sanity over having too much freedom to customize at will, that’s my opinion at least.

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