Which E-Commerce Platform Should I Use?12 min read
Do you spend forever looking at the pros and cons of different shopping cart and e-commerce software? And in the end because you are more confused you then simply jump into the most popular platform at the time?
If so it’s easy to see why, it happens to me more often than I care to admit. With solopreneurs and small businesses when they want to do something, they want to do it now! But making informed decisions that’s right for your business just takes along time.
You need to work out what the functionality you need, is a piece of software or a service you use, easy to use, how expensive is it and what are their competitors?
Gathering all this information takes time consumes energy and can be emotionally draining, why? Because you NEED to do this NOW!
To explain more, recently, I tried a number of e-commerce platforms for my supplement brand that I am producing.
Pros and Cons of Different Shopping Cart Software
From first setting out developing an e-commerce website, I identified the key factors to consider. These concerned how to build the site using responsive design for mobile viewers, then discussing the technology available to use.
I delve into this in more detail here looking at the pros and cons of four popular e-commerce platforms on the market.
The whole process took considerably longer than I would have wished, I got totally bogged down with finding the ultimate e-commerce solution, the solution I was looking for:
Basically, it had to be easy to use, it should integrate with anything and everything, in short I was looking for perfection.
WooCommerce used to be my “go to” e-commerce platform but because of a couple of issues I have had recently I was dubious of using it again and didn’t want to spend ages looking at plugins to communicate with each other. Also previously I simply couldn’t find the plugins that allow the functionality I was after – that ironically are essential for increasing average order cart value.
So, I thought I would use this opportunity to look at other solutions.
E-commerce Contenders: Clickfunnels, Ontraport, Shopify and WooCommerce
There are just too many shopping cart software platforms out there to try them all. Instead I opted to look at four different varieties with Clickfunnels, Ontraport, Shopify and WooCommerce.
These four are incredibly popular for slightly different reasons, which will be identified below when I look into the pros and cons in more detail.
Other e-commerce software you may have heard of and I could have also looked at are; Magento (open sourced more advanced version of WooCommmerce), KonnecktiveCRM, LimeLightCRM, SamCart, Bigcommerce, Volusion etc etc.
ClickFunnels may be considered expensive at $297 per month but it does provide a lot of functionality all in one package. That said, if you’re used to getting your hands into the coding and adapting the solution to your exact needs then you’re be in for some frustration.
I signed up for the Clickfunnels 15-day trial and whilst I was really impressed with the on-boarding and how easy it was to create sales funnels (literally in minutes).
I really like the look of the ClickFunnels checkouts and believe they could create a frictionless purchasing experience. The upsell functionality also looks to be excellent, you can see it’s really well built with regards increasing average order value (AOV).
ClickFunnels is an amazing tool for sales funnels (check out their sales funnel guide) and in my personal opinion you would have to work really hard to find a better solution for digital and service-based sales funnels. If you know of a better solution, please add a comment below and I’ll look at it.
Check out my article on the difference between websites and sales funnels.
However, whilst it is possible to sell physical products through ClickFunnels, the tool doesn’t integrate with some of the services I need directly. To get it working you have to use third party tools such as Zapier and to be fair this isn’t a deal breaker in itself.
When choosing a SaaS product I would always suggest everyone should always consider how difficult it is to migrate to another system.
ClickFunnels has a great reputation because they do the job of producing quick and converting sales funnels really well. They are heavily promoted by affiliates due to their very generous affiliate commissions. Once you sign up with them as a customer and are using the tool, you’re likely to stick with it – meaning it can be an awesome earner for affiliates!
Having said all this, ClickFunnels wasn’t going to work for me and some of the issues I had just added up to more nails in the coffin as I am only using ClickFunnels for the checkout and sales funnel functionality, which I can get MUCH cheaper elsewhere!
Ontraport includes a lot of features at a lower price point than other similar tools, such as Kaep (the new version of Infusionsoft) and includes unlimited email but integration with fulfilment is similar to ClickFunnels.
I signed up for a 15 day trial of Ontraport and because I was so certainly this was the tool for me paid for the first month of subscription after this.
I was a little too keen though as I began to notice some issues that I thought would affect my business.
But first I want to mention the real pros of Ontraport.
The drip email campaign functionality is really stunning and can easily see how powerful Ontraport could be. You can easily set up your complete email marketing campaign in a flow chart and see real time stats for each part of the campaign.
I am seriously thinking of using Ontraport at a later date for this functionality alone!
With Ontraport you can build sales funnels too and the functionality whilst maybe not as strong as ClickFunnels is still pretty good – more than sufficient for most purposes.
What I didn’t like so much were the checkouts though and the way you restrict shipping countries. I basically had to go through each sales page and select the countries I wanted to ship too – this took a fair amount of time considering I had 3 pages initially (just imagine if I had more!).
If you’re selling a digital product or a service then I would have not hesitation to use Ontraport as it’s a powerful CRM that does email marketing REALLY well!
You may be wondering why I haven’t mentioned Shopify one of the most popular e-commerce SaaS products so far!.
I do have a little experience with this software, but I do know that for some of the more advanced add-one you will need to pay for these – and when you add it up £49 here £99 there it all adds up. This is all on top of the fact Shopify charge a transaction fee on top of your merchant fee does put me off..
The cost of Shopify ranges from $29 to $299 per month with a respective transaction fee of 2% to 0.5%. The costs soon add-up especially when you consider you have merchant processing fees as well.
If you don’t take care, your monthly fees can very quickly get out of control.
Having said all this, the big plus point with Shopify is how quickly you can get a good looking mobile responsive store set up using their inbuilt templates. You can do this with next to no design or coding experience and have your e-commerce store up and running. This is also the go-to software for Dropshipping stores as they make it so easy to manage with the relevant add-on installed.
In fact, this is probably much of the reasons Shopify has seen a big increase in their share price in December 2018 they were $119 and now they are $222 if only I had bought into a few years ago!
I digress, if you lack programming and/or design skills and want a more “out of the box” solution, then Shopify is one of the best tools out there.
But remember you need to keep an eye on your monthly costs and for me as I can get my hands dirty with a little coding if need be, Shopify really isn’t what I need.
It’s also worthwhile me pointing out I had another big issue where using Shopify concerned, as my e-commerce checkout software, my merchant gateway couldn’t be natively integrated into Shopify!
For some reason Shopify have stopped integrating Network Merchants Interface (NMI) into their platform. The rather unhelpful feedback from them simply says:
“NMI gateway is no longer supported for use with new Shopify stores.”
So, this wasn’t going to work for me at all!
So, I find myself coming full circle and I am to using WooCommerce again!
Why? Well mostly because of the team at WooCurve who have developed a couple of really cool plugins that do what ClickFunnels does, but for a fraction of the annual cost.
Now I really like ClickFunnels but it comes at a cost of $3,600 per year and as I’ve said before, this project is a Startup, and when you compare $3,600 to WooFunnels and their aerocart plugins at $330 per year there’s a 10 x difference…with very similar functionality.
You would need to have very deep pockets to overlook this difference.
Of course because I am happy coding this is maybe an easier decision for me, because if you’re hands on and have some coding experience then WooCommerce is an excellent tool. You can pretty much tweak any aspect of the template and functionality.
In the past I have been put off with the sheer number of plugins you need to integrate and have WooCommerce work how you want. I believe this is a downside, see the cons section below, in that you need to ensure they are regularly updated, but that is the trade-off for having such a versatile and adaptable solution!
Having delved into the limitations of other platforms, being more hands-on with WooCommerce can be a blessing in disguise as it means I am adapting something again, however I believe it is a sacrifice I am willing to make, as this will give me more option for my business. And ultimately if I want any specific functionality, I could get a skilled WooCommerce programmer to do this for me.
NO OTHER platform is this versatile!
WooCommerce is a free platform that comes with free and paid for plugins, similar to how Shopify’s business model works. The main paid plugins I purchased were for the WooFunnels checkout (AeroCheckout), One Click upsells (Upstroke) and Order Bump.
At last, decent checkouts for WooCommerce!
These are paid annually and range from $79 to $200 per annum for each product, depending on the number of active sites you wish them to be on.
You can make savings by opting for the Bundle package for the Complete Sales Funnel Building System at $299 per annum though.
Compare this to ClickFunnels at $3,600 it’s a no-brainer!
Effective and adaptable sales funnels in WooCommerce!
There are huge number of themes available, both free and paid for. And if you’re comfortable editing these you can pretty much make ANY type of site and checkout you want.
With the likes of Aerocheckout, UpStroke and OrderBump you can replicate the functionality and look of dedicated sale funnel applications like Clickfunnels – all for a fraction of the price.
Now a big downside with WooCommerce is the fact it’s built on the back of WordPress, which means regular updates to plugins to be done. This is essential to prevent unwanted hacks to the WordPress platform!
You can outsource WordPress maintenance though, if you’re not comfortable or don’t wish to be bothered managing this. There are a couple of options here, either hire a developer on a retainer contract or go for a company to manage all this for you.
A dedicated WordPress management service from https://wpcurve.com/ costs from $79 per month.
Lastly, speed can be a real issue when using WordPress. I addressed tips on improving WordPress speed in my article looking at boosting this blogs speed. There are services around that can help with this, I used WPSpeedFix and I’ve reviewed them before, I can’t recommend them enough because site speed is so important to your e-commerce.
With the right help you can get your WordPress /WooCommerce checkout running at less than 2 seconds, which is considered to be the benchmark.
The Bottom Line
An out of the box solution that does it would be awesome, but the fact is unless you’re prepared to have a bespoke solution developed this is not going to happen.
I OFTEN find the more a tool does for you then the less customisable it is, and often requires a degree of fudging to get working how you really want it.
With the recent development of great plugins available for WooCommerce you can get the professional checkout and upsell functionality seen in other more expensive tools for a fraction of the cost.
To sum up, after trying to leave WooCommerce and find a better solution, I find I am using WooCommerce again this time set up on a sub-domain for the checkout with WooFunnel plugins installed for a really cool, and what I hope to be a high converting checkout and upsell funnel.
This approach gives me a highly adaptable e-commerce solution that is not only scalable but will automate payment processing, one-click upsells, fulfilment and email campaigns. I will write a full integration article on how I did this in a later article.