The time is now...
Whether you are a veteran business owner or you have a brand new idea for a product, there’s great news…
It’s never been easier to sell your product or service online than it is RIGHT NOW.
The only tough part is deciding between the myriad of eCommerce platforms and software available to you. When I started my first eCommerce company several years ago, deciding how I was going to sell online took up countless hours of research, and even after I had made my decision, I had some anxiety about whether I had chosen unwisely. I knew that making a poor decision early would mean a ton of expense and time spent on transitioning to a more suitable platform - not to mention the potential loss of sales.
At the agency, we get to help clients make these kind of important decisions for their business every day - and help them steer clear of any eCommerce pitfalls that may lie on the road ahead. We have had the opportunity to work on some excellent and user-friendly platforms to help our clients grow their business, and we have also had the displeasure of digging into to some clunky and unintuitive software that eventually we were forced to help our clients transition away form.
Here are some of the insights we have gained from working with the various platforms available. We’ll also let you know our best recommendation and why we picked it.
Let’s dig in!
What makes a great eCommerce platform?
There are a mind-numbing array of features when selecting an eCommerce website builder. Each capitalizes on different strengths. Some focus on design and ease of use while others focus on flexibility. While a lot of the surface details are nice, here are some of the main things we think an internet business platform should be focused on.
- Ease of Use
- Marketing Features
- Sales Features
WooCommerce - an open-source eCommerce platform based on Wordpress with a huge community of plugin and theme developers.
Shopify - a full-featured multi-product eCommerce platform with tons of templates and integrations available to increase functionality.
ClickFunnels - an eCommerce site builder focused on core products, increasing conversion rates, and one-click up-sells with built-in marketing automation and CRM tools.
SquareSpace - an incredibly easy-to-use website builder with a focus on clean and modern design with eCommerce functionality.
WooCommerce is the outlier here. In order to set up and maintain a WooCommerce store, you will have to purchase your own web hosting and install Wordpress. Luckily the Wordpress community is huge and committed to helping each other solve issues. There are loads of plug-ins available, many of which are free, to make sure that your site runs smoothly and has all the functionality your heart desires. The bad news here for stability is that you (or someone on your team) will be responsible for making sure the Wordpress core and all the necessary plug-ins are up-to-date and compatible with each other. Failing to stay on top of this can create everything from site-slowing memory leaks to crushing 500 errors - trust me when I say that is not a pretty sight when you've just launched your big Black Friday promotion.
Conversely, Shopify, Squarespace, and ClickFunnels are all hosted on their respective company’s server. That means that you won’t have to worry about troubleshooting your servers at 3:00 am if/when there is any downtime - and there probably won't be much. These companies have large paying user bases they need to keep happy and development teams devoted to keeping things running smoothly. That means that when 10,00 potential buyers hit your website on the same day, your site is a lot less likely to bite the dust.
Winner(s): Shopify, ClickFunnels, and Squarespace
Luckily, between drag-and-drop page builders and elegant store themes, all of these platforms make it pretty easy to get up and running and build your store. WooCommerce, of course, will be the most complicated to set up initially, since you will be in charge of supplying your own web hosting and installing Wordpress. Once you get into building your store, there are many plug-ins available that help you along the way. Unfortunately, as mentioned before, you will have to make sure these plugins all stay up to date in order to avoid any security or stability issues.
Shopify has some excellent themes for the various pages that your site will require, however, if you should want to customize the look or structure of any of those pages, you will most likely need to rely on a developer. To complicate things, Shopify has their own template language called Liquid that may put off some less advanced developers.
Squarespace and ClickFunnels both have very intuitive drag-and-drop page builders baked right in. This means that setting up your various store pages to look the way you want should be a piece of cake - and you won't even have to get down into the code of your site to set it up!
Winner(s): ClickFunnels and Squarespace
If you’re expecting people to want to buy from your store, you’re going to want to make sure that it looks good. Not only that, you’ll want to ensure that the design of your site instills trust in the buyer and reflects the personality of your brand. Squarespace and Shopify both come with a vast array of free-to-use templates, with even more premium templates for purchase, that will make your store look fantastic. The only issue with these two contenders is that you will likely need some coding skills (or a staff developer) if you want to customize these templates to EXACTLY fit your brand.
In contrast, ClickFunnels has a very specific look to it if you don’t delve into customization of its included templates and modules. Honestly, it’s not a look that everybody will appreciate. That said, the team over at ClickFunnels has done a ton of research into colors and design that encourages your site visitors to convert into paying customers. The good news here is that, for the most part, you do not need to be a coder to customize the look of your ClickFunnels store. Their modules have a lot of “click-and-select” options for tailoring the look to your tastes.
Finally, WooCommerce comes in with the ultimate in flexibility for design. Thanks to it's gigantic user-community, WooCommerce (and Wordpress) have tons of templates available for you to fit your store with. The best ones will probably cost you some money, but thanks to the high supply of great starter templates, most of these are relatively affordable. If you do find a design you like but you want to customize it, get ready to roll up your dev-sleeves. Most WooCommerce themes will require some coding skills to customize. Again, the main benefit here is flexibility.
Sales & Marketing Features
This may seem like an odd thing to include in an eCommerce showdown, but marketing automation should be a HUGE part of your sales process, and some of these platforms include tools to supercharge your marketing efforts, so it is definitely worth mentioning.
Most Notably, ClickFunnels includes (in their Pro Etison account) a wide array of CRM and Marketing features. They have an entire marketing automation toolset that they call Actionetics that empowers you to do everything from scheduling follow-up emails to customers that viewed your product but didn't buy to SMS broadcasts to reach your users with a highly targeted offer. You can also, of course, build lists of your customers and smartly segment them based on their behavior on your website. The most compelling of ClickFunnels' sales features, however, is its built-in affiliate program builder. What does this mean? It means that your store’s biggest fans can actually MAKE MONEY selling your products. This is a huge advantage! If you have an engaging product or service offering you will likely develop some super fans. What better way to keep these people engaged in your brand than actually paying them to share the wealth. Think about your friends that are into doTerra oils, or Rodan and Fields - they are FREAKS about selling these brands that they are in love with. It's fairly obvious how you could leverage this in your business to create some serious growth.
Shopify is another contender that really shows its strengths when it comes to built-in marketing tools. While it doesn't have as wide of a CRM toolkit as ClickFunnels does, Shopify includes some brilliant integrations with Facebook that help you remarket to people that have visited your store and are most likely to buy. You can do some amazing things like having Facebook intelligently show a product from your catalog to a customer that has looked at that product previously. You can also, integrate your Shopify catalog with Facebook messenger to allow your customers to browse, buy, and even pay for your products without ever leaving Facebook!
WooCommerce and Squarespace will both require you to use additional tools and software for your CRM and Marketing Automation Stratgey
Winner(s): ClickFunnels and Shopify
|Squarespace||$26/$40||CRM & Marketing Tools|
|Shopify||$29/$79/$299||CRM & Marketing Tools|
|ClickFunnels||$97/$297||**CRM and Marketing included in Pro|
|WooCommerce||"Free"||Hosting, CRM, Marketing Tools|
What are the Pros and Cons of each platform?
➕Great platform for blog
➖Customization will require coding
➖You'll need to keep it stable
➖Constant updates to manage
➖Need your own web hosting
➕Great platform for blog or portfolio content
➖Difficult to customize
➖No built-In sales or marketing features
➕Excellent Facebook marketing integrations
➖Customization will require coding
➖Using your own payment gateway costs extra
➕Little to no coding needed for customization
➖Built-in look not for everybody
The Champion: It’s a TIE!!!
Don’t be disappointed! Even though our showdown ended in a photo finish, it should be clear to you which platform is the right choice for you - Shopify and ClickFunnels are really built for 2 different types of customers. Shopify works fantastically for stores that have a wide offering of inventory that changes rapidly. Clothing stores, marketplaces, and other types of businesses offering a wide array of products will benefit from the way you can quickly add and elegantly display all of your various SKUs. If you have a core product or service, or a smaller offering of products that are more centralized and you want to be able to optimize the user flow through the journey to purchase, ClickFunnels is the absolute best choice.
ClickFunnels: The best choice for those who are offering a core product or service and want to control the buyer's journey for maximum conversion.
Shopify: The clear winner for stores that have a wide or constantly changing catalog of products.
Who we didn’t mention
Magento - we didn't mention them because they don't seem to have any compelling advantages that balance out the heavy developing efforts and costs that you or your team will have to expend to get your store up and running.
BigCommerce - they arevery similar to Shopify, with some definite differences and even some advantages. It lacks, however, the advanced Facebook integrations and has a much smaller user community which we believe tips the scales hugely in Shopify’s favor.