Setting up an online eCommerce store is surprisingly easy. If it’s been some years since you looked into the possibilities, you’ll be really amazed at what’s now achievable, even if your technical knowledge is minimal.
The other thing that will probably surprise you is how inexpensive it is to get started. How inexpensive? Well, in some cases, we’re talking about no more than paying for basic Web hosting from a reliable hosting firm such as HostGator.
In this article, we look specifically at three different eCommerce solutions, all of which work in a slightly different way and have their own set of advantages and disadvantages. We also provide links to our own tutorials for ALL of them, so you can immediately get started with your chosen platform.
The three eCommerce platforms we discuss here are as follows:
- Zen Cart
Let’s get started…
WooCommerce is an open-source eCommerce platform that takes the form of a plug-in that runs on top of the WordPress Content Management System (CMS).
The use of the word “plugin” really doesn’t do WooCommerce sufficient justice. This is a fully-fledged eCommerce system that does a perfect job for plenty of high-profile online stores. It is highly customisable, and interfaces faultlessly with dozens of payment provider systems and delivery and fulfilment platforms.
– WooCommerce is completely free – all you need is some Web space that’s capable of running WordPress.
– WooCommerce stores look clean and modern, and if you use the right theme they work well on mobile devices too.
– Store configuration and product uploading is as simple as using a word processor and an image editor.
– Some technical knowledge is required, although the key skills are easy to learn (tutorial details follow below).
– WordPress sites do require some regular maintenance in order to keep them secure; Updates are fairly frequent.
– Although WooCommerce sites can cost next-to-nothing to launch, you will need to budget for a little more if you wish to invest in premium themes and extensions.
You will find a detailed tutorial on setting up WooCommerce here.
If we had to select one eCommerce option for absolute beginners, it would be Shopify.
Shopify is a completed integrated eCommerce platform. You don’t even need to arrange Web hosting – you simply sign up to Shopify and everything is handled in one place.
Shopify stores are also very attractive, thanks to professionally designed templates. You can access a huge array of additional functionality too, thanks to a wide range of extra extensions.
– You really can start a Shopify store with very limited computer skills.
– Shopify is an ideal compliment to a retail or pop-up store thanks to iPad integration and payment processing.
– Shopify (arguably) allows you to get a store up and running faster than any other platform detailed here.
– Although Shopify’s themes are very well-designed, you do need coding knowledge if you want to tweak their appearance to a serious degree.
– The costs related to running a Shopify store are higher than those for other eCommerce platforms, and on some payment schemes these include a proportion of your sales revenue.
You will find an introductory guide to Shopify here, which includes details of how to sign up.
Zen Cart is the “old school” option amongst this round up of eCommerce platforms.
Zen Cart has been around a while, but it’s fair to say that in some ways it has been left standing by new technical developments. Some routine tasks are surprisingly complex to carry out, making this option one that’s best left for the techies.
– You can get a Zen Cart store going for very little money – it is completely free, and easy to install as part of most Web hosting packages.
– Zen Cart is well set up for use with multiple currencies.
– Despite the theme you choose, all Zen Cart stores look rather similar, and perhaps a little old-fashioned.
– The learning curve for Zen Cart is rather steep.
– Some tasks (such as changing site straplines and basic themes) are surprisingly complex, and involve the use of FTP clients and some basic PHP coding.
You will find an introductory Zen Cart tutorial here.
So, which is the best eCommerce solution? Well, it all depends on your requirements, and how much you are willing to get your hands dirty with technology.
If you want the easiest option, head straight over to Shopify. If you’re willing to dig into HTML code for the sake of saving some money, then take a look at Zen Cart. If you want the perfect happy medium, then WooCommerce is well worth a look.
With that in mind, why not set aside a day and play with them all? It should soon become clear which one is ideal for you.
IMAGE CREDIT: Wikipedia