What is a hosted or paid ecommerce platform?
Hosted or paid ecommerce platforms are ideal solutions for ecommerce retailers who don’t want to worry about the complexities of selling.
For a nominal monthly fee the platform will support you with any technical issues, future upgrades, storage and security.
The downsides are that there are restrictions to how much you can customise your site, in regards to themes and your checkout process.
However the pros of a hosted site far outweigh the cons and it’s a favourite approach by both established and new retailers.
Here’s our review of the UK’s favourite hosted and paid ecommerce platforms of 2016.
With almost 7,000 stores hosted on its service, Shopify is one of the UK’s biggest emerging platforms in recent years.
Here’s what’s great about Shopify:
- UX – Its ease of use makes it a popular option for beginners. Intuitive step by step wizard (above) means you will have something substantial within the hour
- Themes – A whole host of website designs to get you started. Check out our list of best Shopify themes and how to pick one for your store.
- Payment Gateways – Over 70 gateways available including Paypal, Stripe and Paymill. Including their very own ‘Shopify Payments’ which is powered by Stripe and comes with no transactional fees
- Technical – Does the term SEO scare you? No problem! Shopify take care of all title tags, descriptions, canonical tags (prevents duplicity issues) and also generates a sitemap for your site (allowing to scrape your site easier)
- Support – A setup wizard, FAQs, helpful blog, plus experts on chat 24/7 via chat, email and phone. Fantastic support all round
- Page Creator – Want to create a quick landing page for a Mailchimp or Adword campaign? Shopify allows you to add something within seconds
- App Store – Most extensive app store on the market. A whole host of great add ons for marketing, sales, inventory, customer service and reporting
- Speed – People will only wait up to 4 seconds for a page to load before leaving. Shopify averages at around 2 seconds, so it’s superfast
Prices start at just over £20 a month. In order to sell on your site you would need the ‘Basic’ plan.
Most popular choice for 2016, with 68% of Amazon sellers saying they would use this as their first choice.
Used by over 2,000 stores, BigCommerce is a direct equivalent of Shopify.
Here’s what’s good about it:
- Unlimited – Unlike with other platforms which limit you with product uploads and revenue, Bigcommerce is unlimited so theres less chance of unexpectedly going up a level on your subscription
- UX – The backend is very easy to use and the ability to make adjustments is very easy
- Coupons – You have the ability to offer discounts and gift cards on even the lowest packages. Great for generating those initial sales
- Blogging – Bigcommerce has a built in blog, allowing you to talk about new products or announcements and keep customers in the loop
- HTML access – If you are a techy you have access to the backend of the site so are free to make any changes to the appearance
- Set Up – A very helpful wizard takes you through the setup step by step, to get you up and running as quickly as possible
- Alibaba – A very popular wholesaler with retailers, BigCommerce users can access 300 of Alibaba’s gold suppliers (the good ones basically)
Similar to Shopify, prices start at just over £20 a month on their ‘Standard’ plan.
Admittedly this is not a hosted platform initially, but with the help of Bluehost you can have the same benefits of Shopify and BigCommerce.
- SEO – It’s built on WordPress, which is primarily a content platform. It’s universally accepted by SEO experts as being great for bringing traffic to your site
- Customizable – It’s easy to edit information on pages and provide previews of how pages would look on search engines
- Admin Area – The backend of the website is very intuitive and easy to understand for even the biggest technophobes
- Digital Downloads – Have any ebooks, podcasts or other material you want to sell? WooCommerce supports this
- Familiarity – WordPress is an extremely popular platform for blogging, so a lot of people will be familiar with how it works, so there’s less of a learning curve
- Popularity – It’s the world’s most popular platform and is used by 37% of all stores. Therefore there’s great forum chats, support and most agencies know their way around it
Similar to WooCommerce, Magento’s ‘community’ edition is originally free. However, with the help of Zoey. Essentially Zoey is built on Magento, in which you can use the same powerful features with new modern technologies.
- Multi everything – Multi-currency, multi-language and multi-storefront, multi everything. This is an ideal solution if you sell in a few different countries, or you want to offer a trade account on your website as well as selling to the general public
- Switch across – If you are already using Magento you can be set up with Zoey in just a few clicks
- Segmentation – You can segment your customers in the backend based on varied options such as gender, city or product type. Designed for better product offering
- Modular – Unlike many others, it has the capabilities to grow with your business and is very expandable
- Community – There are a massive amount of developers trained in the language of Magento so they are able to help you with anything
- Unique – Whereas Shopify or Bigcommerce is restricted in its themes, you can build something completely bespoke yourself or with help from a developer
- Apps – If you decide to go through Zoey, you will have a selection of pre-loaded apps that can help improve the performance of your store
Written by Richard Protheroe
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