The most popular eCommerce platforms – what to choose

26.09.2019 Angelika Siczek
hand reaching out of laptop's screen: holds a small shopping cart

If you are starting an e-commerce business, you know that the first step you need to do is to choose a sales platform. Similarly, if you want to migrate an existing store. In both situations, you need to decide on a specific type of platform. Which one to bet on? Each e-commerce solution has its pros and cons. However, if you want to make an informed decision, learn about the most popular types of online trading platforms.

What are the types of eCommerce platforms?

To properly divide the platforms, you need to choose a criterion. It can therefore be assumed that four types of e-commerce solutions are available on the market. Among them you will find SaaS (Software as a Service) platforms, Open-Source platforms, license based platforms and dedicated platforms. However, it is worth remembering that some of the platforms may belong to several categories. For example, the Magento platform has both a cloud version (SaaS) as well as an open source and license-based version.

Each type allows you to manage your products, place them in the catalog, conduct sales and make payments, send messages to customers and offer other functions necessary to operate the store. However, there are significant differences between them. Depending on your business goals, some may meet your requirements, while others may be completely unsuitable for your type of business.

Software as a Service (SaaS)

When choosing a SaaS solution, you can choose from Sky-Shop, Shopify, Shoper, Codarius and IAI-Shop. These types of platforms are a cloud solution. Thanks to this, you don’t have to invest in servers, because the whole platform is maintained in a specially created cloud. Using this tool requires you to pay a periodic subscription. It can be monthly or yearly.

A cloud platform is a convenient and quick solution. Thanks to its immediate efficiency, you can launch your new store and start selling in a short time. In a limited way you can influence the appearance of the platform. You can use several dozen different templates and various modules that you can set on your website.

The big advantage of this solution is the low cost of platform implementation and high availability, which means that the store will be open to users most of the time. In addition, you do not have to invest in companies that will support you in using the platform. You can do it yourself by configuring the appropriate modules.

The disadvantage of this type of platform, however, is the partial limitation of store development. For example, if you need a module specific to your industry, it may be unavailable or impossible to create. It can also be turned off due to low interest in it. In turn, if you create your own platform solution, it becomes available to other users. Thus, it deprives you of competitive advantage. There is also a problem with the limited number of configurations available with external systems.

It also happens that in the case of an error in the functioning of the platform, there are problems in contact with service technicians. Sometimes it turns out that there are just no programmers available or you have to wait in a long queue to solve your problem. In addition, if your company is a large enterprise, you may find that the SaaS platform is not enough for you. In the case of a large number of products sold and a large number of orders placed, the platform may slow down. So you can’t scale it too much. That is why this solution is recommended for small and medium businesses.

Cost of using the SaaS system

SaaS solutions vary in price. You can get small systems from PLN 50 a month. Larger and more scalable platforms can cost up to around PLN 10,000 per month. In addition, additional costs are added for some solutions. For example, for making a card transaction loose for creating an auction on Allegro.

Open-source platforms

Among the open source platforms you will find two solutions. There are systems for selling products and CMS that were used to manage content, but they were transformed and adapted to run e-commerce stores. These types of solutions include Prestashop, Virtuemart, Woocommerce and Magento.

What is the common feature of open source platforms? Thanks to them you can freely modify your store. You have full access to the source code, which allows you to make technical changes and new features visible in the store. You can choose from a huge number of modules for each type of payment, delivery method and sales support tools, and install them yourself. And also adapt the graphic design to your taste and industry demand.

What else makes it worth betting on a license-based platform? It is primarily freedom of configuration, unlimited development and scalability of systems. Thanks to this option, you can constantly develop and improve your store. You have a complete guarantee of all data security. Also by accessing security updates. The platform also provides you with advanced customer segmentation, professional B2B service, implementation of the omnichannel strategy and report generation.

Loading speed and the availability of license-based services are also important. Availability is usually 99.5%. This means that the store may not work for just 4 hours a month. This time, of course, does not include planned technical breaks. However, if you do not like this availability, you can find a solution that will offer you 99.95% or even 99.98%. Then the break in the store’s operation will be 21 or only 8 minutes a month, respectively. This solution prevents losses. Therefore, if you have a large company and cannot afford long-term interruptions in the delivery of your services, you should take advantage of this solution.

However, even such a good solution has its drawbacks. In addition to the high costs of implementing and maintaining the platform, there is the time of configuration. Usually, the implementation lasts from 5 to 9 months and takes place only with the participation of a specialized internet agent or an employed group of programmers.

Dedicated platforms

This is the last type of platforms adopted in the previously assumed criterion of division. Among them are, among others Ideo e-commerce, 2ClickShop and i-Systems. Dedicated platforms can be created from the beginning or based on ready-made CMS solutions. Many of the stores that are created in this way share a common code. Stores can also be created in a second way. The implementation is then entirely dedicated (written from scratch) and based only on the Framework.

These types of e-commerce platforms are relatively expensive and may often require constant system development. From installing security updates through other modules. All this type of work must be carried out by the company that created the entire platform. So no matter how simple change you want to make, you need to get help from programmers. Most often, even if you are not satisfied with the course of cooperation, price and settlement rules, you cannot change the agency. Nobody likes to improve work after someone if they don’t know enough about it. In addition, all changes are very time consuming. Therefore, not every company wants to deal with such activities.

Dedicated platforms cannot be tested and cannot be improved in general, because only one store uses them, which must develop standards for itself. So if irregularities appear in their operation, you need to look for a solution and you cannot use the ready recipe. The same applies to promotional activities. There are no ready options. You have to create them from the very beginning. However, this has a plus. Thanks to such action you will do a promotional action exactly as you need it. Unfortunately, its creation will take a lot of time.

Fortunately, dedicated platforms also have their strengths. Even those that seemed to be flaws at first. These include the fact that they are unique and other platforms do not duplicate their solutions. In addition, if security gaps appear, these data will not be disseminated and you will be able to deal with them without undue publicity. What’s more, thanks to such wide creative possibilities, you can create an e-commerce store that 100% meets your needs and expectations. If you come up with complicated functions, e.g. regarding inventory management, you can create them. So nothing limits your ideas for building a platform.

What should you consider when choosing an eCommerce platform?

It is important that the solution has as many plugins as possible that match the nature of your business. Make a list of the most necessary functions, i.e. what is necessary in your store. They should apply to customers and persons responsible for order processing. Do you need an integration with Allegro (it is a Polish site similar to eBay or Amazon)? Do you want to run a loyalty program? Do you want a good search engine on the site? All these types of parameters must be considered before making your selection. Then check which platform can offer them to you.

The issue of technical support for the platform is also important. If you know that you will not do it yourself, you need to get help from other people. So perform a reaserch of availability of agencies supporting the selected type of platform. Check opinions about them. See how many programmers they have who will be able to quickly take care of your platform and help you in case of sudden problems.

How to make the final decision about choosing a platform? Analyse the type of your business, goals and functions that are most important to you. If you’re just starting out, recalculate your budget. See if it pays to invest big money in the platform at the very beginning, or better to do it more at cost. In turn, if you plan to develop your current business, choose a platform that will allow you to meet the increased customer service.


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