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Retail Insights

KrisAnne Madaus

Our lives are increasingly spent online, and even more so since COVID-19. As a result of lockdown, more and more consumers have embraced a hybrid model of shopping (ordering online and picking up in store, for example). 

Many shoppers now exclusively fill digital carts: in fact, 62% of Americans make more than one online purchase each month.(1) That means bolstering your ecommerce strategy with a top-notch platform has never been more important. 

The best platforms of today serve multiple functions. Not only are they capable of managing backend business operations like accounting and order management, they also serve to create a smooth experience for the customer, guiding them through the buying journey with ease. 

Online-only retailers might simply require a platform that can host an easy-to-navigate online storefront. But for hybrid retailers, their online presence must be an extension of their physical store, so an ecommerce platform that also fosters a frictionless omnichannel experience is a must.

While there’s no single platform that’s best for every brand, there are a number of strong contenders that just about do it all. We’ve highlighted the best platforms that combine essential commerce and business functionalities, detailing which use cases make the most sense for each so that you can choose the platform that’s right for your company’s needs.

Our picks

Want to get right to it? Here are our favorite platforms to launch, host, and manage your online store.

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce
  • WooCommerce
  • Adobe Commerce
  • Salesforce Commerce Cloud

Shopify: for the small business

Shopify is a Canadian company that’s become one of the fastest-growing SaaS providers in North America. But their reach extends far beyond that: globally, they play host to over 1.75 million merchants.(2)

Why has Shopify become so ubiquitous? Because of its ease of use and built-in support. The software appeals to and works for both the seasoned vet and the new-to-ecommerce user. Even those without experience can learn how to set up shop.

That’s why we love Shopify for small businesses. There is one main drawback to note, but likely won’t have an effect on SMBs — Shopify’s platform is limited to only 100 product variants. So if you’re creating a large store with many products, a different platform might suit you better. 

Pros:

  • Easy to use and set up
  • Fast load time
  • Dropshipping functionality
  • Shopify POS available for brick-and-mortars that want to receive payments via a mobile app
  • Marketing features and 24/7 support

Fan of Shopify’s service but oversee a larger enterprise? There are options for your company, too. Enterprise-level businesses can use Shopify Plus for more advanced configurations, integrations, exclusive apps, and access to a dedicated account manager.

BigCommerce: for any business

BigCommerce is one of those unicorn solutions that works for pretty much any business (and it’s easily integratable with Zip!). That’s all thanks to its intuitive interface and high level of customization. You can tailor your online storefront without needing to be an expert in coding — they’ve got lots of templates to choose from. And if you are more tech-savvy, BigCommerce also flexes to allow users to tweak HTML and CSS.

It’s an easy choice for brick-and-mortars looking to expand operations online, or companies launching an online store for the first time. But BigCommerce’s advanced search engine makes it ideal for larger retail brands, too. It’s a simple, but truly full-service solution with a wide array of applications.

Pros:

  • Simple, intuitive interface
  • High level of customization
  • Search engine tools for larger retail brands

WooCommerce: for the WordPress user, hobbyist, or entrepreneur

WordPress users, listen up! WooCommerce is a simple open-source ecommerce plugin for WordPress that turns any site into an ecommerce storefront. For existing WordPress users, this is a no-brainer. All you need to do is install, add products, and modify your settings. 

Currently WooCommerce is the top plugin and platform (although Shopify is not too far behind). It powers stores around the world and is free to start.(3) You’ll need paid extensions for advanced functionalities like adding payment gateways, social media, one-click selling, and shipping. Here are the functions we love the most.

Pros:

  • Easy to set up for existing WordPress users
  • Highly customizable due to the open-source nature
  • Advanced SEO customizations 

Adobe Commerce: for large enterprise companies

Adobe Commerce is well loved as one of the most-used platforms in the world, but it can be a little complex for first-time users. Despite this, Adobe Commerce delivers value that makes the complexity worth it. For one, it’s sturdy and fast. The platform accommodates up to 500,000 products and can handle 80,000 orders per hour.(4)

The basic version of Adobe Commerce is free, however we don’t recommend it for the non-tech-savvy business user. For larger companies, the enterprise version cost starts at around $22k a year.(5) Why spend so much?

Pros:

  • Reliability and speed
  • Versatile content management for custom features on the fly
  • Mobile-friendly configuration for a smooth UX on mobile
  • Advanced SEO efficiencies
  • Flexible third-party integrations (meaning your online store can easily connect with apps like MailChimp, Zip, and more)
  • Custom permissions for multiple levels of security

Salesforce Commerce Cloud: for the existing Salesforce user, mid-market, or enterprise brand

Salesforce is known for its CRM solutions and always keeps the customer at the center of everything they do (one of the many reasons we love them!). Their cloud-based ecommerce platform, Commerce Cloud, is a part of the Salesforce product suite, so it’s particularly useful if you’re already working with those tools. The platform integrates many of its CRM and marketing services which can help your retail business foster a great customer relationship at every touchpoint. Here are some of their more enviable features.

Pros:

  • Built in CRM and marketing tools
  • Ability to handle high volume of traffic and orders
  • Commerce personalization with artificial intelligence
  • Globalization solutions for international businesses

Choosing the right platform for your brand

Ultimately, you’ll have to decide which platform will go to work for your brand and provide the unification of core business processes and a stellar UX for your customer. 

If you’re planning on using any of our top five picks, it’s worth noting that they’re all fully integratable with Zip. So in addition to adding a solid foundation to your ecommerce business, you can also change your online payments game and supercharge sales by offering our payment flexibility to your customers. Plus, we can always provide custom support for other platforms and unique situations.

Digital transformation and the inclusion of advanced technologies in every facet of our lives has changed retail as we know it, creating both resources and opportunities for business leaders. With the right ecommerce platform, and perhaps with Zip by your side, your company can create a seamless user experience from discovery to checkout.


Footnotes

  1. Finical Holdings

  2. Backlinko

  3. Tooltester.com

  4. Magneto Store Development

  5. Cloudways.com

KrisAnne Madaus
KrisAnne Madaus

KrisAnne Madaus is a NY-based copy and content writer at Zip who has served various clients in the tech, data analytics, and consulting arenas throughout her writing career. She enjoys creating content that helps business leaders foster innovation in retail, ecommerce, and management.