Which CMS for ecommerce is best suited to your business? Find out

The choice of CMS is decisive for an online store

A CMS for ecommerce is a software that allows you to publish, modify and change the textual and graphic contents of the site, as well as to constantly monitor the performance of the online store.

One of the most critical moments for those who decide to open an online store concerns the choice of the Content Management System (CMS).

It is starting from the platform on which the ecommerce is realized that multiple factors closely related to the success of the business depend.

Let’s try to imagine relying on a CMS that does not guarantee good performance to our site: considering that on average the user does not wait more than 3 seconds of loading a page, taking more time than this could be harmful: marketing efforts would be canceled because users would arrive at the site but would leave after a while, impatient.

Still the difficulty in integrating new features and extensions does not allow the site to be scalable and to adapt perfectly to the needs that ecommerce can manifest in the single period. The choice of the CMS is also essential to avoid having, in a very short time, an “obsolete” online store.

For over 10 years, NetStrategy has been designing and developing ecommerce on different platforms, depending on the needs of the individual customer. In this article we will share our experience, showing the main features, advantages and disadvantages of Magento, PrestaShop, Shopify, and WooCommerce. In this way you will have a clear idea of what you can and cannot do with each of them and you can opt for the software that seems most suitable for starting and growing your online business.

Content at a glance:

Types of ecommerce platforms

Simultaneously with the rise of online stores, multiple types of ecommerce platforms have arisen, which have very different characteristics from each other. This is why it is good to know how it works in depth before making the mistake of hastily choosing one rather than another.

There are 2 factors that you need to keep in mind.

The first of these concerns the difference between self-hosted platform and hosted platform.

Self-hosted platforms:Take advantage of owned hosting and a first-person purchased domain. In practice, in addition to the cost of the platform (if any), you will also have to take into account that of the domain and hosting service, which are generally paid once a year.

Hosted platforms:Open your online store by leveraging someone else’s server. In this case you do not need to pay for any hosting service, but you can have a fixed fee to pay monthly to the software that hosts your ecommerce.

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What factors to consider when choosing the CMS for ecommerce?

#1 How much budget do you have available?

Although ecommerce statistics indicate that, in recent years, online stores are a constantly growing sector, opening an ecommerce still means investing.

Even when choosing the ideal platform, it is essential to ask yourself: how much budget do I have available for this project?

The moment you start the development of your ecommerce, you have to take into account a large number of costs. For example:

  • Purchase, installation, configuration of the CMS;
  • Customization of a theme or a template;
  • Integration of new features (extensions or plugins);
  • Updates;
  • Site hosting (if you opt for a “self-hosted” platform);
  • Integration with POS, if you want to allow this payment method as well.

In addition to all these features, which can also heavily affect the initial investment for your business, it is good to consider allocating a part of the budget to
web marketing strategies
.

They will be the fuel of your business: without a good dose of promotion, you will hardly be able to find your space in the jungle of the web.

To conclude, given the goal of choosing the best ecommerce CMS for you, massively take into account the budget you have available. If the latter is not high, it would be better to lean towards solutions without a license (for example, Magento Enterprise) and prefer free platforms.

In addition to this, it is good to also consider the cost of developing the online store.

#2 What are your IT skills?

There are more or less complex CMS, also based on the level of customization you want to achieve with your ecommerce: a completely tailor-made online store requires in most cases to work on CSS code, HTML and so on.

For this, it could presuppose the support of a web developer,with a consequent increase in investment costs.

On the other hand, you can also find platforms that are easier to use: they are born specifically for those who do not have skills in the IT field or have only basic ones. Normally, these platforms guarantee aconstant assistanceservice, precisely because those who use them are not experts in the field and may frequently have doubts or questions.

If, therefore, you have a good programmer, you can lean towards a platform that grants you integrations and customizations without requiring a monthly fee, such as Magento and PrestaShop. If, on the other hand, you want to make do and work on your online store independently, choosing a CMS like Shopify will be the best solution for you.

#3 How much do you want to customize your ecommerce?

In addition to the presence – or not – of a programmer in the company, another factor to consider is that of customization. It is essential to know from the beginning the characteristics that the site you are going to create must possess, to understand which platform can really do for you.

Let’s take a couple of examples. You are starting a start-up that sells patented products online, which the public does not yet know. In this sense, in addition to paying attention to the launch phase of the product on the market, you will probably opt for a structure that provides only one language.

Only later, when you can see that your target audience appreciates the product, you can expand your online store even outside the national borders, starting a multilingual site.

The situation is different for a company already started offline. If we are Nike and decide to sell our shoes online, it will be easier for us to find new buyers, because the brand is already known and appreciated all over the world. Precisely to avoid losing potential foreign customers, we will design a multilingual sitefrom the beginning.

Knowing immediately the needs of our business allows us to define the characteristics that the site must possess to satisfy as much as possible not only our needs, but also and above all those of our target audience(Buyer Persona).

In this way we can improve the User Experience,i.e. the user experience in contact with our company, and consequently increase sales.

As for the choice of CMS, if you want a high level of customization, you will have to take into account open-source platforms, which allow you to integrate and expand your ecommerce with multiple features. If, on the other hand, from a CMS you ask for basic functions and little more, hosted platforms such as Shopify can be the best solution for your needs.

Magento: the scalable platform

The company Varien launched Magento in March 2008: it is a self-hosted open source platform, created specifically for the creation of ecommerce characterized by a high level of customization.

Thanks to these peculiarities, Magento can now boast of covering a good slice of the market (almost 20%) of ecommerce platforms, as shown by the following graph:

Advantages

It is scalable and flexible. The real strength of Magento is to adapt perfectly to the needs of the single moment of ecommerce: it is an open source platform, which can be slightly modified compared to the original project or integrated more heavily with specific plugins and extensions. It will grow with you;

Increase the efficiency of the online store. A Magento panel is completely dedicated to monitoring your company’s performance on the web, as well as all administration options. In this way you can easily access the data you need to understand in which direction to direct your marketing efforts and thus achieve an increase in sales;

It is fully customizable. Magento allows you to customize every aspect of your online store: the graphic design of the site, the backend interface, the reference template. This allows you to have a web portal that works exactly as you like and leads you to a more effective management of ecommerce.

Detriments

It is a complex platform. If from a CMS for your ecommerce you require intuitiveness and ease of management on the backend side, Magento can not represent the right solution for you: precisely because it gives the possibility to customize your online store in every detail, it requires the constant support of a web developer;

The real costs. In theory, Magento is free: just install it to be able to take advantage of it. In fact, you also need to understand the costs of hosting and domain, as well as all those fundamental extensions to make your ecommerce work at its best, which can also reach high prices.

What kind of company does Magento suit?

To date, this CMS is used by companies of the likes of Coca Cola. This, in addition to indicating how much Magento can affect the performance of the business, also indicates the need to have astructured company behind it.

The complexity of the platform makes it essential to have a web developer who works closely with the company. Moreover, only in rare cases can an ecommerce afford to immediately support the costs that Magento requires. It is more likely that to use it is a company already started in the offline market or an already developed ecommerce, which can provide for a migration (which, by the way, is free).

The strengths of Magento – its scalability in the first place – are also perfectly suited to a type of company that has multiple locations: thanks to a complete management panel, it is possible to view the performance of the single branch, evaluating which is performing and which, instead, must be subject to change in order to sell more.

Prestashop: the low-cost platform

PrestaShop was founded in 2007 as an open source platform. It brings with it an extraordinary revolution: for the first time on the market, there is a CMS designed solely to develop and optimally manage an ecommerce. Precisely this feature, contextual to the rise of ecommerce, has allowed PrestaShop to become one of the most used platforms on the market.

Advantages

It is a low-cost platform. You will not have to incur any monthly subscription costs to keep your ecommerce site open, except those related to the domain and hosting (being a self-hosted platform). The main plugins are free or have extremely low costs, within the reach of any budget;

It has a simple backend structure. With PrestaShop you will not encounter particular difficulties in managing your ecommerce: the optimal subdivision by products, categories, modules, payments, design and much more makes backend activities intuitive and easy to use even for those who are less accustomed to programming;

It is customizable. In this case, the ease of use does not clash with the possibility of making your ecommerce exactly as you want it. Being an open source platform, you have the option to more or less heavily modify your online store at any time.

Detriments

Limited scalability. This ecommerce platform is the ideal solution for those businesses that do not expect immediate growth. In the case of large businesses, which need to evolve at the speed of light, it is preferable to use more complex CMS (for example, Magento);

Need to apply an SEO strategy. One of the main difficulties with SEO is not paying much attention to search engine optimization. For example, many complain about the presence of problems related to the use of so-called “URL Friendly”, which could also cause errors in the redirection of pages (404), the occurrence of problems in the product catalog.

What kind of company is Prestashop suitable for?

PrestaShop represents the ecommerce CMS suitable for small and medium-sized companies, those that do not have as a priority the scalability and flexibility of the platform, but an intuitive and intelligent use of the same.

Companies can here constantly monitor their sales performance, quickly manage every aspect of ecommerce growth (for example, the creation of discounts or promotions, such as free shipping) and modify or implement some features.

All without sacrificing customization: thanks to the support – not continuous, however – of a web developer it will be possible to make ecommerce the ideal answer to the needs of the company and the consumer.

Shopify: The User-Friendly Platform

Since its inception (which took place in Canada in 2004), Shopify has proposed itself as a particularly user-friendlyCMS: it is possible to create your own online store without having a particularly extensive technical baggage behind you.

This platform is considered a “Software as a Service” (SaaS). In this case, in fact, you do not need to own the software, but you pay a monthly fee to “rent” that of Shopify to manage your online store.

Speaking of monthly subscription, Shopify gives you access to 3 different packages:

  • Basic Shopify,costing about $30 per month;
  • Shopify, costing $79 per month;
  • Advanced Shopify,costing $299 per month.

While the basic version was born with the idea of providing only the essential features, with the advanced it is possible, for example:

  • Have advanced reporting,to understand in detail how many and which products are sold the most, which pages users visit, at what point in the path they abandon the cart and so on;
  • Offer gift vouchers and special discounts to increase sales;
  • Have lower commission costs for each transition.

Knowing immediately the needs of our business allows us to define the characteristics that the site must possess to satisfy as much as possible not only our needs, but also and above all those of our target audience(Buyer Persona).

In this way we can improve the User Experience,i.e. the user experience in contact with our company, and consequently increase sales.

As for the choice of CMS, if you want a high level of customization, you will have to take into account open-source platforms, which allow you to integrate and expand your ecommerce with multiple features. If, on the other hand, from a CMS you ask for basic functions and little more, hosted platforms such as Shopify can be the best solution for your needs.

Advantages

Low investment cost. Potentially, you can start selling online for less than $30 a month: an ideal solution if the initial budget for your project is not particularly high;

Ease of use. To make the best use of Shopify it is not necessary to have technical skills in the field of CSS, HTML and other programming codes: everything is extremely intuitive even for those who are not particularly knowledgeable in computer science;

Beware of SEO. Regardless of the subscription you decide to overwrite, you can automatically get the sitemap and robots.txt of your site, to allow the search engine to understand its structure. In addition, at any time you can edit the URLs of blog posts and products, alt text of images and meta tags, fundamental elements to apply an SEO strategy;

Constant support. Support is one of Shopify’s most appreciated factors: in addition to the presence of guides full of ideas and advice, you can receive 24/7 support via email, chat or phone.

Detriments

The advanced reporting feature is only present for the most expensive packages. This is an important element for those who manage an ecommerce, because they have the opportunity to evaluate exactly the strengths and weaknesses of their business. Being able to use it only with a subscription of 300 dollars per month could cancel the economic advantage that the platform offers;

There is little possibility of customization. If on the one hand Shopify guarantees a simplicity of use and management of ecommerce, on the other hand there is no possibility to manually intervene on elements that do not suit your business;

Difficulties in integration with third-party systems. If you want to integrate your platform with external management (for example, a tool used for invoicing), you will have to start a particularly long and complex process, which will not be resolved in a short time.

What kind of business does Shopify suit you?

Shopify is the ideal solution for those who put at the center of everything the possibility of modifying their ecommerce without having to ask for support from a programmer, avoiding incurring additional costs.

In the case of Shopify, having a limited budget to start an online store does not mean having an outdated web portal: thanks to plugins and extensions you can access multiple features, while the presence of hundreds of graphic templates allows you to choose exactly what suits you.

In essence: a very low investment cost (considering that you pay nothing more than the monthly subscription), which allows you to allocate more budget to the


marketing strategies
to grow the company. These are the real advantages of Shopify, which, by virtue of its peculiarities, is therefore mainly aimed at a start-up.

WooCommerce: the WordPress plugin for ecommerce

WooCommerce was launched by WordPress in October 2011: it is a plugin for ecommerce. A real revolution, because it allows you to combine the features that have made WordPress one of the most used platforms for sites with the creation of an online store. On the one hand, therefore, the possibility of editing in a simple way the textual and graphic contents of a site, on the other hand the opportunity to sell online.

Advantages

It’s completely free. If you already own a site on WordPress, you can install the plugin at no additional cost to make it an online store;

You have the possibility to make your online store tailored to your needs by acting without problems on the code, over which you have complete control;

It allows the implementation with multiple features. Thanks to the possibility of integrating extensions, plugins and widgets you can add effects to make the user experience perfect within your ecommerce.

Detriments

Scalability. Its simplicity of use, due to the fact that it adapts perfectly to the functionality of WordPress, can clash with a concept of flexibility: it can be good for selling a few products; in the event that you want to create an ecommerce in multiple languages and with thousands and thousands of goods, it is preferable to turn to more complex and performing platforms;

Integration only with WordPress. What was born as its strong point, can also prove to be a not insignificant impediment for WooCommerce. In fact, if you have built your site on a non-WordPress platform (for example, PrestaShop), you will first have to migrate to this CMS in order to take advantage of the potential of WooCommerce.

What kind of business does WooCommerce suit?

WooCommerce is now widely used by those who have already opened their own blog and, having been successful, decide to focus on an ecommerce.

Let’s take a concrete example: in your site on WordPress you review cosmetics of different types. Thanks also to a great job on SEO and Content Marketing, you can acquire an audience, which now knows you and trusts your advice.

Having now gained visibility, you decide to open an ecommerce to sell a line of cosmetics you made. In this case there is no need to migrate to other platforms, such as PrestaShop or Magento, because by installing WooCommerce you can keep everything in the “home” and combine the blogging activity with that of online sales.

Ultimately

There are no better or worse ecommerce CMS: each platform has strengths and weaknesses and a specific target audience.

In this guide we have analyzed the characteristics and strengths and weaknesses of Magento, PrestaShop, Shopify and WooCommerce: based on these descriptions you will be able to understand which one could be ideal to allow your ecommerce to take off right away, focusing on marketing strategies to promote it.

Still not sure of your choice? That’s what we’re here for! Click here and let’s talk about how to grow your project.

Stefano Robbi

Stefano Robbi

C.E.O. di NetStrategy. Appassionato di digital marketing con forte propensione all’analisi quantitativa dei dati, ha dato vita al cuore digitale di NetStrategy® nel lontano 2009. Alla passione e alle competenze maturate sul campo nell’ambito del search marketing, Stefano può accostare una formazione specifica di marketing strategico, acquisita nel M.Sc. in Marketing Management all’Università Bocconi e nella pregressa esperienza presso Microsoft Italia.

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