Whether you want to sell custom design pieces or you’re starting an in-house print business, selling online is practically a must for success today. People do a lot of their shopping online. If you’re failing to present yourself the billions of eyes on the Internet, you’re seriously missing out.
The great thing about the Internet these days, though — there are many existing solutions to your e-commerce problems. You don’t have to DIY everything. Of course, it helps to have a great team to set your website and store up, and ensure you make the most money you can!
Open Source Platforms
Open source platforms are free to use and free to download. That might sound enticing, but do remember that not everything is free — you still have to get your website up and running (by yourself). If you aren’t paying someone for support, you’re on your own.
1. WordPress and WooCommerce
WooCommerce is an excellent e-commerce system for WordPress. With a robust set of features out of the box, WooCommerce also boasts a vast number of add-ons and extras. It’s also fairly intuitive for anyone already familiar with WordPress, though its complexity can sometimes trouble.
The development community for WooCommerce is similarly huge. While you may have to pay for an extension to do what you want (or a developer to make an extension do what you want) the community is broad, and you’ll be able to get what you want. You may have to spend to get it, again — the extensions are not free, and neither is development.
As of March 2015, WooCommerce powers 24% of e-commerce sites online. WooThemes, the makers of WooCommerce, was recently acquired by Automattic, the company that makes WordPress. It’s an extremely safe bet WooCommerce isn’t going anywhere.
You can get started on WordPress and WooCommerce in half an hour:
2. WordPress and Easy Digital Downloads
Selling digital products? Downloads of your e-book, your code, your software widget? Easy Digital Downloads is a powerful platform for digital downloads on WordPress.
Created by expert WordPress developer Pippin Williamson, EDD excels at digital product sales. With robust reporting and analytics functionality, a wide variety of add-ons, and excellent support, EDD is exactly where you want to be if you want to sell digitally.
You might think, “Why EDD? WooCommerce lets you sell digital products.” Well — WooCommerce is sort of a Swiss Army knife. It can do all sorts of e-commerce things. Easy Digital Downloads was originally created just for digital products — it specializes in that. If you know your store will consist primarily or solely of digital products, using the digitally-focused product (as opposed to the generalist product) is a good idea.
Magento is a large e-commerce platform. Magento is very powerful, but it requires some special attention. You’ll almost certainly need a developer to really get up and running on Magento, and some special hardware to run it. You can’t roll a Magento store as cheaply as a WordPress/WooCommerce store, for sure — but what Magento lacks in cheapness, it compensates in maturity and stability.
On the bright side, Magento actually certifies its developers — a rarity in the development world. You can figure out quite easily whether you’re getting your money’s worth with certifications.
Or — you can always go with the enterprise version, which is managed and hosted by Magento. One of the really clear advantages of Magento is how matured and well-rooted it is — Magento has been around for quite some time. And, as it’s owned by eBay, it’s certainly not going anywhere!
Managed platforms mean someone else hosts your website.
Is that a good thing? It could be. On one hand, you don’t have to worry about your website’s hosted infrastructure, coding, and all of that. Maintenance concerns are huge when building a website, and a managed platform (usually) slices your maintenance costs into a fraction of what they are on a customized platform. It’s also great to be able to call up support, 24/7. Having constant support is a must-have for many business critical websites.
On the other hand, you have to pay for that management service, and you may not be able to customize your website exactly as you want it. And — if the whole infrastructure goes down (as has happened in the past with some managed providers) there’s not a lot you can do but wait with the thousands of other customers affected by the outage.
Shopify is a managed e-commerce platform, which again means they handle all of the technical stuff so you don’t have to. Shopify recently went public, and has generally been very well-received. Shopify is advantageous for businesses of all sizes, and that’s part of the reason why it’s grown so fast. Whether you’re a massive store or a small store, you can use Shopify. It’s easy to get started — but you do have to pay, with tiers ranging from $30/month to $179/month. Shopify has a few unique features, including a swipe for your in-person retail business.
BigCommerce is another managed e-commerce platform. Starting at $14/month, it’s incredibly cheap — as long as you don’t mind losing a small cut of every transation. You also have the ability to upgrade to enterprise-class services easily later as you grow. With a variety of themes and apps to choose from, BigCommerce is flexible enough to satisfy most e-commerce store needs.