There are many tricky decisions that small business store-owners are confronted with when they set out to build a store.
One of the first is whether they should go for a pure eStore system, or one with a content management system.
There are pros and cons with both types of systems. It’s important that store owners understand this.
- Pure store systems rarely have great content management abilities outside of the products you use them for. They are usually more evolved on the store side, and less on the CMS side. What that means is that if you intend to do a lot of publishing – articles, blogs, videos, etc, you will find that these systems lack the functionality to do that effectively and invariably you’d need to bolt on another system for doing all this.
- Equally, great content management systems, at least most of them, don’t have full-featured stores of the complexity that pure store systems do.
Having said that, deciding on a store is a function of what you wish to do with it. For small businesses, we would recommend a store with a Content Management System. Most CMS-based store systems come with enough features to get you started and be on your way. Plus the CMS-driven stores have the marketing plugins that you’d need to effectively market your store as well.
Sure, more features are a good thing, but more importantly, the objective should be to sell, get started and be profitable.
The nice part is that on the world-wide web, there are a good many systems of both types available to you. Some are free. Some are paid for [very low cost].
We have tested and worked with some of the more well-known shopping systems and here’s our take on them.
Magento is a mother of a system – works well out of the box but has problems. It is server-resources sapping, not forward compatible with newer versions, difficult to customize and even template, uses a pay for additional modules model, is buggy, lacks community support.
Prestashop has a lot of features [265 advertised] but again is based on a pay for additional modules kind of model, has a large developer community around it, but is code heavy.
OpenCart is fabulous right out of the box. The code is great. The shop is fast. But, when it comes to things such as CMS, Blog, etc, the add-ons are paid for. This is the system which we use for the Power eStore.
The key question that we need to address here is that given that most small businesses are first time users of the store system, how much functionality do they really need?
We must also understand that more the functionality, the more the support that will be needed and the higher the system price
Or alternatively, can we sacrifice a bit of the functionality, attach an affordable ticker price and give small business owners a system that they will find easy to use and manage and one that’s ably supported.
After much thought, we believe that the latter route is the way to go. It’s a bit like learning to drive. You don’t need a Mercedez to start on it. The Mercedez is something that can happens a lot later after you’ve mastered driving. Ditto for your first-time shop. The most important thing when you start an estore is not features but marketing and profitability given a set of features. It’s easy to get lost in feature jungle and lose sight of the original objectives.
Based on our experience/research with on building stores [in Drupal, WordPress, Joomla, custom and standalone], we have come to the conclusion that the most accessible, user friendly and supportable shopping systems for small business are found in WordPress.
Many of our clients hate Joomla running VirtueMart. We have done quite a few of those.
Drupal/Ubercart/ Drupal Commerce is an eminently customizable system, and well-supported, but it suffers from a lack of intuitiveness and can be quite confusing/intimidating to first time users
Of the 3 CMS-driven shopping systems, WordPress is the fastest adopted and fastest evolving. Mature themes, a huge variety of plugins, outstanding community and support, easy to use and teach, very intuitive, and a fast evolving roadmap for the future, all point in the direction of WordPress for small business
- Secondly, there are two types of shopping systems that are available with WordPress.
- Standalone, pure shop plugins such as JigoShop [free], WooCommerce [free], TheCartPress [free], DukaPress [free], Cart66 [paid], Shopp [paid] which can be bolted on to WordPress and work well with it
- Theme-based plugins [also known as hybrid carts] from the theme sellers [Shopperpress, Templatic, MarketPress, etc].
Of these, we decided to stay away from theme-based plugins as their shop evolution route/roadmap is fuzzy and not well-articulated. The pure shop plugins for WordPress have a definite roadmap and therefore are a better choice for shop owners now and in the future as the technology evolves.
After quite some research and testing, we decided to go with Shopp for the store system for now. Our reasons: Shopp is evolved in terms of features, supports multiple payment gateways, has a definite roadmap for evolution and is easy to use.
DukaPress, TheCartPress, WooCommerce and JigoShop are systems that we will be keeping an eye on as they are very promising but not fully developed in feature set as of now.
Nobody needs a website. What you need is a system to market your products. One route, and a cost-effective one at that, is a web store.
More often than not, customers realize how important marketing the store is, only long after they have built it and after much of their initial enthusiasm has waned off.
The nice part is that marketing systems which were once available to only the big marketers, are now available to you at a cost that is affordable
Most stores are just scripts which are available aplenty on the web and available free. The trick lies in using a system that sells as well as allows you to market your store effectively.
And that’s precisely where The Complete eStore Marketing System comes in. It packs a powerful eStore + tools and systems for marketing the store. What’s more it’s ably supported through a KnowledgeBase as well as a HelpDesk System.
If you were to do a research on pricing of ecommerce solutions for small business online, you would observe the following:
Pay just once systems: These are custom-built solutions, usually using one or more of the systems that we have outlined above. These are feature-rich solutions with the capability to sell/add any number of products.
Pay per month, or annually, based on number of features: These are systems which come with monthly charges based on the number of products you have in your online inventory, and/or the features such as Newsletters, Forms and others that you use. The issue with these systems is that you have to keep on paying, regardless of whether you sell or not. In many, the value for the fees, monthly or annual, is questionable.
The Complete eStore Marketing System and the Power eStore are pay once, feature-rich ecommerce solutions which don’t rip you off, but yet give you all the features you need to run your store successfully for a low, one-time fee. What we charge for is the work we do for you with these systems. Choose wisely.