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10 Best E-commerce platforms for your online store

  • Rohit Uttamchandani
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  • 19 January , 2019
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    • 8 min read

Updated in Feb, 2019

With the global & Indian ecommerce market growing at a rapid pace, we are seeing a lot of new trends. When starting out a new ecommerce venture, there are a lot of elements that need to be figured out - right from the ecommerce platform (which this post explains in detail), payment gateway to integrate with your ecommerce site, product photography, social media strategy, customer acquisition, customer retention, search engine optimisation & a whole lot more. There are a whole lot of specialists out there who can help you with each of these elements or you could take a digital marketing course or buy a book on digital marketing to familiarize yourself.

The first step when starting out is the ecommerce platform and the number of such platforms and content management systems available has grown over the years. In such a scenario, figuring out which platform to use when you’re looking to build your online store can be a fairly confusing task - especially if you aren’t from a technical/ecommerce background.  This post intends to make your research work easier by helping you choose the platform best suited for your needs.

Managed e-commerce platforms vs. Content Management Systems (CMS)

There are two options available for building an e-commerce website – one can either use managed (hosted) e-commerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce or open-source Content Management Systems (CMS) like WooCommerce or Magento.

As the name indicates, a hosted ecommerce platform is hosted on a server that you will not have access to, while CMS-based websites are self-hosted on server space (such as Bluehost) you will have to purchase. Which option to choose will depend a lot on your specific needs as well as your level of technical involvement. Below is a list of benefits of both which could help you make a choice between the two based on your business’ current requirements:

Benefits of using Hosted ecommerce platforms

  • Lower development and maintenance – There is no coding expertise required, thereby eliminating the need for a development team. Also, the hosting is shared, which lowers the server costs.
  • Better technical support – Most online store creators have a strong tech-support team to assist users with any issues that may arise.
  • Less complex to work with – The back-end for most of these platforms is user-friendly and is built for ease of use keeping in mind users with limited technical knowledge.

Benefits of using a CMS

  • Better functionality – Multitude of plugins, add-ons and themes available for content management systems allow the addition of advanced functionalities that would not be possible in the case of self-hosted platforms.
  • Better customizability – Content management systems allow the freedom of adding/modifying features as well as building a customized design unique to one’s brand. They also allow for constant improvements and enhancements to the user experience on the site, which plays a major role in today’s highly competitive ecommerce space.
  • Can support large stores and sophisticated websites – Content Management Systems, being self-hosted do not have a limit to the number of products or categories allowed, so they can handle much larger stores as well as sophisticated websites.

The server can also be an important aspect of how your ecommerce site is built and we usually use the Linux based servers being provided by Bluehost or Amazon Web Services. We usually refrain from using Windows based servers.

You could use this flowchart below (Click on the flowchart to enlarge) to help you arrive at a decision on whether you should go ahead with a hosted ecommerce platform or with a CMS, based on your requirements:

Once you’ve made your choice on going ahead with either of the two platforms, here is a list of the 5 best options you could explore in each niche:

5 Best Content Management Systems

If you’ve decided that a CMS is what will suit your needs best, then below are the 5 best ecommerce CMS available in the market at the moment. The most important factors which will come into consideration when zeroing in on the CMS would be the availability of extensions, availability of support, functionality, customizability and the cost of development and maintenance. All of them are open source and have free community versions and paid enterprise versions.

WooCommerce:

WooCommerce is a Wordpress platform used for building ecommerce websites and now almost 22% of the top 1 million ecommerce websites are hosted on it, making it the most popular platform. A large number of Wordpress themes have the WooCommerce functionality built-in. The plugin provides almost all the features that are available in the other open-sources CMS’ listed here. WooCommerce might work out more user-friendly and cost-effective for smaller businesses as well as for those familiar with Wordpress.

Pros:

  • Easy setup - Wordpress requires very little time to get familiar
  • Runs on Wordpess – so does not have powerful servers requirements
  • Good number of lower-priced add-ons and themes available
  • Huge Wordpress support community
  • Easy Integration with emailing platforms such as Mailchimp so that you can stay in touch with your customers

Cons:

  • Might not work for mid and large size businesses or for businesses looking to scale up soon

Magento:

With nearly 13% of the world’s top 1 million ecommerce sites (in 2015 21%  of the websites) are built on the Magento platform*, it is a popular and one of the best ecommerce CMS’ being used today. Its biggest advantages are the large number of plugins and extensions available which allow the addition of any new functionality, the ease of availability of experienced developers as well as a lower overall development and maintenance cost.

Pros:

  • Robust platform with a high level of functionality and customizability
  • Large number of marketplace extensions available
  • Highly active community for assistance with tutorials and troubleshooting options
  • More SEO-friendly as compared to most other platforms
  • It is highly-scalable – no need would arise to upgrade to another platform while scaling up in future
  • Easy Integration with emailing platforms such as Mailchimp so that you can stay in touch with your customers

Cons:

  • It requires sufficient server space to operate efficiently at high speeds. Smaller servers may cause speed and other related issues
  • Might be too complex for businesses that are too small

osCommerce:

osCommerce is one of the earliest open-source platforms available, it has a huge support base and a very active forum, though some users find that updates to the platform have not kept up with the times.

Pros:

  • Easy installation and an easy-to-use interface
  • Active forum with a large support base
  • Large number of plugins and add-ons allowing the addition of most functionalities

Cons:

  • Some users find that the software updates and designs have not kept up with times and remain slightly outdated

Top 1 Million ecommerce websites using Open Source technologies - Source - Builtwith.com

Drupal Commerce:

Drupal used to be a popular open source website content management system after Wordpress and Drupal commerce is the plugin for ecommerce sites built on this platform. Its seamless integration with Drupal makes creating a blog or forum much more convenient than most other ecommerce content management systems.

Pros:

  • Seamless integration with the Drupal CMS framework gives it an edge over other platforms when it comes to blog integration and content marketing
  • Allows for easy implementation of SEO strategy

Cons:

  • The support community/forum is not as large or active as Magento or osCommerce.

Opencart:

Opencart is another open source CMS for ecommerce. Though it has one of the easiest to use backends, its support systems are not as comprehensive as compared to the other platforms listed.

Pros:

  • Easy to use back-end
  • Feature rich with large number of plug-ins
  • CSS can be edited from within the admin

Cons:

  • Some users report difficulty in installation of some themes
  • Support documentation is not comprehensive enough

Magento vs Woocommerce vs Drupal Commerce vs Opencart vs osCommerce

5 Best hosted ecommerce platforms

If you’ve decided that an online store creator would better suit your business, then below are the 5 best platforms available for you to choose from. Two of these – Zepo and Kartrocket have been chosen with the Indian market in mind, as being mostly domestic players, they might have a better understanding and feel of the local market.

Shopify:
Shopify is one of the first names that comes to mind when one thinks of an online commerce platform. With close to 7,75,000 sites using Shopify*, it is the most popular hosted ecommerce platform, coming second only to WooCommerce.

Pros:

  • Large number of add-ons as well as beautiful and professional templates to choose from for a beautiful storefront
  • 24/7 customer support – Can be reached by phone, online live chat or email.
  • SEO Compliant

Cons:

  • May work out slightly more expensive as compared to other platforms
  • The back-end UX is slightly complex to understand in the beginning

Pricing**: Basic - $29/month, Professional- $79/month, Unlimited - $299/month.

BigCommerce:

Bigcommerce is another popular platform, with 17% of the top 100,000 sites using hosted ecommerce solutions; and 51,977 sites overall*, being built on Bigcommerce.

Pros:

  • A large knowledge base – The Bigcommerce university provides extensive help resources
  • Easy-to-use interface

Cons:

  • Some users claim that customer support is a little unreliable at times

Pricing**: Silver - $29.95/month, Gold - $79.95/month, Platinum - $249.95/month

Volusion also has nearly as big a share of the top 100,000 sites using hosted ecommerce solutions – nearly 17%*; with over 90% of its market share is in the United States

Pros:

  • Wide variety of features
  • Personalized service from account specialists
  • Easy to use interface

Cons:

  • Volution stores use a mobile site as against a responsive design
  • Add-on store is not as large as Shopify or BigCommerce
  • No Blog setup available

Pricing**: Personal - $29/month, Professional - $79/month, Business - $299/month

Zepo:

Mumbai-based Zepo supports more than 1200 ecommerce stores at the moment and has also raised an undisclosed amount of funding in December 2014 to drive its expansion plans.

Pros:

  • Local brand – local support as well as a better understanding and feel of local market
  • An easy interface, especially for newbies
  • Hosted on Rackspace servers - so you can expect a better speed as compared to most platforms.

Cons:

  • Limited Images per product on the lower priced plans

Pricing**: Custom Pricing based on requests

Kartrocket:

Delhi-based KartRocket has powered over 1900 stores via its platform and snapped up close to $2 million investment in January 2015 to fund its expansion as well as develop innovative and India-focused product solutions

Pros:

  • Good choice of storefront templates
  • Usability – Clean backend interface
  • Local brand – better understanding and feel of local market

Cons:

  • Comparatively new player in the market as compared to the others above

Pricing**: Essential – Rs. 3500/month, Premium – Rs. 7000/month, Platinum – Rs. 12,000/month

Top 100000 websites using Hosted Solution technologies - Builtwith.com

 

Conclusion

Every platform and CMS has its plus and minus points and choosing the right one depends on your business model and requirements. If you are going in for a hosted platform, Shopify or Zepo (if you prefer a local player) might be the best options, while if you are looking for a Content Mangement System, then WooCommerce would most definitely work best. This, however, is based on our experince and we would love to hear what your experience says.

As the last word, switching platforms or content management systems after a store is up and running is not really a straightforward process and can truly be a nightmare. So, make sure you take a prudent and informed decision with a good amount of foresight.

If you’re a retailer looking to get onto the e-commerce bandwagon, please feel free to contact us and we would be glad to assist you.

Once you've zeroed in on the right platform for your ecommerce business and need to decide on the best payments solution you could use, you can check out our blog on the top payment gateways for e-commerce websites.

*Statistics from builtwith.com
** All price data is from the respective websites as on 5th January, 2019


Five Step Guide to Selling Online on Amazon India

  • Sneha Balasubramaniyan
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  • 12 April , 2017
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    • 5 min read

With more customers making their purchases online, startups have now begun shifting their businesses online to make use of the large community around the world with ready buying power. To sell your own product or sell somebody else’s – you need to decide; and how, when, where – we’ll help you with that. Acquiring a customer might be difficult, especially if you have just begun your journey of selling online. So it is a good idea to go to a platform that has already established themselves.

Amazon is the right place to start selling your products. Amazon being the leader in the online retail space, we have put together a guide on selling your very first product on Amazon India with the effective and efficient transaction. Amazon India provides a comprehensive platform for sellers from remote cities in India to reach pan-India.

Step 1: Create your Amazon Seller Account

Creating your seller account is simple. All you need to do is enter your Business Entity Name, address, phone number, VAT or CST registration information and all the necessary bank account details.

Step 2: List your products on Amazon

Now that you have your account ready, make a note of all the items you’d like to sell on Amazon and list it.

Amazon has millions of existing catalogues categorising goods in the name of the material, size, colour, product variation, etc. and if your product falls into one of these categories, you can directly list your products in that respective catalogue. However, if your product is entirely new and doesn’t have an existing catalogue, you will then need to create a new product listing.

Amazon has a highly efficient team who will help you create a high-quality catalogue to ensure your products have the right description, user-friendly language and easy reach so that you have a valid transaction.

Also, if you are very confident with your line of products, go ahead and advertise on Amazon using ‘Amazon Sponsored Products’. This is very similar to what digital advertising agencies do – they look for what people are searching for, and with the help of SEO and Google AdWords, they make sure the user ends up looking at your products and purchasing it.

Step 3: Take your products live

Congratulations! Your first product is now live on Amazon. Crores of customers can now view, add it to their wish list and purchase your product. Sometimes, your products might not receive the expected number of clicks or impressions, and one of the reasons might be because of the broken descriptions that go along with your product. No worries, you can always go back to your dashboard and make as many edits you like and publish it again.

You can always have a close look at your dashboard to create more product listing, promote the same, manage/ship your orders and at the end of every week or month; you could analyse and make sure your business is on track.

Step 4: Amazon does all the work, sit back and relax

Amazon makes a note of all your orders though your already powered Amazon Easy Ship facility. They pick up and ship your products and take care of logistics and customer service. Quite cool, eh? It is an end-to-end delivery service for sellers. You can just focus on your business while Amazon does all the heavy lifting.

he service includes –

  • Pick up from your doorstep
  • Handle returns and respond to buyers
  • Cash On Delivery (COD) payments

Amazon has also introduced FBA (Fulfillment By Amazon), which lets you store your products, then pick, pack and ship your products across India. This FBA service helps you gain all the storage and fulfillment facilities, fast delivery options and trustworthy customer service. There is no startup fee for this service and just a flexible ‘Pay as you go’ scheme depending on your usage.

Amazon has a Prime account for sellers too and this feature allows you to ship your products to your customers quickly.  Once you enroll for FBA, you are automatically eligible to become an Amazon Prime seller without extra charges.

Step 5: Grow your business with Amazon

Amazon deposits your payments into your bank account within a week (7 days) from the date of delivery, only after the sale is made and you receive the payment from your customer.

There are a number of fees that the seller has to pay Amazon – referral fee starting from 3% (this particular fee differs from city to city in India), fixed closing fee starting from Rs. 10 per unit sold (this fee varies by category and price), shipping fee starting from Rs. 30 per unit shipped (this fee varies by distance and volume of the unit) and delivery service fee of 1.25% per item.

Amazon cares about your business and they send custmoised tips and trick to improve your business for better performance. They have an inbuilt team who keeps a track of your dashboard and send you a customized report periodically to boost your performance as well.

How digital marketing can help build the brand and send traffic to amazon

Yes, selling on Amazon is great and easy. However, Amazon is a crowded place and it is always a good idea to promote your Amazon listing as much as you would promote your online store. Use Facebook ads, Google ads or even blogs with links that would drive your potential customer back to the products on Amazon.

For example, if you are selling jewellery, you can run Facebook Carousel ads  with high quality images of the product and link them to the various Amazon listings. This will drive traffic to the listing and has the potential to reach a larger target audience.

Unlike developing your very own ecommerce website and selling on it, selling on Amazon India has a lot of advantages. Right from the development, optimization and maintenance of your marketplace to logistics, customer service and easy transactions, everything is taken care of by Amazon India. Instead of making a foolproof plan on everything and anything before launching your product out in the market, it is much better to start selling online first, test the waters and then take it forward from there.


Amazon Prime Air : A Revolution in Online Shopping

  • Rohit Uttamchandani
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  • 4 December , 2013
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    • 3 min read

It’s one of those lazy Sundays. You’re surfing e-commerce sites for those lovely pair of shoes you’ve always wanted. You find them! You can’t resist placing the order. Less than thirty minutes later, you hear that familiar buzzing noise outside your door. You’re overjoyed – you’re shoes have already arrived, drone-delivered. Sounds like a scene from a Science fiction movie? Not really. And, you can go ahead and pinch yourself too, because is this is no dream either. Amazon founder and CEO, Jeff Bezos has revealed yesterday that they are developing a drone-based delivery system called Amazon Prime Air, the goal of which is to get packages into customers’ hands in 30 minutes or less using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) also known as drones.

As soon as your order is placed, it is packed in record time in one of Amazon’s 96 massive warehouses worldwide, also known as fulfillment centers - each about 1.2 million square feet in area – the size of 20 football fields! These will then be put on a delivery carousel from where they will be picked up by the drones – eight rotor helicopters which Bezos calls an “octocopter."  These will then be instructed to deliver at designated GPS co-ordinates. They will be able to deliver within a 10 km radius and safely carry about 5 pounds in weight, which as per Bezos, accounts for about 86 percent of the items Amazon delivers.

This delivery system could account for massive reductions in Carbon emissions by reducing the number of delivery trucks doing the rounds. Further, they use electric motors which make them even greener.

However, for those of you expecting to be drone-delivered your orders tomorrow, Bezos says it will take a few, maybe four or five, years. The project is still on the anvil in Amazon’s next-generation R&D lab and has just about entered the experimental stage. In an interview to CBS’s 60 minutes, Bezos said the company is still working on redundancies and reliabilities and  the systems required to ensure that mishaps like the drone landing on somebody’s head while they’re walking around the neighborhood don’t happen. Get a sneak peek of Amazon Prime Air in the video below.

Apart from this, the United States Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) regulations currently prohibit use of drones for commercial purposes. However, these are expected to change when a new set of rules for unmanned aircraft come into place by 2015. Security implications will have to be considered too. But Bezos is optimistic, telling 60 minutes, “Could it be, you know, four, five years? I think so. It will work, and it will happen, and it's going to be a lot of fun.”

Amazon is a pioneer in the field of e-commerce and has been the poster boy of e-commerce success ever since its inception almost two decades ago. Known for its innovative ways and attempts to streamline their processes and ensure the best service, this new innovation from the Amazon stable comes as no surprise. Also, coming within just a few days of Operation Blue Virus exposing the misuse of Social Media for nefarious reasons; drones, earlier synonymous with attacks causing death and destruction, now being used to make life easier and more convenient just goes to reiterate the fact that any technological advancement, used correctly, responsibly and ethically can be used to work wonders.


Amazon India tries to capture the 50m userbase & 10,000 cr market

  • Vikas Chawla
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  • 5 June , 2013
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    • 3 min read

 

The digital commerce market in India was valued at INR 47,349 Crores in 2012 and is expected to grow by 33 percent. It is undoubtedly the fastest growing online market in the last 12 months when compared with the other BRIC Countries. According to the latest Digital Commerce Report, by the Internet and Mobile Association of India (IAMAI) and IMRB International.

The report finds that while Online Travel, which includes booking rail, air, bus tickets, hotel accommodations and tour packages comprised a majority 71 percent of the whole Digital-Commerce market in 2012,E-Tailing, which includes purchases of various consumer products/services such as electronics, apparels, footwear, jewellery, home & kitchen appliances, consumer durables, furnishings, constituted only 16 percent of the overall share. This is the segment which all ecommerce companies including Amazon India are trying to target.

Financial Services, which include services such as paying insurance premiums and renewals, paying utility and mobile bills, trading shares and securities amounted to 6 percent of the overall share. B2B and B2C Classifieds (jobs, matrimony, car, real estate etc.) contributed 5 percent, whereas other online services such as online entertainment ticketing, online food delivery, buying discounts/deals/vouchers etc. constituted 2 percent of the overall digital commerce market in 2012.

With more and more people planning their payments and Financial services online, market was valued at INR 2,886 Crores in 2012 and is expected to grow by 25 percent and reach to INR 3,607 Crores by the end of year 2013. According to the report, Classifieds market has seen a significant growth and has reached INR 2,354 Crores in 2012. Classifieds as a category has grown with a CAGR of 45 percent growth from 2009 and is expected to grow by another 30 percent to INR 3,061 Crores by 2013.

Online travel industry in India has on an average grown by 32 percent from INR 14,953 Crores in 2009 to INR 34,544 Crores in 2012 and is estimated to grow by another 30 percent and be valued at INR 44,907 Crores by the end of December 2013. The travel industry also sees interesting fact about the average cart value of goods purchased ranging from 17$ in IRCTC to about 204$ and 166$ in Make my trip and Yatra.com respectively.

The E-Tailing category has grown from INR 1,550 Crores in the year 2009 to INR 6,454 Crores in year 2012. With the entry of the world's largest online retailer, Amazon through the launch of its online marketplace in India, Amazon.in and hundreds of start ups emerging, this category is estimated to grow by 55 percent and cross INR 10,000 crores by the end of 2013 December.

India represents Amazon's tenth marketplace where buyers can browse through a catalogue of 7 million books and 12,000 movies titles initially. The company is planning to expand its product footprint to cameras, mobiles and other electronics devices.

With the Digital commerce market having so much to offer to the country, one could only see internet and Ecommerce reaching not just the metropolitans and the major cities in India but also hitting the Indian Villages soon. Of course, it comes with its humongous set of challenges forcing even Flipkart to follow a marketplace (no-inventory) model. For now, its time to watch the big players battle it out in the ecommerce market


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