You’ve got an ecommerce site, but you also know the importance of content marketing, and that means you need to also have a blog. Is it possible to get the best of both worlds? Well, the answer is a mixed one that involves some investigation into exactly what options are most important to you.
There are several choices in the ecommerce and blog world, but we will look at a few of the most popular ones and their pros and cons.
WordPress and WooCommerce
This is a common platform primarily due to the ease of using WordPress for blogging. Themes are easy to interchange, the design layout is simple, and adding blog posts is easy. You get high-quality WordPress themes like the Divi Theme to create your business.
WooCommerce is, like WordPress, free. It is a plug in that you add to your WordPress platform so that you can build an online store. There are some drawbacks though. First, certain plugins do add a cost, like Stripe, which allows you to add additional credit card options. It is $79 a year, but for most businesses worth the cost.
However, if you struggle with the complexity of WordPress, you will struggle with WooCommerce as well. It is not very beginner friendly. The advantage is that you can host it anywhere, just like WordPress, but finding good, affordable hosting can be challenging as well.
Bottom line? WooCommerce is powerful, and can give you a lot of control since you can host it anywhere. But it can give you a really hard time. The power that comes with it means you must educate yourself to utilize that power. Blue Host does offer a 30 day money back guarantee, so if you hate it you can always go back to whatever you are using now, or try something else if you are just starting out.
Shopify is a hosted, turnkey solution. In other words, you pick a plan, and then point your domain to the Shopify store, or better yet you can buy the domain name from Shopify as well. From there, you choose a design or template.
You can drag and drop items with a free template, buy a premium one, or even hire a designer. The last choice is perhaps the best: for your site to look good and work well, this is ideal provided you can afford it.
The pros of Shopify start with both speed and security for hosting. Studies show that a customer will leave your site for a competitor’s if it takes more than four seconds to load. However, you need to send your customer’s information through several layers of security to prevent hacking if you are going to take credit cards.
Shopify lets you hand that part off to professionals who already have those features built into the designs. These designs also have all of the key features you need to run an online store, including integrated payments, custom looks, and great analytics. Shopify also offers great customer support, and marketing tools like easily created landing pages.
So what are the cons? The first is cost, and these are something you should pay attention to, especially if you are a smaller online store. The monthly fee starts at $29 and goes up from there. Some plans also have platform transaction fees: a percentage of each transaction you pay to use the platform.
These should be carefully compared when looking at plans, along with credit card transaction fees, which also vary by plan. Finally, just like WooCommerce, you have add-in fees: the plug-ins and features that are not included in your monthly plan costs. These can escalate quickly depending on how many you have installed.
The second con is content marketing. Where WordPress excels, Shopify leaves a bit to be desired. There is some SEO capability, but it is limited, and if it were better it could be used to gain more organic traffic. Far from worthless, it could stand to be improved.
The last two cons are Shopify jargon, a language you must learn to use the platform, and something that does not align with the terminology used by other platforms. The last is being locked in—if you ever want to move your Shopify store to another platform, it won’t go smoothly.
This is true of other platforms as well, but it is something you need to carefully consider before you choose a platform in the first place.
The bottom line is that Shopify is a great platform if you like to plug and play, but is a bit more challenging to customize. Still, it is a very powerful tool, if you can afford to pay for it.
Big Ecommerce is another turnkey solution like Shopify. It too has advantages and disadvantages.
One of the biggest advantages it has is the education tutorials available on the site. There is no shortage of how-to articles and videos for setting up Big Ecommerce. Of course, this education is pretty directed. What works for Big Ecommerce may not work for Shopify or WooCommerce for instance.
Like Shopify, Bigcommerce has a fantastic security platform, but it is not as fast in speed tests as its competition.
They do have intuitive built in features, and almost any feature you need is already built in. The features also, quite simply, work.
Like Shopify, Bigcommerce integrates with most ecommerce platforms like Amazon, Etsy, and more. It will also integrate with Alibaba, the world’s largest marketplace for wholesalers. This opens up an amazing audience for Big Ecommerce users.
Big Ecommerce is very transparent about pricing, but still it is hard to sort out the monthly price, credit card fees, and add on fees. The other con? Availability of add-ons. There are many more choices for Shopify, and even more for non-turnkey programs like WooCommerce.
The bottom line is this: no matter what platform you choose, there are pros and cons, and you need to pay careful attention to price, especially “hidden” costs like add-ons and fees. If you are going to go with a non-turnkey plan, you need some experience or to hire someone with experience. It’s not a place for beginners.
Which platform is right for you? It depends on your skill level and what you are comfortable with. Do your research, and choose wisely. If you need to test more than one, you might want to run two different sites for a little while, and migrate to the one that works best for you, redirecting the other to it using a 301 redirect.
Sarah Saker is a business coach and freelance writer that specializes in helping SMBs setup processes for customer support and predictable growth. When not writing or coaching, Sarah can be found on her (small but growing!) family farm. Connect with Sarah on about.me for coaching or writing help.