Alright, new ecommerce business owner. The time has come to take that wonderful idea, business plan, and shiny new account and put it out there for the world to find. Maybe you’ve been running a physical store for a while and are expanding your reach to the furthest corners of the internet, maybe you’re ready to move from selling on Instagram to a fully-fledged site. Whatever the reason, you’ve got some choices to make. Namely, how and where to run your ecommerce store. That’s why we’re here.
We’re going to run through the pros and cons of using a free (or open source) versus paid platform. As with anything online, just because you pay for it or just because it’s popular, doesn’t mean it’ll last forever. Like mom jeans, fashion comes and goes. So, whichever way you choose to go, know that you’ll need to roll with the punches of running a business in a virtual world.
The plus side of paid platforms
Paid platforms like Shopify, BigCommerce, and Squarespace are hassle-free (for the most part). Software updates, bug fixes, and the look and feel of your store are all handled by the software providers, meaning that you can focus all your attention on your business. This is great if you aren’t a technologically-minded person and need all the help you can get.
These platforms have intuitive and easy-to-use features that take the burden off you to decide what to install and what not to install. An array of beautiful templates make it as simple as a few clicks and drags to get a store up and running that actually looks good.
Big ecommerce platforms like these have a lot of social proof; people trust the name and therefore will be likely to trust your website too. The sites will most likely run very reliably with big support teams available to assist with any issues you face.
The drawbacks of paid platforms
There’s nothing quite so deceptive as a subscription. A few pounds here, some euros there, perhaps a dollar over here, and suddenly you’re paying through your ears. In a similar way, the running costs of a paid platform can rack up very quickly. First, there’s the basic fee for the package you’ve selected (not to mention web hosting and the domain costs), then there are all the third-party plugins to pay for.
Paid platforms can also be limiting in terms of functionality. The site may not look like or do exactly what you want it to do. It can be frustrating if you have a desire that’s not being realised, which leads to you subscribing to a more expensive package, which means more plugins, which means higher costs. You get the picture?
You’re also at the (mostly benevolent, hopefully) whim of the platform’s development team. An update could roll out that removes a favourite feature of yours, or one that is crucial to the way you run your store. In those cases, they’re simply gone, and you’ll either need to adapt to work around the loss of that feature, or (worst-case scenario) migrate to a new platform that offers what you need. However the cookie crumbles, it means a rebuild.
The plus side of open source platforms
Depending on your technical ability, using open source software for your ecommerce store is an excellent option. It’s way cheaper to run than the average paid platform, potentially saving you thousands every year. There will be some costs involved (purchasing the domain name and renting server space), of course, but no monthly billing for plugins and platform packages. Our favourite picks for open source platforms are WooCommerce, PrestaShop, and Magento.
You’ll have full control over the design and flow of your store, with no need to be limited by the themes of paid platforms. You also won’t be governed by policy changes or updates rolled out by the developers of paid platforms. As the creator and manager of your site, you have total agency over what happens on your site.
The drawbacks of open source platforms
This is a plus that can become a negative, but open source platforms are often community-driven for free. Therefore, if developers lose interest and steam in the platform, they will fall away, leaving the platform vulnerable to obsolescence. Technological updates and advances won’t be as quick to roll out. It may not mean much in the short term, but after a while, you’ll start to feel the niggle.
An open source platform can be very difficult for a techno-challenged person to run, especially if you’re wanting to achieve a very specific look or offer an extensive range of features. Effective management of an open source platform requires the user to be knowledgeable and willing to spend a lot of time on maintenance and updates. Additionally, the burden is always on you to keep up to date. When you’re running a business trying to keep on top of marketing, hiring, and tracking expenses, obscure patches and bug fixes for your website may not be front of mind.
Whichever route you choose, the great thing about the internet is that you’re spoiled for choice. With enough time and effort, you can find and do anything you want to, or someone who can do it for you! As for us, we’ll be here to run your payments with top notch security and attentive support.
P.S. Want a payment solution that does what it says it will do? Get Truevo. We can’t wait to connect with you.