meetup Designed to Sell Recap from our Top Ten E-commerce Platforms and Tools Meetup

Posted by tom klein January 26, 2009 at 9:41 amarticles, e-commerce

meetup

We want to thank everyone who participated last Thursday for January’s Atlanta Digital Marketing Meetup, where the topic was the Top Ten E-Commerce Platforms and Tools. For those of you who could not make it, we’re providing a recap of our discussion below.

It should come at no surprise that e-commerce is on the rise – it offers low overhead and flexibility in a difficult economy. The real eye opener here are the resources at your disposal and just how easy they have made online selling. There is literally a tool for every e-commerce need, ranging from the small, single product shop to the full-blown e-commerce operation with multiple stores and thousands of products.

Our staff has put together the short list of e-commerce platforms worth investigating. We have a healthy mix of low-cost and no-cost solutions – most we have worked with and can vouch for.

If you’re looking to launch an online store or want to sell products from your website, we invite you to review our list and weigh the pros and cons of each, which can be found under after the jump.

Besides, it doesn’t hurt to shop your options.

Drumroll…

The Top E-Commerce Platforms and Tools (in no particular order as no one tool is right for everyone):

We publish our “weekly” monthly” and give you 11 options on a Top Ten List… that’s how we roll. Click on “more” to see the details.

Magento:

magento

With Magento, you can create a feature-rich professional storefront. The open-source platform allows merchants full control over their e-commerce business and gives them the ability to customize their database and manage their inventory, orders, and customers from a simple and easy-to-use web interface.

Features:

  • Multiple images per product with zoom-in capability
  • Product reviews and ratings
  • Stock availability
  • Shopping carts and wish lists
  • Site management features
  • Marketing promotions and tools
  • Customer service
  • Payment (Paypal, Authorize.net, Google Checkout, etc.)
  • Shipping (integrated shipping rates: UPS, FedEx, USPS, and DHL)
  • International support tools (multilingual, multiple currencies, etc.)
  • Search Engine Optimization
  • One page checkout with SSL security support
  • Order management
  • User analytics and sales reports
  • Multiple stores tied to a singe database
  • Large, fast-growing userbase
  • Easy to upgrade
  • Mobile commerce (iPhone optimized)
  • And many more…

Drawbacks:

  • Very little CMS (Content Management System) capability
  • Not a good fit for small stores (selling less than 10 products)
  • Hard to customize unless you are a developer or have a developer at your disposal

Prestashop:

prestashop-logo

Prestashop is what we consider a one-stop shop and a lot simpler to install and setup than Magento. This is a scalable open source platform, which means it can grow as your business grows. Prestashop is a free solution, and their easy-to-use back office tool allows anyone, regardless of skill level, to use and maintain an online store (sort of like e-commerce for dummies).

Features:

Front Office:

  • Featured products on homepage
  • Top sellers on homepage
  • New items on homepage
  • Special deals (price reductions, gift vouchers)
  • Product image zoom
  • Order out-of-stock items
  • Customer subscription & User accounts
  • Unlimited payment methods
  • And many more…

Back Office:

  • Unlimited categories & subcategories
  • Full-featured WYSIWYG text editor
  • Unlimited product attribute combinations
  • Unlimited product specs
  • Unlimited images with automatic resizing & file optimization
  • Unlimited currencies
  • Unlimited tax settings
  • Unlimited carriers & destinations
  • Tax by state, country, both, zones, or no taxes
  • And many more…

Drawbacks:

  • Not as many features as Magento
  • Smaller community of developers compared to Magento

Drupal with Ubercart:

ubercart-logodrupallogo

We covered the capabilities of Drupal last month, but with the Ubercart, you can take your Drupal site to the next level. Ubercart is an e-commerce suite developed specifically for this popular Content Management System. It focuses on usability in three key areas: store configuration, product and catalog creation, and order administration. Ubercart is an out-of-the-box solution for stores that sell physical goods, digital product downloads, and site memberships. And like Drupal, it’s a free open source tool.

Features:

  • Configurable product catalog includes catalog pages and a block to display product categories
  • Flexible product creation system with product classes
  • Multiple product image support out of the box
  • Flexible product attributes system
  • Basic product stock level tracking and notification
  • Ability to add file downloads, role promotions, and more to products
  • Single page checkout
  • Automatic account generation (anonymous checkout)
  • Customer and administrator checkout notifications
  • Simple order processing (with workflow-ng integration for automated order processing)
  • Simple order creation and editing
  • Integrated payment system that acts as a bridge between acceptable payment methods (check, credit card, purchase order, etc.) and payment gateways (Cyber Source, Authorize.net, PayPal, etc)
  • Shipping quotes and fulfillment, including integration with UPS, FedEx, USPS
  • Sales, product, and customer reports
  • Activity logging
  • Much more… and more to come

Drawbacks:

  • Doesn’t have as many e-commerce features as Magento
  • Doesn’t manage inventory as well as Magento

Joomla! with VirtueMart:

virtuemart-logojoomla_logo

VirtueMart is a free open source plugin built to work with Joomla! (yet another example of dynamic Content Management System). With this extension, you can quickly and easily turn any Joomla! site into an online store.

Features:

  • Capable of SSL / 128 bit encryption security
  • Flexible tax models
  • Shoppers can manage their user accounts (registration required)
  • Shipping address management (Customers can enter their own shipping addresses)
  • Order history: shopper can view all their previous orders (and order details)
  • Order confirmation mail (customizable!) is sent to shopper and store owner
  • Multiple currencies (you can allow customers to change the currency)
  • Multiple languages (using the Joomla! component Joom!Fish or Nooku)

Drawbacks:

  • Has more restrictions on how many levels of categories can be setup
  • Not as powerful as Ubercart

NetSuite:

netsuite-logo

NetSuite is the leading integrated web-based business software suite, including Accounting software / ERP software, CRM software, and e-commerce software.

Features:

  • Sales force automation
  • Marketing automation
  • Customer support and service
  • Incentive Management
  • Offline sales client
  • Partner relationship management
  • Database-driven web site/web store
  • Front- and back-office integration
  • eBay integration
  • Credit card processing, PayPal
  • Affiliate marketing
  • Customer acquisition
  • Customer, partner self-service
  • Web Site analytics

Drawbacks:

  • Costly setup and integration
  • If you are just looking for e-commerce, it is not a right fit

OFBiz E-Commerce:

ofbiz_logo

OFBiz (short for Open for Business) is an open source framework for the Apache web server and is the foundation for many enterprise e-commerce applications. This java-based solution is ready for use out of the box but is also capable of growing with a company. Being that Apache is open source, developers have easy access to both codes and the development community. OFBiz is best suited for large companies with development resources (i.e. this is not the solution for the less than technically inclined).

Features:

  • Advanced e-commerce
  • Catalog management
  • Promotion & pricing management
  • Order management (sales & purchase)
  • Customer management (part of general party management)
  • Warehouse management
  • Fulfillment (auto stock moves, batched pick, pack & ship)
  • Accounting (invoice, payment & billing accounts, fixed assets)
  • Manufacturing management
  • General work effort management (events, tasks, projects, requests, etc)
  • Content management (for product content, web sites, general content, blogging, forums, etc)

Drawbacks:

  • Would require a large investment to get the store up and running
  • Not a good option for smaller e-commerece businesses (built for large enterprises)

Volusion:

volusion-logo

With Volusion, you can create and manage an online store without any knowledge of HTML. The platform is a 100% point and click set-up, with free storefront templates and tons of features. You pay a flat monthly fee, depending on the number of products you carry and your monthly bandwidth usage, and a one-time set-up fee. Prices range from $29-$197 / month, with free Adwords credits. That being said, Volusion offers a free 14-day trial to kick the tires and see if it is a fit for you.

Features:

  • Free website (customizable)
  • Email accounts
  • Integrated shopping cart
  • Integrated shipping
  • Payment gateway
  • Credit card merchant services (process Visa, MC, AMEX & Discover cards at industry low rates)
  • Live site chat
  • Search Engine Optimized product inventory
  • Multi-permission administrative interface
  • Analytics and marketing tools
  • System training videos & support
  • SSL / 128 bit encryption security
  • Free hosting and server monitoring

Drawbacks:

  • A paid hosted solution
  • Limited templates
  • Must pay for custom site design (range from $450-$1,000)
  • Your content is locked into their server
  • No availability for custom developed features

Shopify:

shopifyIf you’re looking for a quick and dirty e-commerce solution (well actually, it’s very clean), check out Shopify. Shopify boasts that it can have your shop up and running in mere minutes and takes care of all your hosting, bandwidth, and security issues – so you can focus on selling, not technicalities. This is a pretty straight-forward e-commerce platform, and it is built on the Ruby on Rails framework, making it agile enough to grow with your business.

Features:

  • Pre-designed themes
  • Control over HTML & CSS
  • Real-time statistics panel for administration
  • Inventory warnings when products are out of stock
  • New order notifications via email, RSS, and mobile phones with SMS messaging
  • SEO-enabled platform
  • Listing on Shopify’s Marketplace
  • Comparison prices to indicate sales

Drawbacks:

  • A paid hosted solution
  • Monthly payment ranges from $24-$299/month
  • Can’t impliment any custom features
  • Your data will be locked into Shopify

FoxyCart:

foxycart-logoFoxyCart is a great solution for websites that already have a Content Management System (CMS) in play. This hosted e-commerce solution is fully customizable, easy to integrate into your own CMS, and easy to set up and maintain. FoxyCart is free during development (while using a test payment gateway). Once you need to use a live payment gateway, the cost is $15/month with no sign-up or cancellation fees.

Features:

  • Unlimited product options
  • Modify price, weight, or code with options
  • Built for CSS entirely
  • Use your own templates
  • JSON cart object
  • One-page checkout with login
  • Unique new/returning user auto-detection
  • Manage multiple stores from a single login

Drawbacks:

  • A $15/month paid hosted solution
  • Can’t implement any custom features
  • Your data will be locked into FoxyCart

Paypal, Google Checkout, and Amazon Checkout:

amazon-payments-logogoogle_checkoutpaypalSetting up a Paypal, Google Checkout, or an Amazon Checkout account is easy to do and allows any website to sell merchandise. Once your account is established, plugging one of these e-commerce tools into your site can be as easy as copying and pasting some snippets of code. Hands down, the simplest solution we’ve seen and best suited for small shops and sites that don’t want to scream e-commerce.

Paypal Features:

  • Plug into any website
  • Easy credit card processing
  • You can customize your “buy” button
  • Low-inventory alerts
  • Optional PayPal account signup
  • Sales report
  • Financial summary
  • Accepts multiple currencies
  • Shipping calculator

Google Checkout Features:

  • Google Checkout account simple sign in
  • Easy credit card processing
  • Fast customer checkout process using Google Checkout username and password
  • Google shopping cart icon shows up on your Google Adwords campaign
  • A coupon creator
  • Email invoice product
  • Allows frequent payouts
  • Custom calculated taxes and delivery
  • Google Analytics integration

Amazon Checkout Features:

  • 1-Click ordering
  • Buyers can use existing Amazon accounts
  • Easy credit card processing
  • Cart up-sell
  • Purchase protection for your customers
  • Order management

Drawbacks:

  • Only able to sell a few products
  • Processing fees
  • Cannot customize payment button other than what is allowed

shopvisible ShopVisible:

If you’re looking for a feature-rich, search-focused, e-commerce platform with all the bells and whistles, check out ShopVisible.  Remember that even if you are able to find some other commerce platform for free, you’re still on the hook for making sure that all of your cat collars or hand-made jewelry still needs to be found by Google. This solution pulls search optimization and e-commerce together – a very interesting proposition, especially for someone who already has seen how tough it can be to show up high in search rankings.

Automatic search engine optimization and comprehensive marketing tools, ranging from traditional email marketing to customer feedback and membership rewards programs are music to our digital marketing ears. A clean online navigation, Quickbooks integration, and automatic inclusion in shopping channels like Amazon and ShopBot are further selling points for this local favorite (ShopVisible was kind enough to participate in our Meet-up event and present their product in person). ShopVisible is designed for easy user implementation, but they do have an in-house design and development team to assist you.

Features:

  • SEO optimization
  • Versatile Interface: integrates with Quickbooks and other software
  • CMS
  • Product, Inventory, and Customer management tools
  • Analytics & reporting (e.g. Abandoned cart tracking)
  • Lifetime, unlimited upgrade policy
  • Electronic Data Interchange (EDI), X12 Compliant
  • Customer feedback tools
  • Cross sell/Up sell tools, such as “Related Items”
  • Member rewards
  • Marketing Toolkit
  • Gift cards
  • Live chat
  • Shopping cart / Checkout process (Google checkout & Paypal integration)
  • Credit cards accepted
  • Shipping integration
  • Mobile commerce
  • Specialty in optimized Auto Dealer websites
  • On-staff designers and developers

Drawbacks:

  • Hosted Solution
  • Cost varies on a number of factors

comments

3 comments

3 Comments on “Recap from our Top Ten E-commerce Platforms and Tools Meetup”

  1. -I seem to be playing devil's advocate tonight. -I realize you can't possibly cover every product and situation out there, but this article just feels like it misses the mark. I'm surprised you didn't separate smallbiz/homebiz from the rest of the crowd, as low-cost & simple is absolutely a different market segment from the rest of the crowd, as is quantity of sales versus quality of product - an artist who outputs two pieces a month or a vintage clothier with an incoming truckload a week. Then there's merchant accounts (and if you're not the very smallest or very biggest of players, why a paypal business account is not for you). I could top ten products by types of sellers alone. -I'm also surprised to not see Yahoo, Amazon (proper) and eBay. -On the border of Cobb County, almost in Austell, is a small warehouse split into three sections. You'd never know it was there if you weren't looking for it. I believe this warehouse predates the bicentennial, but the businesses are proof that e-commerce is alive and well in smallbiz. -In the first space is an office and storage for cosmetic sales, Mary Kay or Avon, but the second and third are strictly dedicated to online retail - no brick and mortar store involved. One is a used book reseller that is using advanced ISBN scanning to market around a thousand books a day to Amazon. The margin per product is small but the database backend streamlines the process and minimizes cost - using Amazon virtually eliminates the need for marketing; the customers come to them. The last space contains a vintage magazine reseller who I believe was one of the first to sign up for a Yahoo storefront. Elsewhere in Atlanta there's a furniture company that generated between $15 and $30 thousand a month in revenue from eBay alone in 2007-2008. And these are just the companies I've seen for myself. -Finally there's Wordpress, with a variety of options, all free (as in beer). The big player here is the WP e-commerce plugin, which is free to start but can be upgraded as your sales grow. All you need is a basic hosting account and a free Paypal business account. -I hope you'll consider posts on merchant accounts and payment processors and micropayments in the future. In the world of ecom, I don't think there's any water more murky. Joe posted on
  2. I have been working with Joomla and VirtueMart for about 2 years it has taken a while but VirtueMart has come out to be a winner it is robust and takes care with integration to many Gateway's and did I mention that it is free open source.This is a great advantage and there is currently more that 124 VirtueMart extensions some is free and some commercial covering all possible area's that is used in a modern Shopping Cart.I don't entirety agree with the Drawbacks: levels of categories with the new release of VirtueMart one can create unlimited sub categories. Nic Maritz posted on
  3. Another drawback for Prestashop... It doesn't have any kind of related product / up sell capabilities at this point in time. JR Chew posted on

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