It is fairly easy and affordable to setup an online store these days. Once you have decided on starting a website, you have to pocket a good domain name. The major work that remains now is website development. For that, you need to choose a really good platform. Let us take a look at the major available options.OPEN SOURCE & FREE E-COMMERCE SOFTWAREMagentoThe most popular e-commerce software out there right now, Magento is powerful and has huge support available. It can support multi-store and multi-language retailing. There is a huge range of add-ons available too. If your business has huge traffic, Magento is the way to go. One major shortcoming is that Magento needs knowledgeable resources for the best results.ProsSearch engine friendly Optimized for mobile devices as well Can manage multiple store fronts Wide community of users across the world Extensive customization Ability to scale up to small and large businessesConsLack of suitable developers Complex, not so easy to use unless you are a developer Requires very good hosting environmentPrestashopAn easy to use software with a backend that is user-friendly. Prestashop customization options are numerous. There is also an active community that develops new add-ons. However, it is not as powerful or resource intensive as Magento. There are really good Prestashop multi-vendor features, making it an ideal choice for marketplaces.ProsEasy to install Prestashop customization is well-known for its flexibility Prestashop latest version has responsive backend, making it possible for store owners, managers, and marketers to access store information and effectively run the business from just about any Internet-enabled device, including tablets and smartphones. Very easy to use its intuitive and simple interface Marketing and SEO friendly Supports multiple languages and currencies Prestashop multi-vendor supportCons Not suitable for larger businesses Difficult settings for shipping and taxes, multi stores, attributes, etc.Virtuemart (joomla)Virtuemart is the most widely used shopping cart software for Joomla. This software is suitable for most basic online store applications. Its best selling point is its ability to control the store, products, settings and user lists from directly within Joomla. Once installed, Virtuemart becomes a part of Joomla. Also, this software supports a large number of shipping, payment and checkout options.ProsEasy to use, good modules Ability to update store from any computer with internet access Support for many merchant accounts and shipping options Basic organizational featuresConsInstallation and Maintenance can be difficult for beginners Lacks detailed configuration options Often requires 3rd party development or additional softwareWoocommerceThis is a plugin for the world’s most popular CMS – Word press. Hence, it is easy to manage for even non-technical users. It is very easy to use and has really good reporting features.ProsVery lightweight and easy to install Doesn’t require a high learning curve It has all the necessary tools to create a unique storefront look Unlimited options for design customizationConsWoocommerce lacks some functionality like product variants, multiple languages and currencies, multi-store, etc. Implementing a middle or big scale shop may become a serious issue Lacks good quality extensionsPAID E-COMMERCE SOFTWAREShopifyShopify is widely regarded as the most easy to use platform to get a site up and running within minimum time. You don’t need to know much about coding to operate Shopify. However, being easy to use means sacrificing on the customisation front. Shopify has four plans – Starter, Basic, Professional and Unlimited with charges of Rs.818, Rs.1635. Rs.4388 andRs.9939 per month respectively.ProsExtremely easy to use 100% web-based online shopping cart software Shopify comes with integrated, unlimited hosting Free, customizable store templates Google Analytics and social media integration is supportedConsOrganizing so many items into clear, easy-to-use groups is not easy Transaction fees involved for every plan, except for the most expensive plan They have their own programming language, Liquid, for customizing templatesBig CommerceThis is another easy to use ecommerce platform. It is extremely easy to set up, and doesn’t require you to know codes really well. In most respects, it is similar to Shopify. However, Big Commerce doesn’t require you to learn any special programming languages. But customization is more difficult than it is with Shopify. It has 5 different plans, and is relatively expensive.ProsEasy to setup Edit themes using HTML/CSS Support for International ShippingConsBuilt-in Templates are not particularly appealing Comparatively complex customization features Limited support for third party applicationVolusionVolusion is reasonably priced with hidden charges for extra bandwidth used. But, there is no transaction fee. The software has over 120 free templates, which are generally basic and would require editing. Customer support is not a strong point for Volusion either.ProsNo transaction fees Low price Free templatesConsUnintuitive user interface Hidden bandwidth fees Horrible customer supportThese are the best options available in the market right now, with Magento and Prestashop leading the way.In February 2013, Tom Robertshaw’s quarterly eCommerce survey reported Magento as the leading ecommerce platform among Alexa’s top one million sites with 26% of the market share. Magento is leading for the third time in a row. VirtueMart and PrestaShop come in second and third respectively.As a business owner, it is important for you to maintain an online presence for growth. You have to look at major aspects such as Magento feature set Prestashop customization, Magento product management and Prestashop multi-vendor capability and decide on the software that suits you best.
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