Which is the right eCommerce platform for your FMCG brand?

There are a wealth of website platforms available in a fiercely competitive market.

Article abridged from Strawberrysoup’s Guide to Digital Marketing for Food and Drink Brands. Download for FREE here.

The process of working out which platform is right for the business (and potentially a significant investment), may seem a daunting task and a minefield to navigate. There are a wealth of website platforms available for businesses and the market is fiercely competitive (in-fact too many to list in a single blog post).

Based on statistics by Builtwith, we will be covering the three key players: Woocommerce, Magento and Shopify and touching upon “Bespoke” platforms.

Woocommerce

Woocommerce is an open source eCommerce plugin that was developed to integrate seamlessly with the world’s most popular Content Management System (CMS), WordPress.

‘Woocommerce facilitates eCommerce for 42% of all websites on the internet’ – Builtwith

Critically, it offers the flexibility to deliver a good balance of eCommerce, content & brand – as well as an extensible online shop that developers have complete control over. WordPress is the best Content Management System by far. It’s not uncommon to find sites that are hybrids of Shopify or Magento using WordPress as the CMS for administering all but the online shop.

Advantages of Woocommerce:

  • Large number of plugins available due to mass adoption of the platform
  • Superior for SEO (using Yoast plugin) offers a greater degree of control over key SEO meta data than Shopify
  • Highly scalable when implemented with the appropriate hosting infrastructure
  • A self-hosted solution, giving developers complete control over the code
  • Huge community of developers that support Woocommerce

Disadvantages of Woocommerce:

  • Not so scalable for sites with huge & complex inventories

Magento

When comparing against alternative platforms, Magento is a suitable candidate for more complex builds, B2B eCommerce, and sites with a large and complex product catalogue. Its multi-store capabilities are ideal for multi-brand companies, that need to go international or want to deal with offering trade ordering online either now or later.

Advantages of Magento:

  • Primarily an eCommerce website platform
  • Open source allowing brands to have more control over the code, API’s, core functionality and specific integrations
  • Large amount of core functionality out of the box with both its Community and Enterprise editions
  • Magento 2 is designed to be more scalable than the previous Magento 1.x, and with a slicker user interface

Disadvantages of Magento:

  • Not the greatest Content Management System and often leads to businesses having to incorporate WordPress for managing blog content
  • Developing in Magento (as well as ongoing hosting costs) can be costly
  • Merchants planning to upgrade to Magento 2 may find that modules or extensions they previously used are not yet supported

With Magento the reality is that businesses may have to invest significantly more time and cost into ensuring the site is competitive within the marketplace. Consider from a commercial perspective whether the business needs to invest in expensive development, infrastructure and higher hosting costs, or whether the opportunity to source a platform that is more cost-effective is a possibility.

Shopify

Shopify has been hugely successful in shaking up the industry.  It is a “platform-as-a-service” – in essence, this means businesses don’t need to take responsibility for hosting the platform as this is provided by Shopify itself. It’s ease to set up has undoubtedly made it a great option for start-ups.

In August 2017 Shopify announced it now powers more than 500,000 businesses in 175 countries around the world. Since 2012, the number of merchants on the Shopify platform has grown annually at an average rate of 74%, and these merchants have achieved over $40 billion dollars in sales. It’s innovation with integrated POS and tools for social selling are taking it in the direction of a turn-key solution.

Advantages of Shopify:

  • Quick and easy to set up & use
  • No technical/hosting expertise & understanding required
  • 24/7 customer support provided by Shopify
  • Customisable through pre-existing themes
  • Opportunity to implement custom design (providing development team understand Liquid, Shopify’s coding language)
  • A marketplace exists for functionality bolt-ons (apps), some free, some paid
  • PCI compliance level 1 out of the box with Shopify – A huge advantage

Disadvantages of Shopify:

  • Not a flexible CMS and not possible to add lot’s of rich content such as videos, imagery and carousels
  • Limited to the standard Shopify default checkout, unless businesses have $2K a month for Shopify Plus
  • It’s not ideal for businesses looking to run a multi-lingual/currency store through Shopify requiring the management of multiple stores as oppose to a single one
  • Platform builds are billed in US Dollars regardless of the currency of a site – something to consider with governmental changes. For instance the post-Brexit vote which saw Shopify clients in the UK suffer their monthly platform fees rising somewhere in region of 20% as the GBP dropped in value against the dollar

Bespoke Platforms

When discussing with web designers and developers, the likelihood of them proposing to build a ‘bespoke’ or ‘proprietary’ platform (as in a solution that’s unique to them as they build it in-house), is not uncommon. As with each of the other website platform options, there are many advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages of bespoke platforms:

  • Improved performance – building a bespoke platform allows businesses to have control over how data is structured and/or stored
  • Flexibility – anything is possible, but it’s all going to be custom development – it will take far longer to get functionality in place than it would if a business were to work with a mass market platform that’s widely supported
  • Ease of use – in theory a CMS needs be tailored from a commercial perspective however, businesses will need to rely on web developers to set this up, which can be costly

Disadvantages of bespoke platforms:

  • The costs – the rigid tie to one vendor. Staff churn within their development team can see literally see knowledge of a custom developed site walk out the door without leaving documentation behind. Not ideal to say the least!
  • Committed to vendor lock in – even if the platform’s underlying foundation is a popular programming language (such as PHP), the reality is it will not be all that straightforward to migrate the site to another company should the relationship dissolve. The risk associated with this can be a turn-off for a number of brands and even potential investors.

Whilst there is still an opportunity within the marketplace for bespoke builds, it may only be worthwhile to consider when the requirements are so unique and custom that mainstream platforms (Woocommerce, Magento, Shopify or one of the Enterprise level solutions such as Commerce Cloud of Hybris), would require multiple code and database amendments to implement the requirements.

Here at Strawberrysoup, we work with food and drink brands to choose the best platform for their goals and then develop their website. To know more about how our services can help achieve optimal results for your business get in touch.

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