Ecommerce platform comparison: Out-of-the-box functionalityScarlett Reeves
When you launch your online store, how good is it to go?
Out of the box functionality is an important aspect of any ecommerce platform, because it means you’re starting your ecommerce enterprise from the best possible position.
But, as with other elements involved in setting up an online store, not all platforms are equal when it comes to out of the box functionality.
While they all have a set of basic core functions, some platforms are more streamlined than others. And some have more features but are less efficient in how they run.
This also involves cost. The more development time you need to put in to launch your online store, the more it’s costing you. Similarly, if its core functionality is limited, then you’ll also be spending more on plugins to enhance the customer experience.
Whichever way you look at it, functionality is a critical factor because it determines, ultimately, how well your store will perform. And better performance leads to more satisfied customers.
Here’s our comparison of the out of the box functionality of some of the main ecommerce platforms.
Startups and small retailers like Shopify, because it’s cloud-based, fairly straightforward to use, and easy to get up and running from the start.
Shopify offers various pricing plans, but its basic subscription gets you a securely-hosted website, free SSL certificate, and pre-loaded features. It’s what happens when you want to enhance these features that makes Shopify a more costly proposition.
The more functionality you need, the more plugins you’ll need to pay for.
The main thing is that you’re very much in Shopify’s hands. This might be both a blessing and a curse. Yes, it means that the platform takes care of hosting and various nuts and bolts. But over time, it may feel a bit like you’re just renting shop space, and having to pay for extras.
And extras can make all the difference to your customers.
Functionality verdict: good for the basics and for getting your site underway quickly, but any essential extras will cost you.
Magento is an open-source platform. This is good news in terms of customisation if you have an existing Magento store. But it’s not such good news when you want to hit the ground running with a new online store.
Why is this the case? Fundamentally, Magento’s core features, though extensive, are better suited to the technically experienced user. To launch a Magento store effectively, you’ll need to put the development time in first, and increased functionality requires more paid-for plugins. The open-source version doesn’t offer much in the way of support either.
There is the alternative of Magento Commerce, the platform’s cloud-based version, which, unlike the open-source version, isn’t free to use (expect a 5-6 figure annual licence fee). This version will give you more initial features and more support but you’ll still have to take charge of your own updates.
Launching an online store on Magento is the equivalent of having to fit-out an extensive physical shop before you can sell anything. Consequently, if you haven’t budgeted for infrastructure, you could be in for a shock.
Functionality verdict: without the technical know-how and infrastructure set-up, you might struggle to maximise your retail effectiveness using this platform’s core features.
WooCommerce is undoubtedly popular, and, because it’s a WordPress plugin, it’s the logical starting-point for many users wishing to start an online store. Essentially, you add just ecommerce functionality to your WordPress site with WooCommerce.
But what is this functionality like? Obviously, you can make the most of the many different themes accessible through WordPress, enabling you to customise and scale your store easily enough. However, content creation isn’t enough on its own to put you on-track for retail success.
What you do get are multiple payment options as a core plugin, plus a free extension for PayPal integration. The checkout experience is smooth, and shipping options are fairly standard. Plus, there’s access to various analytics.
The basics are there, but once you start having ambitions to do more with your store, you’re likely to have to pay for additional plugins.
Again, the experience echoes that of a WordPress site: the free versions of developers’ plugins may be adequate, but they’re often a taster for the full, premium version, which will cost you.
Functionality verdict: the basics work well enough, but you’ll need to budget for future plugin costs to boost your store’s functionality.
A cloud-based platform, BigCommerce is pretty user-friendly and has a good range of core functionality to help you launch your online store.
Its built-in sales features include digital wallets for customers, coupons and discounts, faceted search and merchandising options. Its speed capabilities are built on Google Cloud infrastructure.
However, its core features are not particularly customisable, and if you look at the free themes, there’s not a huge amount of variation between stores.
It feels like what you can gain from out-of-the-box functionality you then lose in not being able to customise your store easily and cost-effectively. If you want to extend your functionality, you’re going to have to pay for it.
Functionality verdict: okay for beginners looking to set the pace with their first online store, but progressively more costly if you want to develop and refine your offering.
Aero stands out because although its core functionality is lean and ready to go, it’s a platform for dedicated enterprises, requiring a focused, tech-savvy approach.
What this means is that Aero is defining its own field, where excellent functionality comes as standard, and where agencies can use this foundation as a dynamic launch-pad for individually-minded online retailers.
One example of Aero’s built-in technological capability is its integration of Elasticsearch. This is an advanced search and analytics engine. As a means of collecting, processing and visualising data, it offers added value to ecommerce sites.
Another aspect of Aero’s core functionality is its use of on-the-fly image manipulation technology to minimise image sizes and convert them to nextgen formats. This is to ensure only the minimum of data is sent from the server to the users device and therefore speeding up the website in an efficient and seamless manner. This technology also helps front end developers gain maximum core web vitals and lighthouse scores for their Aero ecommerce stores.
Aero doesn’t come bursting with every available feature, but it’s built for superior performance. Think of it like buying a sports car; it’s meant to be fast — so why would you want TV screens and a built-in fridge included? Aero also provides access to source code for agencies, and works with them to provide high-quality integrations to their retail clients.
Functionality verdict: it’s not about the extras, but the basics, which ensure that this specialist platform will meet and exceed the expectations of professional retailers who wish to stand out from the crowd.
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