A look at eCommerce websites

Last Updated on August 11, 2016

When thinking about selling products on a website for my business, how do I find out which eCommerce option will work best for me?

Ecommerce website design options

Depending on the type, complexity, and number of products you are looking to sell, one or more of these four software options may work for you:

  1. Open Source 
  2. All-In-One
  3. WordPress Plugin
  4. Third Party Checkout

There are certainly many more eCommerce software solutions that will not be covered here in this post, but these four options give you some exposure to different solutions that we’ve had success with.

Open Source
An open source solution would typically be used by a business that generates a lot of eCommerce traffic and has custom needs for selling products.  In contrast to common eCommerce software that is usually designed to sell simple products like clothing, books, and other high-volume consumer products, an open source solution gives a business with unique products far more flexibility.

nopCommerce is an open source eCommerce platform that comes with many great features “out of the box.”  It is also easy to customize.  The level of customization is the big positive for solutions like this.  By using this solution, you have access to all of the source code and can do what you want.

The main drawback of open source software is that it is driven by a loose community of developers.  If the community is not strong, you’re on your own for support and problem solving.

Two successful examples of the custom implementation of nopCommerce: Rex Shower Doors (very unique products) and Berean Stores (over 80,000 products).

Web-based eCommerce solutions that provide all-in-one functionality are great for a business that wants to keep things simple and easy-to-use.

We have had some experience using the all-in-one solution called Shopify.  This platform includes everything you need to hit the ground running with your eCommerce website.  It even includes the hosting, built-in credit card processing, integration with shipping carriers, email newsletter management, and much more.  The only drawback with this solution is the case of “what you see is what you get.” If you are looking to sell complex products, there isn’t a whole lot of customization that can be done with Shopify functionality.  The look and feel of a Shopify site can be modified to suit your needs; besides that, it is pretty cut and dried.

WordPress Plugin
If you already have a WordPress website you love and the eCommerce piece is an afterthought, you always have the option of using one of many good plugins built to work with WordPress content management.  The great thing about being on a WordPress platform is that you have so much flexibility for the future.  WordPress is open source, with a flourishing community of developers publishing more and more great tools every year.

One possible drawback of WordPress is that adding eCommerce as an afterthought can end up producing a “bolt-on” experience for the shopper that is not much better than spinning the customer off to PayPal to buy something.  When you try to stretch the WordPress platform to be used as an eCommerce solution, it can cause some unexpected difficulties in making everything hang together for the end user.  Be sure to pick the right web development partner who can customize the design and functionality for the best possible experience.

Windwavers started as a WordPress website, and eventually we added the eCommerce portion.

Third Party Checkout
Third Party Checkouts are common solutions for businesses who simply want to sell a few things on their website without the hassle of setting up a custom eCommerce solution and who don’t want to bother with maintaining software or worry about privacy and security.

Google Checkout and Paypal are the most common third party tools used for checking out.  These services provide instructions on how to include their simple forms in your website.  Once a user submits some basic information on a website, he or she is then redirected to Google Checkout or PayPal to proceed with a secure checkout.

There are, however, a few drawbacks to Google Checkout and Paypal.  For example, even though these services are commonly used across the Internet, third party checkout can be confusing to shoppers when those shoppers are re-directed to another website to make their purchase.  If shoppers do not recognize and trust the service to which they have been re-directed, many times they can feel tentative about finalizing their purchase.  Another drawback to this third party checkout is that there is typically a service charge per purchase, which can cut into your business’s profits.

Third party checkout has its benefits, though.  One such benefit of using PayPal, for example, is user familiarity.  PayPal has been around for awhile and is familiar to most Internet users.  It is simple to setup a business account on PayPal and to add a PayPal button to your website.

Google is a household name, and Google Checkout has become a common third party checkout solution in recent years.  Google Checkout is widely used by Android users to purchase apps.  Google Checkout has also been integrated into users’ phones by means of Google Wallet.  Google Wallet allows the phone to be swiped (at physical stores that support the technology) as a form of payment.  Therefore, there is a good chance that Google Checkout is going to be widely adopted and familiar to shoppers.  Along with the connection to the Android operating system, there is a checkout system where merchants can also display a Google Checkout button on their site to be used for purchases on their website.

Summing Up
To summarize these four eCommerce options for you:  the major benefit of using Open Source, All-In-One, or WordPress PlugIn is that the shopping experience stays within your website.  There isn’t a need to re-direct your customers to a third party because all of the needed functionality is on your website.  However, a solution of such magnitude may be more than what your business needs and more than what you are willing to pay.  If you are focused on selling only a few products, you may need simply a checkout button and a third party solution.  Hopefully, after reading this article and doing some research, you can make an informed decision about which solution is right for you.