What is an eCommerce platform?

eCommerce refers to the buying and selling of products and services online, with global retail eCommerce sales expected to hit $27 trillion by the end of 2020 it might not be a bad idea for your business to start an online store.

Unless you have been living in a bomb shelter, we all know the impact COVID-19 has had on businesses. We have heard it repeatedly "it has never been more important to give your business an online presence".

If you are a physical business struggling right now, pivoting your offer to an online platform could help keep your business alive. Coronavirus aside, having a combination of both physical and online store means your products and services will have higher visibility. By increasing your brand awareness, it can only raise your chances of consumers purchasing more products and services from your business.

Stay tuned because today we are going to give you our predictions for the best eCommerce platforms in Australia to look out for in 2021.

Why should you use an eCommerce platform?

If you are a physical store and are looking to expand your business online or to global markets, then you will need to create an online store. But before you get started with selling online, you need to select the best eCommerce platform that best suits your business needs.

The best eCommerce platforms offer customisation, as each business is going to have its own set of requirements when creating their online store. There is also the option to build an online store from the ground up, which is not a cost-effective option for small business owners. However, larger businesses who are looking for a truly unique platform and require a vehicle that is tailored to specific requirements a custom eCommerce platform is often the only solution.

eCommerce must-have features:

• Payment gateway
• Themes and customisation
• Security
  • Invoicing
  • Order management
  • Documentation management
  • Must have the ability to scale

Our prediction for the best eCommerce platforms for Australian businesses in 2021

With so many options available, it is difficult to choose the right fit for your business. Here is our top 10 list of eCommerce platforms to be aware of in 2021.

1 Odoo

You probably won't see Odoo's eCommerce platform on many top 10 online store lists. Not because it's terrible, but because Odoo is a hidden gem. Our prediction for 2021 and beyond is that Odoo's eCommerce module will start to rise in popularity as it is a cost-effective and feature-rich solution that integrates seamlessly with the rest of Odoo's Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) ecosystem.

Odoo is a winner because it enables you to maintain your inventory and sales through their automatic stock reporting and adjustment tools. There is also a dedicated customer portal which organises your customer's data, which allows them to track their order or make a claim. Built in accounts with general ledger means you dont need to pay for another Accounting package like Xero or MYOB as its built right into the system, or you could export to Xero with an integration module.

Odoo is open source, giving your business more control over how you implement and customise your online store. It also comes ready to use, straight out-of-the-box.

Here is more information on how you can start selling with Odoo

2 Shopify

I am frequently asked by many start-ups looking to set up their first online business. Is Shopify the best eCommerce platform?

The fact is Shopify is one of the most popular and highly rated eCommerce platforms available on the market today. Powering over 800,000 businesses worldwide, it truly stands out from the competition.

Wait. Didn't I just say Odoo was #1? Well, here's why.

If you already have a Shopify store you can still use Odoo for all of your additional back end processes that Shopify doesn't offer, Odoo allows you to link both platforms through the Shopify Odoo Connector, giving you access to Odoo's backend ERP system. Your Shopify Store can integrate with Odoo so that you can import orders and publish products to Shopify from the one platform.

If you would like to learn more about integrating Shopify with Odoo you can check it out.

3 BigCommerce

BigCommerce is one of the most comprehensive eCommerce platforms. If you are a large retailer, the product search engine is incredible. The interface is also customisable, so you will be able to match your online store to your brand.

The downside is that BigCommerce can quickly become expensive, especially if you are turning over a high volume of sales. There have also been reports of inconsistent speeds, which can be a deal-breaker for many consumers browsing your store.

4 WooCommerce

WooCommerce allows you to transform your WordPress hosted website into a functional eCommerce store. There are also many add-ons and extensions available that enable payment gateways, email marketing and 1-click sales and shipping.

One of the significant downsides is that there is next to no support, which means dealing with technical problems and advanced customisation is left up to the end-user unless you engage with a developer and purchase the commercial version of the cart.

5 Magento

Just do it.

Nike is one of the most notable brands to use Magento if it's good enough for them, then it's good enough for us mere mortals.

One of the most notable drawbacks for many businesses is that to use Magento successfully coding is a necessity. If you have no experience coding, then you will need to hire a developer if you want to build a robust and customisable store. Magento is also very resources heavy so you’ll be best off investing in a shared hosting plan with guaranteed resources for CPU and memory or investing in a VPS or dedicated server.

6 Squarespace

Squarespace is known for its award-winning website builder. The same goes for its eCommerce platform. If you are after a simple and affordable solution, we recommend that you investigate Squarespace.

If you want a sleek, drag-and-drop interface, there are a library of beautiful templates and design tools to get your store up and running in no time.

7 Drupal Commerce

Drupal is another addition to our much beloved open source community. Unfortunately, there is no free trial available, and Drupal requires a powerful hosting setup to run, which is not viable for many small businesses.

Drupal does perform superbly, which is vital for SEO and customer experience when shopping at your online store. There is a large community of open source developers continually working on Drupal with new features and functionality implemented regularly.

If you are interested in another open-source alternative, Drupal might be the right solution for your business.

8 Wix

Wix is a beginner's dream for building a gorgeous looking eCommerce platform. However, we only recommend using Wix for simple and smaller stores.

Wix has a bad wrap when it comes to SEO and makes it a hard one to recommend to businesses who want to drive a lot of traffic to their store. We included it in the list because they are working hard to rectify these problems, and they also have excellent customer support when it comes to building your website.

9 Weebly

Forty million customers trust Weebly globally. It's the perfect solution if you are looking for an eCommerce platform with marketing automation.

However. If you care about SEO, don't use Weebly.

Weebly is perfect for start-ups who require a simple interface that doesn't require a developer to code. If you are looking to expand your business through digital marketing strategies and SEO, then it's best to choose a platform better suited to these needs.

10 Selz

Selz is an easy to use platform for start-ups and creatives. With a variety of product management, it makes keeping track of your products and inventory a breeze.

Selz also supports PayPal and credit cards, which is always nice to have. Selz also provides a free SSL certificate for every page of your website, not just the checkout. In my opinion, this is a huge bonus, as acquiring an SSL certificate are challenging to install if you have never had experience with them before.

If you are looking to scale your store, then Selz is not the best option as there are high transaction fees for stores selling high volumes of product.

BONUS: What is the best free eCommerce platform?

Unfortunately, we are living in a freemium world. It is rare to find something that is feature-rich yet truly free in 2020.

We've said it once already, but we are going to repeat it. We think that Odoo's eCommerce platform is the winner. It's free and ready to use out-of-the-box. Now it has never been easier to start your online business. As mentioned above, Odoo is a powerful ERP platform that offers a lot more than just eCommerce.

Disclaimer: while Odoo Community Edition is free, and the eCommerce module is also available free of charge. There are additional modules available for purchase, and Odoo requires that it be hosted on a VPS or dedicated server.

You have two options: you can self-host or pay a hosting provider to do it for you.

The benefits of choosing a local web hosting provider are that your eCommerce platform will be stored securely in a datacentre in Australia with options for back-up and disaster recovery to safeguard your data.

Threats and the future of eCommerce

eCommerce is a race against the consumer. If you decide to set up an online store, you must stay on top of currents trends and new technologies to keep up with customer demands.

Businesses are shifting evermore into the online world, and many wholesale manufacturers are concerned that there will be no future for their business.

If you would like to learn more about setting up an online store, please feel free to contact me, I'd be more than happy to learn about your business so that we can create the best solution that fits your business needs.

Kendall King

With over 10+ years experiance Kendall is Velocity Hosts marketing and sales stratagist.

Degrees in Writing and a Masters of Research Kendall brings a vital edge to the (vh) team in 2020. With fresh ideas across a broad spectrum of businesses personas. Kendall has your business covered.