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Choosing CMS for your online store: where to start?

The choice of an eCommerce platform for an online shop is considered to be one of the hardest questions for the future owner.
Sometimes even the developer cannot give a clear answer. At first, you need to decide:
  • What are your goals?
  • What functionality do you need?
  • How much time and money are you ready to spend?
There are a lot of eCommerce platforms on the market and they can all be divided into two categories: paid and free licenses. Free solutions are not worse than the paid ones and there are more of them on the market in percentage, while paid platforms provide tech support from developers and unique sense of protection.
Altima Web Systems has conducted a short research and prepared a review on common used eCommerce CMS. We hope this information will help you make the right choice.
Shopify – paid license
In 2010 Ottawa Business Journal called Shopify the fastest-growing company in Ottawa (Canada).
In September, 2015 Shopify and Amazon.com announced mutual cooperation, and Shopify's users got an opportunity to sell products through Amazon services.
Also, the platform closely cooperates with Facebook and Etsy as additional channels of merchandizing, helping raise sales among its customers. 

Moreover, this CMS allows to start new projects within a single day. 325 000 websites use Shopify, what makes it the most popular platform among SaaS solutions.
Shopify provides you with tech support, basic functionality, hosting and a great deal of responsive templates. All you need to do is to pay platform’s 'rent', choose the theme you like and fill it with content.
One of the biggest drawbacks in this case is that you will not have full control over the website. All manipulations with the platform are carried out exclusively by the developer for a fee. And you will lose access to the store if you stop paying the rent.
In case of further expansion of the shop, you will have to install additional applications. Monthly costs for some of them might be more expensive than platform's fee itself.
But even on such conditions Shopify manages to conquer the world market of eCommerce solutions.
Search queries from all over the world
The following statistics is provided by Google Trends during December, 2011 – November, 2016 period.
1C: Bitrix – paid license
The leader among paid eCommerce platforms of RUnet. This solution is based on Bitrix Framework – a shell with a set of ready-to-use functions, which allow to create a successful online store with everything you might need. Bitrix Framework is an open-source code, which highly promotes platform's development.
You can install the out-of-the-box version of website and customize it according to your needs or you can choose the right theme on 'Marketplace'.
Currently more than 20 000 online shops are based on this platform.
The main slogan of Bitrix is 'documentation'.  Before you start working with it, you should examine all the documents – and that's about 6 000 pages. If you neglect this rule, you risk to exceed the budget and get an absolutely different result in the end.
At the moment company is developing the new eCommerce D7 core – out-of-the-box functional which allows to satisfy any needs of an online store owner.
Bitrix is capricious, but in hands of a good specialist it turns into a worthy purchase.
Magento CE – free license
This CMS had been published in 2008, and since 2011 company started working as a part of eBay Inc. Thus, three companies – eBay, PayPal and Magento – became a joint holding.
Since November, 2015 Permira investment company is being the owner of Magento Commerce. The deal between eBay and Permira has occurred in result of the division between eBay and Paypal Holding Inc. merchant system.
Currently Magento is one of the most popular platforms on eCommerce market and counts more than 2500 000 online shops on its basis.
For a long time by now this CMS has been holding the leading positions, which proves its reliability and relevance.
Magento includes huge functional capacities, which results in a significant drawback – it's rather resource-intensive. You will need a dedicated server hosting in order to achieve high performance and speed.
If you have great plans on store expansion and are sure in what you want to see on the website, this platform will not disappoint you.
The staff of our company includes certified developers of online shops based on Magento platform. You can check out our portfolio here.
In future, with growth of your business, you might turn to a more powerful Magento Enterprise version with minimal expenses, as Magento CE and Magento EE are developed on the same core. This fact will allow to save your resources, and transfer to the new platform will be painless. 
Magento EE – paid license
This platform was created for large-scale projects with huge everyday conversion. It's expected to handle more than 50 000 unique visitors and 18 000+ orders a day.
Developers of Magento Enterprise Edition are fully focused on performance increase and, in result, attraction of new customers and sales upturn on the website.
Magento EE is used by such giants as BSN Sports, Seat, Burger King, Reds Gear etc.
You will have round-the-clock support with additional functionality at your disposal, which will allow you to easily bypass your competitors.
But all those benefits are to be nicely paid for. Magento EE will cost you 22 000$ - 32 000$ a year.
PrestaShop – free license
In 2010 and 2011 PrestaShop has received the Best Open-source Business Application award as the best eCommerce solution.
The developers of this platform strive to keep up with the times, trying not to fall hind and catch up with such giant as Magento.
A significant increase of interest towards this CMS on the part of small and medium businesses continued in 2013 and 2014. The platform has been accepted as the best eCommerce solution on the market.
Although, this had not lasted for long – already in 2016 indexes began to fall. Thereby, PrestaShop has prepared a new release – PrestaShop 1.7, which is yet still working in a test mode.
It's a Symfony2 framework based solution with new architecture and PHP7 support. It also includes additional tools allowing to simplify front-end and back-end interfaces, as well as accelerate sales.
WooCommerce – free license
WooCommerce plugin for WordPress CMS will perfectly suit a start-up project. 
The first release had been announced in September, 2011 and just in 3 years this plugin held 17.77% of the world market. And the indexes still keep on growing. Currently this module holds 39% of the whole eCommerce market share.
WooCommerce proves to be most loyal to customization during online store development. It's a user-friendly plugin with a great deal of widgets and information on their installation.
As for design and ready-to-use themes, their price vary in range of 0-100$. This is a one-time purchase, and it's the most costly one with this solution.
If you plan to open an online store with small number of products and you don't need extensive functionality – such as Magento or PrestaShop have – WooCommerce is the right choice for you.
OpenCart – free license
Since 2014 OpenCart has become the most popular eCommerce solution in China and later on – in RUnet as well. Already in 2015 OpenCart has been being used for 6.42% of all online shops in the world, providing it the third position in the world rankings. 
This CMS is user-friendly, easy to manage, customize and support. The out-of-the-box version contains all the standard features for a successful online store launch.
Unfortunately, there are drawbacks as well: duplicated content is generated by the engine itself. Single page can have multiple URLs, which leads to negative effect on SEO.
OpenCart is not implied for large-scale projects: if you plan to have tens of thousands of products in your catalogue, it's better to choose another platform with higher performance.
Drupal Commerce – free license
The Drupal Commerce module, used for Drupal platform, will suit large-scale projects with complex data organization. On account of close integration with Drupal engine, it allows to attach a blog or a forum to an online store without any problems.
This solution is not out-of-the-box, like previous options, but rather a framework with a set of separate modules.
Since the moment of the first release (23rd of August, 2011) this platform has kept on gaining weight, being highly requested in large companies. But with emergence of new solutions and technologies on the market, popularity of Drupal Commerce has started to fall signally.
In October, 2016 the Drupal Commerce 2.x Enters Beta1 release was announced.
It's not a stable version yet, more likely to contain bugs, but developers assure its high performance and easy administration.
VirtueMart – free license
VirtueMart is a module for Joomla engine, present on the market for more than 10 years by now. This component has held the forefront positions among eCommerce platforms for a long period of time. In 2013 it was in the top five of best solutions.
Now we see a slightly different trend: the number of downloads has significantly decreased. Although, this situation might change with emergence of the new VirtueMart 3.x version on the market.
Since 2015 a lot of work has been done on acceleration and usability enhancement of the platform. The set of tools has expanded compared to the old versions. VirtueMart can still be used both as a catalogue without online payment options and as an efficient online store.
Taking into account all the above mentioned we can make the following conclusions on engine selection:
  • Relevance of the CMS. In the fast-growing world of IT technologies, in order to win you need to keep on improving yourself and keep up with the times.
  • Competence of the developer. Even a perfectly chosen CMS will not equal the hopes in case of an illiterate approach of the developer or a web studio to objectives.
  • Clearly defined goals. Every platform has its pros and cons, and choice of the right solution depends on your requirements.
As practice shows, distinguishing a single platform as the best one among many others is impossible. Everything depends on your future plans and clearly defined objectives.

SaaS (software as a service) is a service model, wherein customers are provided with a ready-to-use software, fully maintained by developers. SaaS allows to create and setup your own online store easily, without any necessary programming knowledge or design skills. There are a lot of such solutions on the market. Back

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