Thinking about opening your own online store? Just googled for ‘Shopify reviews?’ Or Bigcommerce pros and cons? Or maybe WooCommerce is a platform you favor? Choices are plenty. And this may overwhelm. In this post, I’ll tell you why you should stop comparing and freaking start selling now! But first a short story in which I tell how I made all the wrong choices that nearly ruined my business.
My FIRST store CMS CHOICES
My first online store was built by local web development agency back in 2007. I was 19 and knew nothing about online business. Selling lingerie online seemed like a good idea. Luckily I was directed to a decent company with some outsourcing background. They knew nothing about lingerie business but developed something that worked for 1000$. Store CMS comparison? Nope. As I’ve already mentioned, I had no experience at all.
3 years later my business is on. Somehow it works and even makes some profit. But I’m fed up with my outdated indie CMS, which is supported by only one guy who developed it. I don’t want to invest more in that platform and decide to migrate to Magento. ‘Wow! That’s a good choice!’ – you may think.
Feeling more confident in my webpreneurial skills I hired a big name national level company. I thought that if you pay enough you can get a good product without hassle and sweat. Furthermore, I wanted them to build at once a fully loaded store. With all the bells and whistles, you know. How naïve was I!
They also knew nothing about lingerie business and didn’t bother to research. After more than a year of Basecamp talks, drafts, and uneducated decisions I finally managed to escape the contract that was going to suck all the money I had. I dropped the whole project because it was too raw and I had no money and energy to finish it. Enter depression.
Here’s what I learned the hard way
- I started without comparing different CMS’ at all and that worked!
- Some weights may be too much. Magento is one of them. Wanna play with big guys, watch out. It may break your neck.
- Big money ≠ Expertise
- Never invest lots of money if you don’t know what you need to build (what works)
- It’s normal to not know what you need in the beginning. You just have to make something that will work and build up on that.
- Don’t be afraid to drop a project if it turned up in a deadlock or just not what you need.
Another year passed. My business is dying. My country goes through the revolution and finds itself at an undeclared war with neighbor country. Economy is at the state between intensive care and morgue. Naturally, sales plummet.
The store looks too old even to our not so nerdy audience of 40-something housewifes. We update inventory by hand. We have poor SEO and look awful on mobile.
I’m desperate and decide to throw away or at least test my preconceptions about the business. Almost within a month I develop and move to a brand new Shopify store with minimalistic design and bare minimum features. Made all by myself. No money to invest. No time to waste thinking.
3 months after migration I’m writing these lines. We are still afloat. Tons of changes in business operations. Sales are still bad, but we have won a time bonus. I’m very happy I made a decision and worked on it.
Here’s a takeaway of this part of the story.
How to finally stop comparing and start your store
Even when I realized that I needed to change store platform, I wasted time comparing Magento and Shopify and Bigcommerce, and others and others. This hesitation nearly cost me a business. I spent a couple of years thinking and comparing then a few more messing up with the Magento project and then some more time before finally came out with Shopify. I tried to do everything at once and ended up doing nothing.
Here’s what you should do:
- Set up a deadline (it’s scary, I know, but works even if you are late)
- Stop looking for a perfect solution. It doesn’t exist and you know it
- If you don’t have enough experience to know what works in your market, don’t invest in expensive tools/features
- Start with bare minimum features. My Magento store meant to be loaded and that was one of the reasons the project failed.
- Start with minimalistic design. I chose Minimal theme for my store and very happy with this decision. Design should be based on content and when you start you don’t have content yet. Therefore, you have no idea how your store should look like.
If you want to read more on this ‘bare minimum’ approach search for ‘Lean startup’. But you probably already know everything you need to know now.
Ok. I hope I made my point. If you got it, you are probably looking to get in production as soon as possible. Guess what, I think your best choice is Shopify platform. Here’s why.
My BRIEF Shopify REVIEW
You can easily google lots of detailed Shopify reviews and comparisons. That’s not my goal to write another one. I’ll try to be as concise as possible. In my experience, anything complicated usually doesn’t work. What works is simple.
Pros of Shopify:
- It’s a SAAS (hosted cart solution) and doesn’t require upfront investment like Magento
- It’s perfect for small stores with not too many products but can host thousands with some additional tune-up (we have over 2000 products now).
- It has the most dynamic and contemporary biosphere (app marketplace, users and developers community etc.) I’ve seen. Bigcommerce app store is pale in comparison (sorry, Bigcommerce)
- Tons of apps with enterprise level features out of the box for a fraction of a cost (this alone is a very strong reason to choose Shopify)
- An easy to understand liquid template language. You’ll be able to make minor design adjustments yourself.
Here’s an example. I had a link ‘View all products’ on the main page in my Magento project. When I asked my developer to change it to ‘View all categories’, they have put a half an hour of work in my invoice. That’s 20$ for a tiny change I can do myself now in Shopify in 30 sec.
- Their ads don’t lie. You really can start selling very fast.
What about cons?
Shopify has a transaction fee if you don’t use their payment gateway. I’m in Ukraine and it’s not available here. So if you are going to sell in big volume with low margins AND you can’t use Shopify Payments, Shopify may be a wrong choice.
Also, I found a few things that are not addressed by Shopify team. These are mostly advanced store customizations. I believe they are NOT critical for you at this business stage.
- You don’t have full control over checkout page design. However, new responsive checkout is more flexible with CSS and translations.
- You can change the sequence of shipping options only by changing their prices (options are price-sorted).
- Lack of advanced coupon code rules. But sometimes this can be cured with additional apps.
- There’s no nested category hierarchy. Products are categorized by independent tags and collections. You’ll have to create some workarounds to address minor SEO issues.
- Some issues with non-latin language support. Also can be cured with some effort. Ask me in the comments how.
- You can’t send transactional emails via an external app (Mandrill for example) and thus track their performance. However, you can fully customize them.
I can go on with some more insignificant issues, but you probably already get it. These should be out of your concern at this stage.
Why my pros and cons probably don’t matter to you
Read this twice.
When you start, you don’t know which features you’ll need. You don’t know yet how your store should look like in order to bring in profits. Drop your assumptions. Apply scientific approach here: ‘I don’t know it yet, but I have some thoughts that I will test’. Treat your store as an R&D lab.
What to do then?
I’ll keep repeating this. Start with something simple. ASAP.
Customer wishlist? Forget about it now. Fancy design with animations? NO! You’ll want to add testimonials in a few weeks. Or detailed product description table. Or advanced product filters in a sidebar. How your design will look like with them? It will collapse after a few apps installed or when your assistant will add product descriptions with font size and color she thinks look gorgeous.
What works for me won’t necessarily work for you. Advice you’ve seen in that article — same thing. Find you minimal requirements and start testing everything else on a live site with real paying customers. This is my ultimate piece of advice for those who are still on the fence with their project.
As Andrew from ecommercefuel.com cleverly pointed out:
So if this is the 14th Shopify vs. Bigcommerce review you’ve read – stop! Quit reading, pick one and move forward with building your business! You’re wasting valuable time.
Believe me, I’ve spent a horrible couple of years just like that!
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