2020 was a year unlike any other for eCommerce, with the pandemic pushing the sector past 30% of total retail sales. This year, consumers will spend an eye-watering £141 billion online, up almost 35% on 2019, demonstrating the need for traditional retailers, and new market entrants, to make eCommerce a priority. However, choosing the right infrastructure for your venture can be tough, so we’ve put together the pros and cons of different platforms.


Branded eCommerce Platforms

Branded eCommerce platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce are popular choices for small business owners looking to sell their wares online. According to one study, Shopify is responsible for around 2% of all eCommerce transactions worldwide, growing year-on-year.

One of the biggest benefits of using a branded platform is that it’s easy to edit and make changes – indeed, total web design beginners can get started with their free themes, store templates and in-depth tutorials and guides, and its drag-and-drop approach to products and inventory makes it easy to populate your store and keep it up-to-date with fresh releases. It’s also relatively inexpensive, with a basic account costing $29 per month; advanced options range from $79 per month to $299, and a Shopify Lite option allows you to add products to any website or blog and accept credit and debit card payments for only $9 USD per month.

There are some drawbacks to platforms like these, however; as well as monthly subscription fees, you’ll need to pay for any add-ons. If you want to allow users to sign in via Facebook, for example, you’ll need to pay for the $9 per month subscription, and little extras add up. Platform stores are less customisable than a custom developed eCommerce store, and if you want to move away from the platform, you’ll likely have to start from scratch as they lock away information to make it difficult to migrate. Shopify’s content management system is designed for products, so if you want to add a blog, video content, or carousels, you’ll need to pay extra for custom modifications or plugins which are expensive and still are limited.


eCommerce Marketplaces

Another popular option for retailers is to skip launching their own eCommerce store and sell through online marketplaces instead. Amazon, eBay and Etsy are the three most popular in the UK, but there are other options to consider. The most obvious benefit is that you can enjoy huge reach – Amazon has 8 million customers in the UK – and you can pay extra to have your products appear at the top of search results to maximise sales and conversions. As a small business, selling on these marketplaces is preferable to launching your own store as customers trust Amazon and eBay more than they do independent stores; they browse these sites every day, so it makes sense to embrace them and have a presence on them.

Though these marketplaces offer a great number of benefits, you should be aware of their high fees. If you sell fewer than 35 items per month, there’s a fixed fee of 75p plus additional sales and distribution costs from Amazon, though this is lowered once you begin selling in bulk. eBay’s fees are more complex, whilst Etsy charges a 15p listing fee as well as a 5% transaction fee and a 20p payment processing fee. Although these fees typically don’t eat into your margins too much, they can be avoided entirely when you sell independently.


Social Commerce

According to one report, lockdown led to a 95% increase in social commerce, with sites like Instagram, Facebook, and TikTok topping the bill. Consumers are increasingly using social media sites to look for products and services, especially in the fashion, beauty, and fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) sectors. One-click purchases increase the likelihood of orders and encourage consumers to make impulsive purchases, and selling on such apps allows you to tap into existing audiences through influencer marketing. What’s more, users can track the product journey inside of the app, receiving alerts when goods are dispatched, and it can build deeper, more meaningful relationships between brand and customers.

Expensive fees are one of the biggest drawbacks when selling on such platforms, and the lack of customisation is also an issue. When you sell on Instagram or Facebook, you’re in Facebook’s hands – you can’t change the design of your profile, control what products will appear on users’ feeds, or access customer data like email addresses and locations for future remarketing purposes. Customers who buy on social are technically anonymous to you, and you’ll need to work hard to get them to move over to another platform if you switch.


Custom eCommerce Development

Finally, consider custom eCommerce development to launch your own online store. Perhaps the most important benefit of doing so is that you’ll have total control over every aspect of your store – from the way it looks and performs to how customers check out and are treated post-sale. You can even convert your eCommerce store into a hybrid web app, for instance, to maximise sales, something that just wouldn’t be possible through social commerce. With a developer, you’ll be able to deploy new updates immediately, and you’ll only pay fees on card transactions, which vary anywhere from 1% to 3% depending on which you choose.

There are, of course, some drawbacks worth mentioning. Custom eCommerce sites typically take longer to build from the ground up than a Shopify store, for example, and development can be expensive. You’ll also need to pay for ongoing maintenance, updates, and tweaks, but most companies will find that this is relatively inexpensive compared to other options.


If you’re ready to bring your eCommerce dreams to life, depend on the development experts at Zudu. Click here to find out more and reach out to us today to get the ball rolling. 

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