Online shopping is the new norm in retail. It’s no longer about buying from foreign brands that do not have a local presence. It’s no longer about top fashion brands and the latest gadgets. Consumers use online stores to buy everyday groceries, furniture, home improvement products and anything in between. Thus, business owners who want to thrive need an online store. And we know which the best CMS for online stores are.
What Is a CMS for Online Stores?
CMS stands for content management system. This is the software behind any website. If your company has a website, you are already using a CMS to manage your site: add pages, publish blog posts, delete obsolete content, etc.
CMS for online stores has the same role: to allow an administrator to manage an ecommerce site. However, this type of CMS is far more complex, because it has to interface with payment processing systems, such as card payments, PayPal, mobile payments, etc.
The Two Main Types of CMS for Online Stores
When you start looking for a CMS for an ecommerce website, you will find various listicles with recommendations and some acronyms that make little sense to you. We don’t start by pretending that you are an expert – after all, our mission is to help you run your business more efficiently.
So, here is what you need to know about CMS for online stores. They are available as:
- Open source software
- SaaS – software as a service.
An open source platform is publicly and freely available to developers to make contributions and improvements. In most cases, open source platforms also offer a free basic plan to users. However, since there is no specific owner of the platform, you do not have access to dedicated customer service and tech support. You will find many forums where users offer advice, but they are not always curated for accuracy.
SaaS platforms are proprietary, developed by a company. You will not find free plans, but you have the assurance that you can always count on professional developers to help you solve technical glitches as part of your monthly plan.
What to Look for in an eCommerce CMS
Each business has specific needs. Some online stores offer a few types of products; others have many categories and ranges of products. However, all ecommerce websites need a CMS that offers the following benefits and features:
- SEO friendly interface, allowing the admin to optimise pages and ensure that Google indexes them correctly
- Easy customisations for great user experience
- User friendly interface, allowing non-tech savvy persons to manage the online store
- Compatibility with various other business tools (integrations).
The Most Popular CMS for Online Stores
Let us now move to what you need to know: what CMS to start comparing and considering for your ecommerce websites. These are the most popular platforms used by most online stores worldwide:
WooCommerce is not a CMS per se, but a WordPress plugin that adds the ecommerce option to your website. Since WordPress is the most popular CMS, many companies rely on it for their online store, as well.
WooCommerce is extremely popular because it offers tons of extensions and themes – many of them for free. However, you should not become too excited and add too many extensions, because they can make your online shop needlessly complex and slow to load. Also, you do not benefit from dedicated tech support if anything goes wrong, because WordPress is an open source platform.
Shopfy is a proprietary CMS for online stores, used by many entrepreneurs and SMEs – as many as 800,000 according to a recent report published by the platform. The success of Shopify comes from:
- The simple and user-friendly interface
- The access to a full-featured CMS
- Mobile shopping cart
- Facebook selling integration.
Last, but not least, Shopify offers 24/7 tech support, so you are never left alone when you need to fix a problem.
BigCommerce is the CMS of choice for big brands from Toyota to Skullcandy. However, it is also a suitable CMS for online stores that are just starting out and do not need a lot of complex features.
However, users can choose from some of the most useful tools and integrations to help run their online store:
- Ecommerce integrations
- Advanced SEO tools
- Sales analytics
- Social media marketing tools.
Also, you can choose from many payment gateways, including PayPal. The only downside we can see is that when your online store exceeds a certain threshold of sales, your monthly subscription will also increase.
If you want a fully customised ecommerce website, Drupal is the best CMS for online stores. You can build your site from scratch, decide on the structure, design, layout, functionalities – everything is under your control and nothing preset.
However, this generates the main downside of Drupal – it is difficult to use and you will definitely need a programmer and a designer to create your site. Also, since it is an open source platform, you may have to hire a programmer every time there is a glitch, because troubleshooting is complex. But, if you want a free and fully customisable CMS for online stores, Drupal is still a choice worth taking into consideration.
OpenCart is a sort of best of both worlds CMS for online store. It is an open source platform, but you can benefit from paid tech support from OpenCart approved partners. This means that you get to build your online shop for free and only pay when you need help.
Other benefits of this ecommerce platform are:
- Over 14,000 extensions and themes to choose from
- Integration with over 20 payment gateways
- 8 different shipping methods
- Ability to add discounts, coupons and special offers
- User-friendly interface.
A freemium CMS for online stores with over 300,000 businesses using it, PrestaShop is a great choice for small to medium ecommerce websites. It is easy to install and configure and allows you to upload and customise products.
You can create product categories and product pages with great ease, and configure every aspect without being a tech savvy person:
- The checkout page.
You can use the basic version of PrestaShop for free, but some add-ons are rather expensive. Also, this platform is not ideal for large online store. Apart from these, we have no other downsides to this platform to inform you of.
Wix is better known as a general website builder than a CMS for online stores. To access this specific platform, you have to sign up for their Business & Ecommerce Plans. The pros of this platform are:
- Tons of great looking ecommerce templates
- Easy to use platforms
- Great mobile commerce features
- Ability to integrate a blog into your online store
- Simple and effective product inventory system.
Now, let’s also talk about the cons. These are:
- You have to pay a monthly subscription
- You do not have complete freedom in customising your site
- You do not have access advanced ecommerce tools and plugins.
There are many platforms for building online stores, some of which we left out because they are too complex and expensive for you, others because they do not offer clear data security guarantees. However, we believe that at least one of the CMS for online stores we included here is the right choice for your business.