Not so many years ago building a website was something that only people with a high degree of technical knowledge could do.
Luckily, this situation has changed throughout the years thanks to tools for building websites called CMSs (Content Management Systems).
Nowadays, it is not only easy to build a simple website, but also to set up a complex online shop without being a programmer or IT specialist.
In this post we are going to show you the most popular CMSs and which ones you can use for your new e-commerce shop.
What’s a CMS?
A CMS, Content Management System, is software that is used to create and manage websites.
At the risk of some purist techies freaking out and banging their heads against the wall, we are going to try to sum it up a bit.
In order to create a website, you can write that code from scratch or you can use one of these platforms that offer part of that code already written as a base. In addition to that, they offer a very easy-to-use control panel (backend) to manage everything that the website shows (frontend).
That means that in order to build a website with a CMS such as WordPress, which is probably the most well known, you don’t need to have any programming knowledge. It could be said that these platforms have democratized web development.
CMSs work with templates or themes that are in charge of the design, colors, and style (CSS) of the website.
This super simple explanation is just so you can get an idea about what they are and what they are for.
In addition, some CMSs allow you to create an online shop with an extra plugin, while others are designed specifically for that purpose.
Those are the CMSs that we are going to focus on today.
Which CMSs are there for online shops?
The criteria chosen to analyze them one by one will be their market share, starting with the most used platforms.
Most used E-commerce CMS worldwide. Source: Wappalyzer
0. Market share of the most popular e-commerce CMS
- Woocommerce -> 44%.
- Shopify ->15.8%.
- Magento -> 14.2%.
- Prestashop -> 10.7%.
- Opencart -> 8.7%.
Let’s see them one by one and determine for which types of shops they’d work best.
WooCommerce is not a CMS per se, but a WordPress plugin.
WordPress is a CMS that was born as a blogging platform but, after some time, has become a tool used to create almost any type of website.
The WordPress core, however, doesn’t allow the creation of online shops by default. That extra functionality for e-commerce comes with the WooCommerce plugin.
WooCommerce is a free plugin created by the company WooThemes that lets you turn a WordPress site into an online shop.
A. The WooCommerce and WordPress boom
31.7% of all websites worldwide have been created with WordPress and this number is in constant growth because of its simplicity and ease of use. This dominance WordPress has in the online market is even higher with 44% of the market share of the world market alongside WooCommerce.
Websites that have tons of visits each day, such as TechCrunch or press websites such as The NewYorker or Time Inc., use WordPress. The same applies to online shops such as All Blacks or The Underwear Experts, which have millions of monthly views.
B. Advantages of using WooCommerce
What’s the reasoning behind companies with huge budgets using this CMS for their shops? Here are some of the features supporting that reasoning:
- Free: Price is never a bad reason, is it? The plugin is free and you will only pay for the add-ons that you select if you want to add different options and extra features.
- Simple: One tab for products, another one for orders, and some basic settings that you can set with your eyes clothes after a short time.
- Flexible: products, categories, tags, any website structure that you can think of can be copied.
- Highly customizable: With just a bit of CSS knowledge or by using special templates, your shop will look 100% unique.
- Supports physical and virtual products: It doesn’t matter whether you sell downloadable products or physical ones, plus it’s also good for affiliate programs.
- Taxes management: Setting up VAT is never easy. With WooCommerce, you will have everything ready to show your tax administrators.
- More SEO-friendly than its competitors: From an SEO standpoint, no CMS can beat a 100% customizable platform, but WooCommerce can be set up so that Google also likes it just by changing a few features.
- The WordPress Community: Nearly any problem that you may have has already been solved by another user before (there are billions of them). There are forums, tutorials, and posts about everything related to WordPress.
In addition, with just a few clicks you can get an Excel document detailing all your shop’s transactions.
C. Disadvantages of using WooCommerce
Not everything that glitters is gold. There’s no doubt about the pros, but let’s see the cons:
- It depends on WordPress: It is not a CMS itself—it’s a WordPress plugin. That doesn’t have to be a bad thing, but if you can choose, it is always better to use a tool that is 100% for e-commerce.
- The free version is too basic: You will be able to create a shop for free, but as soon as you want to customize it or change anything, you will have to buy more plugins also sold by WooThemes. That’s the downside of the freemium business model.
- It is not useful for thousands of references: If your shop has lots of products, this is not the fastest or easiest CMS to manage them.
You can download it and find all the related information here.
Now let’s check out the competition and see what their chances of regaining some market share are.
The list that we are using as a reference is based on worldwide usage. Shopify is used much more in the US than in other countries such as Spain and is therefore in second position.
Shopify’s business model is different from other CMSs that we are analyzing. To start, it doesn’t have a free version and it works as SaaS (Software as a Service) to which you can connect without downloading any software.
Their strategy is to offer the possibility of building an online shop without any type of technical knowledge.
Their clients are not only beginners starting to build an online business, they are also people who want to work quickly and without technical problems no matter what their tech knowledge may be.
It is a comprehensive platform for e-commerce that allows selling both physical and virtual products as well as a complete management system for orders, post-sales services, and data analysis.
If you work with Shopify, you don’t have to worry about hosting either since it’s included in the monthly fee.
You can see their prices here.
How advisable is it to use Shopify?
Although big e-commerce shops such as Hawkers, Tesla, and Budweiser use Shopify, one of the most common profiles of Shopify platform users is the one formed by entrepreneurs who don’t want to or can’t afford better web development.
If you are just starting out and have no clue about how to create a website, you have two options:
- Pay a third party: with the risk of not being able to validate your business idea.
- Learn how to use one of these CMSs and do it yourself: you need to invest time and a great deal of effort at the beginning.
In the middle you have Shopify (or similar tools such as Wix) that require low investment (less than €400 per year) and give you access to a platform where you can create a website by clicking and dragging.
Not bad, right?
Now let’s see who’s third on the list.
With Magento we are dealing with a CMS that offers a different level of management for e-commerce. This is the one used by Nespresso, Helly Hansen, and Fred Perry, so you can guess that it’s made for businesses with huge commercial volumes.
The most basic version is free and it follows a similar model to some of those that we have already seen. It offers two options:
- One is software that you can install on your own hosting platform.
- The other is SaaS with online access.
When to use Magento?
This CMS is designed to work with millions of products and a huge amount of traffic. If this is your case, go ahead, and if not, it’s better to choose a lighter option such as the one we’re going to talk about next.
PrestaShop is a content management system used exclusively to build online shops.
It was born as software for e-commerce and is now one of the best and most used platforms.
- It’s free: It is an open-source tool with a freemium business model; you only have to pay for the extra modules you want to add.
- Friendly interface: As with any other tool, it has a learning curve—but once you learn, it’s really easy to use.
- Scalable: It’s perfect if you have many references.
- Optimized: Despite the huge volume of products that it can handle, both the performance and speed of PrestaShop are amazing.
- Community: PrestaShop also has the support of a huge community where you’ll be able to find information about many related topics.
Let’s take a look at the cons.
Disadvantages of PrestaShop as a CMS
As with other CMSs, PrestaShop is not always the best option—these are some of the reasons:
- Not as flexible: You’ll need some knowledge or help from a programmer in order to carry out advanced changes.
- SEO optimization could be better: According to many SEO experts, the way it’s implemented doesn’t help the positioning of your shop’s website.
- High module prices: Although the tool is free, you will have to pull out your pocketbook for many modules too add other features.
Either way, it’s always a good sign to know that more than half a million websites, such as Built With, use PrestaShop.
Conclusion: which CMS to choose?
There is no definitive rule, but you can use these guides to help decide:
- If you have few products and content marketing is going to be one of your strategies, choose WooCommerce.
- If you have more references and you need more specific features: PrestaShop
- If you want something as fast and easy as possible and you don’t mind paying €30 per month even if you have to do the work, try Shopify.
- For e-commerce at large with huge volumes, go with Magento.
We hope you find this information useful.
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