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Choosing an eCommerce platform that fits your needs

Three profiles. Three platforms. All with the same goal of selling online.
Compare the options

Three ways to create your online shop

Jessica, James and Thomas are fictional characters we use to explain the advantages and disadvantages of our eCommerce platforms.
Imagine Jessica’s story

Jewellery with the Social Buy Button

The social selling solution

I’ve been making jewellery as a side hustle for a while now. It doesn’t pay the bills just yet, but there’s definitely a market for the unique upcycled pieces I make. With a full-time job, I need a fast and convenient way to sell. Going to fairs and markets is time consuming, and you don’t get the same reach. Most micro merchants use social media and I realised I needed to get on board.

After looking around, I chose the IONOS Social Buy Button. It means I can manage everything from my phone, and I don’t even need a website. You just add a buy button on Facebook and Instagram and you’re good to go. For someone like me with a small product range and not much time, it’s the perfect way to sell.

Learn more about the Social Buy Button
Imagine James' story

Coffee cups with MyWebsite eCommerce

The adaptable shop solution

I was always interested in pottery and making kitchenware. I started making my own coffee cups to give to friends and family but was taken aback when demands starting coming in from local cafes. One thing led to another and I needed an online shop where I could not only sell products, but where loyal customers can log in, see B2B information and schedule orders. I now sell mugs to cafes and wholesalers all around the country.

The IONOS MyWebsite eCommerce platform was so easy to set up and use. It even helped guide me in the right direction with detailed articles on what you need to run a successful online business. However, what really blew me away was that every time my fledgling business seemed to grow, my website was able to meet the demand.

Learn more about our eCommerce Website Builder
Imagine Thomas' Story

Electronics shop with WooCommerce

The customisable shop solution

I started selling electronics as a hobby way back when. I wasn’t doing anything groundbreaking, but I must’ve been in the right place at the right time because I started making money. Once I realised I could make a living doing this, I got myself a small unit and started expanding. I slowly built up a team of 10 employees and before I knew it I had orders coming in from all around the world!

I’m so glad my hosting agency recommended I choose WooCommerce for my online shop – without its warehouse management feature I’d be lost, especially now I’ve got multiple warehouses. It’s really important to know what is where, and I get notifications if the stock gets low. WooCommerce grew with me, so even though it’s a complex beast to tame, it has been worth it.

Learn more about WordPress Hosting with WooCommerce

Which of our products is the best fit for you?

Social Buy ButtonMyWebsite eCommerceManaged WordPress with WooCommerce

Relevant features for social selling

Lots of integrated functions

Flexible with plugins

Quick to go live

Go live in 60 minutes

Installation possible in 1 - 2 days

Setup takes a little longer

No technical knowledge required

Very easy to use

Very easy to use

Previous knowledge necessary


(Marketing, operations, B2B and more)

Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest and Messenger

Large selection already integrated

Very large selection of plugins

Easy changes and adaptions

Very easy to use

Very easy to use

Operation requires training

Pricestarting at starting at £1/monthexcl. VAT starting at £0/monthexcl. VAT
Learn moreLearn moreLearn more

If those options weren't convincing, here's a comparison of the top 5 eCommerce platforms in 2020:

eCommerce platformAdvantages/disadvantagesSuitable for...

+ Stable, reliable and scalable

+ Customisable and flexible

+ Heaps of features

+ Large community

- Requires intense resources

- Skilled IT team needed within the eCommerce team

Larger businesses and agencies

Recommended platform:

Dedicated Server


+ Largest community worldwide

+ Easily customisable

+ Simple to install

+ Large number of plug-ins

- Dependent on WordPress

- Frequency of updates

Mid-sized businesses and agencies

Recommended platform:

Managed WordPress

Zen Cart

+ Lots of built-in features

+ Requires basic programming skills

+ Hundreds of free payment modules

+ Freedom to modify the source code

- Outdated layouts

- Difficult to upgrade

Mid-sized businesses and agencies

Recommended platform:

Web Hosting


+ Large number of free plug-ins

+ Great support

+ Renowned community and forum

+ 200+ connected payment providers

- Difficult to customise

- Old technology

Mid-sized businesses and agencies

Recommended platform:

Web Hosting

Open Cart

+ 13,000+ themes and modules

+ Free community and premium support

+ Intuitive admin area

+ Multi-store functionality

- Expensive, necessary plug-ins

- When updated, some features show errors or do not work

Mid-sized businesses and agencies

Recommended platform:

Web Hosting

Be prepared by following our eCommerce checklist

1. Get organised: think of a story!2. Design and structure your shop3. Administration

  • What do you want to achieve with your online shop?

  • Will you sell online only or also in a bricks-and-mortar store? Do you have a website already and want to add a store?

  • How are you planning to get visitors to your website?

  • Is there a smart way to create synergies between online and offline prospects of your business?

  • Do you have someone to help you set up your eCommerce platform? Do you have programming skills?

  • What is your value proposition? What problem are you solving for your customers?

  • Do you have sales staff that use the online shop to present your products?

  • Do you explain the details of your products correctly?

  • Will you have a few key products or a wide range of items?

  • How are you going to display these product pages to users of your website?

  • How is your navigation structured?

  • How can you make sure you have stunning images of your products?

  • Think about easing the checkout process for your visitors.

  • Think mobile first, meaning your shop interface should be responsive.

  • Do you want to sell your products in one country or more? Do you offer multiple currencies?

  • How do you want to interact with your customers? Via chat, phone or email?

  • Think about how you'll manage process emails: order confirmations, payment, delivery etc.

  • Set up payment methods: offer your customers their preferred payment method, depending on your industry – credit cards, cash on delivery, PayPal etc.

  • Think about how you want to deliver the items. You can chose your own carrier or use one that's integrated in the ready-made shop solution. Offer your customers different shipping rates. A flat rate, for example £5 for any purchase, or free shipping starting with a certain amount spent. You can even adjust your shipments depending on volume or weight. Use this feature only if selling high volumes of goods. Otherwise just decide which flat rate is best for your business.

  • Track your sales with Google analytics to improve your conversion rate.

  • Do you need a shop system that includes inventory management?

4. Secure a domain and go live5. Marketing and multi-channels6. Stay up to date and relevant

  • Choose a domain name that fits your business.

  • If your country specific domain is not available, think about having a domain that fits your industry such as .restaurant. This can increase your chances of finding an available domain and demonstrates which industry you belong to.

  • Look for ways to involve customers: email marketing, coupons, discounts or customer loyalty programmes.

  • Do you want to sell on Amazon or eBay? How can you differentiate your products? Pricing, naming, product descriptions?

  • Bring more traffic to your shop by placing your products on multiple comparison portals or deal websites.

  • Your shop is live. Add fresh content. Give people good reasons to frequently visit your site.

  • Always give your customers more: embed YouTube videos and social media sharing opportunities.

  • Get feedback from your customers and use it to improve your products and your online shop.

The types of eCommerce platforms available

Take control with self-hosted eCommerce platforms

A self-hosted eCommerce platform means that you take care of the hosting. You are responsible for researching the best offers and setting up a server (usually in the cloud). All the files and data for your store are then maintained on that online server. Self-hosting, especially with open source eCommerce platforms, gives you control over every aspect of your online store so you have more freedom to design it to fulfil your exact needs. You can set up this type of platform anywhere since you’re not attached to a centralised service.

Enjoy all-in-one solutions with hosted platforms

A hosted platform is when the platform you’re building on (e.g. WooCommerce, osCommerce, Magento etc.) hosts your shop’s files on their own servers. Hosted solutions provide you with an all-in-one eCommerce solution including hosting, a shopping basket function and technical support. This option is the simplest to manage and because of the included support, it makes it especially suitable for the less tech-savvy. This enables you to focus solely on your products. There are many interesting designs to choose from so your store can still look unique.

Get the best of both worlds with mixed platforms

Often referred to as ‘hybrids’, these combine the features of self-hosted and hosted platforms. You have the complete flexibility and design control as with a self-hosted platform and can easily integrate with other systems, and at the same time you can enjoy the speed and ease that comes with a hosted platform, as well as the security and scalability. These can help your store run more efficiently and could mean that it takes less time to get it up and running. The reliability of this option makes it a popular choice among shop owners.

Creating an online shop

FAQ – Frequently asked questions

The length of time it takes to create an online store depends on a number of factors and can vary based on the size of the online shop, the tech used, the budget available, and the creator's IT skill level.

You can find a number of resources in the Digital Guide that will help speed up the process of starting an online store, offering both technical and theoretical advice on dealing with the different stages of creating your shop.

Creating an online store allows you to reach a new customer base and to therefore increase sales by tapping into a new market. An online store is always available and allows users to make purchases 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By freeing you from the boundaries of physical distance, an online shop gives you wider reach to prospective customers.

Generally speaking, creating an online store can significantly increase your business turnover and can even save you money by allowing you to identify and meet the specific needs of your customers. In this way, you'll have more relevance to your audience and can adapt more easily to their buying habits.

It can be difficult to distinguish the difference between the free, open-source online store platforms, and paid eCommerce solutions. If the outcome is the same, why are some systems free while others must be paid for? The explanation is simple: since not all online shops have the same needs, the difference in use between the two systems permit different things.

The service that an open-source online shop offers is generally intended for professional developers and those familiar with programming language. This is because they enable the utmost customisation possible and therefore respond extremely well to bespoke projects, particularly if there are specific needs in a particular area.

Paid online store platforms are a better idea for anyone starting out in online sales, whether that's to bring an online presence to their business's shop front or launching primarily as an online retailer. They provide everything you need to create an online store independently and with no understanding of IT necessary; anyone can take advantage of the opportunities that the web offers.

An eCommerce platform is a software technology solution that enables you to build an online store and run a business online. eCommerce software provides you with tools that facilitate inventory management, help you to calculate taxes, and make it easier to add or remove products in your store. eCommerce platforms can be very beneficial for those without technical backgrounds since the software takes care of a lot of the operation.

  • Many design possibilities

  • Top notch site security

  • Easy to create pages and content

  • Ability to grow as your store expands

  • Expand capabilities with third party plugins

  • Online support

  • Multi-channel functionality

eCcommerce software enables you to have everything you need to run your store in one place. If there are tasks that the platform cannot undertake, it's possible to link other integration's (e.g. Twitter, Facebook) to the platform so you don't have to switch between different services all the time. Choosing the right eCommerce platform is crucial for your business. The general rule of thumb is that the more flexible the software is, the less simplistic is will be.

It's difficult to know which eCommerce platform to choose when there are so many on offer. Six of the best eCommerce platforms are Magento, WooCommerce, PrestaShop, osCommerce, b2evolution, and the IONOS eCommerce Website Builder. Here's a brief eCommerce platform comparison explaining why our hosted eCommerce platforms are six of the best eCommerce platforms of 2020.

Magento is a flexible and scalable open-source platform, suitable for small and medium-sized businesses as well as enterprises. Its vast array of features and large support community speaks for its popularity.

WooCommerce is suitable for the same sized businesses as Magento and also boasts a large community on hand to help other users as well as to make improvements to the source code. Unique store designs are possible with this platform as well as the option to set up different accounts to give users different rights.Another simple to use, easy to install solution is PrestaShop. Its flexible nature and ability to work without the fastest internet connection are definite plus points, as well as the fact that multiple currencies and languages are integrated in order to be as appealing as possible to store owners and customers.osCommerce has a huge active community and support forum and with over 8,000 free integration's at your disposal, you can design your store to your exact liking. The open source solution is an especially good choice for those just starting out.Another eCommerce platform that is easy to get to grips with is b2evolution. Uploading and editing web content is simple and the platform also boasts top security, making transactions secure and keeping hackers at bay. It's also possible to run multiple blogs on one platform if you wish.A IONOS MyWebsite eCommerce package is simple to set up for users with little tech-experience, is affordable, and provides shop owners with lots of embeddable features, as well as great scalability if their online shop grows.

This eCommerce platform comparison can put things into perspective and help you decide on the best eCommerce platform for you and your store.

eCommerce platforms are usually based on a common programming language such as Java or PHP, with Java being used most frequently due to its 'object and standards' based nature. To get the platform online, you either host it yourself or have it hosted for you in the cloud. A third possibility is mixed hosting where you get the best of both worlds. IONOS hosts six of the best eCommerce platforms, which makes it a lot easier for you to get started with half the work already being done. IONOS offers several hosting packages so there's something for you whether you're a freelancer or a large company setting up their online store. Installation requires a few simple clicks in the IONOS App Centre and then you can begin designing your store. Magento, WooCommerce, PrestaShop, osCommerce, b2evolution, and the IONOS eCommerce Website Builder provide you with numerous ways to individualise your storefront to help you stand out from the competition.Visit the Help Centre if you have any more questions on how eCommerce platforms work.

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