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Archive for February, 2013

BigCommerce vs Shopify vs Volusion vs 3dCart


Shopping cart solutions like Magento and Prestashop can take quite a bit of time to set up and configure.

Choosing a Hosted E-commerce Provider

While there are dozens of solid shopping cart systems available online, the market is dominated by three highly respected programs. These are Shopify, Volusion and BigCommerce, each of which brings quite a bit to the table in terms of functionality and value. Each platform has its own strengths and weaknesses, and the right program for your specific situation will depend on a number of factors. The following in-depth analysis should make the decision a little easier. We’ve take the trouble of ranking various aspects of each platform on a scale of 1 to 5 to indicate overall quality.

Primary Feature Overview

 Shopify

In many ways, Shopify is kind of like the WordPress of hosted e-commerce installations. It’s both feature-rich and incredibly easy to use, allowing users to quickly configure their online shop as they see fit. Shopify’s versatile drag-and-drop functionality allows for hassle-free configuration of product pages and collections. It can also be used to publish articles and blog posts, making it a full-fledged CMS as well as a shopping cart. Shopify supports payment processing via PayPal, Google Checkout and every major credit cart by default. Thanks to its solid foundation built on the excellent Ruby on Rails framework, it’s responsive, stable and secure all at the same time.

Shopify also makes branding and promotion fairly painless, thanks to its robust SEO tools. Featuring keyword tag suggestion utilities, the expected XML Sitemap engine and a whole lot more, it’s quite adept at getting your online shop found quickly. Additionally, Shopify boasts automated backups, a stellar Content Delivery Network and 128-bit SSL encryption. Regardless of how expansive or complicated your online store happens to be, you won’t have to worry about the integrity of your data with Shopify. Most importantly, Shopify doesn’t rest on its laurels and is constantly rolling out new features like Free Shipping coupons that continue to improve the platform as a whole.
Score: 4

Volusion

As with the other web-based e-commerce platforms detailed here, Volusion abstracts away the back-end code and makes site administration about as easy as can be. Written in ASP.NET, Volusion is a Windows-based e-commerce system that’s simultaneously powerful and user-friendly. Its one-page checkout format is the stuff of legends. Much like Shopify, Volusion handles all the annoying SSL security details and payment processing for you. Its 100% PCI compliant, features unlimited product listings and is backed by a hardy CDN running on the Akamai network that ensures reliable shopping cart performance under any circumstances.

Volusion places an emphasis on presentation, delivering a superlative end user experience that leads to higher conversions than many competing shopping cart platforms. Thanks to the vZoom image resizing feature, potential customers who are browsing your inventory can get a closer look at your products. It also boasts built-in product comparison for easier shopping and decision making. Volusion comes equipped with intelligent inventory tracking via their SmartMatch technology. Other significant bonuses include advanced analytics and ROI tracking as well as affiliate program management tools. Furthermore, layouts are optimized by default for mobile devices, and Volusion includes plenty of SEO tools for achieving high SERPs rankings.
Score: 4

BigCommerce

Written in PHP, BigCommerce should prove to be quite easy to use for those who are familiar with the LAMP stack. Users can edit HTML and CSS on the fly to change the look of their online store. Additionally, BigCommerce gives clients nearly 100 different layout templates to choose from. The included drag and drop functionality makes the design process uncomplicated and seamless, and their live demo page is a terrific source of design inspiration. BigCommerce automatically creates product photo galleries and allows administrators to automate email marketing. Furthermore, comprehensive mobile support allows your shop to render perfectly on iPad tablets and Android phones.

As its name implies, BigCommerce takes a “batteries included” approach to shopping cart design and implementation. It can handle everything from drop shipping with Ordoro to inventory and warehouse tracking thanks to Shipwire integration. The platform saves Abandoned Cart information in the event that a customer doesn’t finish a transaction, which helps to substantially increase conversions and sales. With support for multiple currencies and numerous payment options, BigCommerce is a truly global shopping cart platform. The impressive default SEO capabilities of BigCommerce make website optimization truly effortless.
Score: 5

3dcart

3dcart is all about providing an easy backdrop for designing your own pages in whatever form they may happen to take. Organizing products in various ways via Smart Categories is an absolute breeze. As for refining the consumer experience, their 3dZoom feature allows you to add loads of thumbnail images to product listings and customize how users size up your offerings as they peruse merchandise.

The real meat of the 3dcart sandwich is the default drag-and-drop functionality. It makes shop design about as much of a no-brainer as you’ll get in the e-commerce world. There’s also scores of free and custom templates to play with. Using 3dcart’s Quick Edit Bar, reconfiguring various layouts and site designs is a cakewalk. Furthermore, in-page shopping is greatly assisted by soft add-on functionality, which allows customers to drop new items into the final checkout basket without interrupting one’s browsing flow. 3dcart also makes the implementation of Daily DealsGroup Deals and a wide array of additional coupons effortless.

Ease of Installation & Setup

 Shopify

When it comes to ease of installation, it’s hard to argue that Shopify is anything other than the most ridiculously simple service to set up. Even the most novice of webmasters can have a shop up and running in under 15 minutes. Once you launch the installation wizard, you’re greeted with a quick seven-step tutorial that gives you a rundown of the basics as well as tips on how to customize your site to your liking. As a hosted, cloud-based cart, you don’t have to worry about setting up SSL certificates, hosting the installation yourself or dealing with back-end code and databases.
Score: 5

Volusion

In the setup and configuration department, Volusion is every bit as intuitive and easy to use as Shopify. To get started, just select a domain name, check out the free 14-day trial, select a service plan and go through the self-guided installation process. Volusion takes care of all the details for you, making the installation process about as painless as can be. Obviously, tuning the platform to exactly suit your needs will take a bit of time and research via Volusion’s superb documentation. However, getting a basic online storefront going only takes a few minutes.
Score: 5

BigCommerce

Not every e-commerce platform can be all things to all people. BigCommerce has a lot going for it, but it’s not quite as foolproof for beginners when it comes to setup and installation. That’s not to say that it’s really difficult to work with. Regardless, it’s not quite as intuitive as Volusion or Shopify. However, anyone can work through the process in a relatively short period of time if they follow the instructions found within BigCommerce’s documentation and online support forums. Whether you’re a web development pro or merely a beginner, BigCommerce is pretty easy to figure out.
Score: 4

3dcart

3dcart happens to be just as easy to install and configure as Volusion, although the technical aspects such as provisioning your payment processors is a bit more difficult. What’s nice about 3dcart is that it’s more of a blank slate than Volusion when it comes to creating a unique look, which is key when it comes to establishing a lasting first impression. Furthermore, a fresh 3dcart install has the advantage of presenting a cleaner UI for those who aren’t that familiar with e-commerce portals. The aforementioned Quick Edit Bar in particular makes the first few artistic decisions you’ll want to make a total cinch.

 

Extensibility & Configuration

 Shopify

While the basic, default capabilities of Shopify are impressive, the available extensions that can be installed are even better. Shopify features a large App Store where users can purchase and install extra modules for added functionality. Everything from printing out FedEx shipping labels to product upselling can be accomplished with the App Store’s numerous offerings. Alternatively, web developers can utilize the full-featured Shopify API to roll their own extensions for any functionality required.
Score: 4

Volusion

Practically every hosted e-commerce shopping cart comes equipped with an app store of some sort for extending the basic functionality of the platform. Volusion gives users the ability to tack on extra features via the Volusion Exchange. In addition, store owners can integrate features from Volusion’s many e-commerce partners quickly and easily without having to shell out a fortune on plugins. Everything from QuickBooks import and export support to Grasshopper VoIP service can be installed with the click of a button.
Score: 4

BigCommerce

Much like its primary rivals, BigCommerce offers an incredibly diverse lineup of third-party plugins and modules. At present, there are over 110 extensions available that deliver Facebook integration via SocialShop 2, analytics from VisiStat and email marketing from Direct Mail Manager. Regardless of your own unique shopping cart requirements, BigCommerce provides a modular way to achieve your goals. For those who like to get their hands dirty and craft their own apps and plugins, the developer API of BigCommerce provides all the tools you’ll need.
Score: 5

Marketing, Branding & SEO

 Shopify

Promoting your website is the toughest part of any successful e-commerce project. Shopify takes most of the headache out of the equation by providing novice webmasters with all of the SEO tools they’ll need. The Shopify CMS is tuned for effective SEO right off the bat, so webmasters don’t have to sweat the small stuff like meta tags and on-page optimization tweaks. It also provides built-in Google Analytics integration, $100 worth of Google AdWords credit and capable default email marketing tools.
Score: 5

Volusion

When it comes to marketing and SEO, Volusion boasts many of the same search engine optimization tools found in Shopify and BigCommerce. Volusion also features the ability to publish newsletters, incorporate customer feedback into listings and offer a Deal of the Day to boot. The Social Store feature allows webmasters to harness the power of Facebook for pumping up sales. One major perk of Volusion is the ability to embed Youtube videos into product pages, which assists customers in making buying decisions.
Score: 5

BigCommerce

For SEO specialists, BigCommerce is a godsend when it comes to tuning an e-commerce storefront for the best possible SERPs rankings. Webmasters can choose from a number of different URL formats, manage “no follow” attributes to avoid duplicate content and intelligently generate meta tags. In addition, BigCommerce makes email marketing dead simple thanks to its superb iContact integration as well as its Mailchimp support. BigCommerce also increases sales conversions with its Abandoned Cart Saver system and its wide array of payment options.
Score: 5

Pricing & Fees

 Shopify

In the world of e-commerce shopping carts, convenience will ultimately cost you. Shopify can be a bit uneconomical if you’re in a low-margin industry or don’t process a large volume of transactions. Pricing and commissions are Shopify’s only real weak point. They offer four pricing plans: Basic, Professional, Business and Unlimited. The Basic plan is $29 per month and delivers 100 SKUs along with 1 GB of storage space. Unfortunately, it also charges 2.0% transaction fees. At the other end of the spectrum, the unlimited plan is $179 per month but provides unlimited everything and 0% transaction fees. Every plan comes with unlimited bandwidth, which is a definite plus.
Score: 4

Volusion

Volusion boasts the best prices of any hosted shopping cart on the market at the moment. They offer five distinct plans ranging from the entry-level Steel package to the top of the line Platinum package. Steel begins at $19 per month and delivers 1 GB of transfer bandwidth, 100 SKUs, 0% transaction fees and zero startup fees. Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum plans run $39, $59, $99 and $149 per month, and each plan ratchets up the included bandwidth and stock-keeping units incrementally. The best value can be had with the Gold plan, which includes 15 GB of bandwidth and 5,000 SKUs.
Score: 5

BigCommerce

As far as pricing is concerned, BigCommerce falls somewhere between Volusion and Shopify in terms of costs. They offer five price plans, starting with the Bronze package at $24.95 per month ranging up to the Diamond plan at $299.95 per month. BigCommerce doesn’t charge transaction or setup fees for any of their plans, and each comes with complimentary Google AdWords advertising dollars to get you started. You’ll need to select at least the $79.95 per month Gold plan to get access to certain features like the Abandoned Cart Saver. Ultimately, BigCommerce provides excellent value regardless of your expected sales volume.
Score: 4

Technical Support and Assistance

 Shopify

Even if you’re an old hand at developing websites, it still helps to have some technical support handy if you come across a stumbling block. Shopify provides excellent support via thorough online documentation, toll-free assistance numbers and the Shopify Experts program. In a nutshell, Shopify Experts is a comprehensive directory of designers, marketers, developers and other e-commerce gurus who can be hired to assist you in achieving the perfect online storefront. In addition, Shopify has some of the best community forums of any hosted shopping cart platform out there.
Score: 4

Volusion

While Shopify and BigCommerce both have solid support programs, Volusion boasts the best overall support possible thanks to their 24/7 Live Chat services. Furthermore, Volusion hosts a bevy of videos and tutorials to assist you in building your store and troubleshooting any snags you run into. Clients can also open up a support ticket for minor issues that don’t require immediate attention. The combination of round the clock live support and extensive documentation make Volusion the most full-featured e-commerce program available when it comes to customer service.
Score: 5

BigCommerce

All in all, BigCommerce delivers excellent support for the most part if you need help troubleshooting your e-commerce shop. Their documentation is fairly thorough, and users can get Live Chat assistance 24 hours a day during the business week. On weekends, Live Chat is available between the hours of 9 AM and 6 PM Central Time on Saturdays and 9 AM and 2 PM Central Time on Sundays. Users can also contact a toll-free technical support line during daytime hours or submit a support ticket for immediate help from BigCommerce’s helpful staff.
Score: 4

Different Strokes for Different Folks

Obviously, the right hosted e-commerce platform for your online business will depend heavily on a number of different factors. It’s tough to give catchall advice on which system to choose that will be widely applicable to every scenario. However, some basic generalizations can be made based on the above information. If you’re looking for simplicity over total features, the best choice is Shopify. If you’d like to find a happy medium between customization and ease of use, Volusion is a solid option. If you want to save money on fees and don’t mind a bit of extra legwork, BigCommerce is probably the best choice.

Difference between Responsive website, mobile sites and Mobile Apps



Responsive websites, apps and m.sites are all different from each other, and each has their own special place in delivering quality user experiences on mobile devices. The trick is understanding what these differences are, what they mean for the experience you deliver, and therefore which is the best option to achieve your specific goals.

Responsive web design:-

approach allows you to deliver the exact same content as your normal website (in fact, it is your normal website) but in a way that responds fluidly to the device size of the viewer, so the layout automatically changes to present the site in a more usable way for laptops, tablets and smartphones as required.

What doesn’t change with responsive is the depth and breadth of content, it just presents your entire website in a more usable way for the device.

Responsive websites are great for when there aren’t any task specific actions required through your website, just a means of creating a more user friendly browsing experience.

Ok, so if responsive sites are so great, why have an m.site?

Mobile website:-

An m.site is basically a cut down version of your normal website (usually prefixed with an ‘m.’ in the URL, hence the name) which has a different design, to fit within the dimensions and navigation patterns of a small smartphone screen. It’s different to a responsive site, because it only draws specific content from your flagship website and structures it exclusively for mobile devices.

An m.site is great when your users will only access your website on their smartphone to perform context-specific tasks. Classic examples are m.sites for airlines like Jetstar, and online-banking. These m.sites allow the business to display content from the main website (so no extra work in updating two sets of content), but limits the actions and navigation to only those that are mobile relevant, such as checking in online or logging in to online banking, plus a few other key features.

But if m.sites are designed for mobile task-specific purposes, why create an app?

Mobile Apps:-

Well, the official technical difference between an m.site and an app is that an app has ‘native’ (whether that’s native to apple (iOS), android or windows devices) features that actually utilizes the interactions and technology that’s built-in to that specific device. For example, if you create an app for iPhones or iPads, it must make use of features that are unique to Apple, like the ‘swipe’ or ‘pinch’ gesture interactions, the camera, and accelerometer or GPS functionality. The aim being that interaction with a native app is far superior to a standard browsing experience, delivering a much faster, smoother and more intuitive experience to users on that particular device.

Advantages of Responsive Websites:

  • Website will adjust and work on many different mobile devices.
  • You only have to update the content in one place (the main website); once a change has been made it will automatically be changed on the mobile versions of the website.
  • You will not have to worry about having to scroll (left to right) because the website layout has been designed to display at your devices resolution, the website will automatically adjust.
  • Simplified navigation for “thumb users”.
  • Your website will be ready for any new technology trends instantly because it is self-adjusting to resolution sizes.
  • Centralized link authority (which means SEO page ranks for landing pages will not be counted as two different pages, it will be considered 1 single page)

Disadvantages of Responsive Websites:

  • The content will remain the same as the full website version; this means you cannot customize the content for mobile users.
  • If your website is content heavy and wordy, users will have to scroll a lot with their devices to read content.
  • If website has large images, loading it on a mobile device will take up more bandwidth because it is downloading the website content first than applying layout adjustments.


Advantages to Mobile Websites:

  • Customized appearance and content. You will be able to modify the content of the website so that mobile users are only getting mobile content.
  • Instant Call button, which allows your mobile visitors to instantly call your contact number from their phones while visiting your website – instant access to customer support or reception.
  • You can eliminate content that mobile users will most likely not view, clearing up clutter and making it easier for mobile users to navigate your website.
  • Fast loading, because it is not loading the full-version websites images, it is loading smaller condensed images which take up less bandwidth.
  • Simplified navigation for “thumb users”.
  • Allows users to choose between mobile or full-version website.

Disadvantages to Mobile Websites:

  • You will have to update and maintain two separate sets of content.
  • As cell phone technology changes, the design may have to be re-visited to support new resolutions.
  • Decentralized link authority (which means that because you have duplicate content in two different locations on the server, search engines count that content twice as separate entities affecting page views and ranks – if not done properly)


 

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