What is a shop system? What functionalities does it offer and how to choose one for your own online shop? In this article we’ll give you a brief overview of most important shop system features, explain what to look for when selecting (or changing) one and name some of the currently popular shop systems on the European market.
What Is a Shop System?
In layman’s terms, a shop system or e-commerce platform is a digital twin of your physical bricks-and-mortar store. It is a showroom that presents your products, gives your customers all information and possibility to buy them. In technical terms, we are speaking about a software application that allows you to run your business and sell your stuff online.
The “bare minimum” each shop system should have includes:
- Product presentation: texts, pictures and/or videos of your product/service so your customers understand what you are offering.
- Shopping cart: After viewing and choosing a product, a customer has to have a possibility to put it into a digital shopping cart.
- Address input: The next step for the customer is to enter his billing and shipping address.
- Payment method: In order to complete the purchasing process the customer has to select his preferred payment option, such as credit card, PayPal, online banking, etc.,.
If these basic functionalities are the only thing you need in your online shop, you can relatively easily develop them yourself and you don’t necessarily need to use an already existing shop system. This option, however, includes a lot of programming.
An established shop system, however, offers additional features and functionalities such as:
- billing- and fulfillment system
- inventory status and returns management
- sophisticated reporting tools
- social media integration
- SEO (search engine optimization), SEA (search engine advertising) and SEM (search engine marketing) tools
- various search and communication functions
How to Choose the Right Shop System for You
Although developing the basic shop functionalities is not that difficult (for a software developer), you still need to be familiar with various other topics, such as design, usability, user experience, security, and many more. The process of “starting from the scratch” to having a “nice looking and fully functional” online shop is complex, time-consuming, often frustrating and, not to forget, expensive. For that reason, majority of companies rather go for an existing shop system that comes with a number of accompanying applications and shop extensions. In this way, merchants are able to find the best solution for their company size, industry and region.
What to Consider
When choosing your shop system you should keep in mind these questions:
- How “big” is my online shop (number of items you’re offering, stocks, daily sales volume)?
- What type of products am I selling (physical goods or digital services)?
- What functionalities do I need, not just today but also in future?
- Which market/markets do I want to be present on?
- Who is my target audience(s) and in which languages does my online shop have to be available?
- Do I want to have a self-hosted or cloud-based shop system?
- What payment methods do I want to offer to my customers and which pricing plan suits my budget?
Where to Ask for Help
The best thing to do when choosing a shop system and starting an online shop is to contact a technical integration partner or your marketing agency. Your payment service provider, such as Wirecard, is also a competent contact partner and can give you some valuable insights when it comes to choosing a proper shop system. The most important thing is not to rush your decision because switching to another shop system later on can be very complex and time-consuming. For the same reason, it’s important to take future company developments into consideration.
What to Keep in Mind when Switching to a New Shop System
When starting up an online business, a simple system may be tempting. But what should you do if you realize afterwards that your sales volume increased and product assortment grew? Or maybe your current software is old and no longer updated? If you decide to switch to a new shop system, you should list your desired functionalities and keep in mind company’s future growth so that the system switch is as sustainable as possible. It is also important to consider the existing or planned third-party systems (such as ERP systems or payment interfaces). Of course, the new shop system should also reflect operation and usability trends. It is often advisible to find a partner whose core business is online shop implementation. Once you have chosen a new system, look for service providers that are specialist in this area and can support you with setting up the new shop and migrating the data from the old one.
Our Shop System Recommendations
As already mentioned, the choice of the shop system depends on your business model and the desired functionalities of the shop. Here is our list of some of the currently popular shop systems, type of businesses they are best suited for as well as their advantages and disadvantages. The list is being regularly updated and expanded.
Like its predecessor, the Magento 2 online shop software is also best suited for SMEs or larger firms, both B2B and B2C. It is easily connected to external third-party systems (like CRM tools), offers many options for automating processes, goods management, and integrating SAP systems. It can be updated in a quicker, more cost-effective manner, and shop extensions can be easily installed in the back end.
OpenCart is the most suitable solution for online shop owners who wish to offer up to 100 SKUs (Stock Keeping Units = articles). For larger online shops some very important requirements are missing (e.g. an interface to integrate external systems), but it does offer other useful functionalities such as SEO, design customization and free user guides and tutorials.
This shop system is suitable for merchants who offer a medium to large product assortment and already have some experience in e-commerce. It comes in an Open Source version as well as in a fee-based Enterprise Edition or Professional Edition, thus offering a huge scope of functions and simple expandability.
The biggest advantage this Open Source online shop has is a multitude of language packages, making it the best choice for international business. SEO features and multiple sales channels (such as Amazon, eBay and Google Shopping) make PrestaShop ideal shop system for selling in different regions.
For Salesforce “omnichannel” is not just a buzzword. In the past known as “Demandware” and in 2016 acquired by salesforce, this shop system became a leading B2B and B2C e-commerce platform delivering premium AI-powered customer experiences. It combines digital commerce, order management, Point-of-Sale, in-store shopping and predictive intelligence capabilities. It is, therefore, best suited for merchants who want to offer multi-channel unique shopping experiences.
Formerly known as SAP Hybris, SAP Commerce is an e-commerce enterprise solution for major international organizations who process a large number of transactions. This omnichannel software creates personalized shopping experience across all distribution channels: retail, direct to consumer (B2C), indirect via distributors or resellers (B2B2C), and selling to organizations (B2B).
Shopify is an effective e-commerce website builder that allows merchants to design, develop, market, and sell any type of goods to consumers around the world. Web hosting, frontend design as well as integrated payment processing – all features come within the same system. With hundreds of ready-to-go templates, intuitive store and content management tools and a full marketing suite with numerous features it’s no wonder so many businesses are using Shopify to sell their goods and services.
With Shopware you get an easy to use, cost-efficient shop system with a great range of functions. Available both as a free, open-source Community Edition as well as Enterprise version with 24/7 support, Shopware is suitable for businesses of all sizes and is currently a leading e-commerce platform in DACH area with a growing number of UK-based merchants.
WooCommerce is a free online shop extension built to integrate with WordPress and is best suited for beginners who are already familiar with this CMS. There are many free and paid extensions and add-ons available to expand and customize the functionalities of the online shop. However, if you’re dealing with a wider product range, there are better options since it is not that easy to connect WooCommerce with other ERP systems.
On a Final Note
Choosing the best shop system for your online business is not an easy decision. Our general recommendation would be to take your time to think thoroughly about your business and technical requirements. When you’re pretty sure what you want and need, search for shop vendors that seem to suit your requirements. As a last step, we recommend looking for comparisons and experiences from other users to make sure all your criteria are met.
Looking for an input from a renowned payment service provider with long-standing experience and expertise in e-commerce?
We at Wirecard would love to assist you in choosing your ideal shop system. Just let us know about your requirements per e-mail at email@example.com and we will get in touch with you.