In July the Magento management team dropped a bombshell on their estimated 10,000 Magento Go users by announcing that in February 2015 the eBay owned online store network will go dark.
They are recommending that users of their e-commerce service migrate to the competing Bigcommerce platform. But is that really the best option for Magento Go e-commerce retailers? In this article we will explore the advantages of switching to PrestaShop, one of the most popular, well supported and flexible open source online shopping systems available.
Hold on! Why not Magento CE?
Magento management themselves have stated that Magento Community Edition is NOT intended for small to medium retailers. It is recommended only for online merchants consistently doing USD$500,000 or more annually. Magento Enterprise Edition is for even larger retailers who do several million in online sales.
Part of the reason is that Magento has such a large file structure and database footprint that you’ll need to invest in a premium hosting solution to get acceptable performance speed from the software. Magento is driven by the Zend PHP framework which requires a little familiarity with object oriented coding in order to get your head around the seemingly endless file tree structure. Unless you are a professional programer you may find that making customizations to the code base somewhat bewildering. “Complicated and bloated” are two adjectives which particularly seem to come up a lot when web professionals talk about Magento and therefore any kind of customization work is going to cost you. A lot.
Hosted Solution or Self-Hosting?
With a hosted e-commerce solution you pay a monthly subscription to the software-as-a-service provider, whether it be Magento Go or Bigcommerce. They take responsibility for keeping your site running, applying software updates and so on. It’s a turnkey solution that appeals to a lot of people. So what are the down sides?
Well for one thing, trusting yourself into the hands of a software-as-service provider is a double edged sword. Most hosted e-commerce providers won’t allow you to make more than limited changes to the software code, so customizations become impossible unless you can find a plugin or extension that exactly fits what you need. This often becomes a problem with adding less familiar shipping and logistics elements to your store (e.g. Yamato takubin delivery in Japan). Furthermore you have no control over things like deciding when to put the store offline for scheduled maintenance.
Another is of course the simple fact that you have to pay a monthly subscription and depending on your service plan, perhaps a percentage of your gross sales revenue as well. Plus, if you are tied into a hosted service you don’t have many easy options if the provider decides to jack up the price or, as with Magento Go, shut down their network. At least with a self-hosted solution, you pay your web hosting company a small annual fee and your destiny is in your own hands. Shared web hosting is an extremely competitive industry. It should be possible to find a suitable host for about USD$100 per year and if you don’t like them, maneuvering to another web host is relatively easy.
With a self-hosted e-commerce store, usually the software itself is “free” and open source. Your only ongoing cost is for web hosting. This is great for shop owners who have special requirements and who want to customize the appearance and behavior of their site. Usually you’ll need a web professional to help achieve what you want, but the sky’s the limit in terms of what you can do. And because their are lots of people contributing to open source projects, you usually have a vast range of plugins to choose from that can quickly and cheaply supercharge your site.
PrestaShop vs Bigcommerce comparison
So now that we know the difference between hosted and self-hosted e-commerce stores, why should we consider PrestaShop as a better alternative to Bigcommerce? [pullquote]If you need a store that sells in more than just English, Bigcommerce is a deal breaker.[/pullquote]
First of all the big one. If you need a store that sells in more than just English, Bigcommerce is a deal breaker. They ONLY offer an English e-commerce store front and administration. Prestashop on the other hand is an elegant solution for more than 60 different languages. The software has multilingual ability deeply built into it’s DNA you could say, having been originally developed in Europe, an online commerce polyglot haven.
Secondly there is a huge amount of support available. The PrestaShop user forum is a busy and friendly online hub where approx 185,000 Prestashop owners and 600,000 community members come together to swap tips and tutorials on both technical and non-technical matters. Prestashop itself is backed by a team of professionals in Miami, USA and Paris, France, some of whom contribute to the forum and help answer questions. In 2010 and 2011 Prestashop won the Best Open Source Business Application Award sponsored by Packt Publishing.
How about flexibility? Well, at the time of writing this, Prestashop has more than 2,500 modules in their Addons Store. Some of them are free. Most you need to pay a little for. But paying for a license also buys you support and peace of mind that updates will be provided into the future. Bigcommerce by comparison has about 150 addons.
What about mobile? How do the two options support the hot new frontier of mobile e-commerce? Actually Bigcommerce and Prestashop deal with the challenge of mobile optimization slightly differently. Big Commerce has a “mobile template” which the store owner can enable. The problem with this is that every dedicated Bigcommerce mobile site looks the same. There are no customizations or alternate themes available.
The latest version of Prestashop on the other hand comes with a “responsive” default theme. You can expect that any custom theme will likewise be responsive. The difference with a responsive theme is that the site content will automatically re-arrange itself to accommodate whatever screen size it is displayed on and consequently you get a consistent branding appearance on every device.
What’s it Going to Cost Me?
For the online store owner, the cost comparison of Big Commerce vs Prestashop comes down to two things. Upfront costs and on-going costs.
With Big Commerce there is no sign up fee so your up-front cost is nothing.
With Prestashop the open source software is free, but unless you have a lot of experience with building and designing online stores from scratch you will find that you may want to hire a web consultant. Fees vary but most web agencies will charge between USD$3000 and USD$7000 to set up your store exactly the way you want, depending on the options.
With Bigcommerce you have to pay a sizable monthly fee. They sell the service in Silver, Gold and Platinum services. Prices quoted below are based on annual pricing plans. Add 10% if you only want to pay monthly.
- Silver – USD$27 per month plus 1.5% transaction fee on your sales.
- Gold – USD$72 per month.
- Platinum – USD$180 per month.
If you are selling more than USD$3000 per month on a Silver plan you might as well upgrade to Gold. The Silver plan doesn’t contain some basic sales and marketing functionality like “abandoned cart saver” and “loyalty marketing”.
With Prestashop on the other hand your ongoing costs are essentially whatever you pay your web host, which could be as low as $5 per month on a shared hosting plan.
So Which One Is For Me?
If you need to sell in multiple languages then Prestashop is an easy choice. Bigcommerce is an English-only solution. Outside of that, if you have a limited budget, are happy with a standard features set, and want a faster route to market for your online store, a Bigcommerce store might be suitable. If you want to fine tune your site into a unique design and integrate specific functionality, Prestashop is the better and more flexible option.
If you think Prestashop might be the right solution for you and you’d like to know more why not drop us an email and Tokyo Web Designs can help you plan your online e-commerce strategy.