But choosing the right eCommerce platform for your online retail company is essential; some are better suited to your needs than others.
And choosing the right one means you could keep more of the money you make and build a better relationship with customers as well as a whole host of other essential benefits.
The eCommerce industry is growing at a staggering rate each year.
According to BigCommerce, the eCommerce industry is growing at an incredible 23% each year.
So, what are the best eCommerce platforms for Irish retailers to use to enjoy a slice of the pie?
Today, we’re going to help you decide which eCommerce platform is ideal if you’re an Irish online retailer.
And we’ll speak about what an eCommerce platform is, why you need one, and compare all the big hitters in the industry.
Finally, we’ll give you our unbiased recommendations on choosing the best eCommerce platform for retail.
So, let’s get stuck in!
What is an eCommerce platform?
An eCommerce platform is a software that allows online retailers like you to carry out a host of essential business functions.
Firstly, an eCommerce platform allows Irish retailers to manage their website, operations, sales and marketing.
Secondly, it brings together all those essential parts of your business to allow you to have a 360-degree view of your company’s health.
Finally, an eCommerce platform provides the digital infrastructure for online retailers to accept payments from customers.
Why are eCommerce platforms important, and what do they do?
Ecommerce platforms come in various guises, from the all-conquering, feature-packed Shopify to smaller, less popular eCommerce platforms like Lightspeed.
Ultimately, a good eCommerce platform is an effective middle-man; it allows customers to purchase from your website and carries out a variety of other functions behind the scenes.
And with big hitters like Shopify, retailers enjoy a wide range of integrations, super-fast payment methods, cyber security essentials and a seamless customer buying journey.
Why eCommerce for Irish retailers?
Put together Brexit and a global pandemic, and you’ve got the perfect storm; an explosion of popularity in online shopping.
Even better, that popularity shows no sign of abating.
In fact, in 2020, global retail online sales were 3.2 trillion pounds and today – in 2022 – that has risen to over 4.1 trillion pounds.
Fast-forward another two years from today, and global retail eCommerce sales will hit an eye-watering 5.3 trillion pounds by 2024.
And while those statistics are impressive, it’s what they actually mean for online Irish retailers like you that’s even more important.
Firstly, by committing to eCommerce, you’ll be committing your company to grow, and the importance of eCommerce for your growth can’t be understated.
Secondly, by having an online presence, you’ll have your finger on the pulse regarding where your customers are, what they do and how they do it.
The more exposure you have online, the more likely you will attract new customers, retain current customers and even welcome back old customers.
Thirdly, having an effective eCommerce platform that works for you and your customers will ultimately lead to more sales.
Finally, while eCommerce platforms are popular nowadays, many retailers still don’t have one, including many of your competitors.
So, by the sheer fact that you’ve got an eCommerce platform, you’ll enjoy an automatic – and significant – advantage over all of your competitors.
Best eCommerce platforms for Irish retail compared for 2022
When you’re deciding which eCommerce platform to use in 2022 for your online retail store, it’s best to weigh up some fundamentals.
Firstly, of course, is what you can afford; some options are costly, and you mightn’t need all of the functionality.
Secondly, some eCommerce platforms offer a range of features (which you’ll pay for), so if you don’t think you’ll need them, opt-out of those.
Thirdly, you’ll want an eCommerce platform that has more pros than cons; whether it’s SEO optimised, secure, reliable, fast-loading or any other thing you deem essential, make sure your chosen platform has those pros.
Fourthly, one of the best ways of ascertaining the value of something is reading independent reviews from other customers who’ve used the platforms.
As a result, you should check out customer ratings before committing to one platform.
Finally, it’s widely considered a smart idea to take out a free trial of eCommerce platform software before you get tied into expensive, legally binding contracts.
Some eCommerce platforms are simpler to use, while others have a long, torturous learning curve.
And the simple way to avoid early teething problems is to enrol in a free trial and see how it works for you.
So, here are the top eight eCommerce platforms and their pros and cons to help you decide.
Boasting more than one million merchants in over 175 countries, Shopify is the big player in eCommerce.
Thousands of apps: Shopify offers over 3,200 apps for a highly customised user experience.
Reliable: Shopify is notoriously reliable while competitors suffer from bugs and unexpected issues.
Simple to master: Whether you’re a tech newbie or a veteran, you’ll find Shopify relatively easy to master compared to its competitors.
Scalable: Perfect for ambitious companies; Shopify’s features can grow with your company as you scale.
Premium templates: Over 70 premium and free website eCommerce templates to choose from.
A+ customer support: Shopify customers consistently report that they enjoy excellent customer service.
Variety of integrations: Whether you want to integrate Shopify with Xero, HubSpot or something else, you’ll find it works seamlessly.
Safe and secure: You and your customer’s data are looked after by Shopify, and you’ll enjoy a website that comes with an SSL certificate.
- Safe and secure
- Packed with features
- Great customer support
- Easy to use
- Wide variety of features
- Lots of templates to choose from
- Over 3,000 apps
- Shopify can be expensive
- High transaction fees
- Expensive features
- Rigid URL structures might affect SEO performance
- Lack of customisation options
Prices start from as little as €6.56 per month for Shopify Lite, right up to €1,456.79 per month for Shopify Plus.
An open-source eCommerce plug-in designed specifically for WordPress websites.
It’s FREE: WooCommerce is absolutely free, a substantial competitive advantage over almost all others.
Popularity: WooCommerce is the most popular eCommerce platform worldwide, with over five million installs.
Easy to use: With a simple set-up, even tech newbies can get started effortlessly.
Variety of themes and plug-ins: WooCommerce offers a variety of free and paid, high-quality themes and plug-ins to suit every business niche.
Google-friendly: WooCommerce is SEO friendly, so you’ll be able to attract more traffic (and hopefully sales!) on your website.
Wide range of extensions: You’ll enjoy access to a wide range of developers with lots of extensions and a helpful open-source community.
Flexible: Whether you’re selling software or you’re a Irish retailer selling clothes, WooCommerce is flexible and adaptable.
Wide range of payment options: You’ll be able to accept payments from customers with over 100 different payment options available.
Good integrations: From accounting essentials like Xero to marketing must-haves like HubSpot, WooCommerce customers enjoy a wide range of reliable integrations.
High-quality analytics: Customers of WooCommerce can track all the critical analytics to help them refine and improve their website’s performance and product range.
Helpful guidance: It’s one of those things you don’t think about..until you really need it. WooCommerce provides high-quality documentation to ensure you’re always selling and never stuck.
- Free to use
- Good customer support
- Great for WordPress websites
- Great for SEO optimisation
- Easy to set up and use
- Lots of themes and plug-ins are available
- A wide range of extensions is available
- Flexible and adaptable as you scale
- Hundreds of different payment options are available
- Great range of integrations
- Effective business reporting and analytics
- Only available on WordPress hosted websites
- Extensions can be expensive
- Customers have to find their own hosting
- No central support hub for customers
- Websites have a reputation for being slow loading
The WooCommerce plug-in is free to use.
However, costs can soon mount up if and when you need to buy extensions and pay for website hosting.
No need for a trial; it’s FREE as long as you have your own hosting. Click here to start.
A New York-based website hosting and building company that provides customers with the tools needed to create professional eCommerce websites.
Try before you buy: Squarespace offers a free two-week trial.
Ability to sell subscriptions: Your customers can easily subscribe to weekly or monthly products on a recurring basis.
Drag and drop features: Organise your products easily with powerful drag and drop tools.
SEO-friendly: Ensures you’re visible on Google search results.
Inventory management: Manage your entire inventory quickly and easily.
Customise your checkout: Ensure your brand is consistent by customising your customer’s checkout experience with your brand’s logos and colours.
Mobile-friendly: Customers enjoy a mobile-friendly buying experience.
Safe and secure: Your website will be SSL-enabled and PCI compliant.
- FREE two-week trial available
- Lots of smartly designed templates to choose from
- No transaction fees (depending on the plan)
- Responsive designs that are mobile-friendly and mobile-optimised
- Great user experience
- Easy to use CMS (Content Management System)
- A variety of integrations are available
- Very limited for eCommerce needs
- Not a great number of currency options to choose from
- Poor customer support
- Difficult to customise your website if you’re not technically savvy
- Poor SEO performance in comparison with competitors
- It does not support Google Pay
- App Store is quite limited compared to rivals
- Vague about GDPR legislation compliance
- Lack of payment gateway options
Prices start from as little as €13 per month for a Personal Plan, right up to €37 per month for an Advanced Commerce Plan.
The Wix eCommerce platform offers companies the ability to sell online with a variety of advanced tools and apps available.
User-friendly: Wix is easy to set up and get started.
Cheap(ish): Compared to the likes of Shopify, Wix is much more affordable.
Customisable: Choose from over one hundred nice templates and themes.
Marketing made simple: Automate marketing to save time.
- Lots of templates and themes
- Free plans available
- Good tutorials available
- Easy to use
- Can work with all the leading payment gateways
- Over 280 apps, add-ons and plug-ins to choose from
- Easy to use
- Simple set-up
- Poor SEO performance
- Bandwidth and traffic limits
- Poor Amazon integration
- Lousy upsell opportunities
Free plans with Wix branding are available.
Customers can opt for a Business Basic Plan that costs €13 per month right through to a Business VIP Plan that costs €22 per month.
Sign up for a 14 Day Trial Period Policy for Premium Plans.
A feature-packed eCommerce platform that, in their own words, allows you to ‘build today, grow tomorrow’ and is trusted by over 60,000 merchants.
Inexpensive: Prices started from as little as €23 per month.
Popular: BigCommerce has over 60,000 global customers, most of whom rate the platform highly.
Packed with sales features: You’ll have everything you need to make your online retail business a success.
SEO optimised: Rank higher on Google search results with a platform optimised for search engines.
Flexible: BigCommerce can scale as your company grows.
- No additional transaction fees
- Flexible and scalable
- Lots of built-in, free-to-use features
- Great user experience
- Content marketing features are great
- Exceptional SEO performance
- Multichannel selling options are available
- BigCommerce hosts your website
- Great customer support
- Powerful business reporting and analytics
- Limited range of premium themes
- Complicated for inventory management
- The cost of premium themes can soon add up
- Website load times can be slow
- The more you sell, the more you end up paying
- No option for one-click selling
- Complicated to get to grips with initially
- Poor range of free themes
Prices start from as little as €23 for a Standard subscription, right up to €221.88 per month for a Pro subscription.
Yes, you can try a two month free trial on a Pro plan here.
Not to be confused with its competitor Squarespace, Square is an American-based eCommerce platform that allows online retailers to accept payments online and via social media.
Accept payments remotely: Your customers can pay you in convenient ways to them.
Sell online effortlessly: Easy to use software that makes a merchant’s job much more straightforward.
Sell digital gift cards: This allows your customers to buy gift cards for family and friends and improve brand loyalty.
Excellent customer support: Square offers 24/7 customer support, so you’ll never have to suffer in silence.
- Simple to use
- Flexible and adaptable as your company grows
- No monthly fees to worry about
- Popular self-service ordering feature
- Robust payment processor built-in
- A range of hardware options are available to merchants
- Works on both iOS and Android systems
- Offline mode options
- Described as ‘free’ but payment fees are astronomical
- Merchants have consistently highlighted odd suspensions and random freezing of their accounts
- Larger businesses are charged higher fees
- Merchants complain about random holds placed on funds
- The 24/7 customer support is only available with an upgrade
- Recent fee changes favour bigger merchants
Merchants can expect to pay hardware costs of up to €499.00 + VAT, but there is no set-up or monthly fees.
Try Square’s subscription services free for 30 days here.
Canadian-based company Lightspeed is an all-in-one cloud-based EPOS system and eCommerce platform that’s fully customisable.
Easy to use: Merchants enjoy a relatively short learning curve.
Robust marketing tools: Engage your customers wherever they hang out online with a suite of slick marketing tools.
Great for restaurants and retail: Merchants in both sectors enjoy a platform built with them in mind.
Features-packed: You’ll enjoy great analytics and business reporting.
- Works on iOS systems and is Apple friendly
- Customised solutions for merchants
- Easily tailored templates
- 24/7, unlimited customer support
- Great business reporting features
- Expensive pricing tiers
- Not many merchants use it
- No Android or Windows options are available
- Time-consuming and complex if you need a tailored solution
- Hardware can be expensive
Prices are split between retail and restaurant sectors and start from €69 per month for Lightspeed Basic right up to €199 per month for Lightspeed Pro.
Sign up for a free trial of Lightspeed here.
An open-source eCommerce platform that allows merchants to create and maintain multichannel experiences on one platform.
Cloud-based: Data can be stored safely in the cloud so you’ll not lose important data
Open-source: Problems can be solved in various ways with a wide range of support available.
Features packed: Merchants enjoy a wide range of valuable features.
- Free to use with no monthly fees
- Variety of extensions available
- A lot of advanced customisations available to merchants
- Great for large and medium-sized businesses
- Ability to handle a large number of sales and website traffic
- Scalable and flexible as your company grows
- Great SEO tools for organic search rankings
- Good inventory management features
- Wide selection of payment gateway options
- It’s very old school; there are much slicker eCommerce platform options available today
- Extremely expensive
- Difficult to use
- Lack of customer support
- Merchants have to find their own website hosting
The price of Magento depends on your company, size and needs, but Magento Open Source is free to download. Expect to hire a developer as this system is not built for the average person.
You can try Magento Open Source for free here.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform for retailers
Our three top choices are impressive and suitable for most online retail websites.
Shopify bags are the number one spot for their overall quality.
WooCommerce comes in at a close second because it’s free, reliable and offers phenomenal customer support.
Bagging third place is BigCommerce, thanks to it being fee-free, features-packed and enjoying excellent business reporting and analytics.
As we’re sure you’ll agree, choosing the right eCommerce platform for you is ultimately based on your requirements.
Consequently, it’s vital that you weigh up the pros and cons of each and ensure you choose one that will allow you to grow.
After all, the needs of a multi-store, the multi-national retail outlet will be much more demanding than those of a single online retail website in a niche market.
Choosing the right eCommerce platform has a whole host of impressive benefits.
Firstly, it’s vital if growth is your ambition.
Secondly, a high-quality eCommerce platform allows you to be more visible to customers – both current and prospective.
Thirdly, the right eCommerce platform will lead to more sales and consistency.
Finally, by choosing the right eCommerce platform, you’ll have a considerable advantage over your competitors.
As you’ve seen today, just because an eCommerce platform costs a lot of money, doesn’t necessarily translate to better quality.
Conversely, just because some of those eCommerce platforms mentioned today are free, it doesn’t mean they’re not robust and reliable.
However, if you want reliability and ease of use, Shopify should be your number one choice.
We’ve narrowed it down for you today to our three recommendations, so why not take advantage of their free trials to see which fits your company best?