You have a new product line and you are ready to take it to the world!
The one thing you don’t have is unlimited time to explore what website builder will serve your needs most efficiently. You need an eCommerce builder that can handle international sales, currencies, and shipping, give you the support you need, and look stunning and professional.
Most of all, you need the functionality to make your customers’ experience not only smooth but enjoyable; you need them to buy again and again!
We’d like to narrow the field. Let’s look at three possibilities along with their strengths and weaknesses, so you can make the right choice based on your business needs and budget. Please consider Shopify, WooCommerce, and Magento. These three options each have a different approach to eCommerce.
Shopify is a dedicated eCommerce website builder that is self-hosted and powers over 1,000,000 businesses worldwide. Dedicated means that Shopify’s main purpose is to give you a platform for selling your product. Out of the three being reviewed, Shopify HK will be the most streamlined and simplest to set up and get going. They are focused on eCommerce and know what you need from SEO and inventory management to payment and shipping, and you can get it all in one place.
- Streamlined Start-up
- Safe and Secure
- 24/7 Support
- Themes and Ease of Customization
- Language Options
- Ready to GROW with you
- Some shipping discounts available
- Up to 20% discount on multiple-year plan
- Transaction fees are charged if not using “Shopify Payments”
- Multi-language and other customizations may require coding/developer help
- The cost of apps you want to gain functionality can add up
Set-up and Customization:
You will be able to set up the basics of your Shopify store yourself, without needing to code; you can even purchase a drag-and-drop app for $19/month to further simplify the process. For other customizations, like adding languages, you will need to learn their coding language, Liquid, or hire a developer, though Shopify has great support to help you.
Templates are professional and versatile; all are responsive, meaning they function properly on any device. Shopify has ten free templates and over seventy more available for purchase ($140-180USD). All include standard features like access to free stock photos by Burst, SEO optimization, and drop-down navigation support.
Accepting Payments Internationally
Shopify has its own payment gateway that can accept payments in a variety of currencies, including Hong Kong SAR. When you use Shopify Payment, you incur no transaction fee as you do with their other payment gateways. However, a number of other payment methods are available. You can also set up different shipping domains to connect the appropriate local taxes and duties to the payment.
Shopify is based in Canada and is available in 20 languages, including Chinese. Though multi language is not available in the Shopify Basic plan, you can have two languages in the Shopify Plan, five in Shopify Advanced, and twenty in the Shopify Plus plan. A geolocation app can be purchased to direct your customers to the correct country URL based on their location.
Shopify Plus offers custom pricing; expect about $2000 USD/month.
ShopifyLite—$9USD/month—can be added to any website or blog so you can sell a product and accept credit card payments. Details of each plan are available. See https://www.shopify.com/pricing.
- WordPress power and flexibility
- Great blogging with your eCommerce store to attract customer interest
- Excellent SEO built-in
- Abundant extensions and plugins to customize and increase your site’s functionality
- “Meet-ups” around the world, including Hong Kong
- This article does a great job of breaking down the pros and cons for HK: https://easyecommercehk.com/網店平台/woocommerce香港/教學/
- Technical knowledge required to build with both WordPress and WooCommerce
- Costs can add up as you add extensions and plugins
- No actual support after installation, you rely on community support and “Meet-ups”
WooCommerce is a different option; it is actually open-source and free for both personal and commercial use. It is a plug-in designed to be added to WordPress. WordPress is powerful, established, and recognized around the world. While Shopify supports a blog, it is modest in comparison to WordPress, and many feel great blogging is crucial for attracting traffic to your store and keeping customers too.
As an open-source product, WooCommerce will not come with a domain, hosting, email, a theme, or support, as Shopify does. You will choose and purchase these on your own. Many businesses choose Bluehost for hosting because they provide several “WordPress + WooCommerce” bundles and give excellent support through installation.
Adding WooCommerce through Bluehost looks like this:
Note that some WordPress themes do not work with WooCommerce; search for a premium WooCommerce theme because, even though you will have to pay more, it will be fully updated for SEO and security. Customizing the theme will take some technological savvy and remember, while there is a supportive community of WooCommerce users, there is no actual support.
You can use plugins and extensions to translate your content and make your store fully functional internationally. For example, the WooCommerce Multi-Currency extension (approximately $100 USD/year with support) quickly calculates currencies and taxes based on country.
- Most powerful eCommerce platform
- Best features available
- Great international features
- Top-quality look and functionality
- Very difficult to set up and may incur developer costs
- Difficult to calculate the final cost
- No free support
Magento is used by approximately 20% of all eCommerce sites, most of them large. Magento is also open source, meaning you can download it and use it for free as the “Community Edition,” but it does not come with SEO, backup, security, hosting, or domain.
You can also purchase the Enterprise Edition (customized pricing only), with everything you could ever need and more, but it is very expensive. Since it is so pricey, let’s focus on the Community Edition as a starting point.
Setting up with Magento will not be as simple as Shopify and you will first need to acquire hosting and a domain. Then you need to purchase and install your theme, making use of Magento’s official store or third-party extensions to gain the functionality you need. Do note that Magento themes and extensions are usually much more expensive than those on other platforms; it is not uncommon for a theme or extension to be $300.
Using such extensions, Magento Community can meet your multi-language needs and can be scaled to sell internationally. With the GeoIP Redirect extension, for example, your customers’ location will be detected, and they will be automatically directed to their country’s URL with the proper translation and currency values for your products.
While Magento is expensive and difficult to use, it has the very best list of features of any eCommerce platform. Examples include being able to manage all Magento stores from one admin panel, generate coupon and bundle deals, show unlimited product options (like size, color, style), and provide registered customers with a dedicated dashboard–even at the Community level.
Obviously, you can see that if you have a big budget, Magento Enterprise can give you the best in speed, flexibility, and SEO tools. If you are a large, growing company with upfront money ready to invest, don’t ignore this major player!
If you need simple and quick, your most streamlined set-up is likely to be Shopify. If your store is enterprise-size, and you have money to invest in getting your store set up, Magento will give you all the strong features to keep you growing. Finally, if you have some time to learn and want a reasonably priced solution that can also grow with you, WooCommerce added to WordPress might be the best solution for you.
Any of these three leading eCommerce platforms should get you selling internationally and on your way to a promising future.