With over 3 billion global internet users , there’s no doubt that your hotel, bar, restaurant or venue should be selling online in 2017. The best way to get started is with an ecommerce platform, a collection of purpose-built software technologies that allows merchants to build, host and manage online storefronts in order to sell their products.
Shopping carts are the most important part of any ecommerce platform. It is the part of the software that allows customers to browse items, build lists for purchase and then “checkout” when they are ready to buy. At checkout, the software will generally calculate a total for the order, including shipping, handling and any applicable taxes.
More advanced ecommerce platforms will fit into your current supply chain making things like payment, delivery, accounting, warehousing and event planning integrate easily with your existing systems. Some platforms are even capable of being run in physical stores by offering their own point of sale systems.
This all sounds great, but with so many ecommerce platforms to choose from now, how are you supposed to know which one to go for? There’s never going to be a one-size-fits-all here, a brand new events venue trying to sell tickets online has very different ecommerce requirements to a hotel that has been taking room bookings for years.
Need Help Choosing the Right Ecommerce Platform?
We’re here to help by telling you about the best ecommerce platforms available right now and how to choose the right one to suit you and your hospitality business. Here are LeadDigital’s top 3 ecommerce platforms in 2017:
Magento is an enterprise-level, open-source ecommerce platform and was first released to the public in March 2008. The ecommerce platform is being used by around 240,000 websites , roughly 13% of all online storestoday  and includes many popular brands like Burger King, SEAT and Graze. There are currently three versions of the software available; Magento Community Edition, Magento Enterprise Edition and Magento Enterprise Cloud Edition.
Magento Community Edition is a free version of Magento, built for emerging small businesses and will work well for small stores with few products. The faster code base and page caching that Magento Enterprise Edition brings to the table is a must-have for larger stores, but this speed comes at a price.
- Good user experience, the interface is very nice to work with.
- Being an open-source platform means you have full control over your store and allows you to develop and extend to fit your needs.
- There are almost 10,000 plugins/extensions available.
- There are many free extensions available to let you sell on social media platforms.
- Magento has a huge online community of store owners and plugin developers, always ready to give help and advice when building or extending your store.
- Magento needs separate hosting, leaving you responsible for updates and security. The software has been known to run slowly on poorly optimised servers so you may need to spend time and money getting this configured.
- Any customisation work would need to be done by a developer and if you’re looking to extend your store, this could end up being expensive.
- Unless you’re comfortable working with code, getting extensions and templates working properly can be troublesome.
- Can be very expensive for an enterprise license.
Who Should be Using Magento?
Magento is considered by many to be the enterprise-level ecommerce platform of choice, built to work with large stores and large amounts of products. It is highly customisable due to it being open-source, but requires an expert developer to get most things done. Magento is not a simple solution and can only be recommended for advanced users. If you’re a startup or smaller store, then a hosted solution like Shopify would be a better fit.
WooCommerce was first developed by WordPress developer WooThemes in 2011 and has since been downloaded over 20 million times . Despite a flood of competitors entering the market, WooCommerce has shown amazing resilience and is a major player in the game. Stats from BuiltWith show that 24% of the top million ecommerce sites are built using WooCommerce. WooCommerce was acquired by Automattic, the parent company of WordPress in May 2015 .
WooCommerce is a plugin, not a subscription-based solution like Shopify or Magento and is built to integrate seamlessly with WordPress. The plugin itself is free, 100% open-source and is backed by a huge online communitythat is always ready to offer help and advice.
- It’s free! It doesn’t get much better than that.
- Highly extendable and customisable, there are many free and paid extensions and thousands of themes available to install on your store.
- If you have ever used WordPress then WooCommerce will feel very familiar and anybody with past experience will easily be able to figure it out.
- WordPress and WooCommerce both have huge community support, which makes getting help and advice on your store a breeze.
- Even though the base plugin is free, many of the extensions are not. Total costs will soon go up when you start extending your store.
- Customisation can be difficult and you may need to hire a expert to install the plugin, custom themes or extensions which could end up being costly.
- WooCommerce is not a hosted solution so you must buy separate hosting, leaving you responsible for the security and maintenance of your store.
Who Should be Using WooCommerce?
WooCommerce is perfect for people already running their website on the WordPress platform because it’s simple to download and install on an existing WordPress site.
For a lot of small businesses, WooCommerce comes with everything you need; the ability to sell products, calculate shipping, calculate taxes and accept PayPal payments. It even comes with a customer login area to show customers the status of their orders. However, if your store needs anything other than standard ecommerce features, you are going need an expert to work on it and you can expect the costs to rise significantly with each extension you need to install.
Founded in 2004, Shopify was originally based on software written by its founders for their online snowboard store, Snowdevil.  Since its humble beginnings, the company has grown to over 1,900 employees, working from 6 different offices around the world  and after going public in 2015, posted revenues of $205 million. 
Prices start from ~£23/month for the basic package and up to ~£234/month for more advanced plans. Shopify also offer an enterprise level plan called Shopify Plus for high-volume merchants and large businesses.
- Free 14 day trial, no risk, no credit card required.
- 100+ professional themes to choose from, made by world-renowned designers like Happy Cog, Clearleft and Pixel Union.
- 1,500+ apps to extend your store’s functionality.
- 70+ international payment gateways included. Shopify makes it easy for customers to pay for items.
- Mobile commerce ready. Your Shopify store and checkout will work on any mobile or tablet device right out of the box.
- Use the official app to access store analytics, update your store, fulfill orders or contact customers all from your mobile device.
- 24/7 dedicated support team available via email, live chat or telephone.
- Your total monthly cost may end up higher than you originally thought because you will find yourself installing one of the many apps to increase your store’s functionality, but these apps come with their own monthly costs.
- The checkout page is locked down to Shopify’s design unless you upgrade to Shopify Plus. There are good reasons for this, but if you want to control the design of your store all the way through, you’re going to be disappointed.
Who Should be Using Shopify?
Shopify is a fantastic ecommerce platform for beginners with a very simple setup process and a great dashboard area for quickly adding products and managing your store. Combine this with a huge library of beautiful themes and you can have a good looking store up and running in just few hours.
Shopify is, in our opinion, the best ecommerce platform available today for Hospitality businesses. The level of customisation offered across all areas of your ecommerce store make it extremely powerful. With all the technical aspects of running an online store taken care of, you can focus on the important bit, increasing ticket sales.
As an official Shopify partner, LeadDigital can design and build custom themes for your store. We can sit down, discuss your business goals and work with you to build a Shopify store from the ground up in order to increase your event sales.
Want to Discuss Ecommerce Software for Your Business?
 ICT Facts and Figures 2016. International Telecommunication Union (ITU). Jun 2017.
 Magento Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
 Ecommerce technologies Web Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
 WooCommerce – The Best eCommerce Platform for WordPress. WooCommerce. Apr 2017.
 Ecommerce technologies Web Usage Statistics. BuiltWith. Apr 2017.
 WordPress Parent Automattic Buys WooCommerce. Recode. 19 May 2015.
 Shopify, a Start-Up, Starts Its Own Business Competition. The New York Times. 2 Feb 2010.
 2016 Year in Review. Shopify.
 Shopify Expects Revenue to Surge in 2016. Fortune. 17 Feb 2016.
 Shopify Announces Fourth-Quarter and Full Year 2016 Financial Results. Shopify. 15 Feb 2017.