It’s a phrase uttered by parents, corporations, and law enforcement in relation to browsing and interacting with the web. We’re told it almost daily by internet watchdogs and security policies. But how careful are people actually being?
Over the last several years, expectations with regards to user interface (UI) and design have standardized. This has meant that many web users feel they have full control over the actions they perform online. This includes the products and services they buy and subscribe to, and the buyer’s journey they undertake.
Yet for UX designers, the truth is far “darker”. Years of behavioral research and design have gone into creating user experiences that trick buyers into purchasing and consenting to actions they otherwise would not have. These user experiences are what are known as “Dark Patterns” and they can be incredibly damaging to a store’s reputation and bottom line.
This article aims to provide store owners with a better understanding of what Dark Patterns are, and why they should be avoided. Keep reading to learn how to provide your customers with a user experience they return to time and time again and avoid delivering one they dread.
What Are Dark Patterns?
Before we go any deeper, think about your own buying experiences. Have you ever started out your buyer’s journey with a specific product in mind, only to find yourself lost in a maze of alternatives you don’t want? If so, you may have experienced dark patterns: techniques used by ecommerce websites to lure customers towards buying products and making decisions they may otherwise not have.
They do this by taking advantage of a user’s UI assumptions. Modern UI standardization has meant that most users just skim a page’s content instead of reading every word (imagine the time it would take to read each Amazon listing you look at). This allows for sites to make a page look like it’s there for one reason, when actually it’s serving an entirely different purpose.
“Dark patterns” have been around for as long as ecommerce sites have exisited (almost) but the actual term was first coined in 2010 by Harry Brignull. Along with coining the term, he also registered darkpatterns.org; what he calls a “pattern library with the specific goal of naming and shaming deceptive user interfaces.”
Don’t think that Dark Patterns are rare. In one recent study over 1,818 instances of Dark Patterns were found across 11k ecommerce websites. What’s worse, the data indicated that the more popular a site is, the more likely it was to employ Dark Patterns in its UX.
Types of Dark Patterns
So what are these Dark Patterns? Harry Brignull identifies 11 dark patterns and outlines what each of them do on darkpatterns.org. Each of these patterns plays on a specific set of assumptions by users. Learning what they are helps you avoid falling into these traps yourself, or recreating them for your users.
Sneak into Basket
Where a site adds an additional item to your basket during the checkout process. This is often done through an opt-out checkbox.
Where a site convinces a consumer to provide more personal information than they want do. Often done by pulling social data.
Where a consumer is easily able to get into a situation (such as a subscription service) that they find it difficult to escape.
Price Comparison Prevention
Where a site makes it hard to compare the prices for two items to prevent a consumer from making a more informed decision.
A classic: focusing a customer’s attention on something that distracts them from another important piece of information.
Where the last step of the checkout process presents costs that weren’t clear previously.
Bait and Switch
When a consumer sets out to do one thing but the site leads them towards something else.
Where opt-out options are worded to shame a consumer into staying opted in.
Where adverts are disguised as content to encourage clicks from a customer.
When a free trial comes to an end and the service automatically charges a customer.
When a product asks a customer to share and send a message to their friends through social media or email.
Why Are Dark Patterns Bad?
You could be forgiven for thinking that Dark Patterns aren’t that bad. After all, they’re present in many everyday online activities everyone takes part in. Recently, a Norweigan watchdog group called out Facebook for steering “us into sharing vast amounts of information about ourselves, through cunning design, privacy invasive defaults, and “take it or leave it”-choices.”
But by tricking users into making decisions they otherwise wouldn’t, Dark Patterns create a bad user experience. For store owners, this can lead to a loss of returning customers and brand loyalty, and an overall downturn in a store’s performance.
It’s not just a store’s performance and reputation that is at stake. Dark Patterns have also become more relevant following the enforcement of GDPR. Several of the Dark Patterns identified above cause issues regarding consent and to what degree it is given willingly.
If deemed to be “Dark” enough that a user has been tricked into consent for something they had no knowledge of, it’s very possible for a site to find itself in breach of GDPR. Similar privacy laws are regulations are also finding their feet across the pond in the US.
Most recently, this has been in the form of the Deceptive Experiences To Online Users Reduction (DETOUR) Act. This act aims to stop large online platforms from using deceptive user interfaces that trick users into giving away information they don’t want to. Social media companies are particularly under fire.
“For years, social media platforms have been relying on all sorts of tricks and tools to convince users to hand over their personal data without really understanding what they are consenting to. Some of the most nefarious strategies rely on ‘dark patterns’.”
Sen. Mark Warner
Examples of Dark Patterns
A look at Dark Patterns wouldn’t be complete without some examples identified by Harry and the wider world of Dark Pattern seekers. If you’re interested in seeing a full list – or getting involved – visit the Dark Pattern Twitter to see more.
Free But Not
The example below is perfect for showcasing how font size can be used to manipulate a fast clicker. While the ad offers a free magazine and giant mug, the small print says something else. And it’s not just £1 extra either. That’s on top of the standard £4.99 charge. This definitely counts as hidden costs.
Another common example of Dark Patterns at work and one that anyone who has tried to cancel online subscriptions has probably experienced. The use of confusing wording here acts as a bait and switch, in which the user is unsure what clicking each button does. Which button do you think you need to press to cancel your service?
A clear example of Sneak Into Basket by Microsoft. Once ticking the agreement box, the subscribe box is also automatically ticked. This could easily be missed by anyone who clicks through too quickly.
Facebook At It Again
As we already stated, social media networks are often accused of Dark Pattern tactics. In a classic Bait and Switch, the example above leads users to believe they have notifications before logging in. Once they’ve logged in though, there are no notifications waiting for them.
Ever get into a situation you can’t get out of? That’s exactly what happened to James Urteaga, who signed up to a subscription service easily but then had to call customer support to cancel. These calls are not usually quick calls to say goodbye, they are often packed with sales tactics trying to keep you signed up.
When in doubt, make a tool that doesn’t work (didn’t send any of my faxes) and have it be as difficult as possible to cancel a free trial @darkpatterns#darkpatterns There isn’t even a numbered option to cancel on the phone system, 15 minutes on hold… awesome. pic.twitter.com/WI9ChryBgB
A common example from Samsung Health above. Automatically selecting consent options doesn’t mean a user is giving consent. This is a typical example of Privacy Zuckering as it is causing the user to provide more information than they want to.
Avoiding these patterns is an easy win for a lot of ecommerce stores. Sure, Dark Patterns may lead to an increase in sales or leads in the short term, but long term they have a much larger impact on your store and its reputation.
For many users, the frustration caused by the experiences outlined above means they will never return or will look for alternatives the next time they need a similar product or service. They may not even know they have experienced a Dark Pattern, instead just feeling that their buyer’s journey could have been better.
A decade ago, shoppers who wanted to buy something from an online store had no choice but to browse to the retailer’s site on their desktop computer. Today, they are more likely to visit the store on their phone through a native application, a progressive web app, or a traditional server-rendered app. Or perhaps they prefer to buy from a store without ever leaving their social media network. Or they may shout to their smart speaker that they’ve run out of toothpaste and rely on it to relay the message to a retailer.
Today, it’s becoming obvious that shoppers expect to be able to shop using the interface that is most convenient to them.
Traditional eCommerce applications were designed to serve the needs of shoppers from the previous decade. The front-end interface was integrated with the back-end catalog management and shopping cart. Over the years, server-rendered front-ends have evolved to offer a better mobile experience, but eCommerce applications in which both the front and back-end are tightly integrated are difficult to adapt to the expectations of modern shoppers. Headless, or decoupled, eCommerce applications are the answer.
A headless ecommerce application unties the front-end interface from its back-end administration and management features. Decoupling allows retailers to take full advantage of the power of Magento, Drupal, or BigCommerce while freeing them to build independent interfaces that communicate with the server-side application via an API.
With headless ecommerce, developers can create multiple user experiences to meet the changing requirements of shoppers. They can take advantage of fast-evolving web technologies without having to delve into the legacy code of monolithic ecommerce application.
A further advantage of headless architecture is that the back-end and front-end can scale independently. The infrastructure supporting the user interface is not the same as the infrastructure supporting the back-end, a substantial advantage for ecommerce in particular given how resource-intensive large catalogs can be.
Consider BigCommerce for WordPress. BigCommerce is a commerce-as-a-service platform that provides catalog management, logistics support, payment processing, a shopping cart, and more. WordPress is a content management system that excels as the foundation of rich content-first websites. BigCommerce for WordPress allows WordPress to be used as the front-end for BigCommerce, combining the strengths of both platforms by allowing businesses familiar with WordPress to build stores based on a flexible and scalable back-end. The same BigCommerce store can be used as the back-end for multiple WordPress sites, mobile applications, in-store interfaces, and Internet of Things (IoT) retail experiences.
BigCommerce is not alone in anticipating the need for decoupled ecommerce. The same considerations influenced the introduction of both the WordPress and WooCommerce REST API. It is headless that motivated Magento’s API and its transformation into an innovative platform for progressive web applications. Drupal also provides a powerful API for decoupled interfaces.
The year of content has passed. That doesn’t mean it’s not still a priority, it just means that other areas are starting to require more attention. The adoption of omnichannel, the creation of unique and memorable purchasing experiences, and the creation and delivery of content in the best way possible.
This year’s IRCE saw all of these topics, and more, touched upon in informative sessions that provided merchants with actionable takeaways. From these sessions, we’ve collected the most insightful and useful learns of the year.
If you didn’t manage to attend this year’s IRCE but still want to know what was being talked about, and how ecommerce is evolving, keep reading.
Omnichannel Is Making Waves
Omnichannel is here and it’s here to stay. Not only has 2019 already seen an increase in the number of stores adopting new channels, it’s also seen a large number of them doing it successfully.
For many stores, executing an effective omnichannel strategy means finding and targeting customers in the best, most efficient way possible. To do this, retailers need to find customers where they are at each stage of their journey.
In a survey of 1,600 consumers, 29% said they browse items online before shopping in person. For brick and mortar shops, making the transition to ecommerce means making themselves present during both the awareness and decision stages of the buyer’s journey.
The importance of digital in omnichannel delivery is further supported by two takeaways from Gartner:
80% of buyers use digital information during each stage of their journey.
61% of buyers visit a supplier’s website at least once during their journey.
Hibbett Sports, a brick and mortar retailer that operates more than 1,000 stores, talked about how they managed to launch an online store smoothly by waiting until others had already done so. Two of their main takeaways included the importance of categories for allowing consumers easy access to products, and speeding up fulfilment to ensure the omnichannel journey still appeals to consumer immediacy needs.
Site Speed Is Important
A statistic thrown around this year was that a 3 second delay in page load time leads to a 53% loss in mobile visitors. Previously, we mentioned that a 1 second delay in page load can lead to a 7% reduction in conversions.
The importance of site speed is real and it’s only growing.
And it’s not just in terms of visitor numbers or conversions. Multiple SEO experts at IRCE talked about three SEO tactics that don’t require ad spend. They were almost always backlinks, content, and speed.
Experience ecommerce hosting optimized for site speed automatically. Learn more.
Not sure how to test site speed? Simple. There are three main tools that can help.
Susan Tynan of Framebridge said: “Don’t nickel and dime your way to an experience where the customer says ‘meh’.”
That was really the theme of this year’s IRCE. The customer experience is important: provide one that will make you and your brand stand out. Doing so won’t only lead to a clearer brand image, but also increase conversions.
For Digital Commerce 360, optimizing the purchasing experience was one of the easiest ways to do this. At the top of their list was simplifying the signup and checkout process, with an 88% increase in conversion rate, followed by providing better product information, with an 84% increase.
Other speakers also spoke about optimizing the purchasing experience, with each touching on the importance of efficiency and speed. Wrapped up in this experience is the fulfilment experience. As was discussed heavily during this year’s Meet Magento Australia, Shipping and Logistics are a top priority. For many ecommerce businesses, one of the biggest divides between businesses is their ability to deliver on customer expectations of immediacy.
As Andy Dunn of Bonobos said “It will be less about delivering inventory and more about delivering an experience”. That experience is one of immediacy.
And it’s not just the purchasing experience itself which is important. DevaCurl talked about how they have created a community of authentic brand representatives as opposed to transactional influencers. Together, they generate over 500 organic posts every day and contribute to the unique experience that they’re able to share with their customers.
B2B Ecommerce Is Big But Merchants Need to Improve
The US Census Bureau shows that between 2006 to 2016, the percentage of US manufacturing delivered through digital channels rose by 34%. That trend looks set to continue.
In one report provided by Paul Demery, 35% of manufacturers and 40% of distributors planned to increase ecommerce spending by 10-25% within the next year.
But while B2B ecommerce is a big market, a lot of suppliers are not providing the experiences their clients expect. In fact, one statistic from IRCE mentioned that 20% of B2B digital users dropped a supplier after having a poor website experience.
Part of the reason for this is omnichannel expectations held by clients. Gartner, in one of their surveys, talked about how 33% of B2B buyers would not make a purchase online unless they spoke with a sales rep.
Despite this discrepancy, many B2B businesses understand that it is present. One report even stated that streamlining the customer buying journey is top of the list in terms of priority for most B2B businesses. It will be interesting to see how businesses solve this problem in the coming months.
Content Is King
For years content has been praised as the most effective resource for ecommerce marketers, and been placed at the forefront of talks and presentations. For years, new channels, new metrics, and new guidelines have been published by marketers, business owners, and retail experts; all with the aim of providing a clear framework on how to implement a successful content marketing strategy.
This year, content didn’t find itself at front and center. Instead, it found itself circling almost every talk and every topic in brief mentions and clear references.
Talks on experience focused on providing consistent and clear messaging, with one statistic stating that 74% of customers are frustrated by irrelevant messaging. Talks on influencers discussed how authenticity was the most important attribute of content. Talks on businesses development talked about nailing your value proposition through your content, with guarantees of conversion increases.
Overall, the biggest takeaway from this year in terms of content was that its still big, it’s still important, and it’s still one of the most significant parts of any marketing strategy. However, it’s also different across different channels and for different brands.
Online retailers can bet on two facts. First, every customer has an email account. Second, they receive hundreds of marketing emails every week, most of which go unread. The first fact makes email a perfect marketing channel for eCommerce. The second fact means retailers have to work hard to get their customers to open marketing emails, read them, and take action.
There are over 3 billion email users in the world. According to Marketing Week, email generates almost $40 billion of retail sales each year. Three-quarters of marketers think email is the marketing channel with the most significant ROI. Over half of millennials prefer to receive marketing messages by email. Email should be central to your eCommerce marketing strategy.
Effective email marketing isn’t sending a monthly newsletter with a random promotion — although that might work to increase sales a little. The best email marketers build a coherent strategy, create content that meshes with that strategy, and relentlessly test the performance of content to discover opportunities for optimization.
Email Marketing: What Is It Good For?
Before embarking on an email marketing, ask yourself what you want to achieve. Increased sales throughout your store are the ultimate goal, but the aim of a marketing campaign should be more specific. You might consider:
Introducing customers to a new line of products.
Increasing sales of a subset of products.
Promoting discounts, product bundles, or cross-sells.
Asking shoppers to leave a review.
Informing customers about events, promotions, special occasions.
Increasing mindshare for your brand and advertising its unique selling points.
Promoting content, such as blog posts or white papers.
Asking customers to take part in a survey.
All of these are good uses of an email marketing campaign. Once you have decided what you want to achieve, it’s time to think about the best way to achieve it.
Types of Marketing Emails
There are several types of marketing email you might send a customer, each with a specific purpose and type of content.
The newsletter. The role of an email newsletter is to provide useful and engaging content to customers. The content should relate to products, but it should not be primarily focused on sales. Typical content for email newsletters includes news about the company, promotion for blog posts, product guides and introductions, original content (like a blog post but delivered over email).
Newsletters are all about engaging customers without the hard sell. If you push sales too vigorously, people are likely to unsubscribe. The email newsletter is the heart of your email marketing campaign.
Welcome emails. When a customer gives you their email or makes their first purchase, send them a brief welcome note, highlighting information about your brand, products, and services that may be useful to them.
Abandoned cart emails. Around 70% of carts are abandoned. Some customers fill carts as the online equivalent of window shopping — they had no intention of making a purchase. But a small percentage welcome a reminder of their incomplete shopping trip and will complete the transaction if prompted.
Leading eCommerce platforms, including Magento and WooCommerce, provide tools to automatically send emails to users who abandon their carts.
Promotional emails. Promotional emails, as the name suggests, promote products, events, sales, and special occasions. For example, Valentine’s Day is an opportunity to send users promotional emails that focus on products relevant to the holiday, along with other related content.
Devise An Email Marketing Strategy
A coherent strategy will help you to focus on what you want to achieve and the best way to achieve it. There are several frameworks around which you might design an email marketing strategy. One of the most common is the purchase funnel — an idealized journey that moves customers ever closer to making a purchase.
The purchase funnel is divided into stages: awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and purchase. Content is created to move customers from one stage to the next. To put customers in at the top of the funnel — the awareness phase — a retailer might create interesting and valuable email content about a topic related to their products, but they wouldn’t target customers at this stage with hard-sell content about specific products.
The purchase funnel concept is handy when building an email marketing strategy. Track Maven has an excellent blog post that examines in detail each of the stages.
Time To Write
Once you have a goal, a strategy, and have decided what sort of email you want to create, it’s time to start writing. It is difficult to offer concrete advice because every retailer is different, but the following will prove useful:
Focus on the subject line. The subject line determines the success or failure of a marketing email. It is as — if not more — important than the content of an email. An unopened email is a waste of marketing money, and it’s the subject that influences customers to open. The subject line should be short, concise, and attention-grabbing. Good subject lines make customers curious about the content of the email.
Don’t forget about the preview text. The preview text is a snippet drawn from the body of your email, usually the first few words. It is displayed adjacent to the subject line in email clients. The preview text should support, expand, or respond to the subject line, strengthening the curiosity of the recipient.
Keep it simple. You have a fraction of a second to grab the recipient’s attention. Don’t try to be overly elaborate, funny, or clever.
Limit the sales patter. If your subject line reads “SUPER CHEAP CUPCAKES. BEST YOU’VE EVER TASTED!!!!” recipients will reject your email as spam. We all know what spammy subject lines look like, and you want to avoid pattern matching for spam at all costs.
We started this article with some statistics that showed why every retailer should invest in eCommerce email marketing. But we left the best until last: every dollar spent on email generates a $38 return — making it three times more effective than social media marketing.
Every product starts with an idea, but good ideas are rare. There is a long road between a spark of inspiration and a profitable product. Investing in a product idea that goes nowhere is dangerous. Few retailers can afford to manufacture or buy products that sit on warehouse shelves for months. For every dud product, there is a product which might have sold well if only the retailer hadn’t wasted their time and money on an idea that didn’t work out.
Product evaluation tries to sort the winners from the duds early enough to avoid a wasted investment.
Is The Product Idea Feasible?
Ideas may fall at the first hurdle because there is a challenge that is too difficult or expensive to overcome. It’s better to find these challenges in the early stages of planning, rather than later when money has been spent.
For example, you are inspired to build an eCommerce business around direct-from-the-farm strawberry delivery. There may be a market for fresh strawberries, but there are also challenges. Sourcing strawberries from farms is a complex logistical operation. Strawberries spoil quickly, so short delivery timelines are essential. They should be stored in chilled warehouses and transported on chilled trucks, which is expensive. It’s not a bad idea, but it may involve a substantial capital investment that makes it impractical.
Regulations can be a challenge to the feasibility of an idea. In some parts of the world, fireworks are heavily regulated. To sell fireworks, you have to carry out identity checks on buyers, apply for licenses to buy and sell commercially, pay for expensive liability insurance, and use secure storage. Compliance may make it difficult to sell fireworks at a cost that is competitive compared to industry incumbents.
When developing a product idea, it’s essential to establish that there is a market, but you should also ask whether you are best placed to serve that market.
Is Anyone Interested?
A product idea may not find a market. Perhaps it addresses a need, but customers aren’t prepared to pay enough to build a profitable or sustainable business. More likely, there is little interest. There are several ways to establish whether a market for a product exists. For a preliminary survey, Google Trends and the Google Keyword Tool are useful.
Google Trends tracks the interest in search queries over time. Consider our strawberry retail idea. Google Trends shows that there is some interest in strawberry delivery, but it is generally low with a large spike. The spike occurs in February around Valentine’s Day.
If we look at the related queries section of Google Trends, we discover that people are likely to be looking for “chocolate strawberry delivery” and “chocolate covered strawberry delivery.” That’s not our product, so some care has to be taken to understand what Google Trends is telling you.
Google Keyword Planner can help you to discover how many searches there are for a product keyword and what the competition is for that keyword. If we look at strawberries deliveries again, we see that there is a low number of searches, but competition for the phrase is high. Again, most of these searches relate to chocolate strawberries, not to our idea.
Let’s refine our keywords. If we look at “fresh strawberry delivery” in Google Trends, we see that there isn’t enough search volume to tell us anything.
Google Keyword Planner tells a similar story. The number of average monthly searches for “fresh strawberry delivery” is low, but competition for those keywords is high. Google suggests alternative keywords that include “fresh fruit delivery,” which has a lot of searches and high competition. Perhaps an eCommerce business that focuses on delivering strawberries from the farm to the door isn’t such a good idea.
It’s worth taking the time to try many different keywords to work out if anyone wants a product and what the competitive market looks like. Once you have established that you can implement your product idea and that there is interest in the product you want to sell, it’s time to consider its potential profitability and the competition. We will take an in-depth look at both in a future article.
May 2, 2019 – We’re proud to announce the addition of a new hosting solution to our lineup for merchants: BigCommerce. This new addition allows us to provide merchants with multiple options for creating, customizing, and delivering their online stores.
As a powerful, headless eCommerce solution, BigCommerce allows merchants to employ a powerful product catalog while maintaining the simple front-end capabilities of WordPress. To this end, BigCommerce accounts with Hostdedi will include a WordPress environment with the BigCommerce plugin pre-installed and pre-configured.
In additional to the same great optimizations you’ll find across all of our plans, you’ll also have access to our support team and auto scaling functionality.
Keep reading to find out more about how Hostdedi and BigCommerce can work together to power your eCommerce needs.
By 2021, eCommerce will hold 17.5% of the commerce market share. In 2018 it was 11.9%. Part of the reason for this growth is the number of options available to different merchants. More and more, merchants that lack technical knowledge and access to a developer are being provided with accessible eCommerce platforms.
In 2018, we already saw a significant rise in the number of eCommerce solutions leveraging the ease-of-use associated with WordPress. During this time, WooCommerce, another eCommerce plugin that runs on WordPress, saw an 86% increase in the number of services.
With BigCommerce, we hope to support these merchants, by providing them with the functionality and ease of use of WordPress, as well as the powerful product and SKU management tools of BigCommerce. Together, we hope to empower merchants to create the professional, personalized eCommerce experiences they want.
The Same Great Support
BigCommerce merchants will still have access to the same great Hostdedi support they would with any other application. However, in addition to this, they’ll also have access to BigCommerce support ninjas.
Available 24/7/365, support for the new eCommerce solution is designed so merchants are never left in the dark regarding any part of their implementation. Key channels of communication have been set up to enable the best support possible for both the BigCommerce API, and the WordPress front-end.
The new BigCommerce solutions come in several different forms, with three primary plans on the BigCommerce side: standard, plus, and pro. Each of these plans offer merchants an increased set of functionality.
All plans will include access to multiple sales channels such as Amazon, eBay, and social channels. Merchants will also have access to coupons, discounts, and gift cards, along with professional reporting tools, and multiple payment processor options such as Apple Pay, Google Pay and Amazon Pay.
Once upgraded to the plus plan, merchants will have access to advanced marketing tools for segmenting and targeting customers. Merchants will also be able to store credit card information within the BigCommerce API, and implement abandoned cart campaigns through their store.
For those that select a higher-tier solution from Hostdedi, they’ll have access to the benefits of the Pro plan. This includes an unlimited number of API calls. In conjunction with Hostdedi Cloud auto scaling, this means that merchants won’t have to worry about sales events and periods of high traffic. Merchants will also be able to implement advanced search, allowing customers to find products faster and more easily.
Commerce With a 0% Transaction Fee
One of the big benefits to using BigCommerce is that the eCommece platform has 0% transaction fees. This beats a huge range of other eCommerce platforms, and gives merchants a clear fee at the start of each month.
Similar to all other Hostdedi services, features such as auto scaling and dev sites will also be available at an additional price. A vital part of your move to Hostdedi is going through appropriate sizing with our team of experts. Get in touch to find out what size commerce is best for your store.
A Simple Migration Process
Making the move to BigCommerce is simple. As with all migrations to or between Hostdedi accounts, we provide full support from start to finish. However, from a preparation perspective, there are a few things you can go over prior to making the move.
Consider what vendors you want to use for different aspects of the commerce experience. Who will be your shipping provider, who will be your validation provider? If you’re content with the ones you have, that’s great, but see if there is anything you’re going to need to do to make the move as easy as possible.
We also recommend taking a look into the different options available for manual migration. BigCommerce offers a great tool for catalog transfer from Magento. Note that if you’re running a heavily customized storefront on your previous eCommerce platform, the migration may require more work.
Get Started with BigCommerce
Interested in seeing if BigCommerce is the right eCommerce platform for you? Solutions start from $58.95 for the XS cloud package with the standard BigCommerce plan, and scale with merchants depending on their store requirements.
When it comes to selecting the right eCommerce platform, merchants have a lot to consider: Store size and number of products, payment and shipping options, and how they want the store to actually work.
At the center of these questions is an answer to which platform will do everything you want, while still being cost effective and providing the customer experience you’re looking for? Two of the main contenders are Magento and Shopify.
While both are able to create unique eCommerce stores, they differ significantly in almost all areas. As we’ll look at in more detail, Magento and Shopify have two different target audiences. Magento is aimed at larger, enterprise businesses, while Shopify is designed around small businesses looking for simple site creation.
We’ll explore several different areas and ask which platform is best for merchants in what ways. This article will try to answer:
When it comes to numbers, Magento and Shopify couldn’t be more different.
In terms of number of sites, Shopify boasts over 880,000, which dwarfs the 245,000 Magento sites currently live.
Yet if we take a look at the percentage of those sites that have made it into the top 1m and top 10k sites, we begin to see a different picture.
According to BuiltWith, 6.2% of Magento sites are featured within the top 1m sites globally, compared with just 2.51% being sites that operate on Shopify. This trend continues into the top 10k sites, with 0.07% of Magento stores featured, compared with just 0.05% of Shopify sites.
This suggests that Magento is more likely to support enterprise level stores that are able to better hone in on personalized customer experiences.
As we will dive into later in this article, Magento is known for its incredible functionality and ability to customize the eCommerce experience. So it’s no surprise that larger online stores lean towards using it.
* Requires a hosting solution, which normally starts at around $29 per month.
Magento vs Shopify: Pros and Cons
Magneto offers incredible functionality compared to almost any other eCommerce platform out there. This makes it one of the most versatile options for merchants looking to create personalized customer experiences, especially if they have a developer team behind them.
Advanced Shopping Cart Options
Shopping cart customization can make all the difference in terms of real ROI. As one of the most vital stages of a customer’s journey, the right options during purchase can be the difference between clicking cross and clicking buy.
Magento has almost twice the number of extensions as Shopify. And it’s not just quantity either. Magento extensions stay true to the platform’s reputation for flexibility by providing more in terms of functionality.
An asset that is not talked about enough. Magento’s community provides the eCommerce web application with a lot of support that other non-open-source applications don’t receive.
Difficult for Beginners
Magento was not designed for those looking to take their first steps into eCommerce. While there is a page builder in the works for open source, you still very much need either coding knowledge or a developer to get started.
While open source itself is free, hosting is not. This can cost many hundreds of dollars if you’re a large store. It can cost you more than the Shopify equivalent, but we would argue that you get more for your money by self hosting.
Ease of Use
Shopify is designed to be a simple eCommerce platform that provides owners with an easy way to get started selling quickly. Pages can be easily customized, as can products. While this customization is nowhere near Magento’s, it’s enough to get started.
Shopify has several free themes available to get started with. They require no coding, are responsive, and look modern.
Shopify is all managed through a single point of contact. Instead of having to manage your store on multiple fronts, you’re able to access and do everything in one place.
Once you’ve gone through all the additions you’ll have to add to your Magento budget, Shopify is often the more inexpensive option.
Transaction fee per sale
Each time you sell a product, you pay Shopify. With the basic plan, this starts from 2.9% + 30¢ per sale. If you use an external payment gateway, you can add an additional 2%. Learn more about Shopify’s transaction fees.
As we’ll explore in this article, Shopify just can’t compete with Magento in terms of functionality.
Designs and Themes
In terms of design, both Magento and Shopify hold their own. From the get-go, Shopify does offer a better experience for beginners. The stock themes available come in both free and paid flavours, and provide a classy, modern look.
Shopify’s themes can also be tweaked to line up with your brand image. These tweaks can include, but are not limited to:
Changing color schemes throughout the site
Applying custom images to products and pages
Changing how newsletter signups work
Editing the action bar and navigation text
Mobile responsiveness is now more vital than ever. 79% of mobile users made a purchase with their mobile in 2018. For merchants, this means it’s important that their site looks good and offers a great user experience on mobile.
Both Magento and Shopify offer responsive templates by default. However, if you’re willing and able to develop your own eCommerce store, Magento really shines.
Creating your own theme in Magento can be a long process that requires coding knowledge. However, the rewards are multitude. A customized Magento build allows you to create a storefront unlike anything offered in Shopify.
Cross-selling and up-selling blocks throughout your site
Expanded footer functionality including newsletter sign-ups
Advanced cart and payment integration
Which platform is better really depends on what you want to do with it and your experience level. Shopify is great for beginners, but Magento offers more experienced users a wealth of design and theme options you just won’t find in simpler eCommerce applications.
Ease of use
Straight out of the gate, Shopify takes the lead. Known for its ease of use and ability to create simple, easy to navigate online stores. It, without a doubt, is the easier application for merchants.
Shopify also features an easy to use drag and drop interface. This is something you won’t find in Magento and makes creating new pages much easier.
Shopify makes store creation simple with an easy to navigate admin interface.
However, with that simplicity comes a lack of versatility. Versatility that can be found and taken advantage of with Magento.
Besides offering a host of built-in customizations and functionalities, Magento also offers an extension marketplace with over 4,700 extensions available to download and add to your store.
Additionally, Magento’s recent acquisition by Adobe has already led to other added functionality and integrations for the eCommerce application. Integrations that Shopify simply can’t compete with for enterprise level clients.
If you’re looking for ease of use, Shopify is the way to go. However, if you’re willing to put in the time and energy needed to learn and adapt a Magento store’s customer experience, Magento is the application you should stay behind.
Magento is known as an eCommerce powerhouse. Between built-in functionality and add-on extensions, it stands as one of the most adaptable eCommerce platforms available.
Yet Shopify does offer enough functionality for small and medium businesses to grow. The eCommerce application makes it easy to do a lot of things without having to code even a single line.
Inserting custom images to create a personalized experience
Adding products and SKUs to your store
Setting up optimized payment options
Customizing the customer experience and the look and feel of your store
However, as you start to require more advanced functionality, your monthly premium will increase. You’ll have to pay more than $29 a month if you want to use gift cards, build professional reports, and implement advanced shipping options.
Magento, on the other hand, is engineered to allow merchants full control of the customer experience by default. This means creating and selling fully customizable products and managing them across multiple stores (if needed).
One of Magento’s greatest strengths benefits international merchants. Magento offers 148 payment processors, many of which come with support for different countries and languages. 60% of overseas, online consumers rarely buy from English-only websites. So being able to offer that international, multilingual experience is vital if you want to target this group.
Shopify does offer a limited number of translation apps, but they don’t provide the complete experience like Magento can.
Magento wins here. But we knew that before we even started.
Apps and Extensions
Once you’ve got your store up and running, you may find that some functions and features you want are missing. Advanced checkout, improved search, and expanded payment options, as a few examples.
Both applications have an answer to this, and it comes in the form of 1-click add-ons that can be purchased (in some cases), downloaded, and installed. Shopify call these Apps, Magento calls them Extensions.
Delving into the options available to merchants, it’s easy to see why Magento’s marketplace is praised, where Shopify’s app store is seen as more of a useful addition.
The first thing you might notice is the difference in the number of extensions made available for each. The Magento marketplace offers over 4,700 extensions, almost double Shopify’s 2,500. And it’s not just the quantity of add-ons that make Magento so much more versatile, it’s the quality as well.
Shopify apps allow users to:
Integrate their store with social and shopping channels
Add additional shipping options
Make basic edits to SEO important data
Magento extensions make it possible to:
Add advanced pre-order functionality
Draw insightful analytics into how well a product is doing
Integrate marketing and analytics software into the eCommerce platform
Leverage powerful advertising tools both internally and externally.
A comparison of some of the more popular add-ons for each, shows that Magento truly is aimed towards delivering a custom user experience and that its extension marketplace only aids in doing so.
Amasty Improved Layered Navigation
Amasty Customer Attributes
Aheadworks Ajax Cart Pro
Point of Sale
Aheadworks Add Free Product to Cart
Magento extensions can be found on the Magento marketplace.
Unfortunately, Magento’s extensions (in general) are costly compared with Shopify’s apps. Moreover, Shopify offers a lot more in terms of free add-ons.
Magento is the clear winner here. Despite costing more, the extensions available add more in-depth functionality and there’s a much larger range.
Both eCommerce platforms allow for an unlimited number of products. They also both allow for you to integrate shipping and fulfilment extensions into your store so that inventory management is easy.
However, the larger your store becomes with Magento, the more likely you are to run into performance problems if you don’t upgrade your hosting account. Shopify has similar problems. However, because your store will be hosted by Shopify themselves, they will encourage you to upgrade your account before you start to experience slowdowns.
With Magento, we recommend finding a Magento-optimized hosting provider, as they will provide you with a fully managed service, similar to Shopify. In some cases, you may even find that your store is faster and more reliable than its shopify counterpart.
Shopify still wins this round, simply because it’s easier to manage performance and inventory through one point of contact, instead of having to get in touch with a developer, hosting provider, and the Magento community.
Magento is a known resource hog, requiring a serious hosting environment to back it up. It’s common knowledge that a merchant’s hosting infrastructure can start to feel the strain as more product SKUs are added. Backed by over a decade of experience, we offer an optimized Magento solution that uses caching to improve the performance of Magento stores. Many of those optimizations you won’t find elsewhere.
Shopify, on the other hand, is a lightweight application. As a result, it runs quickly in most environments, and can hold a larger number of product SKUs on the same hardware that will only run a smaller Magento store.
However, Shopify doesn’t have the same level of functionality as Magento. Personalized shopping experiences with Shopify can be as much as occasional product recommendations and cross-selling.
The reason Magento is such as resource hog is because of everything going on behind the scenes. True personalization of the commerce experience with cross-selling, up-selling, customized shopping cart experiences, and more.
And Magento will run smoothly if the server is configured properly. In 2018, we saw 64% of our hosting solutions run Magento. When asked why they chose us for Magento, merchants cited uptime and functionality as the two main factors at play. Indicating that performance did have a part to play.
Magento scrapes by as the winner here. While Shopify requires less optimization, Magento reigns champion due to the added functionality that comes with it. Moreover, with customized customer experiences, it’s almost certain a Magento store will perform better in terms of ROI.
Both Magento and shopify are strong SEO contenders. In some research, Shopify comes out on top with an SEO score of 98, compared with Magento’s 95.
However, while Shopify is better from an absolute beginner perspective, those with some SEO knowledge will be able to get more out of a Magento installation. The primary reason for this is the extensions available and the ability to truly conform to coding best practices.
Magento doesn’t just let you edit metadata, it also allows you to make vital product and on-page customizations that can provide you with an SEO boost you won’t find in a SaaS product. Additionally, if you’re looking to start working in SEO longtail, adding a WordPress blog to your Magento store is a relatively simple process.
We’re setting Magento as the winner here, due in large part to the added customization options available for users and the ability to customize the SEO process manually.
Security should be at the top of your list. According to the State of Hosting, 61% of shoppers will not purchase from a site that is missing a trust seal such as an SSL certificate.
With changes to the way Google handles security, sites that lack an SSL certificate will now be subject to unsecured site warnings before shoppers can proceed. 98% of shoppers will not proceed past these warnings.
While Shopify manages the integration of an SSL certificate, Magento requires you to purchase and install one separately. This process can be managed for you by a managed hosting provider, but you’ll need to find one first.
In terms of updates and patches, Shopify manages them for you. Magento requires you to do this manually. While Magento’s method requires more time investment from the merchant or developer team, it also provides more flexibility. This is, in large part, due to the incredible community behind Magento.
Magento frequently releases dedicated security patches that are the result of constant testing and development by a community of developers well-versed in the requirements of eCommerce stores.
Shopify, on the other hand, is only managed by in-house talent. This makes for a much smaller pool of resources working on creating and deploying fixes for security problems. While there is a Shopify bounty program that rewards users who find vulnerabilities, the fixes themselves are internal.
Finally, in order for merchants to process credit card data, it’s important for them to be PCI compliant. Shopify, again, manages this internally. However, once again, finding the right Magento hosting provider will make managing PCI compliance just as easy.
Magento is the winner here. While it’s true that Shopify makes security easier, Magento community support can’t be matched. Moreover, by searching for and finding the right hosting provider, managing security with Magento can be just as easy while still providing flexibility you won’t find with a SaaS platform.
A quick look at the pricing for each eCommerce platform makes it seem as though Magento is the cheaper option. However, while Magento open source itself is free, there are numerous hidden costs.
As a Magento merchant, you have to consider hosting costs, security costs (such as SSLs), and developer fees. Developer fees can be the largest, with some Magento stores costing several thousand dollars in terms of development.
If you’re looking for a cheaper option, Shopify is the better choice. It’s also a lot more predictable, with a clear, monthly payment in addition to a transaction fee per sale.
Magento vs Shopify: The Winner
So when it comes down to it, which is better: Magento or Shopify?
We’ve come to the conclusion that it really depends on what you’re looking for. Magento is better for those looking to create personalized customer journeys that visitors won’t find anywhere else. Shopify is good for merchants looking to create an eCommerce site with little coding or technical experience behind it.
If you do have either the technical experience or a team of developers, we highly recommend Magento. With functionality you just can’t find anywhere else, and an open source version driven by an incredible community, it’s hard to beat.
If, however, you don’t have the time or money to invest in creating these unique experiences, Shopify is going to leave you with a better storefront that serves customers that information they need.
Data is one of your eCommerce business’s most valuable assets. But it’s not only valuable to your business. It’s also valuable to criminals, who use personal data for identity theft and credit card numbers to commit fraud. Over the last few months, several major eCommerce retailers and many smaller stores were targeted by Magecart, a criminal group primarily focused on scraping credit card numbers.
Magecart is the most prominent victimizer of eCommerce stores, but they are far from the only one. eCommerce store owners should be alert to the risk of data theft and know how to fight it.
Store owners fighting this type of data leak should focus on preventing the attacker from injecting malicious code in the first place.
Keep software up-to-date. Attackers frequently exploit vulnerabilities in older software. If an attacker can compromise an eCommerce store via a known vulnerability in the operating system, utility software, or the store itself, they will inject malicious code, which will run in shoppers’ browsers. Updating fixes known vulnerabilities.
Ensure the database is only accessible via the web store. Database misconfiguration is a common source of data leaks. An eCommerce store’s database should only respond to requests from the application, not to requests from the internet. It should be password protected to prevent any access from unauthorized individuals.
Use a web application firewall such as ModSecurity. A web application firewall can mitigate the risk of attacks against a store’s front-end, including SQL injection attacks and cross-site scripting attacks. Hostdedi uses the advanced ModSecurity WAF on Magento and WooCommerce hosting accounts. To learn more, check out our post on Why ModSecurity Should Be Your Web Application Firewall.
Use two-factor authentication on your Magento or WooCommerce store. The easiest way for an attacker to breach a store’s defenses is to guess the right password. Simple passwords, popular passwords, and passwords based on dictionary words are easy to guess. Long and complex passwords are difficult to guess, and the longer they are, the more difficult it becomes. However, we can’t always trust users (or even developers) to choose a long and random password. Two-factor authentication, as provided by Hostdedi’ Sentry extension for Magento, helps to protect stores from poor password practices.
Disable unused store and server passwords. Unused accounts serve no purpose and increase the surface area of a store that can be attacked. Audit the user accounts on your store and server, deleting those you no longer need. On a related matter, when giving an employee or third-party access to your store, use a unique account created for the purpose. Once they no longer need access, delete the account.
If attackers can’t infect your store with malicious code, they can’t steal your shopper’s details or credit card numbers. By following a few security best practices, you substantially reduce the risk of data theft.
Whether you’re new to eCommerce or looking to see if there’s a better option for your growing store, choosing the right web application is important. There are several different options out there for merchants. This article looks specifically at Magento and Prestashop.
Both of these applications are open source platforms that allow merchants to start, maintain, and manage their online store. Both offer unique customization features, and both have been adopted by large audiences of both developers and merchants.
Yet the online eCommerce landscape changed in 2018. Multiple applications adapted to evolving merchant demands, as existing and new users moved to platforms that better suited their requirements. Moreover, with continued development of headless in mainstream eCommerce circles, merchants found they were no longer restricted by the eCommerce API they selected.
Internally, we’ve seen continued success and growth by Magento stores. According to our research, Magento cloud solutions grew by an average of 18% per month in 2018. Prestashop, on the other hand, boasts that over 270,000 stores run on it worldwide. However, looking a little deeper shows that this number may not be what it at first seems.
Before taking a deeper look at the differences between Magento and Prestashop, we’re going to see how they rank in terms of numbers.
In a comparison of all sites that use Magento and Prestashop, 76% of sites use Magento. While this tells us about the number of sites that use each eCommerce CMS, it doesn’t say anything about the quality of those sites.
When we only consider the top 1 million websites worldwide, we see a similar pattern emerge. 1.5% of the top 1 million sites worldwide run Magento, compared with just 0.4% that run Prestashop. Let’s take a look at some more specific numbers.
Internally, we’ve seen Magento dominate the eCommerce web applications market. 64% of our hosting solutions run optimized Magento environments. Asking clients why they have made this choice, frequent responses include functionality and the ability to implement development processes easily.
Now we’ve taken a look at the numbers, let’s look at some specifics.
Designs and Templates
A good looking eCommerce store is important. According to Blue Corona, 38% of visitors will stop engaging with a site if they don’t think its design is attractive, and 48% of visitors believe that a website’s design is the number 1 factor involved in determining credibility. For these reasons, design and template functionality have made it to the top of our list.
Prestashop does have a large number of free and paid templates available. In addition to those available through Prestashop, there are numerous development agencies that also offer templates for a fee. In general, these templates are able to provide most merchants with an attractive, fast site design that can easily be adjusted to fit their unique business. Merchants can also make simple adjustments to the color scheme, responsiveness features, and more through the Prestashop’s UI.
For this reason, most Magento merchants opt to either hire a developer or learn how to design their site for themselves. This allows them complete freedom in regards to how their site looks and performs. Everything can be customized, from responsive design delivery to core layout options. Advanced Magento developers are also able to take their store headless and implement PWA, whereby Magento serves as the back-end for a separate front-end.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is where Prestashop and Magento differentiate themselves. Prestashop is aimed at beginners and less technical users. While this is great for getting started with eCommerce and simplifying daily management and maintenance of a store, it does have its drawbacks.
At the time of writing, Magento is one of the most flexible eCommerce web applications available. Merchants are able to implement a near-infinite number of capabilities. Moreover, with the continued development and integration by Adobe, we’ll likely see this functionality only increase.
Regardless, if you’re looking for ease of use, Prestashop beats Magento. If, however, you’re looking to create an online store with unrivaled functionality, Magento’s learning curve is probably worth it.
Magento’s main strength is its functionality, and while Prestashop does an admirable job of trying to keep up with a number of optional modules, it just can’t compete.
Prestashop does include integration with other popular eCommerce platforms such as eBay and Amazon. It also offers its own internal analytics system for gaining insights into your audience.
Magento, on the other hand, offers an extensive list of functionality. This includes, but isn’t limited to:
Dynamic rule-based product relations
Visual merchandising page optimization
Customer segmentation and personalization
A powerful admin experience
B2B integration through custom catalogs, price lists, and more
Powerful search integration
One of Magento’s biggest strengths is its Elasticsearch integration. Elasticsearch is a powerful search engine capable of providing customers with results they’re looking for quickly and effectively. According to Moz, on-site searchers are 200% more likely to convert than non-searchers.
While Elasticsearch can be implemented with Prestashop installations (there is a connector module), it doesn’t run as efficiently. With Magento increasing focus on user experience, search has taken a dominant position within the eCommerce application’s ecosystem. The same can’t be said for Prestashop.
If you’re looking for functionality, without a doubt, the winner is Magento.
Modules and Extensions
Magento offers over 4,700 extensions, about 25% more than Prestashop’s 3,900 modules.
Some of Prestashop’s most popular modules includes Amazon Market Place, SEO Expert, PayPal & Braintree, the Google Merchant Center, Advanced Search, and Abandoned Cart Reminder. These modules add a lot of functionality to stock Prestashop, allowing merchants to improve conversion rates and customers experiences.
Magento’s most popular extensions include Yotpo, Add free product to cart, AJAX Catalog, Improved Sorting, and Advanced search. Immediately, a difference can be seen between what merchants are adding to their stores. Magento merchants are looking for added features, where Prestashop merchants are more interested in integrations.
It’s a tough choice here, as both have their advantages. Prestashop is great for beginners and the add-ons allow for site owners to easily integrate other eCommerce products into their store. However, Magento offers even more functionality (on top of already impressive functionality).
Both Magento and Prestashop theoretically come with the ability to host an unlimited number of products. However, if not properly optimized, stores with more than 100,000 products can start to slow down.
With Magento, a number of hosting providers and developers have developed and released information on optimizing the Magento environment to ensure that large stores do not slow down. We should know, we wrote the book on it for Magento 2. Prestashop hasn’t managed to attract as many large stores (as indicated above), so isn’t quite on par in terms of optimization.
If you’re looking to run a large eCommerce store that can maintain good performance, we recommend Magento. Even for smaller stores, Magento environments can be optimized to be blazing fast.
Magento is a known resource hog and requires a powerful environment to run. Users often complain that Magento’s back-end can cause slow downs. For these users, the applications functionality is much more of a draw than its performance.
However, Magento doesn’t have to be slow. Often, slow sites are a result of either poor development or unoptimized hosting. See if your environment is optimized before migrating to another application. Optimization is a lot faster than a site redesign… and less costly.
Prestashop is much more lightweight, so there are usually no issues with site speed. Despite this, as we mentioned above, the eCommerce platform does experience slowdowns when too many SKUs are added.
We’re going to call this one a draw. Prestashop is more lightweight, but it also suffers from slowdowns when too many products exist.
In terms of SEO, Magento and Prestashop are in two different leagues. In research conducted by eCommerce Platforms, the stock SEO capabilities of Magento outrank Prestashop in almost every area. In fact, Magento came 4th in a list of the top 16 eCommerce applications available, in terms of SEO value, with a score of 95. Prestashop only scored 40.
Reasons for this disparity include Prestashop’s need for additional modules to serve simple SEO requirements. For example, you cannot add alt tags to images without installing a module first. Magento, on the other hand, comes with a powerful suite of SEO tools from the outset; including dedicated SEO content sections for products.
Magento wins in this category hands down.
Security is vital for eCommerce stores. Customers only shop with merchants that they trust.
So it’s unsurprising that both platforms offer great security features and have a history of reliability. Both have also been the victim of security breaches.
However, as with any website and its security, infrastructure is as important as the application itself. Important features to note are a web application firewall (WAF), whether the hosting provider is PCI compliant, and what else the provider proactively does to keep a site secure.
Magento is often optimized for its environment and so comes with a level of security you don’t see with Prestashop. Moreover, with a large number of dedicated providers offering platforms to develop on and great public documentation, most providers have more knowledge of how to secure and maintain the application itself.
While there is a self-hosted version of Prestashop available for download. A large number of users host their site with Prestashop. If you want your eCommerce store to remain secure, it’s usually better to have control over the environment and access to a support team. For this reason, we recommend a self-hosted solution regardless of which application you pick.
Both Prestashop and Magento offer free, open source options for merchants. However, to support these you will need to pay for hosting. Hosting costs vary by provider. We offer optimized Magento hosting solutions that enable merchants to create scalable and powerful eCommerce stores on a secure platform.
As a result of the incredible functionality that comes with it, Magento can be resource hungry. For this reason, we recommend only opting for a hosting provider that optimizes specifically for Magento. Prices for a stable provider start at around $20 a month and scale to several thousands for a dedicated cluster environment.
Prestashop, on the other hand, is not as resource intensive, and can be installed on a flexible environment without any needed optimizations. Flexible solutions can start from less than $20 a month, but they usually limit the number of monthly visitors substantially. The lower your monthly visitor capacity, the lower your likely revenue.
If you’re looking for a cheaper solution, Prestashop is likely the right choice. However, if you believe your store is going to grow and want to invest in a scalable solution now instead of later, Magento should be your eCommerce application of choice.
Magento vs Prestashop: The Winner
Both web applications provide merchants with a secure eCommerce environment. However, at their core, they are aimed at different types of merchants. Prestashop is aimed at merchants with smaller eCommerce stores and that require much less functionality. Magento, on the other hand, is aimed at merchants that require more advanced eCommerce functionality and are looking to optimize their conversion rate.
From a merchant perspective, if you’re able to invest enough time into a proper Magento implementation, then it offers much more than Prestashop and you’ll like see higher ROI. If, however, you’re looking for an easy WYSIWYG and don’t necessarily require some of the basic functionality that comes with Magento (such as advanced customer connection tools or SEO tools at the core) then Prestashop may suit your business model more.
How are leading eCommerce businesses optimizing for site speed in 2019? What build and design techniques are they implementing to stay ahead of the curve and deliver fast, flexible, and consistent experiences to consumers?
We took at look at a select group of over 30 leading eCommerce stores, and analyzed them for Eight key site speed optimization techniques. What we found reveals several opportunities for new and established eCommerce stores to get ahead.
96% of eCommerce Stores Are Not Considering Site Speed
In our test group, the number of sites that didn’t meet Google site speed requirements for both desktop and mobile was staggering. It’s surprising that only 4% made the effort to optimize their site speed, considering eCommerce stores are often battling it out for top spot in search engine results, and site speed being a ranking factor.
One of the reasons we’re seeing such a low number may be changes Google have made to their page speed tool in the last year. There is now a much larger focus on time to interact and first render, with older devices suffering under the hardware requirements of newer sites.
If you’re looking for a way to get ahead of the competition on the results page, optimizing your site’s speed may be how you do it.
60% of Merchants Think Uptime is the Most Important Concern
Beating out site speed, uptime is the most important concern for over 60% of businesses in the eCommerce space. This may be the reason why only 4% of stores in our sample met Google’s site speed standards, with many fearing unstable environments and user experiences with newer technology.
Uptime is an important metric, and it does take precedence over a lot of other factors you’ll find on your site. However, it is also important to keep your store modern and meet consumer expectations for speed and flexibility.
65% of Stores Do Not Use Lazy Loading
Lazy loading allows you to first pull low-resolution images and then replace them with higher-resolutions images once page content has been loaded. It is a great method for easing server load and optimizing content delivery.
While we’re only seeing 35% of stores implementing lazy loading, we’ve noticed this number has steadily increased over the past few years as more eCommerce developers have become aware of it. Consider implementing in your site build to improve site speed and user experience.
85% of Stores Do Not Use Hero Image Carousels
Hero image carousels are image slideshows that alternate between multiple images. They have long been the bane of site speed for two reasons. One, they require multiple high-resolution images. Two, they are usually situated at the top of the home page. These two factors can combine to make home page loads take a lot longer than they should.
It’s not surprising then, that 85% of stores have opted to remove them from their site. The stores that did implement them did not provide full page width images and only used a handful of slides. The hero image carousel is going away. If you’re still using one on your site, it may be time to rethink this part of your design.
77% of Stores Have a Responsive Site
Responsive sites are the norm. Over the last several years, site owners have continued to optimize their site designs for mobile users, and in several cases even offered offline apps.
What shocked us about this statistic is that 33% of sites do not have a responsive site. This is despite numerous warnings from Google, and more than a few metrics showing how many B2C consumers are using mobile devices. In the Asian Pacific, numbers indicate that over 75% of consumers used their mobile to make a purchase in 2018.
100% of Stores Have Not “Appified” Their Web-Based Store
Headless applications are here and with them has come the ability to make content and websites available offline. Instead of adding an app to multiple app stores, users can now save a website to their desktop for access at a later date (when they don’t have an internet connection).
However, none of the sites we surveyed have done this. One reason for the lack of adoption here may be that it’s such new technology, larger eCommerce sites don’t feel that all the kinks have been worked out. Alternatively, they may feel that it’s not a well-know feature and so wouldn’t deliver enough ROI on development costs… yet.
If you’re a smaller eCommerce store and are looking for something to differentiate your brand, and have considered taking a headless approach to eCommerce, see if appifying your site is the right way forward.
69% of Stores Have a Downloadable App
Despite no merchants having appified their web-based stores, 69% of eCommerce business have created and offer a downloadable app for either Android, IOS, or both. This is likely in an effort to keep up with consumer requirements without going too far out of established practices with an appified web-based store.
If you have the development resources, it’s recommended that you create an app for your store. However, there is also a lot of potential for appified web-based stores. If you want to stay ahead of the curve, that may be the better option.
58% of Stores Have a Multi-Step Checkout Process
Multi-step checkout processes are where the checkout process is divided between several pages. Historically, this has been a popular option for eCommerce stores, so consumers are accustomed to it. Moreover, despite having multiple pages, the process is usually kept short so consumers are not turned away by a lengthy checkout.
However, the one-step checkout has increased in popularity. More stores are offering consumers the ability to make instant purchases with just a few clicks of a button. A single-step checkout may become a differentiator between eCommerce stores in the coming years.
76% of Stores Offer a Desktop Search Bar But Only 36% Offer One on Mobile
Metrics have shown that site search is an important eCommerce store addition. Searchers are 200% more likely to convert. Yet despite this high number, only 36% of eCommerce stores in our survey offered a search bar on mobile devices.
One reason for this may be that the stores lacked a dedicated search engine. In the past, search has often remained unoptimized and more of an afterthought. However, with search offerings such as Elasticsearch making it more powerful than ever before, it may be time to start implementing search in both mobile and desktop views.
The Top eCommerce Stats
These nine stats give valuable insight into how eCommerce merchants are managing their sites in 2019 and optimizing for speed. While speed is clearly a concern, statistics like Uptime beat it out in almost every scenario. An increasing number of merchants are sticking with what they have, instead of adopting new technologies appearing on the scene such as headless. This may, in part, be due to worries about instability.
Merchants should be looking to compete in the area of site speed, and there are multiple opportunities and best practices for doing so. Merchants should implement lazy loading, remove hero image carousels, make sure their site is responsive, and conduct frequent audits through Google’s toolset.
Interested in learning more about site speed? We took a look at over 13,000 different online services to see what site owners and merchants care about. Download the state of hosting today.