Best E-commerce CMS for South African Businesses
If you’re just starting or looking to switch, the start of the new year is always an amazing opportunity to take your e-commerce business to the next level.
A great way of doing that is by investing in a high-quality CMS (Content Management System).
In this article, we’re going to give you a brief overview of what a CMS is, why you would use one and then your top 10 options as a South African business.
What is a CMS (Content Management System)?
A CMS is, put simply, a piece of software that allows us to easily manage web content without any technical know-how.
They use visual editors and templates to make it easy for anybody to create new web pages and edit existing ones.
Some of the most well known CMS’s include WordPress, Shopify, Wix and Squarespace.
Why Do I Need a CMS?
A CMS is a great investment for smaller or independently run businesses who may lack the technical knowledge to manage a website the old fashioned way.
And even if you are a code wizard, they’re an incredible time-saving tool that allows you to create web pages much faster than you could by hand.
CMS’s also allow multiple people to edit the same site, often simultaneously, which is super useful for working in teams.
Lastly, CMS templates make it easy for us to create not only functional web pages but usually good looking ones.
Again, you may know how to code but can you also design web pages to look good?
If not, a CMS could still be a good idea.
Top 10 E-commerce CMS for South African Businesses
If you’re looking for a CMS with the most ease of use and out-of-the-box functionality, it’s hard to beat Shopify.
Shopify is the world’s second most popular CMS solution for e-commerce websites and for a good reason.
It’s an amazingly flexible and scalable solution, which lets you start with a single monthly fee and add functionality from there as needed.
You can upgrade your plan for additional functionality, or use addons from the Shopify store which plug directly into the CMS.
There are a lot of great free addons you can include, but a lot of them are additional subscriptions which you pay on top of the monthly fee.
This can be a major downside if you need a lot of extra functionality, and besides, they charge fees for using third party payment gateways.
If you can work around the high costs, however, it’s software is almost unbeatable at doing what a CMS is supposed to do: make it easy to run your e-commerce store yourself.
WooCommerce is the world’s most popular e-commerce CMS.
As part of the WordPress suite, it’s a leading open-source option for creating an e-commerce website that can grow with your business.
WooCommerce itself is simply a plugin for WordPress, much like the millions of others you can install to boost your site’s functionality.
You can theoretically create a WooCommerce site for free, but that doesn’t factor in mandatory costs like hosting for the site and the plugins you may need to buy to get your site running.
Since the base product is free, it doesn’t come with nearly as many features as the basic version of Shopify (which is paid).
This can be a downside if you need a lot of plugins for your store, the other major one being that it can be a little more technically involved than Shopify if you want to get the most out of your site.
For more details on the Shopify vs WooCommerce debate, check out our full guide here.
Magneto is another industry-leading CMS solution, that lies somewhere between Shopify and WooCommerce in terms of its positioning.
It’s open-source and therefore free to download and use, but it’s a bit more complicated than both the previous options to get working right.
Once you do, though, you can look forward to a variety of built-in features like SEO tools, responsive site design and a great catalogue management system.
If you can get over the initial challenges of developing and setting up your Magneto store, it’s well worth looking in to as an alternative with a lot of great added functionality out the gate.
BigCommerce is a CMS platform that uses a “SaaS” or “Software as a Service” model.
Basically, what this means is that you can create and edit your BigCommerce website entirely through your browser.
This means you don’t have to worry about setting up any of the “backend” yourself.
The service is a subscription model with a highly competitive starting point for what you get.
It’s a great option for people with no technical background, and it comes with a great amount of built-in e-commerce functionality, but this does come with a few downsides.
It’s harder to customise than other sites since you can only interact with the website through their editing interface and you are required to upgrade your monthly plan to get the most out of their service.
OpenCart is another free open-source CMS with an app marketplace, much like WooCommerce.
What sets it apart is that it’s incredibly simple to use and manage once you’ve set it up, and the amazing community of contributors around the service constantly creating new functionality you can use.
Like WooCommerce, though, you are forced to handle the back end logistics yourself (like hosting and website security), which can be a challenge for somebody with no technical experience.
It also suffers a bit in performance out of the gate, though this can be remedied through some performance plugins added to your site.
Wix is another SaaS browser-based website builder that you can use to create an e-commerce store.
The main strength of Wix is that you can easily create great-looking sites through their visual editor, right inside your web browser.
It’s very much focused on creating a great looking site first, and this means there are some sacrifices in other areas.
Firstly, it’s much harder to completely customise your site, especially once you’ve created it.
You’re “locked-in” to the template they generate and any major changes you want to make can be challenging.
Secondly, it sacrifices some functionality. There’s no built-in feature for blogging, for example.
If you can look past this, Wix is a great service for anybody looking to create a great looking site themselves.
Squarespace is a SaaS business very similar to Wix in that it’s primarily a browser-based website builder.
It has a great amount of website functionality built-in but again makes some sacrifices in the name of simplifying the development process.
You may struggle to create completely custom content, or with implementing some advanced marketing strategies on your site.
Still, it’s another great option for completely new businesses without technical expertise, which allows you to create a great looking and functional website yourself.
PrestaShop is another open-source eCommerce CMS platform that’s great for smaller businesses.
It’s great because it allows you to set up your online store much faster than many other options, and it comes with a good amount of functionality built into the free version.
It can be less scalable than some other options long-term, however.
They offer their own “packs” of paid addons to improve your site, as well as the standard third party addon market.
Both of these can add up over time as your site needs more functionality, at which point you may find it more sustainable to switch.
When you’re just starting, though, and you want a free open-source option to get you running fast, PrestaShop is a great option.
Volusion is an online SaaS CMS with a variety of free and paid templates to choose from for your e-commerce business.
It has a lot of selling tools built-in, designed to promote things like cross-selling and help your store earn more sales.
Their dashboard also has a great amount of built-in functionality, but they also don’t have an add-on marketplace to make up for any missing features you may want.
If they do meet all the features your site needs, however, they’re a great option for businesses looking for a low-hassle solution with a lot of built-in selling assistance.
PinnacleCart is a CMS option with an amazing amount of customisation, functionality and marketing integration built-in.
It’s a great option for newer stores with a big focus on digital marketing, with its numerous built-in tools and integrations.
The downside of the service is that it doesn’t have any POS integration, and the storage and bandwidth of your site are limited which may hamper your business long term.
Ubercart is a free, open-source, CMS for e-commerce that plugs into the Drupal framework (much like WooCommerce for WordPress).
It’s main strength, much like WooCommerce, is the integration into a greater suite of CMS software which you can use to boost your e-commerce site.
Drupal has an amazing amount of functionality in addition to Ubercart, which you can use to integrate with the rest of your site.
The downside is that Ubercart itself is relatively barebones, and you need to look outside of it to get most of this functionality.
This makes it somewhat hard to set up for new users, especially those unsure what functionality they actually need.
We hope this helped you get an overview of all the e-commerce CMS systems out there going into the new year.
A CMS system is a great way to take charge of your business’ online presence, and almost mandatory in many industries.
You simply can’t afford to pay a web developer to make every little change on your site, most of the time.
That’s why they’re a great investment for almost any business out there.
If you enjoyed this article or found it helpful, check out more e-commerce marketing content on the inSyte blog or listen to the inSyte Podcast.
This article was brought to you by Syte.
We’re a specialist e-commerce digital marketing agency dedicated to driving up your bottom line.
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Thanks for reading, and have a great day.