The Ultimate Guide To Selecting an eCommerce Platform

By Will Wigram


Thinking of building a new eCommerce store or replatforming an existing one?


We’ve put together the ultimate guide to choosing an eCommerce platform to help your store get off to the best possible start from the get go.


1)        Getting Started / Business Objectives


So, what are the key considerations or questions you should ask yourself? Well…


What are the reasons behind the re-platforming? What are the key business objectives form this project?


Perhaps its your global growth ambitions that is spear-heading this, or potentially to reduce costs and management overheads.


Whatever the reasons are its key to make sure that these have been discussed, considered and that everyone is in agreement.


What are the key success metrics of the website?


Increasing overall sales is probably up there but what other metrics can you attribute to the success of the website?


Knowing these is extremely helpful for both you and us when we take on a project as we can link back all of activity and proposed work to these to make sure we are achieving these initial goals.



If applicable, how is the current website failing?


What are the current pain points? – This could be user experience / navigation issues, it could be inflexibility with scaling or a dated look and feel.


Whatever they are, it is imperative they do not crop up again and therefore need to be made clear from the get go.


But also think about the successes that we can develop even further going forward.


What are the main features and functionalities that you want?


Of course you will refine this as you go through this process (and we’ll discuss this more in a minute) but its useful to lay everything out on the table to start with. From here you can try to organise them into must haves and nice to haves.


Knowing what the priorities are is really useful as it can help point us to the most appropriate platform, and in cases where there are budget limitations, it can help us put together a phased project plan.


There are a huge amount of factors that can and will consider in this process, but beginning with the four points above will get you off to a good start.


I think one of the most important takeaway’s here is to make sure you involve all departments in these initial discussions. As you go through the process it won’t always be necessary to have all departments involved, but including everyone at this early stage is only going to result in a much more rounded view of the needs and objectives.


2)        Product Make Up


At the core of any eCommerce website are the catalogues of products. Again on the surface this may seem quite straight forward – items for sale, different colours, different sizes, prices, descriptions and images. But actually, the make-up of these catalogues can be quite intricate and there may be certain limitations on some platforms that could prevent you from running your business effectively.


Some of the SaaS platforms (like Shopify & Bigcommerce) are more suited to less complex catalogues than the likes of Magento. For example the number of variants a product can have cannot exceed 100 on Shopify. There are ways around this but it involves customisation and/or the use of a third party app.


In isolation this is not that much of a problem but if this type of customisation is needed throughout your product offering, it can become a bit of a pain to manage.


So, to alleviate the risk of this happening here are some of the the product questions you should be asking yourself:


  • How many products do you want to sell online? Quantity in isolation is rarely an issue but it’s good to know this nonetheless as it will have implications in various ways such as design and site speed optimisation.
  • How many categories and sub categories will you have? This could be quite small to begin with and then grow, so future ambitions is good to also bare in mind at this stage.
  • How Complex is your product taxonomy? Think about the number variants each product will have – colours, sizes, types etc. Will these be presented as single products or as SKUs within the products
  • Is there a requirement to be able to group / bundle products? This has implications for stock management so it’s good to know
  • Will products be sold on a subscription basis? If so, what are the rules here? What does this model look like?
  • Is pre order a requirement? If so should this be triggered automatically when a product is out of stock or manually? Can pre order be managed through other channels such as by phone?
  • Do you have a BTC and BTB product offering? How do these differ and should they be set up completely separately?
  • How will your product make up change and grow over the next few years? Linking back to what I mentioned earlier, what are the ambitions for all of the above?


Ultimately it is preferable to choose a platform that can accommodate as many of your requirements as standard features of the platform. Of course, one of the great perks of many of the eCommerce platforms out there, is the vast range of third party apps/plugins that are available that you can bolt onto the website to enhance functionality (we get to this later).


However from experience, it’s not advisable to have heaps of plugins as this can have a negative effect on overall site performance and speed.


If the majority of the functionality of your website comes from third party plug-ins, it’s probably a pretty clear sign that you are not on the most appropriate platform.


This is why it’s important to have all of this detail clearly available when selecting a platform, to alleviate the risk of choosing a one that restricts you and does not allow you to create and evolve in a hassle free manner.


3)        Content Requirements


Content is at the core of every website and different platforms offer different solutions to the variety of different elements that you may or may not require, some making it easier that others.


Types of Content:

Ediorial – Blog, News, Press – archives

Campaign – Projects, Case Studies , Look Books

Brand – About, Philosohy, Process / Craft, History,

Social – integrating 3rd party content


Again, try to think about how this will evolve as well as what you’re launching with. How often are you going to be adding new content to the site?


If this is regularly (as, of course, it should be to help your SEO rankings) it is so important that it is an easy to do, otherwise it will cause such a headache to whoever has this job, wasting their time going through a tedious process or even worse deterring them from adding any new content.


WordPress, is a great option for content rich sites as there is no real limitation from a creative or management point of view. We have historically connected this with WooCommerce to offer a powerful eCommerce solution for our clients – and this is definitely a combination we still recommend.


Bigcommerce has recently developed a WordPress integration that creates a really powerful solution giving you all the benefits of WordPress, but weaving this into a very capable and solid ecommerce platform.


Shopify is also improving as a content management system and whilst it used to be tricky to manage editorial style content, this is no longer the case.


4)        Technical Requirements/Integrations


You will find that a lot of the more common integrations are easily achieved with ready made plug ins available. These include:

  • Connecting to email marketing platform to capture newsletter sign ups
  • Connecting to Payment gateways – to allow a seamless check out experience
  • Feeding your instagram account onto the site to offer fresh and dynamic content


But it’s not always this straight forward. The recommend approach therefore is thinking about which integrations are going to add value for your customers and your business, rather than going off what you have on the existing site or copying current trends.


Once we have this list we can start to evaluate how these can be executed on different platforms, and what level of integration is needed.


As mentioned, on the one hand you don’t want to be in a position where you are having to completely customise and bolt on hundreds of apps to achieve your desired offering

On the flip-side you also don’t want to buy into an expensive enterprise level solution when you actually only need 2% of what they offer and are therefore hugely over engineering the situation.


We’d be here all day if I was to attempt to list all of the different types of integrations that could be incorporated into your site, but these are some of the potentially more complex but really useful ones that definitely need consideration, and will really help with the seamless running on your business:


  • Stock Management
  • Accounting
  • ERP Systems – he
  • Taxes and Duties
  • Multi Currency Check Out – internationalisation
  • Multi Language
  • Fulfillment / Shipping


Internationalisation especially, is often one of the biggest factors that will shape platform choice. Giving your customers a local shopping experience, and allowing your business operations to work efficiently on a global scale is essential.


Up until now we would only have suggested the more enterprise level platforms – like Magento or Shopware, for this type of requirement.


This said a lot of the SaaS platforms are now getting up to speed with this.


For example, implementing Shopify to target several countries around the world was always the biggest deal breaker as the only option available previously, was to clone the store in order to enable check out in another currency. However now, multi currency checkout is available through their premium offering -Shopify Plus. In 2019 the road map for Bigcommerce also has Internationalisation at the top of its agenda.


As the capabilities of every platform is constantly evolving, it is really important to think about what your technical requirements are and what integrations are needed so that we can help pair you with the a platform that’s the best fit, now and in the future.


5)        Costs and Timings


And last but by no means least – money! Ultimately one of the determining factors in this process is going to be the available budget and deadlines.


The time (and therefore cost) it takes to build an eCommerce website will vary hugely based on the size, complexity and platform you are using.


Whether you choose to disclose your budget with your agency at this stage is up to you – from our point of view this is helpful as we can tailor an appropriate solution.


Either way, though, it is just crucial to have these figures worked out in good time.


So, there are two key factors that must be considered and budgeted for:


  • The initial cost of the build of the website
  • Ongoing costs to keep the site running.


This initial cost can include:


  • Discovery costs – could be UX, brand work, concepting, SEO
  • Design and build costs
  • Data import
  • Content creation – copy writing and photo shoots
  • Third-party integration costs,
  • SEO Set Up


Once the implementation is completed, you have to account for the ongoing cost. Items included in this are:


  • Maintenance and support retainers,
  • Ongoing host fees,
  • Platform licence costs
  • Payment gateway related fees,
  • Third-party apps / plugin subscriptions
  • Ongoing SEO and marketing


Depending on the type of platform you choose, some of these costs might not apply which might be a deciding factor for picking one platform over another.


So, there we have it. Once you have a good idea about all of the above points, let’s organise a time to sit down and discuss which eCommerce platform will help propel your business forward.



24 Best Shopify Apps to boost sales in 2018

We should all now be well aware that Shopify is at the forefront of eCommerce which is one of the reasons why we recommend it to many of our clients looking to move their business online, not to mention the 500,000 or so other people who have chosen the same route.



From shipping to marketing, inventory, SEO, accounting, and social media we’re going to outline some of our favourite plugins available from the Shopify app store now.

So, much like the Oscars, we’ll start with the most boring first – let that not detract from there importance though… actually, you’ll never make it to the bottom if we do that…. Ahhhhum…

Starting with the best first and getting better as we continue… Here are a selection of Diffusion Digitals top apps of 2018, presenting the top three in each category starting with:

Social Autopilot app icon

Social Media


Incorporating your social media channels into your Shopify store is a fail-safe way to drive up brand awareness, increase quality traffic to your store and ultimately increase conversion. So if you aren’t already, you should start looking at how to bring a sociable side to your store.

Social Autopilot

As described on the tin, this app allows your store to auto generate posts or tweets and send them out to all of your social media channels whenever you upload or launch a new product or add a new blog post to your store. Whilst this sounds simple we all know how easy it is to forget and by taking your mind of the social media side of selling, you can concentrate on what counts.

Price: Free


Beetailer Social Widget

Customer feedback is hugely helpful, not only for in helping you understand how your products are being received, but also in demonstrating to Google that your site can be trusted. This widget allows you to add all the social media buttons that you need to each product page enabling your customers to be able to comment share and tweet about your products. You’ll also receive notifications whenever someone does engage in them thus helping you improve your customer service.

Price: Free


Yottie – Youtube Video App

Video is becoming an ever more important format in online selling. Recent studies show that people engage with video content for longer than they do written and with Yottie, no longer do you have to redirect people to your YouTube channel,  you can seamlessly curate your videos (whether they are yours or ones that just fit your brand) directly through your Shopify account. This enables you to bring all your exciting new content to your customers on the same platform, whether they be promotional videos, blogs or channels that you think fit your style.

Price: Free

Judge me shopify app

Search Engine Optimisation (SEO)


As we should by now know, SEO is becoming a fundamental part of driving up sales. From writing good Meta data to optimising images to allowing customers to easily give their feedback, SEO needs to be a fundamental part of your sales strategy going forward and here are three apps to help you do so.



Whilst page speed sounds mundane and a minor detail, it is essential for SEO as Google looks down on slow loading pages. Minifier allows you to easily optimise your image file sizes, Alt tags and Filenames thus radically speeding up the page loading time which in turn will improve your ranking on the search engine results page (SERP).

Price: $0.50/image


Judge Me

Whilst it is scary on the surface, giving people the ability to feed back is not only good for you but also really useful for SEO. Not only does it constantly add content to your pages, which Google likes, but you can also choose to have them appear as rich snippets on SERPs thus making them more enticing to your potential customers. Judge Me automates the review process by contacting your customers via email after a sale.

Price: $15USD/month for unlimited use


SEO Manager

Managing Meta data can often become a cumbersome task, especially for product heavy sites. SEO manager improves your SEO for all major search engines and has a number of powerful tools that will help you optimise each of your products to the smallest detail and, when you need suggestions it will provide them. Whilst this might come across as expensive, as we often say, when it comes to SEO, the ROI is healthy and you tend to get out more than what you put in.

Price: 7 day free trial. $20USD/month


Happy email shopify plugin example

Email/Messenger Marketing


Attracting and retaining a customer base is no easy task for anyone, on or offline. As such you have to make the most of the tools out there and when it comes to marketing it is easy to become overwhelmed with the choice on offer. Email marketing helps you stay in touch with an existing customer base whilst reaching out to new ones (Ensure you are on the right side of General Data Protection Regulation which comes into force on the 25th May 2018).


Consistent Cart

We’ve all been at the check out cart on a device and for some reason had to leave. On returning using a different device we find our cart empty. Frustrated we leave your shop. With Consistent Cart this is no longer a problem as it syncs customers carts across all devices. You can also monitor live activity on shopping carts around your site including when people who have abandoned carts come back to make a purchase. If this isn’t enough, you can contact customers who have yet to complete their purchase through Facebook Messenger. The Pro version has several more features.

Price: basic features for free. Pro – $14USD/month

Happy Email

Manners Maketh Man. As opposed to chasing people who have abandoned their carts, Happy Email has a slightly jollier disposition and allows you to automatically send a thank you email from store founder/owner to new and existing customers. Furthermore if you feel you don’t come across particularly happily in your writing, Happy Email will write to them for you. If your looking to boost your brand awareness then you should start by making customers feel good about their experience in your shop and this is a pretty good place to start. (And it’s free!!)

Price: Free



Targeting high value customers is one of the biggest attractions to email marketing. This app allows you to easily sync your customers and purchase data to MailChimp and from here you have a number of features at your disposal such as; setting up marketing automations, reminding customers about abandoned carts, showcasing product recommendations and tracking detailed data based on which of these campaigns is and isn’t working. You’ll also be able to find new customers and drive them to your website with Facebook and Instagram ads, then set up Google remarketing ads to turn your site visitors into shoppers.

Price: Free trial followed by custom monthly fee depending on the features you require.

Shipping Easy logo



Shipping is becoming an ever more important part of driving conversion with 88% of British shoppers electing to shop online providing there is free shipping, and 86% saying they prefer free shipping over fast shipping. As such, most businesses offer free shipping – provided you spend a minimum amount.


Free Shipping Bar

More often than not the simplest things are the most effective. The Free Shipping Bar plugin gives a way for storeowners to introduce a fully customisable slide out bar to the top of their site showing customers free shipping offers. For instance once someone puts something into the cart a bar will slide down indicating how much more the customer needs to spend before they are eligible for free shipping. You can fully customise font and colour to fit with the style of your website. A final perk is that there is no Hextom (the developer) branding meaning you maintain the integrity and professionalism of your site.

Price: Free



ShippingEasy is a cloud based shipping platform where merchants of all sizes with products of all weights, shapes and sizes can manage their orders quickly and efficiently through their automated system. From printing labels, to automated tracking, to keeping accurate inventories, to advanced reporting, ShippingEasy guarantees the best rates and allows the merchant and customer alike piece of mind.

Price: 30 day free trial. Plans ranging from $29USD/month to $149USD/month



If you are trying to ship in a lot of products from abroad but cannot fill a full container then this plugin opens up your options for shipping freight by sea. Shippo will collect your goods at an arranged time and date, load them into a shared container, unload the container and deliver the goods to your door. The fee is agreed at the beginning and you pay a one off all-inclusive invoice once the delivery is made… with no hidden costs. It also covers label printing and tracking for you and your customers.

Price: Rates vary depending on packages.



Keep track of your stock and managing orders is a critical part of any successful business and nowadays there is no excuse not to be on top of it. There are countless apps that allow you to easily update, synchronise and monitor your products and variants.


Trade Gecko

Trade Gekco allows provides you with all the features to save time, sell more, work smarter and grow your business. Seamlessly integrating with Shopify, this plugin is ideal for companies looking to scale up, as once the initial setup is complete — a process that in and of itself is extremely simple — the plugin gives you the flexibility to expand by growing along with you. Trade Gecko also has a B2B portal that allows you to easily change between your business dealings, whether it be the B2B sourcing of your products etc. or the B2C your online retail store.

Price: 14 day free trial. Plans from $79USD/month


Back in Stock

Missing sales because your stock has run low is inexcusable and not only will you miss out on money but you’ll also potentially push returning and prospective customers away. By measuring demand and sales you can stay on top of your stock levels and when inevitably your product is featured on a popular blog or article, your stock will be able to withhold the stampede of new customers. You can receive weekly reports that show which products are in most demand and even the quantity you need to order; “know rather than guess what your customers want”. If worse comes to the worse and you do run out of something then you can set up automated emails to your customers that inform them when the item in question is back in stock.

Price: 30 day free trial. $19USD/month


DEAR Inventory

As one of Trade Gecko’s biggest rivals, DEAR Inventory is a worthy challenger. Some of the many features include intelligent purchasing decisions (retaining customer purchase history), sales tracking, a manufacturing module that allows you to track the cost of raw materials / labour / and production of goods, accounting and stock control. By simply connecting your online shop and shipping platform with DEAR Inventory, you can handle everything under one roof.

Price: 14 day free trial. $199.00/month

accounting data



There are very few of us out there who can honestly say they look forward to this little (hmmm?) task at the end of the week or month. But to keep the taxman at bay it is essential that it is done and in the digital age that we now find ourselves in, there are hundreds of apps out there to help you keep on top of your bookkeeping. Here are our top 3.


This online accounting software is designed to ease the burden on the shoulders of small businesses. Some of the key features include the management and production of; process invoices and quotes, reconciliation, inventory invoicing, purchase orders, bills, expenses and employee pay amongst many others. Should you need further advice from specialist accountants or bookkeepers (aren’t they the same thing?!) Xero’s directory will connect you with one should you need.

Price: Plans range from $9USD to $70USD/ month



Like Xero, Quickbooks is aimed at smaller merchants and the self-employed who can access all of their account details through the Quickbooks intuitive mobile app. With features including; invoice creation and tracking, cashflow insights, expenses, VAT management, payroll and ability to connect with your accountant this platform is a quick and easy way of keeping your eye on your accounts. You can also set up reminders for overdue invoices.

Price: Free 30 day trial. Plans range from £3/month to £15/month (for the first 6 months).


Knowing how much your unsold stock is worth at any given time and managing cost of production or costs of goods sold is a critical part of controlling your profit margins. Profiteer is a cost of goods sold (COGS) plugin that helps you do these things. Features include tracking profit margins for all sales, viewing cost price in Shopify Order Reports, replacing free sale items with accurate prices, record sales with automatic currency conversion and calculating COGS for any day of the year.

customer service cartoon



Making a sale is only half of the battle, the tricky part comes afterwards in the form of retaining your customers and encouraging them to advocate your brand or product long into the future.

People are forgiving and whilst the customer is always right (even if they are wrong) or they make a mistake, the infrastructure must be in place for them to amend or cancel their orders should a problem arise.

“91% of customers state that a good return policy is something they consider when making an online purchase.” (Harris Poll Study)

The following are three apps that will help you remain on your customer’s good side:


Returns Manager

Returns Manager views after-sales as a marketing strategy as much as anything else and as such they put the customer experience (rather than the vendor) at the forefront. A few of the features that the customer get are: Easy return of one or more items from an order, add custom notes on return, view notes that the store adds to a return, view status updates and other details, get email notifications on status updates, doesn’t require a customer account and crucially is mobile friendly. These features are guaranteed to put your customer at ease when visiting your store, which in turn does wonders for your organic marketing.

Price: 30 day free trial. $19.99USD/month


This is not only a useful tool for your customers should they wish to talk to a ‘shop assistant’, but it is also incredibly useful for the vender. ChatPirate gives you the ability to track your customers around your store, monitor what items they have put in their basket, and allows you to send trigger conversations to the customers before they abandon their carts. Designed within a minimalist and smart interface, your customers can rest assured that there is always someone there to answer the queries when they need.

Price: 14 day free trial. Plans range from $7USD to $99USD/month


Help Center

Encouraging the customer to find the answer to their question themselves is more effective than many appreciate. People are willing to look and feel better about themselves when they find what they are looking for themselves. Some of the Helpdesk Center (It’s an American plugin hence the spelling!) features include: Creating an easy-to-navigate and searchable FAQs page, publish searchable articles, sections and categories and, let the customer submit questions they cannot find the answers to.


Whilst I admit not all, most eCommerce companies want to drive up sales and increase their profits. The following plugins are all about driving more people to your site and ultimately getting people to convert.


Referral Candy

Customer advocacy is one of the best ways to drive up traffic and giving people an little incentive to tell there friends about your product is a sneaky little marketing trick that has worked wonders for years. First you choose your rewards (cash, store credit, discounts or free products) then set up your theme to reflect you brand, then its down to promotion and start the little snowball rolling down the hill. You can constantly track your campaigns through detailed yet understandable reporting.

Price: 15 day free trial. Plans start at $49/month


Better Coupon Box

Give out virtual coupons that turn visitors into email subscribers or social followers so that they can be targeted further down the line. One example is an exit intent coupon popup that appears whilst your customers are browsing your site, although a powerful technology can detect when they are hovering over the leave tab (for example) and so the popup appears and offers them a discount that can be entered at the checkout.

Price: Free


Boost Sales

Targeting customers with similar products to what they have in their shopping baskets is an effective way of driving up sales. Upsell and cross sell offers encourage customers to add higher-valued items or purchase bundles to their baskets. Excite customers by motivating them to buy a little more in order to achieve a goal and receive a discount offer.

Price: 15 day free trial. $30USD/month

Whilst these final instalments might tickle a moral nerve, if it’s profits you’re after, apps that encourage engagement are a essential.

Well there you have it… Hopefully this has given you a little insight into how you can launch your eCommerce store into stratosphere and realise your businesses full potential.

This list has been compiled based on feedback we get directly from our clients and as future clients, we’d love to hear from you! Feel free to share or comment on whether you agree, disagree or frankly couldn’t care less about. Or, if you have any suggestions of your own we’d love to hear from you.


To discover how Diffusion Digital can help recreate your website into something truly unique, read more about our WordPress development or explore our Shopify services.

Shopify Plus – Does your Business Need It?

Shopify Plus is a fully hosted, enterprise level ecommerce system aimed at high volume merchants looking to take their ecommerce operation to the next level.

So the question of whether your business needs Shopify Plus depends heavily on where you think your business is now and where you see it headed in the near future.

To help you consider the answer to that question, here are some of the main benefits of using Shopify Plus.

Scalability Without the Stress

A key benefit of Shopify Plus is that it’s fully managed with a promise of 99.9% uptime and unlimited bandwidth. Essentially what this means no more worrying about IT concerns such as having to pay extra for higher data usage or potential downtime during big sale events like Black Friday.

For many people that have outgrown free and ‘lite’ ecommerce systems, the challenge of setting up and managing your own ecommerce store can lead to significant IT headaches. So with Shopify Plus you can put these concerns out of your mind and focus on what you do best – selling.

Customisation & Same Domain Checkouts

As a customer, being redirected to an offsite checkout that looks completely different to the website you were shopping on is a fast track way to being spooked out of paying.

With Shopify Plus, you can fully customise your online store using CSS styling and JavaScript, enabling you to create a seamless transition between your website and your checkout. Alternatively if you aren’t a web design whizz, you can choose from a large number of pre-installed styles.

This integration is further improved with the inclusion of same domain checkouts, meaning no obvious forwarding from your domain to a Shopify domain – something that can often look unprofessional for your brand, or worse yet, spook your customers out of completing a purchase.

Save Money on Transactions

With Shopify Plus you don’t have to pay transaction fees on customer purchases, regardless of which payment method your customers decide to use. This means that if you are a high volume merchant you can expect to save a significant amount of money over time – helping to mitigate the financial investment in Shopify Plus.

Your Shopify Plus Merchant Success Manager, is what Shopify Plus refers to as your ‘secret weapon'.
Sam Strutt

Increase your Conversions

Shopify plus offers ‘Shopify Pay’ which allows customers the modern convenience of being able to save their payment details for future purchases. This removes the barrier of customers having to get up and find their credit card each time they want to pay – it may sound silly, but never underestimate how much a comfy sofa can hinder a conversion!

Not having to enter payment information each time also means that customers have fewer form fields to fill out during the checkout process, helping to further increase your conversion rates – especially on mobile devices where large forms are less likely to be tolerated.

Your own Merchant Account Manager

Your Shopify Plus Merchant Success Manager, is what Shopify Plus refers to as your ‘secret weapon’. They can help you with a wide range of things from setting up same domain checkouts, design modifications and additional feature requests.

For many people this can almost feel like having a silent partner in the business, helping to ease any worries you may have of ‘going it alone’ and being there to help out with the technical side of ecommerce that you may not have time to fully focus on.

So What is the Key Takeaway Here?

Well let’s not ignore the elephant in the room any longer; Shopify Plus requires a financial investment. This cost will depend on the scale of your ecommerce operation and as we said before, your plans for the future.

So really, the decision of whether or not to invest in Shopify Plus depends heavily on the growth of your business and whether your current ecommerce setup is hindering that growth.

If it is, then maybe it’s time to take the plunge.


You can read more about our Shopify service offering by clicking here.