Online retail stores run on ecommerce software. Sometimes it’s built in-house, but most of the time online retailers use popular ecommerce software solutions like Magento, Shopify or WooCommerce. Here’s what you should know about software when you want to run an online shop in Europe.
- What do you want to sell online?
- Selling internationally
- Localizing your website
- Open source or closed source ecommerce software
- B2C, B2B or both?
- Information you must share
Currently, there are so many software solutions you can choose from. There’s the aforementioned Magento, Shopify and WooCommerce, but in Europe solutions like PrestaShop, Lightspeed, OpenCart and BigCommerce are also in high demand. And with names such as Intershop, Openshopen, Ecwid and EKM Systems there is even more to choose from!
Here are three popular ecommerce software providers:
Lightspeed eCommerce is a cloud-based solution that is extra convenient for omnichannel retailers. It enables them to manage in-store and online inventory, view all customer information and analyze multi-channel sales data, all from one system.
Shopify is also a cloud-based ecommerce solution, powering over 1 million businesses worldwide. Shopify can be used to sell products online and in person. It offers built-in tools to help you create and analyze digital marketing campaigns, and offers a single dashboard to manage orders, shipping and payments.
BigCommerce is a hosted ecommerce solution that lets you set up an online store in minutes. You can sell physical, digital and service-based products. BigCommerce has all kinds of integrations, including with Amazon, eBay and Facebook Shop.
When you are deciding what ecommerce platform you go for, there are some basic things you need to consider. First, what do you want to sell online? Second, what name will you use for your online shop. And third, what ecommerce software will you use?
There are so many options available. An all these solutions cater to every conceivable need. Whether you run an online niche shop, an ecommerce website that sells just one product, a website with popular merchandise or a marketplace with over 100,000 different items from multiple vendors, there’s always a software solution suited for you.
What do you want to sell online?
So, in order to decide which ecommerce software solution you will use, you need to know what you want to sell exactly. Something you actually already need to know if you want to start an online store in the first place. If you’re selling only digital items, a simple shop with Shopify or Sellfy should suffice (try to say that sentence ten times in a row…). But if you run an extensive online shop selling hundreds and thousands of items, you may want to take a look at software like Magento. But even then, Shopify might also be able to fulfill your needs. So, research is everything!
Nowadays, there are many popular online marketplaces in Europe. These are not only household names such as Amazon or Ebay, but there have also been a significant number of major online shops that evolved into marketplaces. Take for example Bol.com, the biggest online shop in the Netherlands. Just like Amazon, it started out as an online book store, but due to its popularity it soon expanded into other product categories. And now it also operates as an online marketplace for external vendors, with most of its revenue coming from these third-party sellers.
Running an online marketplace does not often happen on ecommerce software solutions that you can use for a couple of euros per month. Most often these online platforms are built in-house or are built using extensive software like those from Magento, Intershop or IBM.
If you want to run an online shop in Europe, there’s something you need to know. In 2018, the European Union ended geo-blocking and country redirects in the EU. This means that online retailers are obliged to give consumers from other EU countries access to goods and services on the same terms as they do to consumers in their own EU country.
In 2018, the European Union ended geo-blocking and country redirects.
The rules that entered into force in 2018, ends online discrimination on the basis of nationality or place of residence. This means for example that customers may not be re-routed back to a country-specific website. Also, they can’t be forced to pay with a debit or credit card only from a certain country. All these changes have led to more cross-border shoppers. So, don’t be surprised if you have to send a parcel abroad.
Localizing your website
So, this is something you need to think about when you try to sell cross-border in Europe. But another important thing to consider is trying to localize your website that you try to localize your website. This means that when you have an online shop in Germany and you want to sell to Belgian customers, you need to translate your website to both French and Dutch, so all Belgian customers can easily visit your website. You might also need to change the available payment methods, as Germans have other paying habits than Belgians. See our page about online payment methods in Europe for more information.
Europe has many cultures, each with their own shopping habits and payment methods.
Open source software versus closed source ecommerce software
In your quest to find the best ecommerce website software for your online shop, you might end up having to decide: will you use open source software or closed source software, which sometimes is called proprietary software?
Open source ecommerce software
What’s the main difference between these two software methods? Well, open source means the source code is available for you to access and to modify. This should not only give you a safer feeling (you can literally see every code that is used to build the software), but it also gives you more freedom, as you can modify this source code.
Closed source ecommerce software (proprietary software)
Closed source software or proprietary software is software that is solely owned by the person of company who developed it. To use the proprietary software, you often need to pay a license fee. In return, you will get maintenance and support.
Both open source software and closed source software have its pros and cons. It’s up to you which ecommerce features you deem most important for your type of online store. Are you a skilled programmer yourself? Do you mind paying a monthly fee to use the software? Do you trust the software delivered to you? Won’t you mind spending hours and hours fully tweaking the software to cater your needs? These are all questions you can consider while picking between open source and closed source software.
Do you sell to customers, companies or both?
Most online shops you will find on the internet, are catered to private customers. But business-to-business (b2b) selling online has increased significantly over the years. Nowadays, it’s sometimes even hard to distinguish a b2b store from a b2c (business-to-consumer) one.
If you want to sell your products to other businesses, there are some things you need to be aware of. For example, if you sell goods to a company and the items are sent to another country based in the European Union, you don’t charge VAT if this customer has a valid EU VAT number.
The European Union has a tool that can help you with the rules that affect you while doing online business in the EU. Here you will find out more about cross-border VAT.
Information you are obliged to share
If you sell to consumers based in the EU, there are also some important rules you need to know about. Otherwise, you could be facing a penalty. Some of the obligations under EU rules include that you must provide customers with certain kinds of information. For example, you need to share your identity, physical and email addresses, the main characteristics of the goods or services you sell, the rules on return, the price (including additional charges, such as taxes, delivery costs and postage), acceptable means of payment and the right to withdraw from the contract.
Do your research before you choose ecommerce software.
Do your research before selling online in Europe
We can’t stress this enough, but please do your research before selling online in Europe and in specific markets across Europe. The European Union has certain laws and regulations concerning online selling (and these may differ from the rules in for example the US), but every country also has its own set of rules.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some frequently asked questions about ecommerce software:
What is ecommerce software?
Ecommerce software is software you need to run an online store. Famous online retail websites like those of Amazon, Tesco, Vente-Prive and Zalando run on software. It enables these websites to offer visitors the possibility to search for products, add them to their shopping carts and eventually buy them online.
Good ecommerce software gives you enough features you can implement in your online store. Think about product pages, a search feature, a shopping cart, the implementation of payment methods of more.
What is the best ecommerce software in 2021?
Currently, there are so many ecommerce software solutions, that the answer to this question really depends on your needs. Do you want to run a simple store with just a few products? Or do you have a website with different databases and do you want to sell to multiple countries? Or maybe you want to open an online store as an addition to the physical store you have. Try and compare solutions like Shopify, Lightspeed, Magento or WooCommerce. The last one is a plug-in for WordPress, so if you are already familiar with that content management system, try check it out.
How do I compare ecommerce software?
If you have found several ecommerce software solutions, you need to compare them to find which solution best suits your needs. The first reaction might be to compare prices. That’s OK, but make it an honest comparison. Don’t just look at the ‘per month’ price, but also check what other prices, fees and paid upgrades there are. Try to calculate what each software solution will cost you per month or per year. And if you use free open source software, take in consideration the hours you will make (or have someone make for you) to customize the software.
When comparing ecommerce software, not only look at what your online store needs now, but also what it might need in the future. Is your goal to be active in multiple countries? Do you want to sell totally different kind of products later? Then make this part of your research when you are comparing the different features of the solutions you have found.