In Monty Python and the Quest for the Holy Grail, King Arther is stopped and asked questions that he must answer before he proceeds. It's a hilarious scene and, if you haven't seen it, writing it out in text does not do it justice, so I recommend you go watch it.. again and again instead.
The reason I bring it up is because simple questions should always be asked before you proceed down any path, Joomla!® included. E-commerce and Joomla have gone hand-and-hand since Joomla was first launched in the mid-2000's. At the time, most E-commerce sites on the internet were created from the ground up and had a limited toolset. Now, with gigantic companies catering to mom-and-pop E-commerce sites, like Shopify and WooCommerce, you're right to ask: Why setup an e-commerce site on Joomla?
Below is a quick walk through the 3 main considerations we go over with clients to determine if a Joomla & J2Store powered E-commerce is right for them.
At JoomlaGears, we have many years of experience building online sales sites for clients. Most of these are bespoke websites where we use extensions to do the 'heavy lifting' of setting a site up, but then customize to our clients needs. On some sites, all the necessary customizations can be done through component parameters and a stellar template. On others, it can be overriding major portions of a component to get the functionality they want. The depth of customizations we provide many times simply cannot be provided by Shopify with their more cookie-cutter sites and, while WooCommerce or Magento are 'open source', the code base can be a nightmare to work in for any developer, not something you necessarily want for your critical sales channel.
J2Store has been our go-to E-commerce sales extension due to its flexibility from product types, variants and configurations to purchase options (one time or subscription) to payment gateways. All of these features are wrapped in a smooth configuration area along with powerful customization tools through their plugin integrations. The Joomla codebase that J2Store is built-on is considered top-notch with clear, understandable APIs and a long-term stability.
If flexibility is important in how your store is displayed, the features provided (upsells, reviews, videos, testimonials, etc), then J2Store has you covered.
There's no question here that open-source can win the day. Shopify will nickle-and-dime you with monthly fees, payment fees, feature subscription fees and so much more. With an Open Source solution, you can bring the payment providers you want and develop whatever features you need.
J2Store, WooCommerce and Magento all have a free tier, which is excellent to start. With all 3, many sites can be up and running with the core extension and no add-ons. When add-ons are required for specific features, J2Store usually pulls through lowers costs per add-on.
Statistics and Data
Shopify has reporting down. You can slice and dice a lot of different information. WooCommerce and Magento have great basic reports, but fall flat if you're trying to dig deeper into the customer journey. Here, too, J2Store has been limited in its reporting. That's one of the reasons we launched JoomlaGears.. to improve what we, and our clients, have found to be the biggest hole in J2Store - great reporting.
JStats is our solution and it takes a wholistic approach to understanding your customer base. Of course it integrates with J2Store to provide a picture of sales data, customer journey, projections and a whole lot more. It goes beyond that to integrate with core Joomla features and utilizes the Joomla plugin system to allow integration and analysis within other extensions as well.
The Bottom Line (Both Figurative and by Accounting Standards)
We've seen firsthand that being able to setup a store with all the features you want, at a reasonable price with the toolset to iterate and refine are probably the most critical factors to an E-commerce site (outside of the product itself). It's a huge decision to settle on an E-commerce site. If you're looking to put up an online store, or evaluating your current storefront, think through the considerations above when picking the shopping cart solution you may use.
J2Store has become our preferred online shopping cart solution. If you haven't tried it, we'd highly recommend it, but most importantly, choose what's right for your site and needs.