EKM and Bluepark are two of the longest established UK based ecommerce platforms having both been around since the early 2000’s, but how do they compare?
EKM vs Bluepark: What is the Difference?
EKM is a fully hosted ecommerce platform that allows users to pick and choose which features they want to use on their site, EKM is primarily focused on B2C business. Bluepark is also a fully hosted ecommerce platform but it provides an all in one, straight out of the box ecommerce solution with all features pre-installed and can be used for both B2C and B2B ecommerce websites.
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Up to 500 Products
Up to £50k Annual Turnover
No Transaction Fees
Unlimited Data Storage
Free SSL Certificate
Standard UK Support
69 Free Themes
1 Employee Account
Up to 500 Products
No Annual Turnover Limit
No Transaction Fees
500mb Data Storage
SSL Certificate £69.99
Standard UK Support
43 Free Themes
Unlimited Admin Accounts
At first glance, it looks like EKM is quite a bit more expensive of the two but when you factor in the price of the SSL certificate with Bluepark, the difference soon narrows. Across a 12 month period, the difference works out at around £20 between the two (EKM £389.88, Bluepark £369.87).
The main difference between the two packages is that EKM use a tiered pricing structure, and this means that when you hit certain annual sales numbers (£50,000), you will automatically be moved on to the next package but they do give you more in terms of resources, features and support as you move up.
Bluepark on the other hand have a fixed pricing structure and this means that it doesn’t matter how much you sell a year, you can stay on whichever package you choose. But if you want access to all of the features that Bluepark have to offer, then you will need to go onto a larger package. You are also limited to 500mb of storage space.
Both platforms offer a free trial so that you can try them out for yourself. With EKM, this is normally a 14 day trial but if you use the links in this post, you will get an exclusive 28 day trial. You will need to enter your payment information before signing up and if you don’t want to continue past the free trial, you will need to let them know.
With Bluepark you get a 14 day free trial and you only need your email address and create a password to get started, there is no requirement to provide any payment info.
Both platforms offer a very good selection of ecommerce features but the way they work on both the platforms is slightly different.
The EKM platform offers a combination of built in features but also a range of additional features that can be installed on your site at the click of a button (very similar to the way apps work). This allows you to customise your site and only use the features that are going to benefit your online store.
The majority of these installable features are free to use and only a handful are either tied to the higher packages or incur additional monthly fees. Below is a summary of some of the features that are available on the EKM basic package:
- Free 03 Business Phone Number
- Facebook Messenger for Live Chat
- Customer Reviews
- Related Products
- Promo Stickers
- Product Attributes
- Recently Viewed Products
Marketing & SEO
- Email Marketing built in
- ChannelGrabber (Cross platform selling)
- Google Tools (inc Analytics & Shopping)
- Loyalty Points
- Discount Manager
- Social Share
- WordPress Blog
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Order Breakdown
- Best and Worst Selling Products
- Search Statistics
- Web Statistics (Premium)
- Barclaycard EPDQ
They also have selection of over 15 apps that integrate with third party software such as Linnworks and Royal Mail Click and Drop.
EKM Evolution Mode
One feature that EKM do offer all of their users is access to their Evolution Mode, which is an annual review of your website by the ecommerce specialists within the Evolution Team, who will suggest ways that your website can be improved from design to marketing. If approved, they will then implement these changes on your behalf.
Bluepark take a completely different approach to offering features to their customers as all the features available on your package come pre-installed.
This means that it is very much an out of the box solution but even on the basic Bluepark package, you get a lot of things as standard including:
- Embed YouTube Videos in Listings
- Onsite Product Comparison
- Shareable Wish Lists
- Product Labels
- Auto Language and Currency
- Related Products
- Customers Also Bought
- Digital Products
Marketing & SEO
- Build an Affiliate Network
- Built in Email Newsletter
- Social Sharing
- Coupon Discounts
- Abandoned Cart Recovery
- Google Shopping
- Custom Meta Data
- SEO Friendly URL’s
- Top Sellers
- Referral Conversion Rates
- Top Notification Requests
- Top Wish List Additions
- Google Analytics
- Barclaycard EPDQ
- Amazon Pay (Coming Soon)
Bluepark do have a small number of third-party applications that you can integrate with.
EKM has the large selection totalling 69 free, mobile responsive themes to choose from. But if none of these are suitable, then you can have a bespoke theme made by EKM for £1999.99 + vat.
Bluepark has a very nice selection of 42 free, mobile responsive themes. If you want a bespoke theme, you can contact one the Bluepark design partners who will do it for you and prices start from £700.
Support is one of the main reasons why businesses opt for a fully hosted ecommerce platform, so what do these two platforms offer?
EKM has a very good offering when it comes to support for their users as they all get access to live chat, email and phone support within business hours. It is also very easy to contact the EKM support team as there is a live chat icon within your dashboard and their contact number and your unique support pin is also available in the dashboard.
With EKM, you also get an introductory phone call from one of the team who will answer any questions you may have and also help you through getting your basic store set up. With the larger packages, you also get your own dedicated account manager.
Bluepark also has very good options when it comes to customer support and they can be easily contacted via live chat, email or over the phone during business hours. To contact the support team, you can either go through the help centre or click the contact us button at the bottom of your dashboard.
When you first sign up to Bluepark, you do get an introductory email from a member of the team. This email will include their contact info so that if you do have any questions, you know who you can contact.
Hosting & Performance
On paper, there is little to choose between the two platforms when it comes to their hosting as both offer:
- Unlimited Bandwidth
- PCI Compliant Servers
- 99.9% Uptime
- Most Importantly Fast Servers
But I want to know how they perform in the real world, not just how good they say their hosting is. So I put them to the test, I took three of their customer example sites. To have a fair comparison, they were all in the same industries and had similar levels of content on the sites. I then ran them through Pingdom’s speed tool, once a day for three days to get some good data.
Average Load Time
Website 1: 1.63 Seconds
Website 2: 1.33 Seconds
Website 3: 0.95 Seconds
Average Load Time
Website 1: 0.85 Seconds
Website 2: 0.51 Seconds
Website 3: 0.91 Seconds
Both platform are very good when it comes to their performance and EKM are usually come out on top in these head to head tests as a 1.3 second average load time is very impressive.
But Bluepark have a fantastic setup for their hosting, with all three test sites coming in under the 1 second mark and overall averaged an incredible 0.76 second average, this does make them the fastest loading ecommerce platform that I have tested.
Ease of Use
When it comes to features and performance, there really isn’t much to choose between the two platforms. But how easy are they to use?
As I mentioned in above, you do need to give your payment details before you can get started with EKM. But once you have done this, the set up process is very simple. You will be asked a couple of questions about your online store and your answers to these will have a small impact on how your initial store is set up.
Outside of the initial set up guide, the EKM dashboard is pretty easy to use. They have opted for a top navigation bar with 7 main sections and 6 of these are very straightforward in what they do.
The only one that isn’t is the Shop section as there is no real definition as to what its main purpose is, as you can add new products and categories in there but also edit design elements. This is a little confusing to start with as there is almost too much going on.
Once you have got the hang of what the shop section is, the dashboard is pretty simple to use and it doesn’t take too long to get to know where everything is.
Getting started with Bluepark is very easy to do as all you need is an email address and to create a password. Very simple and straightforward, once you have filled out the sign up form, you will receive an email saying that your evaluation site is ready and you can then log in to your dashboard.
As with EKM, on your first sign in, you are greeted by a very good set up guide that takes you through nearly everything you need to do in order to get your site set up. Once again, there is no prompt to set up your legal pages but this is a common theme with ecommerce platforms.
The Bluepark dashboard itself is very simple to navigate and the transition from the old top navigation bar with loads of headings and sub-headings to a simple sidebar navigation menu in 2019 was definitely an improvement.
Bluepark still have quite a few sub-sections but they have been thinned out and also the section titles are more understandable now, this make navigating around the dashboard a much more pleasant experience.
Customising your Theme
Customising your theme in EKM isn’t completely straightforward as it is split over two sections, Shop and Design. This means that to get your customise your site completely, you need to move between these two sections and makes the workflow of doing this seem a bit awkward.
This is a shame as there is quite a bit you can do when it comes to theme customisation. In the design section, you can change your theme, edit the layout of your homepage and change your sites colours. Then in the Shop section, you can edit the content and images that are on your site.
There are also limited options within the design section when it comes to your product, category and checkout pages. It really isn’t a bad system overall but it would be easier to use if it was all on one page.
Theme customisation in Bluepark is something of a hidden gem as the block system they use means that you can very easily change the look and feel of your site. All pages are split into three columns, which you can turn on and off as you wish. You can also add and remove these blocks, to help you create a custom look for your site.
This can be done either in the admin area or you can use the live customizer, which allows you to see how you site looks before making it live, you can also edit the content directly within the customizer. There are also options for each block that you can manage directly in the live editor.
What is very good about the Bluepark editor is that you can use it one pretty much every type of page within your website, so you can customise your product and category pages in the same way you can your homepage.
Adding and Managing Stock
Being able to manage your stock efficiently and effectively is a hugely important part of running an online store and for me there are three main areas to this and they are:
- Adding products
- Organising your Products
- Managing your inventory
The main area for managing your inventory within EKM is the Shop section and to add a new product is really simple. Just click the Add Product button in the top right hand corner and a pop up will appear.
This pop up is very easy to use and the side tabbed layout makes it easy to work your way through all of the different sections that you need to fill in, in order to properly list your product for sale. The amount of options in the sidebar can vary depending on which features you have installed.
Organising your inventory within EKM is once again, very simple to do. You can easily create a new category by pretty much doing the exact same steps as you do for creating a new product, only you click the Add Category button instead. There isn’t as many tabs within the sidebar but it does allow you to create parent and child categories for your site.
In its standard form, EKM isn’t great when it comes to managing your inventory as you have to find the product in the Shop section of your site and then click the edit button. If you have a large inventory, this could be very frustrating having to navigate around your site to find the product you are looking for.
Fortunately, EKM do have a very handy fix for this and it is called the Advanced Inventory Manager feature and I would recommend anyone using EKM to install it. As it will make your life much easier. This feature allows you to do a lot from the overview page, you can easily update stock levels, pricing, stock codes and even product titles.
It is a very useful tool and you can add new products and categories directly within the tool as well, which makes the process even simpler.
Bluepark have made their product management a bit more straightforward than EKM but there is still one quirk to the system.
The new product page is pretty simple to use but as with a few things within Bluepark, there are a quite a few options to choose from. Similar to EKM, they have used a tabbed system for adding new products, with a few options on each tab and the result is that it does take a bit longer to add a new product.
The quirk I mentioned above is that if you go back in and edit a product, an additional 5 tabs will appear with more options such as Attributes, Variations and Related Products and depending on the product, this means that you may need to create it and then edit in order to set it up properly.
Organising your products in Bluepark is pretty straightforward as they have used the tried and tested category method, which allows you to create parent and child categories. You can also create brands within Bluepark and this allows your customers to search by brand as well as by product.
Managing your inventory is all done via the product overview page and this allows you to quickly and easily update stock quantities and change your featured products. There is also a quick gross profit tool on there as well. If you want to change the price or anything else, this has to be done on a product by product basis.
EKM is very good when it comes to managing your orders as you can update statuses and print packing slips in bulk or individually. There are also multiple layouts you can choose from for your packing slips/invoices, which is good if you have a specific type of shipping label, these can also be bought directly from EKM.
If you want to export your order information, then you will need to install the Import/Export feature and do it via that as you can’t do it directly from the order dashboard.
Bluepark has a complete order management system that allows you to print off orders, update statuses and export your orders directly from the order dashboard and this can be done for bulk orders or individually.
• Excellent Support
• Evolution Mode
• Theme Selection
• Order Management System
• Very Good Performance
• Theme Customisation could be better
• Credit Card info required before trial
• Good UK based support
• Good theme selection
• Theme customisation
• Well laid out admin dashboard
• Super fast page load speeds
• Steeper Learning Curve
• Blog and Newsletter aren’t the easiest to use
• SSL Certificate not included
It really is difficult to choose between these two platforms as they are both great options. EKM is a very good all round package for businesses of all sizes but it does have some quirks such as the shop section, but these are easy enough to work around.
Bluepark is also very good but it does have a steeper learning curve and requires a bit more understanding of how websites work, due to the amount of options and little tweaks you can do. But the theme customisation is a bit of a hidden gem and obviously the performance cannot be overlooked!
Honestly, there is no overall winner between the two and my advice for anyone considering one of these platforms is to try them out for yourself as you may just click with one of them. If this happens, then you know that it is the right one for you and your business.
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