Commerce has been around for a long time, and it’s getting easier with time and digital development.
In the past, if somebody wanted to open up a store and sell some products they needed a physical location that they had to either buy or rent out.
That is one of the reasons why in the past people had to have some sort of savings to start up a store from scratch.
Since then, things have changed drastically. I mean, of course, there are still physical stores and you can opt to open one with the same processes as in the past, but a more frequent way that people start is digital.
Having an online store means less investment in physical things, but you still need a place where you can sell your products. Even though this place is digital, there are still some expenses, and other types of decisions tied to it.
Starting to build your virtual storefront can be quite challenging in terms of choosing the right platform that your store will be based on.
There is a vast sea of eCommerce platforms out there that can fit into all types and sizes of eCommerce needs.
But when it comes to choosing, you can feel overwhelmed by the number of platforms out there and get confused about what your needs are as a small business that’s just starting up.
Of course, almost all of the platforms claim they are the best choice for small businesses, but which ones are truly right?
In this post, I will dive into several of the most suitable eCommerce platforms for small businesses and give you enough information so you can make an informed decision in the end.
Features to consider when choosing
Before we get into the specific platforms, you have to think about what you need or what’s important for your businesses to have.
Once you have that decided, you can go ahead and look over the platforms and what they offer, and choose the one that fits your needs the most.
- Cost: the cost is a very important feature especially if you’re just starting out and you have limited resources. The costs for eCommerce platforms can range from free versions to thousands of dollars depending on many factors like the features you need and the size of the business. Most of them have some sort of a free trial where you can experience the perks of the platform before making a decision. Make sure that the price covers all the necessary features like hosting, add-ons, etc.
- Scalability: it is also a very important feature because it takes your future in consideration. Even though now your resources are limited and you need fewer features, in the future as your business succeeds you might have to add additional features and solutions. That is why you have to choose a platform that will allow your business to grow in the future without it being too complicated or costing an arm and a leg.
- Customizable URL: your shops’ URL has to be customizable so your customers can find you very easily. This has to be included in the platform’s plan because the success of your store depends on it.
- Mobile-friendly: lately, the majority of people are using their mobile devices to purchase products online more than computers. This means that you have to take into account how mobile-friendly the platform is, and how the design can be tailored to fit that.
- UX: on the same page, the user experience that the platform offers is also quite important. The page should be very easy to navigate from the customer’s perspective because no matter how good it looks if the customers have problems with it then it’s a failed experiment.
- Speed: last but definitely not least is website speed. It is a known fact that people feel frustrated when they have to wait for more than just a few seconds for a page to load. This can lead to a high churn and low conversion rate. Slow-loading pages will absolutely cost you sales in the long run.
There are other features that can be taken into consideration, but I just want to keep it simple and easy, suitable for people that are just starting now, and have a lot on their plate.
If you take into consideration these factors, you should be set for the start at least.
Read next: the best eCommerce platforms in 2020
eCommerce platforms for small businesses
Wix is one of the platforms suitable for small businesses that have less than 50 unique products for selling.
The whole creation of the website is quite easy since Wix has a “drag and drop” feature which enables even people with limited technical knowledge to create good-looking and functional eCommerce stores.
With that, you can very easily add or remove features as you wish and create a customized storefront for your small business.
When it comes to pricing, Wix is highly affordable. Their Business Basic plan is just 17 euros per month and with that, you get even a free domain for a year among other features.
If you choose the Business Unlimited plan, you get additional features like Analytics App, professional logo, and social media logo files. And the price is not that high still, 25 euros per month.
There is also a VIP plan which comes with a priority response and VIP support for your needs.
- Templates to choose from
- Great flexibility
- App market
- Automatic site backup
- Artificial design intelligence
- Ads in cheaper plans
- Loading speed that’s not ideal
- Templates can’t be changed
- Not very much customizable
We can’t talk about eCommerce without mentioning Shopify, for sure. It’s one of the best eCommerce platforms that are offered on the market at the moment.
What makes it one of the best is the fact that it offers some amazing sales features that are considered to be industry-leading tools.
Also, there is a big, rich app market with countless plugins that can be used.
Shopify is for people that want to build the ultimate eCommerce experience, and in that context is a much richer platform than Wix.
When it comes to pricing, Shopify is logically more expensive than Wix for example. That comes naturally with the richer features and possibilities.
The cheapest Basic Shopify plan is available for 29 dollars per month, and according to their website, it includes all the basics you need for starting a new business.
The second plan is Shopify for 79 dollars per month and it’s all you need for a growing business.
The best and most expensive plan is the Advance Shopify which costs 299 dollars per month and it’s offering advanced features for scaling your business.
If you are just starting out, you should consider only the first option.
Additionally, there is a 14-day free trial that requires no credit card information so you can check it out before making a decision.
- A lot of themes available
- Free trial
- A high amount of plugins
- Unlimited products on all plans
- Integrated payment options
- Not a very cheap option
- Additional fees can add up
- Limited blogging platform
Squarespace is a suitable option for small businesses because it provides a simple website builder that still makes the final product look amazing.
There are many theme templates that you can use to build your eCommerce store, and you get access to the inventory management system.
This system can be integrated into the site to keep track of the inventory and let you know when you need to re-stock certain products.
Squarespace has quite a lot of features that you can use to offer a great buying experience to your customers.
Squarespace has a few different plans according to the needs that their customers have.
In this context, the most relevant plans are Basic Commerce which is 24 dollars per month, and Advanced Commerce which is 36 dollars per month.
The difference is that with the advanced plan you get some additional features like abandoned cart recovery, sell subscriptions, advanced shipping, advanced discounts, and commerce APIs.
Other than that, even the basic plan has pretty much all you need to start and lead a successful eCommerce business.
- Easy to set up
- Amazing designs
- Good SEO tools
- Integrates with ShipStation and ShipBob
- Suitable for simple stores
- No Amazon integration
- No dropshipping
- Speed not extremely optimal
- No app store
- No marketing automation integration
- No free option
Relevant: You would also like to read the comparison of wix and squarespace here
WordPress for businesses that need to have an advanced blog along with their eCommerce platform.
It’s fairly easy to connect the plugin WooCommerce to your WordPress and with that, it’s quite easy to create a website that is functional for eCommerce activities.
The biggest asset of WordPress is that it allows for creating extremely customizable websites with different features.
It’s an open-source eCommerce so you can add basically any eCommerce functionality that you can think of.
The plugin is very user-friendly and there is an enormous community of developers that can help you create the best eCommerce store for your business.
Technically WooCommerce is free to use since it is an open-source solution. However, you can’t use WooCommerce only because it’s a plugin. You need to purchase or pay hosting and also payment gateways.
- No limit on products and orders
- You can add extra features
- Very affordable with your own hosting
- Thousands of themes
- Very customizable
- No limit on selling
- Some technical knowledge is needed to set it up
- Needs a third-party payment gateway
It is a very budget-friendly platform that is enough for getting you started. There is even a free version that you can use which is pretty great for beginners.
If you are really just starting up and have a very limited budget, you might want to look into Weebly.
Additionally, the platform is very easy to use, so pretty much anybody with basic technical knowledge can use it to build an eCommerce shop.
When it comes to pricing for Online stores specifically, the cheapest plan is 10 dollars per month paid annually. With that, you get a free domain and a bunch of other functionalities.
The Business plan is 20 dollars per month paid annually, and the Business plus is 20 dollars per month with additional email marketing features.
- Beginner-friendly and very easy to use
- Themes to choose from
- Integrated apps
- Very affordable
- Limited design options
- Checkout page can’t be customized
- Not ideal for international websites
These are just some of the best-suited platforms for small businesses in my opinion. As I previously mentioned, there are a lot more out there that you can explore and compare until you make the final decision.
The biggest problems for small businesses usually are limited budget and limited employee count meaning there won’t be a developer to help out with the setting of the website.
In this context, choosing a platform that is very easy to set up and with acceptable prices is the priority,
Of course, also taking scalability into account since your success in the future might make you expand and add different functionalities.
If you found this post helpful, check out next these eCommerce posts:
- Guide on setting up your eCommerce business from scratch
- Comparison of Shopify and Amazon
- Top effective ways to improve your eCommerce conversion rate
Leave a comment if you have any questions related to eCommerce.