If you’re starting a business and want to sell products online, you need to know about the best ecommerce platforms. There are several options for small business owners to use ecommerce platforms to connect to customers, sell products and grow your company.
What Is an Ecommerce Platform?
An ecommerce platform is software that allows your company to buy and sell online.
Ecommerce platforms offer a suite of services such as:
A search function allowing the buyer to search for and find a product to purchase
A cart function allowing the buyer (and you) to manage the order
A payment function allowing the buyer to buy the product and you, the seller, to receive payment
Ecommerce allows you to do business online without the POS (point of sale) constraints of distance and time. The best ecommerce platforms should be easy to set up, easy to design your business’s sales pages and easy to use. You will want to look at what kind of reporting and analytics are offered, as well as what your options are for tech support. Analyze the SEO (search engine optimization) plan and understand if the platform can help improve your SEO.
It is also a good idea to choose an ecommerce platform that is integration-friendly, meaning it can easily be connected and work with other software, apps and programs. If you are planning to sell products online, then you need an ecommerce platform.
What Are Some of the Best Ecommerce Platforms?
There are several ecommerce platforms to choose from. Let’s talk about the comparisons between three of the most well-known ecommerce platforms: Wix, Shopify and WooCommerce.
These ecommerce platforms regularly find themselves in top 10 lists for best ecommerce platforms, and for good reason. These platforms are among the most affordable, while also offering outstanding services at that price. They all support your ecommerce business while offering a variety of additional benefits, some of which we outline below.
Wix is an ecommerce platform that helps business owners create professional websites. The basic Wix plan is free. It comes with templates, unlimited pages and hosting, all for free.
The first range of Wix upgrades takes you from a free account to a premium account. Website plans are intended to be used for showcasing a professional website, but are primarily marketed toward personal use, entrepreneurs and freelancers. The fees range from $14/month for personal use up to $39/month for a VIP plan. These paid plans come with a range of enhancements from increased storage space and a custom domain to analytics and professional logos.
The next range of Wix plans are directed toward business and ecommerce. The Business & eCommerce Plans come with many of the upgrades from the Website Plans, plus the ability to accept online payments and grow your business. These plans range in price from $23/month for a basic business plan to $49/month for a business VIP plan. The Business VIP plan provides you with a complete ecommerce package that includes everything from unlimited product showcasing on your website to sourcing with a dropshipper.
The final plan level with Wix is an Enterprise Plan, which is a custom solution that is tailored directly to your company and brand.
Shopify is an ecommerce platform that specializes in helping you start, grow and manage your business. Shopify comes with a 14-day free trial; all you need to provide to get started is an email address. During your free trial, you can set up your store without having to commit to a plan. After the free trial, there are three levels to choose from: Basic Shopify (just getting started with in-person shopping), Shopify (1 retail store) and Advanced Shopify (2+ retail stores).
As you move up in plan level you will see increases in benefits such as the number of staff who can use services, increased reporting, reduced rates and fees for accepting payments and improvements in global selling support. An online ecommerce website store is included in each of the Shopify plans, as are store themes, apps that can be added to expand functionality of your store and an expansive training library. Shopify can be used in tandem with other sites and allows you to expand out of ecommerce into POS (point of sale) transactions with ease.
WooCommerce is an open-source ecommerce platform built on WordPress. As with WordPress, WooCommerce is a free, open-source software. It is quick and easy to get set up on WooCommerce, particularly if you already have a WordPress account. WooCommerce allows you to set up your website, accept payments and manage orders. WooCommerce is one of the most customizable ecommerce platforms and allows you some design freedom that other platforms might not.
WooCommerce is a free plugin. There are a number of themes that can be used for free as part of the free platform. If you choose to go with a paid theme, you will receive customer service rather than the Q&A board that comes with the free themes. Paid themes cost between $20–$100/year and can help your site stand out while offering added functionality. Hosting is not included, so you will need to buy a plan for your store separately, although WooCommerce does have recommendations.
You can add a number of extensions to your WooCommerce site to help with solutions from checkout to customizations and shipping. Many of these extensions are free, some have added costs and many are from a third party. WooCommerce does have a payment option that has no setup charges or monthly fees, but simply a transaction fee of 2.9 percent + $0.30/transaction domestic (international cards add an additional 1 percent fee).
How to Evaluate Which Ecommerce Platform Is Right for Your Business
In addition to these top three ecommerce platforms, there are a number of different ecommerce platforms you can choose between for your small business. It is important for you to do the research, do an ecommerce platform comparison and make sure that the platform you choose is well-aligned to your business plan. Ask yourself:
Do you want an ecommerce platform that is geared toward helping you build your website or one that is focused on perfecting the shopping experience?
Will you have POS, or do you intend to dropship at some point?
Do you even want a traditional professional website, or are you looking to enhance your WordPress site?
What are you selling? Do you have inventory?
Will you need to calculate shipping and/or taxes?
Will you need someone to help you set it all up?
These are all important questions you will need to answer about your business before you can select the perfect ecommerce platform for your needs.
Whether it is Wix, WooCommerce, Shopify or one of the many other options, there is a platform out there that is tailored to your needs. Choose the ecommerce platform that will support your business today and well into the future.
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Ben Gran is a freelance writer from Des Moines, Iowa. Ben has written for Fortune 500 companies, the Governor of Iowa (who now serves as U.S. Secretary of Agriculture), the U.S. Secretary of the Navy, and many corporate clients. He writes about entrepreneurship, technology, food and other areas of great personal interest.