Compared to designing a website, developing an online store is a whole other ball game. If you thought having to worry about developing content, designing your website along with keeping current with all your website technical needs, the needs and requirements of an online store (which include designing and managing your website, tracking inventory, product selection, shipping products, keeping track of payment method options, sales, etc.) may overwhelm you. If you have a brick and mortal store and wish to expand your services online or you don’t have a physical store but have products you would like to sell online, the world of eCommerce for entrepreneurs can be an exciting or mostly daunting place, especially if you don’t know what you’re doing.
Similar to developing a website, you can code your online store or you can hire someone to do it for you. Another option would be, you can use a website builder to design your online store (which is fairly common) but there’s also the site’s learning curve and limitations to consider. Don’t worry, all hope is not lost! Rather, than having to deal with keeping track of a number of different moving parts, you can make your online store on a dedicated eCommerce platform. Why not use a platform that specializes in eCommerce and takes care of all your needs in house, basically taking the guess work and uncertainty out of the equation.
Many if not all eCommerce platforms are user friendly, some more than others. No need to worry about integrating shopping carts or purchasing one or a number of plugins to have an online store’s functionality. An eCommerce platform is great for those new or old to the world of online product sales because it gives you everything you need in one location.
However, if you should run into any issues, customer support is available to help. Your site’s web hosting, security, and updates are all taken care of by the eCommerce platform. Most of what causes anxiety and stress related to the technical side of an eCommerce site is taken off the table for you. You’re probably thinking, it sounds nice and all but how much does it cost, already?! Alright, are you ready for it? Brace yourself, eCommerce platforms can range from a whooping nothing to the hundreds of dollars. It depends on the capabilities you need and the scale of your operation. With an eCommerce platform your get what you pay for. You get accomplished marketers, skilled designers, knowledgeable developers, and helpful customer support, that aid your eCommerce website do what it’s supposed to do. With that kind of help you get to focus on your business’s operations and servicing your customers.
How to Pick the Right eCommerce Platform for Your Business
When it comes to picking an eCommerce platform you should factor in your budget, the platform’s features, the availability of their customer support, payment options, SEO, shopping cart capabilities, product processing volume, free trials, and of course the site’s mobile responsiveness.
Below is a list of eCommerce platforms to assist you in learning what’s out there and making a decision of which one to use:
Price: Business Basic: $23/mo
|Accept Online Payments||100% Commission Free||Unlimited Bandwidth||20 GB Storage|
|Connect Your Domain||Remove Wix Ads||5 Video Hours||Google Analytics|
|Free Domain for 1 Year||$300 Ad Vouchers||Site Booster App||Visitors Analytics App|
|SSL Secure Payment|
Other tiers include: Unlimited Video Hours, Professional logo, Social media logo files, Priority Response, VIP Support
14 – Day Money Back Guarantee (free trial with all features)
As with its website builder, Wix’s online store builder, Wix Stores is user-friendly and has a lot of nice themes to choose from. You will have your online store up and running in no time with its drag and drop capabilities. Among website builder’s it’s currently the best with eCommerce functionality.
Similar to its website builder, this eCommerce platform’s SEO is not good. If you aren’t searchable online your brand’s visibility will nose dive in the long term. Having eCommerce functionality is not the same as being an eCommerce platform. Although it’s easy to use, it’s still not a dedicated eCommerce platform, it’s a website builder first and foremost, so its features are on the standard/basic side. It lacks the sales tools needed to actually make it a contender amongst eCommerce platforms. It’s a choice for brands starting out but once your sales get rolling you will have to migrate onto another eCommerce option.
Price: Starter: $10.95/mo
|1.5% Transaction Fee||Unlimited Product Listings||Unlimited Storage Space||1,000 Email Accounts|
|Domain Included||Mobile-Optimized Storefront||Built in SEO||Live Insights & Google Analytics Integration|
|Credit Card & PayPal Processing||Live Chat with Customers||Bulk Products Import & Export||Safe & Secure Storefront|
|UPS Shipping Integration||24/7 Phone, Chat, & Online Support|
Other tiers include: Lower transaction fees (1% – .75%), Upsell & cross-sell tools, Integrate with your inventory & accounting systems, Gift certificate capabilities, API access for 3rd party solutions.
No Free Trial.
Who is surprised to find out that Yahoo is in the website building business; not only that but it has dedicated some technical know how toward making online stores? You don’t hear much about it when it comes to eCommerce, but it’s among the oldest website and online store builders out there. Yahoo Store has seen many changes, from online sales capabilities to its own brand. With its customizability and flexibility, it can handle an online store of any size. You don’t have to worry about SEO with this online store builder, still being a recognizable search engine name, Yahoo has tools to help your organic search ranking on sites like Google and Bing. It’s optimized for mobile, which has become a requirement for every website. You’re online store will even have live chat for your customers.
Although, the amount decreases with each upgrade, each tier comes with transaction fees. Even though PayPal is fully integrated, it can only integrate with a limited number of external payment options. It can be a good tool to start with or use if transaction fees and limitation in customer payment options aren’t deal breakers. Once you make that decision, you have to be certain because it doesn’t offer a free trial. Which is crazy because just about every other platform offers a free trial before purchase.
Price: Standard: $29.95/mo
|No Transaction Fees||Unlimited Products, File Storage, & Bandwidth||Unlimited Staff Accounts||Sales Channels Branded Online Store|
|eBay, Amazon, Facebook, Pinterest, & Google Shopping||Point of Sale||Responsive Website||Single – Page Checkout|
|Apple Pay, Google Pay, PayPal One Touch, & Amazon Pay||Coupons, Discounts, & Gift Cards||Real Time Shipping Quotes||BC Shipping|
|Professional Reporting Tools||Blog||Product Ratings & Reviews||Free Sitewide HTTPS and Dedicated SSL|
|ShippingHQ Shipping Rules Engine||24/7 Live Agent Support||No Transaction Fees to Use Leading Payment Gateways (US Only)||(Optional) Special Credit Card Rates from PayPal Powered by Braintree 2.9% + $0.30 Per Transaction|
Other tiers include: Customer groups & segmentation, Abandoned cart sewer, Persistent cart, Stored credit cards, Google customer reviews, Faceted search (product filtering), Custom SSL, Custom Facets (product filtering), Unlimited API calls, etc.
15 – Day Free Trial (No credit card required)
A scalable platform with advanced marketing and conversion tools ready to increase sales. Factoring in its advanced capabilities, you have to come to terms with its expensive price point and add ons if you like the features it provides. Also, if you don’t use its built-in payment method you will be charged with additional fees. Page load speeds vary and irregularities like that could mean the gain or loss of a sale. Also, if your store happens to put out a large volume you will be charged more.
Price: Personal: $26/mo
|Award – Winning Support Online||Branded Online Store||Unlimited Products, Storage, & Bandwidth||No Transaction Fee|
|Free HTTPS/SSL||Leading Payments Gateways||Synced Inventory||Product Variants|
|Coupons and Discounts||Automatic Tax Calculator||Phone/Manual Order||Dropping Integrated|
|Standard Shipping Rates|
Other tiers include: Bulk order processing, Fulfillment centers, Advanced discounts, 3rd Party Processors, Dedicated success team, Traffic growth consultation, Executive slack support, etc.
14 – Day Free Trial (No commitment or credit card required)
This cloud-based hosted eCommerce platform has years within the industry. With those years under its belt (est. 1999), Volusion has a handle on its eCommerce and product management capabilities, such as subscription options and loyalty programs to name a few. Its payment integrations are numerous and come with no transaction fees. Its years in the game hasn’t made it slow to adopt the new channels of marketing and sales, along with having SEO capabilities.
Though it’s a cloud option, it has bandwidth limitations, which means if you need to facilitate additional traffic you have to pay extra. Things that come free or by default on other eCommerce platforms you will have to pay for (ex. SSL, which is a must for every online store) or you don’t have it at all (blog capabilities). Also, its loading speeds are slow, which is not good for prospective sales (loyal customers may not mind but prospective customers might not have the patience).
Price: Basic Shopify: $29/mo
|Online Store (eCommerce Website & Blog)||Unlimited Products||2 Staff Accounts||24/7 Support|
|Sales Channels (Online Market Place & Social Media)||Manual Order Creation||Discount Codes||Free SSL Certifitcate|
|Abandoned Cart Recovery||Shipping Discount||Printing Shipping Labels||Fraud Analysis|
|Online Credit Card Rates (2.9% + $0.30)||In – Person Credit Card Rates (2.7% + $0.00)||Additional Fee Using All Payment Providers Other than Shopify Payment (2.0%)||Shopify POS App|
|Third Party POS Apps|
Other tiers include: Gift cards, Professional reports, Advanced report builder, 3rd party calculated shipping rates, USPS priority mail cubic pricing, Online credit card rates (2.6%, +$.30 – 2.4% $.30), store locations, register shifts, staff POS PINs, etc.
14 – Day Free Trial (No payment details required)
A favorable choice for small business owners due to its ease of use, low starting price, merchants can sell unlimited products, and have unlimited bandwidth on the site. Its page load speeds are among the fastest. Though it is inexpensive starting out, the fees can quickly add up. It uses its own coding language making it not easily customizable unless you’re someone versed in Shopify’s code. Also, it doesn’t have the best SEO.
Price: Free and open sourced eCommerce platform
|Admin Dashboard||User Management||Multi-Store||Options, Attributes (Product Variables)|
|Discounts, Coupons, & Specials||Backups & Restore||Affiliates||Unlimited Categories & Products|
|Product Reviews & Ratings||Reward Points||Downloadable Products Ready||Filters|
|Multi-Currency||Multi-lingual||Email Marketing Campaign||Payment Gateways|
|Recurring Payments||Hundreds of Shipping Methods||Sales Report||Opencart Extensions|
|Marketplace||100% Translatable||Certified Partners to Help Users Around the World||SEO Extensions|
|Marketing||Product Feeds on Google||Open Source||API|
|Community and Dedicated Support||Etc.|
The functionality of the free (yes, very free) open source eCommerce platform is something to actually write home about. As with most, if not all open source platforms it’s highly customizable and as an eCommerce platform it integrates with hundreds (not 80, but hundreds) of payment gateways. It comes with a dashboard that helps you keep track of important data concerning one or more of your online stores.
The disadvantages of OpenCart are similar to all open source developer friendly sites, the eCommerce platform has a learning curve and adding modules can pump up the costs really quickly. Also, the default SEO that comes with the download and installation isn’t noteworthy and the same goes for its standard marketing capabilities. The self-hosted option (meaning you have to look for a hosting provider for your online store) is free but you have to factor in hosting costs and the expenses that come from purchasing themes and extensions.
If you go for the cloud hosted version of OpenCart, which includes a free SSL, your budget will be in the range of $30 – $260/mo. With the cloud option you get your eCommerce site’s security and backups managed for you, its themes and plugins will be from a separate store.
That wraps our eCommerce platform list. Whether a simple payment plugin, shopping cart, or eCommerce platform, there are a multitude of online store options out on the market to choose from. It’s up to you to decide what price point and features matter to you and go from there. Many, not all (ex. Yahoo stores), offer free trials so decide which eCommerce platforms you want to try and see which one works for you. If an issue arises after the free trial phase, once the subscription period ends you can try another one.
Alright, so you’ve decided what eCommerce platform to house your online store, what next? Read this post, to see the next steps. Besides that, if you’re an online store owner it would be advantageous for you to have a presence on other sales channels such as Amazon. You get to put your products in front of the thousands of Amazon users, which in turn increases your brand’s visibility beyond what you might have managed by yourself. You can use the brand recognition Amazon (even eBay and/or Google) has to promote your products and services. You should pick an eCommerce platform that utilizes sales channels (hopefully Google Shopping is one of them), they help you promote your business on other marketplaces to gain visibility for your business.
Let us know what features you’re looking for in an eCommerce platform below.