Which ecommerce platform is right for you? I’m going to be answering that in today’s post. Whether you’re wanting to change your website or you’re just getting started, choosing an ecommerce platform can be intimidating. There are so many options out there.
When I first started my website in 2007, there weren’t many options. There was just WordPress at that time, and if you wanted to enhance your site, it all had to be customized. There weren’t all these platforms that exist today, where you can launch a website in a weekend. It was very expensive, and if you didn’t have everything you wanted done with the website in place, it was very costly.
Thankfully now you don’t have to feel overwhelmed because there are more options out there that might be right for you. When you first get started, it’s really helpful to make a list of requirements for your business and your website, and the features that you might need on that website. Then you can narrow down your choices based on that criteria. Are you selling physical or digital products or perhaps both? Do you have a service-based business, but also want to sell digital downloads or digital products? Selling those is completely different than selling physical products and shipping that to the customer.
Some e-commerce platforms will not support digital products, some will, and some will do both. That’s what you’re really looking for. So just because someone told you, you should use Squarespace, it might not be the best platform for your business. You have to do some homework to see if a particular platform will fit your business needs.
If you already have a website, you want to find an option that can work with your current website. You don’t want to start with a clean slate and have to put the extra money into a new site, etc. There are options now that can just incorporate into your current site, which I’ll talk about later in this post.
You also want to think about your day-to-day management. You want a platform that makes it easier for you, for example, order management, product creation, order tracking, inventory tracking, etc. You don’t want it to be a constant struggle to create new products on this platform. You don’t want 50 steps to know the status of an order, or even update the pages on your website. For some of my clients who have custom websites, they didn’t even have access to some of the pages they needed to make changes to. So you want the flexibility to make changes, especially updating the pages, the blog posts, etc.
Also consider things from a design and flexibility standpoint. What are you looking for? If you want something completely simple where you can drag and drop these features, Wix is a great option for you. However, it just really depends what you’re looking for.
Some advanced features that you can think about are your email marketing – whether you’re using ConvertKit or MailChimp, Constant Contact, Active Campaign, Klaviyo, etc. There’s so many email marketing integrations, so consider which one would work with your platform. Are you creating a membership? Do you want recurring payments? Are you offering gift cards or discount codes? Again, not every platform might support these. So that’s what you have to find out. Even partial payments. If you have a service-based business and you could be again, selling digital products, but a service-based business that offers partial payments, say for example you’re a web designer and you want to deposit upfront and you’re charging several payments afterwards. There are different functionalities with that. These are just some things to think about here.
So here are the different types of e-commerce platforms that you can consider.
If You Don’t Have a Website or You Want to Start Over
The Websitebuilder is best for businesses without an existing website, or they just want to start over from scratch. Maybe the platform that you’re on is just not really working for you, and you can’t transfer it over to a new platform. Websitebuilder does not require a lot of design experience. You don’t have to be a web developer or designer, so this is an easy option for you.
You Want to Enhance Your Website
Maybe you already have a website, but you want to enhance it or make it an online store. So those are for example, WooCommerce. If you have a WordPress site, there’s just a plugin that will make your site robust, and you can sell products on your website. And I’ll explain a little bit more about that.
Now, here are some examples of e-commerce platforms. Wix is one that is very easy to use. It’s a great option, if you’re looking for an affordable and flexible e-commerce platform. Itt’s well-known for its drag and drop features. Wix is perhaps not my favorite platform from a design perspective, even from an SEO perspective, but if you want a fast website without a lot of fluff and complication, Wix is probably for you. Wix plans range from around the $20 to $25 per month.
If you’re thinking about adding more products in the future, Shopify is definitely one of the number one e-commerce platforms out there. It’s extremely robust with over 1400 apps that you can take your site to the next level. It’s maybe not as aesthetic friendly from a design standpoint as Squarespace, but it works well. A lot of businesses use Shopify, you probably don’t even know it because they have so many different plans. I remember when they came onto the market and it’s amazing what they’ve accomplished in a short amount of time. They have abandoned checkout recovery, over a hundred different payment gateways, automatic tax calculations, advanced inventory management, in depth analytics, 24/7 365 days a year customer support, and so much more. The basic Shopify plan hovers around $30 per month, and if you want more advanced plans, the prices go up from there.
There are other platforms out there that have been around for a little longer, for example BigCommerce. They have over a hundred-thousand stores that are currently using their e-commerce platform. And again, big brands are using them. They have different plans, but it also comes with an annual sales limit. For example, the standard plan, which is about $30 a month like Shopify, but that comes with a $50,000 annual sales limit. So it’s something to think about. If you are looking to scale your business, maybe BigCommerce might not be for you. It might be a little bit more expensive to have their website.
Now Squarespace happens to also be one of my other favorites, especially for service-based businesses. My site right now is on Squarespace. It is moving to another platform called Showit, one of the newest platforms out there. Squarespace has a little less design functionality than for example, Showit, however it has more design-friendly templates than Shopify. It’s just a little bit limited in its capability, but again, if you’re looking for a pain-free website, Squarespace is for you. and does have drag and drop features. My first website was on WordPress, but I just found I didn’t have the knowledge or the time to learn everything about WordPress. So Squarespace was a great option for me to move over to. So again, if you’re not looking for all the bells and whistles, Squarespace is really a great option. They do have subscriptions, you can have digital products, they do have discount codes and gift cards, abandoned cart recovery, just like Shopify, and they’re mobile friendly.
When Google is indexing your site it really wants it to be mobile-friendly. Both Shopify and Squarespace are what we call “hosted platforms.” They have mobile friendly templates and platforms, so you don’t have to worry. It’s very important for SEO that everything is mobile-optimized, which Shopify and Squarespace are. You can also have products, rich product listings there, quick view capability, inventory management, real-time shipping estimates, and more. So there’s a lot of tools that you can utilize within Squarespace. The basic Squarespace commerce package is about $26 a month. If you choose some of the lower options, they might charge you a transaction fee. So something to think about. They also have the advanced commerce package if you’re growing and have more products. So I do like Squarespace for its functionality design, but if you want to customize it a little bit more, it’s harder to do so.
If you have a WordPress site and you’re thinking about moving it to another level and adding more digital products, WooCommerce is for you. Now, if you have a Squarespace or Shopify site, do I suggest moving to WordPress site with a WooCommerce plugin? No. But if you have a WordPress site already, this is the option for you. It’s built to add the e-commerce functionality to it, and it powers over 30% of stores today. I highly suggest using WooCommerce if you have a WordPress website.
Now there’s also another option called Ecwid. It’s an e-commerce platform you can integrate with your current platform, and it stretches across all different types of platforms – Wix, WordPress, Squarespace and so much more. If you don’t want to move platforms, but you’re trying to increase your site’s functionality, check out this platform. They do have multi-channel selling, integrated email marketing, fully responsive designs, real-time shipping calculator, customer account you can customize, digital product capabilities and over 40 payment options. Also, they have no transaction fees.
The problem with Ecwid is that you can’t manage your store within your current website dashboard. You have to log into the Ecwid site itself, meaning you’ll have to manage two different accounts. So if that’s just too overwhelming for you, then this platform might not be for you. The plans do limit you to a certain number of products. A business plan is $35 per month, and it limits you to 2500 products. So if you’re thinking about expanding and you want to add more products, something to keep in mind and for your budget, and of course for what your business is trying to do.
So what’s my recommendation here? I love Shopify for products. From a design perspective, there are a lot of templates available. Are they as pretty as Squarespace? Probably not. Squarespace is known for more of the design, but limited functionality compared to Shopify. So it just depends on what you need and where your business is going to go in the future.
I hope some of these suggestions help you and make a decision, especially if you are thinking about creating a site from scratch, or you’re just not happy with the platform that you’re using. There are a lot of great options. Just do your homework, make a list of what you need and whether that platform is right for you.