There are an ever growing number of platforms to sell your products and services online, from easy to build web-builder websites like Wix, websites such as Shopify, Social media platforms such as Facebook Marketplace and of course dedicated shopping apps/websites such as eBay, Amazon, Sphock and otherwise.

A quick search of ‘best e-commerce platform 2020’ will bring up an ad right at the top for Shopify, but does this mean it’s the best? Is it the best value for your money and what does it do differently to the others out there? This short guide will compare several platforms that are best for the new e-commerce business owner! Also, I’m aware there are more powerful solutions out there such as Woo-Commerce and Magento, however this guide will focus on platforms that require little development knowledge.

In this post we will looking at 5 eCommerce platforms that we believe will be a great choice for any new business venture online. This no-nonsense guide will give you the information you will most likely need to make your decision on choosing a platform including prices and the main pros/cons of each platforms.

Prices

The average prices of most online are around $29 (£23.50 for the basic packages. You will typically save by paying for an anuual subscription to each platforms services.

  • Shopify $29(£23.54) $79 (£64.11) $299 (£242.66) (pay up front for a year or two, for a pretty nice discount!)
  • ECWID – free, £15, £35, £99
  • BigCommerce FREE TRIAL 15 Days – $29.95 (£24.31) $79.95 (£64.89) $299.95 (£243.43)
  • WIX –  need to use a business level account (£13 Basic, £16, £22)
  • SquareSpace – £21 business, £24 basic commerce package, £37 advance commerce

Shopify

Everyone has heard of Shopify by now, and as mentioned above, if you’ve search for ecommerce platforms yourself on Google, then you have most likely come across Shopify being at the top of the search.

Firstly, I’d suggest you may use of the free trial before cementing your decision on using this platform. The trial will give you access to the plan of your choosing for 90 days, however you will need to enter your payment details to continue. Please take note of the different rates they offer on each account in regards to how much money they take off you from various fees.

Shopify is for the smaller kind of shops to the medium/advanced level of e-commerce users/stores. It’s relatively expensive compared to the others in this comparison but has some great features to take note of. Over the years, Shopify have gained customers switching over from BigCommerce and losing them to the likes of Wix. This may be down to Pricing along with other features.

You will notice when you make a Shopify store, the url’s will contain /collections/item etc., which will limit the architecture of your site, but some may like this so it’s not necessarily a disadvantage. For a comprehensive guide about whether or not it’s useful for you, check out websitetooltester’s blog here.

Here are some of the main Pros and Cons of Shopify with a little more description below:

  • (+) Tends to load a lot faster than it’s competitors
  • (+) Many payment gateways (70+) but some can be difficult to set up so some help may be needed.
  • (+) Easy set up and relatively quick and painless, with 24/7 support
  • (+) Abandoned Cart emails, allow for digital only products, real time shipping rates and tracking (some take this for granted, these are really valuable features for any store)
  • (+) The available themes are attractive and professional, despite the limited free ones
  • (+) The stores scale very effectively, allowing for easy, manageable growth.
  • (-) The SEO capabilities is not the best, weak in a lot of aspects.
  • (-) Apps that you can add onto the store can become very expensive.
  • (-) Doesn’t allow for much back-end customization, if any.
  • (-) Limited free themes, you may need to hire someone to customize effectively.
  • (-) Limited functionality that you can add yourself compared to Magento & WordPress stores.
  • (-) Support, although 24 hours, may need to be gained from posting on the forums rather than speaking directly too someone, which some may find inconvenient/off-putting.

Wix (Commerce)

Some will shiver when you say the word ‘Wix’, and they may be right in doing so, but they consider the huge benefits Wix can provide for new businesses, for those without a technical background and those with limited money to get their store up and running. The benefits of using Wix do outweigh the negative points, but some of these negative aspects are important to take into consideration. An extensive review of Wix can be seen by visiting Klientsolutech’s blog here.

The Pros and Cons in short:

The Pros and Cons in long:

  • (+) Very easy to setup and user friendly, especially when entering items into store
  • (+) Target different countries with ease with multilingual features.
  • (+) Abandoned Cart features along with other advanced e-commerce tools that other leading platforms provide
  • (+) Extensive amount of themes with full customizability, may need some tech-savvyness about yourself, but drag and drop for the most part. Just make sure you apply mobile best practices.
  • (+) Easy mobile optimization, essential for shoppers.
  • (+) Lots of support through FAQ’s and forum posts
  • (+) Make social media posts, email campaigns etc. all from the store dashboard
  • (+) Easy to set up payment methods, and many of them
  • (-) No way to get stock alerts when running low. This may effect your store’s ability to grow.
  • (-) SEO isn’t the best. If you’re a niche website, you can appear in the top of Google’s ranking if you optimize your SEO properly, but if you run a store/site which there are several of already specially in your area that have been optimized and built in bigger platforms such as WordPress, you’ll find it extremely hard to compete in terms of Google Rankings.
  • (-) Navigation isn’t the best for those who want bigger sites, nested drop-down menu’s require you to code them yourself for example.
  • (-) Monthly plans can be considerably more expensive than paying yearly (some are 20% more expensive)
  • (-) No strict way of defining delivery locations. For example if you want to keep delivery in only one city, you cannot refine locations further than ‘England’ for example.
  • (-) Editor can be frustrating when it lags, loads slowly quite often, and mobile editing on a desktop may not look the say on a smaller screen.

Squarespace

SquareSpace has been around quite a while and is one of the more well regarded web-builder platforms out there, allowing for some beautiful drag and drop websites to be created. It requires a little more playing around with to get used to how it works and what things are where, but when you’ve mastered it, it’ll be a great experience. Blog’s and portfolios are certainly more vibrant and appealing in SquareSpace than other platforms such as Wix. SquareSpace do charge transaction fees on the business package, includes an online store, at a rate of 3%, but the online store package’s do not charge this. An extensive review by stylefactoryproductions on SquareSpace can be found here.

The Pros and Cons in short:

The Pros and Cons in long:

  • (+) Affordable and highly reliable packages, with no transaction fees when using the online store (basic) package and above.
  • (+) Templates are beautiful and sophisticated in appearance which are optimized for mobile and tablet devices. A lot of detail has been skilfully considered in terms of fonts, sizes, layout etc.A live chat along with other knowledge bases and contact methods make support just a click away, and instant answers can be received.
  • (+) The blogging on SquareSpace is commendable. A lot of customization makes this tool a great way to market some of your products. Post can be scheduled, allow for comments and sharing to social media, allow for different authors to add and contribute to posts and so much more.
  • (+) There’s an app that allowed you to edit pages.
  • (+) There’s a huge amount of fonts available from Adobe and Google fonts ready to go. Stock images are plenty also!
  • (-) Templates will look different if you change the images used in place-holders with one that is not the same size, causing some layouts to break.
  • (-) Google page speed tests prove that the templates can be slow compared to other platforms.
  • (-) Multilingual websites are almost impossible
  • (-) No auto-saving for content.
  • (-) POS is only available in the US.
  • (-) No automatic tax calculations
  • (-) Functionality is limited in terms of what you can explore and change yourself.
  • (-) A lot of work your end must be done for GDPR.

BigCommerce

BigCommerce has been around for a considerable time and hosts some of the worlds wellknown online stores. A leading platform still in 2020 that is both flexible and scalable, and offers a powerful solution to smaller stores to larger ones. You won’t own the software you are using to make the store due to it being a Software as a Service (Saas) platform. An extensive review can be found here.

The Pros and Cons in short:

The Pros and Cons in long:

  • (+) SEO is exceptional on this platform
  • (+) Free templates that can be customized effectively, giving you a more unique feel to your store.
  • (+) It’s easy to use for those less tech-savvy, but gives flexibility to those who know HTML/CSS skills.
  • (+) Starter plan is full of great features including unlimited bandwidth, file storage, staff accounts and ability to sell unlimited products for example.
  • (+) No Transaction Fees through BigCommerce itself. Shopify, Wix and other platforms charge a % on every sale you make where they payment method isn’t their own. Payment method’s own fees will still apply.
  • (+) Multiple Sales Channels allowing you to sell your product outside your store such as eBay, Amazon and Social Media integration allowing sales through Pinterest and Facebook
  • (+) Heaps of support through 24/7 online chat, email support and a contact number to ring. There is also an extensive knowledge base with forums for users to share knowledge.
  • (-) Abandoned cart feature that other platforms provide as basic, is not featured in this starter package here. Choosing it as an extra/or the plan that includes it is, however, a great idea, it’s powerful and effective.
  • (-) You will be charged more if your store reaches a certain amount of growth. Although you may not expect to reach these thresholds which cause you to pay more but do some research beforehand via the forums.
  • (-) The templates/themes are expensive and there are limited free ones. However the free templates are quite good.
  • (-) Editor is quite clunky and may take some getting used to. If you’re working with a cheap laptop/slow internet connection, this isn’t the one for you.

ECWID

ECWID or E-commerce widget is a platform some may never heard of before, and I only discovered it through helping clients on social media! I’ve only included this here as there’s been numerous people choosing it without knowing the benefits of using it compared to the others. It’s a powerful e-commerce platforms that offers various packages which runs the same as Big Commerce, whereby it’s a software-as-a-service (SaaS) platforms, meaning you don’t own the software you use, only ‘rent’ it. It works by placing a ‘widget’ on other websites or social media profiles, so your store will appear wherever you place the code. You can add a large number of items but you will need to change package when an item threshold is reached.

It does offer you a way to make a standalone website but it is basically more aimed at adding the ECWID store to an existing website or social media profile. It’s easy to use for the most part, but be extra careful when it comes to GDPR, make sure you follow the right regulations and have guidelines/policies set and clear to see

Visit ECWID here.

The Pros and Cons in short:

The Pros and Cons in long:

  • (+) It can be totally free, if you only have 10 products to sell, which can be hugely beneficial for those with small amounts of items or to test appeal etc. These items are however limited e.g. no digital products and only 2 product categories.
  • (+) All plans allow you to have 10000 product categories.
  • (+) The higher priced plans allow you to post to eBay and Etsy for example.
  • (+) You can host a standalone website through ECWID’s instant sites, which can be beneficial as a temporary store instead of using the traditional ‘store under construction’ page.
  • (+) The ‘Instant site’, although limited, does however provide new sellers access to making an online store for a lot cheaper than other sites (£12 a month)
  • (+) Tax calculations are automatically displayed to users based on their IP (needs to be set), and also applies to digital products.
  • (+) For an extra ~£3 a month, you can add a currency converter app to your store which will allow you to use multiple currencies, which is exceptionally beneficial if selling to different countries.
  • (-) Scaling your product catalogue from up to 100 item and up to 2500 can be very costly. An extra £16 will be required a month to sell anything over 100 items and under 2500, there’s no in-between.
  • (-) No filters or product variants available for the cheapest plan.
  • (-) No abandoned cart feature available on the cheapest plan. So you’re looking at around £28 to be able to use this essential feature.
  • (-) You can only access phone support on the Business (£28) and above packages
  • (-) No SEO features on the free plan
  • (-) Products URL’s cannot be changed, so this will affect certain SEO aspects.

So that’s been a short review on 5 of the platforms a new e-commerce business can use to get their shop off the ground and into the web!

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