Choosing the right e-commerce platform can make the difference between success and failure for a local small business.
The story is common. A local business has great success and wants to expand the business. They decide the best way to expand is to open an online store. They may be right. Selling online has been a boon to many local businesses. To get started an e-commerce platform to put the store on is the first decision a store owner has to make.
An e-commerce platform allows you to run an online store. The right platform is SEO friendly and has all the tools you need to easily sell, track sales, and market using analytics. The daily operations are easily executed, and you save time. Of course, it fits within your budget.
With an e-commerce platform, anyone can become an online retailer. You don’t have to be a developer to sell via the internet. The platforms take most of the technical issues away from you. All you have to do is add your branding, payment options and your products.
But not all e-commerce platforms are equal. The one you choose is dependent on how much time and effort, plus money that you want to put into your online storefront.
Here is a list of the best e-commerce platforms in 2020.
Marketplace e-commerce platforms to sell your products only
These websites allow you to easily sell your wares without the having to build your site, buy your own domain, etc.
The Big Daddy of all the e-commerce platforms. If there’s a physical product that can be sold online, then you have a great chance of selling it on Amazon. Amazon attracts targeted traffic to its country-specific sites. Sellers are charged a reasonable fee and in return get a robust selling platform. The range of selling tools on amazon is extensive. They include reports and optimization tools so that you get the best opportunity to pitch your wares to your audience.
Major pro of selling on Amazon – It’s Amazon, you get all the advantages of selling on the world’s most popular e-commerce site.
Major con of selling on Amazon – It’s Amazon, competition is fierce, forcing most retailers to put up with razor thin profit margins. Couple that with Amazon’s fees and actually making money selling here can be difficult.
This ecommerce platform has been around for nearly 25 years and is the go-to place for sellers who seek a market for rare items and collectibles. If you have a vintage item to sell, your best bet is eBay. Be prepared to shell out 10% of the selling amount for fees. The maximum fee is $750. Auction off the items or sell them at a fixed price, you can potentially make more with eBay than with any other platform.
Major pro of selling on eBay – It’s a global platform, easy to use and with its interface with PayPal, easy to get paid.
Major con of selling on eBay – Limited control, intense competition on the platform itself, many bargain shoppers. Some users have complained about spotty customer service.
Etsy is an e-commerce platform for selling handmade and vintage items. Etsy resembles an online crafts fair. You can sell a wide range of products; jewelry, bags, toys, art, home goods. Virtually anything that can be made by hand can be sold on Etsy. Vintage items must be at least 20 years old to get listed. In 2018, there were over 60 million items for sale on Etsy. Etsy charges $0.20 for each item listed on Etsy.
Major pro of selling on Etsy – Easy set up with a useful, easy to understand online guide. Plus built in analytics that give you stats on shop visits, favorite products, orders and revenue.
Major con of selling on Etsy – You’re limited in the products you can sell, it’s a crafts only website. Products are limited but competitors aren’t. There were 2 million sellers on Etsy in 2018. To succeed, selling unique products will be a necessity.
DIY platforms – For those who want more control over their store and their own branding on it
For a monthly fee, these websites allow you to use one of many different templates to build your own online store.
Shopify wins the prize for easiest to use. Their 14-day free trial allows you to test the platform without any outlay of cash. Shopify is ideal for smaller brands that don’t expect to do large scale business but want. As a hosted platform, you don’t have to worry about server maintenance, PCI compliance for credit sales, etc. Plus, with over 100 storefront themes to choose from, finding a good match for your brand is likely.
Major pro of selling on Shopify – Shopify has the flexibility to grow with your business. Plans start at $29 and grow all the way out to $299.
Major con of selling on Shopify – Support can be spotty. They offer 24 hour online support but this sometimes means offering a question on a help forum and waiting for an answer.
Wix is essentially a site builder. It incorporates e-commerce into its offerings and presents an easy-to-use solution for budding and experienced e-commerce merchants. It’s one of the cheaper options out there. There are more than 500 templates that are specifically meant for e-stores. At the time of writing, the costliest plan with Wix was $30/month. Wix rates highly for ease of application.
Major pro of selling on Wix – Their fee is small, the cheapest plan starting at free, although you can expect to pay about $23/month. It’s ideal for the novice who doesn’t plan on e-commerce being a large part of an overall business plan.
Major con of selling on Wix – Wix lacks effective inventory management tools at the backend, and the analytics delivered are below average.
BigCommerce is the best when it comes to educating their users on how to use the site and succeeding in e-commerce in general. They have how-to videos and in-depth guides built right into the dashboard. The developers tried to think of every function an e-commerce store would need and they included them in BigCommerce. The abandoned cart saver is an example. They offer multiple payment options with no transaction fees.
Major pro of selling on BigCommerce – The above mentioned online support. It’s simply the best. The 15-day free look is another advantage.
Major con of selling on BigCommerce – As you grow your store, BigCommerce can get pricey. Does not integrate with a brick and mortar POS.
*not mentioned but worth a look – Volusion
Completely DYI e-commerce platform
You assume all the risk but get all the glory. A fully customizable solution for your brand. But you are responsible for finding a hosting solution, picking a safe and secure payment portal and handling and technical issues that may come up.
The e-commerce platform for WordPress and one of the most popular e-commerce platforms in the world. You can create your own theme but a better option would be to choose one of the many themes found for free at Theme Forest. There are premium themes you have to buy but they have advantages. Among the most important advantages are free updates. Security is a big concern for any e-commerce website and premium themes are usually updated regularly to keep the website secure from hackers.
Major pro of selling on WooCommerce – Completely free open source platform, extremely customizable and flexible. It’s a very secure platform, especially with a premium them.
Major con of selling on WooCommerce – Many plugins and add-ons require a payment. Some of them are expensive. If your e-comerce website is offering subscriptions and memberships, the plugins for those functions can be pricey.
Like WooCommerce, Open Cart is a 100% customizable open source platform. It’s free with a lot of themes to choose from. It is an easy platform for beginners to navigate and learn. It has a user-friendly dashboard and back office. Open Cart is Google friendly, one of the easier platforms to optimize for search. That’s an important feature when you’re new and trying to stand out among hundreds, if not thousands of competitors. It has multi-store functionality so you can run more than one store from the same dashboard, even if they’re completely different.
Major pro of selling on Open Cart – Simple to set up and use. Most users don’t need professional help to get started.
Major con of selling on Open Cart – Cost, although the platform is free the plugins are not and you will need some.
Magento is the #1 e-commerce platform for large retailers. Coke-a-cola, Nike and Ford have Magento websites. As you can imagine Magento sites can be very expensive. Typical Magento sites start at $20,000. To run the store well, you need to hire a developer who knows PHP.
Major pro of selling on Magento – The ultimate open source platform. Anything you want to do selling online, you can do on Magento.
Major con of selling on Magento –The cost may be prohibitive and out of reach for most local small retailers.
If you’re considering opening an online store, feel free to contact us. We can help.