eCommerce platforms – Getting Started

September 3, 2020

Getting started with eCommerce

Ready to build your own professional website, but not sure which platform to use? We often get asked ‘Which is the best eCommerce platform to use for my business?’ Our team have advised lots of clients on the best platforms to use for their requirements. Now more than ever it is important to have an online presence. Since the start of the pandemic, internet traffic has increased tenfold. More UK businesses are focusing on their online sales and investing in eCommerce.

According to Tech Radar recently “GoDaddy share price reaches all-time high amid growing demand for web hosting” Shops are online as the new normal and consumers have time and money to spend and the internet is their playground. Consumers are also getting online more as the data from the ONS (Office of National Statistics) reveals the increase in online shopping.

What is an eCommerce platform?

If you are selling anything online you need to use an eCommerce platform. Whether it is a physical product or digital download. Your eCommerce platform is basically your store management software for your online shop. Each platform has varying features including managing your inventory, collecting online payments, managing shipping or delivery of your product.

These platforms make setting up your business as easy as possible and offer features that can be easily managed without a huge development team. With so many to choose from it can be a little overwhelming knowing where to start.

Choosing your eCommerce Platform

The first step to getting your eCommerce shop online is deciding which platform you are going to run your website on. There are some great options for all skill levels. So, if you are getting started with eCommerce, and are trying to decide between Shopify, Wix, WordPress or any others to build your website – read on. We have rounded up a few things that you need to think about before diving into the market.

• Evaluate your business requirements
• How many products do you estimate you will be selling
• Do you create your products or do you have a 3rd party supplier?
• Will you have international customers?
• Is your product digital only?
• What is your budget? Do you need a developer?
• What about maintenance? will you be updating it yourself?
• Make a note of the transaction fees each platform has
• Some platforms have unlimited data – how much do you need?

So let’s take a look at some of the top rated platforms, and the ones that we use and have recommended to our clients.

Squarespace

Well known and easy to use, Squarespace is a popular option for bloggers, online shops and creative businesses. Squarespace is the definition of a WYSIWYG (What you see is what you get) editor and is a favourite with busy entrepreneurs that want to be up and running quickly and don’t want to invest too much time into the build of the website.

The ideal eCommerce platform for small or local businesses with fairly basic eCommerce requirements. The eCommerce platform is effective, but only as a companion to the main website builder. Businesses with more advanced online retail requirements or who handle a large amount of inventory would be better off with more dedicated platforms.

Squarespace is user friendly and offers an easy to use drag and drop builder allowing you to customize beautifully designed templates. You can select a theme that fits your industry and get your products online in no time. There is a single interface that has unlimited SKU’s so you can easily manage all of your product variations simply.

What Squarespace gains in simplicity it loses in advanced code, you get limited access to the code on this platform and these are restricted to the premium accounts.

Overall – Very popular, easy to use great for small businesses to get started quickly.

Checkout Squarespace here

Free Trial : Free trial is available, no credit card required.
Cost: Squarespace is a paid service and can cost from £13/month – £37/month, savings can be made if you pay annually.
Transaction Fees: There are no Squarespace transaction fees for Squarespace Commerce plans (Basic and Advanced). There is a transaction fee of 3% on sales in the Business plan.

Shopify

Shopify was built for eCommerce and is another popular platform with small businesses. It is a great platform to start and grow an online business and is ideal for beginners and small to medium size businesses. A versatile platform, it’s used by both small businesses and larger-scale operations alike. It has great integration for mobile, social media and online marketplaces giving you many avenues for clients to find your products.

To make it even easier to create a professionally designed site, Shopify has a wide variety of themes to fit all markets. It also allows full access to the code. This means that you can customise your site and make it just the way you want. If you get stuck you can hire a Shopify expert.

Overall – Very popular, easy to use, this customizable platform is utilised by both small and large businesses.

Checkout Shopify here

Free Trial : 14-day free trial is available, no credit card required.
Cost: Shopify is also a monthly paid service and these range from $29/month (Basic Shopify) – $299/month (Advanced Shopify)
Transaction Fee: No transaction fees if you use Shopify Payments. If you choose an external payment gateway, there will be additional fees of 2%, 1% or 0.5% depending on which plan you have.
Bandwidth: All Shopify plans include unlimited bandwidth for free.

WordPress + WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a hugely popular plugin for WordPress. This means you get all the open-source power of WordPress as well. You will need to be using WordPress to utilise WooCommerce, but it bridges the gap between a website and an online business seamlessly.

For small businesses that already use WordPress, or who have a limited budget, WooCommerce is the best eCommerce platform.

Customizable, open-source eCommerce platform with over 400 extensions which allow you to integrate with the platforms. It gives you secure payments, configurable shipping options, all out of the box.

The WooCommerce plugin is Free however there are costs involved with hosting and managing a WordPress website. Our web hosting packages can take care of all of those needs and our team of cloud engineers will ensure that your website is always up to date and secure as possible.

Overall – Very popular, easy to use, this customizable platform is utilised by both small and large businesses.

Checkout Woo Commerce here

Cost: Free (Hosting costs will apply)
Transaction Fees: These will depend on the method of payment that you select.

Wix

Wix is another popular platform to use, which is free and packed with features. This platform is ideal for anyone searching for an easy-to-use, eCommerce platform. With a user friendly drag and drop website builder and a library of great looking templates to choose from. You can customize your shop with collections, galleries, related products, and a customer wishlist.

Overall – Very popular, easy to use, best for small businesses

Checkout Wix here

Free Trial : No free trial option
Cost: Wix gives you 100s of templates, unlimited pages & top grade hosting FREE. You can upgrade to Premium packages and get even more.
Transaction Fees: Wix does not charge transaction fees per sale.
Bandwidth: The business and eCommerce Wix plans include unlimited bandwidth.

Magento

Magento is one of the most powerful eCommerce platforms on the market. It is the ideal platform for businesses who are up and running and that have already established demand for their products. In addition to this businesses will need a budget, to hire a developer and resources to build and maintain the shop. Big brands like NIKE use Magento as it has the capacity to handle thousands of transactions a minute.

The platform has a huge library of extensions, but will need some development time and a larger budget than other eCommerce platforms. Magento is packed with feature like business intelligence services, multiple sales and advertising channels, and other third party integrations.

Overall – Excellent platform but you need a developer – great for larger or established brands and businesses.

Checkout Magento here

Free Trial : No free trial option
Cost: up to $20,000 per year

Easy Digital Downloads

If the products that you are selling are digital, for example E-books PDFs plugins – anything digital, then this plugin is ideal. Easy Digital Downloads is designed to work with any WordPress theme, is simple to use and free to download. You can take advatage of additional features by purchasing a Pass, or individual extensions.

Overall – Ideal for selling digital products

Checkout Easy Digital Downloads here

Free Trial : No free trial option
Cost: Free with additional options starting at $99 a year for a personal pass

More eCommerce platforms

As you can see there are a wide range of options for evry type of business. we have listed a few more of the most popular platforms.

Big Commerce
3DCart
Ecwid
Volusion

If you have any questions about using any of the eCommerce platforms listed, contact our team and they will take you through the best options to suit your needs.

eCommerce platforms and SEO

Some platforms offer more advances SEO options than others. Volusion, Big Commerce and WooCommerce have great SEO benefits.

“Woocommerce is great for SEO, which is definitely something to consider when starting your shop and working to connect with customers. We probably use this platform the most for our clients”

Shopify for example, is great for blogging but does have some limitations. Not being able to edit your robots.txt files or change your URLs can be a bit limiting for some businesses.

Payment Gateways

Finally, you will need a payment gateway to accept online payments with your website and seeing as that is the main purpose, you must have one.

Both Squarespace and Shopify come with payment gateways, in addition to integration with other 3rd party options, so you can choose one that fits your needs.

In Conclusion

There is no best platform as each business has different needs. Some require no coding skills and others need a developer. Platforms like Wix and Shopify which focus on design and affordable pricing, are ideal for most small businesses.

If you have a bigger online shop then Woo Commerce Big Commerce and Magento are the better options.

Examine your needs closely and don’t be afraid to run a few trials to see which solution you like best. If you are a small local business then compare the best eCommerce platform for startups.

Hopefully after reading this article it has meant that choosing the right eCommerce platform for your business can be ticked off your to do list. Once you have selected your payment gateway you can then start listing your products and get selling.

Do you need help setting up your eCommerce platform?

If you need any help with your website call our team today on 0208 0642 150. We can help and advise you on the best solutions.

Tell us about your technical needs and we will recommend the ideal solution for you.

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