In the early days of the internet, starting a webshop or another type of online business was no easy feat. Complex programming and server management skills were necessary since there were barely any easy companies offering pre-made solutions. This meant that if you weren’t able to do that yourself, it would come down to hiring expensive professionals.
Nowadays it’s easier than ever to sell products online, but it’s harder than ever to figure out which platforms to use, since there are so many to choose from. Many of these new platforms work on a subscription base, and require no programming or web design skills whatsoever.
Whether you’re knitting baby clothes in your spare time, or have a company doing millions in turnover each month, there is an ecommerce solution that allows you to open up a professional looking webshop with minimal effort.
So which are the best platforms in 2019, what do they cost and which suits your business best?
The big ones are Shopify, Squarespace, BigCommerce, WooCommerce and Wix.
Perhaps the most well-known brand in ecommerce with a platform of over 820,000 merchants in June 2019. There is a reason behind this massive number - Shopify was one of the first subscription based webshop platforms that required no coding skills. They offer a number of professional templates and have one of the most easy to use dashboards.
This makes Shopify easy to get started with, but it’s also quite suitable for advanced users - coding custom features and integrations are possible in the advanced plans that Shopify offers.
This is also where the downside of Shopify comes in - the cost. The plans range from $29 to $299 per month but that’s not all - Shopify charges commission on all transactions that take place through your store with them, ranging from 2.4% + $0.30 per transaction up to 2.9% + $0.30 per transaction. Once you start doing any kind of serious volume, that becomes quite an expense.
There are some ways in which using Shopify can make up for that additional commission, like discounts with partnering shipping companies and their physical retail kits with slick card machines for your physical shop.
Primarily focused on being an easy to use allround website solution, Squarespace has become one of the most widely used website platforms for any type of small business, not just in ecommerce. They host over 2 million customer’s websites that range anywhere from simple blogs to online stores. The platform has been rapidly expanding in the last few years, not only in their customer base but also in features. The platform takes a little practise to master, but once you have the hang of it, it’s a very convenient solution. The templates that they offer look very slick and are easily customized to your liking. The biggest downside however is a relatively low amount of advanced customizations and integration options, but it will be sufficient for most small to mid sized ecommerce businesses. The platform is a lot cheaper than Shopify at $26 to $40 on their ecommerce plans, with 0% transaction fees.
The choice for many enterprises, but BigCommerce is also a great platform for small businesses. They offer a number of plans that are tailored to specific sizes of businesses. They do cap their tiers, so if your business reaches a certain amount of turnover, they require you to upgrade to a more expensive plan. The plans range from $29.99 for the first $50k in sales to $249.95 a month for $400k in sales. After that, they charge you an additional $150 a month for each additional $200k in sales. If your company really takes off, their ‘Enterprise’ level stores offer the most scalability and flexibility at ‘custom’ pricing. The amount of integrations is massive, ranging from eBay to Pinterest. Much like Shopify, they offer shipping discounts with most shipping companies.
One of the more flexible solutions, but definitely not the cheapest for small - mid sized companies.
Already familiar with Wordpress? WooCommerce might be the solution for you. They integrate easily with Wordpress as a plugin, so it’s mostly built for people that already have some kind of website. You could also easily set up a new Wordpress page using one of the many custom WooCommerce themes that are for sale, but using Wordpress for the first time can be a bit of a learning curve. There are a lot of tutorials and other general information available, so pretty much any customization is possible if you’re willing to invest the time.
It’s one of the most affordable options as the basic versions are free to use. Don’t expect it to be the easiest platform to work with, the three platforms above are much more user friendly with easier interfaces and phone support. Since WooCommerce is essentially a free product with some paid upgrade options, there is little support available.
The last platform that we’re listing here is Wix. There are many others out there that you could (and maybe should) have a look at, but we’re focusing on the 5 platforms which we think tailor best to the needs of different starting or growing businesses. Wix made the list because it’s essentially doing the same thing as Shopify, Squarespace and BigCommerce, but it’s probably the most easy to use and get set up. They offer a very intuitive interface and require the least knowledge of website building. The amount of integrations is a bit lower, so don’t expect to be able to do all the things that the other platforms are capable of doing with Wix. It’s a little bit cheaper than most of the other platforms, starting at $24 a month.
There is no ‘best’ platform to point out. The suitability really depends on the type of business that you have or are looking to set up. Our advice is to compare all contenders, sign up for some free trials, have a look around the dashboards and just pick the platform that you like best. In the end, you’ll probably spend a good amount of time setting up your store the way you want it to be, so choosing the platform that allows you to do that in the most convenient way is a highly personal choice.
Automotive enthusiast and tech nerd. Loves to spend his free time traveling abroad besides working on his startup.