Choosing the platform that you will use to launch your digital business through is a crucial step that can either make or break your journey of becoming a successful online store owner. With so many different hosts, plans, and features to choose from, sometimes it can feel as if too many options are a bad thing. In order to help organize this chaos and make the decision process run a little smoother, we have put together a few pros and cons of some of the most popular online selling platforms available today.
Why Using the Right Online Selling Platform Is Important
The platform you choose to host your store will inevitably determine how you will run your online business. The various features, level of flexibility, and unique tools offered with each platform will shape your overall experience, along with your customers’ experience each time they visit your store. When selecting a platform, try determining how involved you want to be in the design process, which type of tools are important to you and which you can live without, and how in control you want to be in the building and maintaining of your site. Want to fine tweak each design element on your site? Try to go with a more flexible, do-it-yourself platform. Think you need a little more help from the professionals? Seek out a platform that offers pre-designed templates and automated features.
Before delving into the nitty gritty, you must first decide if you want a self-hosted or hosted website building platform. A self-hosted platform allows you the freedom of downloading your own software and building your site from the ground up. This option comes with the responsibility of maintaining, updating, and securing your own website; but it can be worth the hassle if you are looking for an option with full control. A hosted platform is more common, lower maintenance, and, unfortunately, usually more expensive than the latter. This option is essentially a one-stop shop and comes equipped with pre-designed layouts, automated updates, and built-in security.
Below we will highlight the features and prices of five of the more popular hosted online selling platforms currently on the market.
Shopify is often stated as one of the best platforms for boutiques due to its ease and start-up speed. To set up your store, it is as simple as selecting a theme and using ‘drag and drop’ to make minor adjustments to the chosen design. This platform offers built-in SEO features, such as title tag and meta description tools. Shopify also includes a variety of free business tools including a slogan and logo maker, a QR code generator, and purchase order templates. An added bonus: the platform makes hardware used for selling in your physical shop can help bridge the gap between your brick and mortar store and your digital one.
Shopify offers monthly payment plans that range from $29 to $299 per month depending on the amount of features you want included. However, their free templates are limited and there is an extra fee to access their premium features.
Squarespace is another cult favorite for boutique owners. This is a full ecommerce-focused platform, it’s also known to be easy and has beginner-friendly functions. Squarespace is unique in that its templates are more design-focused and have increased mobile optimization. The platform has all the standard ecommerce features such as SEO tools, shopping cart functions, and even email marketing assistance. Squarespace also collaborates with Shipstation for fulfillment which provides a smoother shipping process for you and your customers. The only drawback to this platform is the payment options, as the site is only compatible with Apple Pay and Paypal.
Ecommerce pricing plans for Squarespace run from $26 to $46 per month. However, there is a 3% transaction fee with each sale you make, which sets it apart from other online selling platforms.
3. Wix Stores
Wix Stores is essentially the ecommerce plugin from the popular website builder, Wix. After establishing your site, you can then add the plugin to access more features. Some of these include product page templates, promotional and sale tools, and inventory tracking. Wix is also known to be a very simple platform for beginners. The site has over 500 pre-designed templates available with minimal adjustments and upkeep needed. However, the platform’s online selling features can be pretty basic, as it is not a fully ecommerce-based option.
Wix Stores is subscription based and prices start at $23 per month for a basic ecommerce plan. Any extra plugins and additional features might add on some extra costs to that price.
WooCommerce is similar to Wix Stores as it is an extension of another parent website building platform. This platform is an open-source plugin that was built on WordPress and allows for customizable add-ons, features, and tools. This means you get more control over exactly what you want in your online store. It offers more of a pay as you go option.
With this platform, you get to choose from over 400 extensions, which include various payment options, SEO tools, and additional content features. WooCommerce itself is a free platform, but you still have to pay for your domain name and each extension. These extensions can run anywhere from $19 to $69 and can include templates and additional customizable tools.
The last of the online selling platforms, BigCommerce, is a fully ecommerce-based hosted platform and is another option that is recommended for smaller business or boutiques. They offer many built-in features like conversion optimization tools. They also offer shipping and fulfillment tools which include rate calculations. Aside from this, BigCommerce also collaborates with numerous outside selling platforms such as Facebook, Amazon, and Google, so there is not a lack of payment options.
BigCommerce’s plans cost between $29.95 and $249.95 per month, but that includes a limited amount of free design templates. There is an additional cost for templates, however, there are no transaction fees taken with this platform.
Whatever ecommerce platform you decide on, we can help you with the next step. We specialize in search engine optimization, website design, and creative branding services — all you need to successfully take your business online.