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What’s the best ecommerce platform for small businesses?

Mar 18, 2024 | Web Design

If you’re thinking about starting a new ecommerce business or taking your physical store online, you have a lot of website platforms to choose from. The best ecommerce platforms for small businesses are easy to use, affordable, and customizable. However, navigating the world of ecommerce platforms can be overwhelming, especially for beginners. In this guide, we’ll explore some of the best ecommerce website platforms tailored to meet the needs of small businesses.

What makes the best ecommerce website builder?

Before diving into specific platforms, let’s first understand what features to look for in an ecommerce platform:

  1. Ease of Use: If you don’t have much experience creating or managing websites, you need a platform that is intuitive and easy to navigate. Look for platforms with user-friendly interfaces and drag-and-drop functionality for building and customizing your online store.
  2. Cost: Budget is a crucial factor for small businesses. Consider the upfront costs, transaction fees, and any additional charges for features or add-ons.
  3. Customization Options: Your online store should reflect your brand identity. Choose a platform that offers a wide range of customization options for design, layout, and branding.
  4. Payment Gateways: A variety of payment options can enhance the shopping experience for your customers. Look for platforms that support multiple payment gateways and offer secure transactions.
  5. Scalability: While starting small, you should have the flexibility to scale your online store as your business grows. Choose a platform that can accommodate increasing traffic and sales volume.

The 5 best ecommerce website platforms

Choosing the right ecommerce platform can make all the difference in how easily you’re able to launch and grow your small business. Here are the five best ecommerce website builders that can help your brand thrive online.

1. Shopify

The best ecommerce website platform that I recommend to most small business owners, including my web design clients, is Shopify. Shopify offers an intuitive user interface, customizable templates, seamless payment gateway integration, and excellent customer support, making it ideal for small businesses seeking ease of use and scalability. With multiple pricing plans, Shopify is suitable for all business sizes, from budding startups to multi-million dollar corporations.

Some examples of popular brands that sell on Shopify include Brooklinen, Allbirds, and Gymshark.

Mockup of a website design for a mattress company
Alaskan King Bed Company, a long-time Steph Corrigan Design client, recently made the switch to Shopify.

Shopify Pros

  • User-friendly interface on both the back- and front-end.
  • Wide range of customizable templates with drag-and-drop functionality to suit different business needs.
  • Seamless integration with various payment gateways, including Klarna, Afterpay, and Shopify Payments.
  • Excellent customer support and extensive documentation.
  • Built-in POS (point-of-sale) functionality for in-person selling.
  • In-depth analytics dashboard.
  • Access to hundreds of apps for added features and functionality.

Shopify Cons

  • No free plan available (although you can get started for $1/month for the first 3 months).
  • Costs can add up when purchasing premium themes and third-party apps.
  • Advanced theme customization requires Liquid coding.

All-in-all, Shopify is an excellent ecommerce platform for businesses of all sizes. Whether you’re starting from zero or looking to migrate your existing online store to a new platform for better ease of use and functionality, you can’t go wrong with Shopify.

2. WooCommerce

WooCommerce is a WordPress ecommerce plugin that provides a cost-effective solution with extensive customization options. For businesses already using WordPress, WooCommerce is a no brainer; installing WooCommerce on an existing WordPress site is easy and free. However, WooCommerce is also worth considering for anyone seeking an affordable and customizable ecommerce platform for a new small business.

Examples of WooCommerce websites include Tonal, Nalgene, and Root Science.

Tonal’s WooCommerce website is fast, clean, and beautifully designed.

WooCommerce Pros

  • Cost-effective solution, especially for businesses already using WordPress.
  • Highly customizable with thousands of WordPress plugins and themes available.
  • Offers complete control over your online store.
  • Can be used for selling services, products, and subscriptions.
  • No transaction fees (though you may incur fees from payment gateways).

WooCommerce Cons

  • Requires a bit more technical expertise to set up and maintain compared to other platforms.
  • May experience slower performance on larger stores with high traffic.
  • Support options are primarily community-driven.

In sum, WooCommerce is a great option for WordPress users seeking a cost-effective way to sell products or services through their website. The main downside to WooCommerce is that it has a steep learning curve compared to other website builders.

Related post: Which WordPress hosting service should you choose?

3. Squarespace

If you’re looking for an ecommerce platform that prioritizes visual aesthetics and ease of use, Squarespace is worth considering for building your online store. Squarespace’s standout feature is their beautiful website templates that are intuitive to customize thanks to a simple editor with drag-and-drop functionality. Squarespace Ecommerce can be used to sell products, services, subscriptions, and digital downloads.

Examples of Squarespace ecommerce websites include Minna, Soilboy, and Mingua Beef Jerky.

Minna’s colorful yet simple website lets their bold packaging design take center stage.

Squarespace Pros

  • Stunning design templates with a focus on visual aesthetics.
  • Intuitive drag-and-drop editor for easy customization.
  • Easy payment processing through trusted providers like Stripe and PayPal.
  • Excellent customer support and robust analytics tools.

Squarespace Cons

  • Limited third-party integrations compared to other platforms.
  • Transaction fees on lower-tier plans.
  • Not as feature-rich for ecommerce-specific functionalities compared to dedicated platforms like Shopify or WooCommerce.

Whether you’re a small business owner or a solo entrepreneur, Squarespace offers an easy-to-use solution that allows you to create a visually appealing online store without the need for extensive technical expertise. Overall, Squarespace Ecommerce is a solid option for existing Squarespace users adding an additional revenue stream to their site and for new business owners with basic ecommerce functionality needs.

Related post: WordPress vs Squarespace: Which is better?

4. BigCommerce

BigCommerce is one of the most robust ecommerce website platforms on the market. For this reason, it tends to attract large companies with plentiful resources to invest in their website, as opposed to bootstrapping startups. However, BigCommerce does offer an Essentials plan that is specifically geared towards small businesses. BigCommerce’s extensive features make it a scalable solution for small business owners who are willing to invest time and money to grow their business quickly.

Examples of well-known brands using BigCommerce include Ted Baker, Ollie, and One Kings Lane.

Ollie, a DTC dog food company, is powered by BigCommerce.

BigCommerce Pros

  • Robust ecommerce features with built-in marketing tools.
  • Scalable platform suitable for growing businesses.
  • Seamless integration with various payment gateways.
  • No transaction fees.
  • Unlimited products, bandwidth, and staff accounts.
  • 24/7 tech support.

BigCommerce Cons

  • Higher starting price compared to other platforms.
  • Less intuitive for beginners.
  • Limited selection of free templates.
  • Limited options for customizing checkout process.

Overall, BigCommerce is a popular and robust ecommerce platform that is geared towards growing businesses seeking advanced functionalities and flexibility. The main downside to BigCommerce is that it’s not as beginner-friendly as the other website builders on this list.

5. Square

Square’s ecommerce website builder is a worthwhile option for business owners who are already using Square’s POS system for in-person selling and want to take their business online. Setting up a Square online store, which is powered by Weebly, is easy can be done for free if you’re on a tight budget. That said, it’s probably worth investing in a paid plan, starting at $29/month, for more advanced features and customization options.

Examples of Square Online websites are harder to find since the platform is primarily used by small, local businesses. A couple examples are Indigo Wolf and Whistler Wines.

Whistler’s Square Online Store is simple and clean.

Square Online Pros:

  • Seamless integration with Square’s payment processing system.
  • Easy setup with pre-designed templates and drag-and-drop editor.
  • Free plan available (only pay for transaction fees.)
  • Built-in inventory management and order tracking.

Square Online Cons:

  • Limited customization compared to other platforms.
  • May not be suitable for businesses with complex product catalogs.
  • Most desirable features, like connecting a custom domain, require a paid subscription.

Square Online offers seamless integration with Square’s POS system, easy setup with pre-designed templates, built-in inventory management, and order tracking, catering to small businesses looking for simplicity and affordability. For business owners seeking more advanced customization and scalability, Square may not be the best ecommerce website platform.

Related post: 7 ways to increase your website conversion rate

Ready to create a standout ecommerce website?

Choosing the right ecommerce platform is crucial for the success of your small business. Consider your specific needs, budget, and technical capabilities when evaluating different platforms. Whether you prioritize ease of use, customization options, or scalability, there’s a perfect ecommerce website builder out there for your small business. With the right platform, you can create a seamless online shopping experience for your customers and propel your business to new heights.

If you’re looking for support in creating a professional online store, you’re in the right place. At Steph Corrigan Design, we specialize in crafting beautiful, conversion-driven websites for small businesses in the wellness and lifestyle industries. Click here to learn more about our services and schedule a free discovery call.

This post contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

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I’m here to break down everything you’ve been wondering about when it comes to starting and scaling a small business in the most aligned way possible. From branding basics to tried-and-true marketing strategies, you’ll get my unfiltered thoughts and advice on how to make your brand stand out.

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