No matter what kind of small business you have, a professional eCommerce website is a necessity for starting an online business. While a website is important, learning to build one from scratch is probably not high on your list of priorities compared to the other things you have to do to get your small business off the ground. That’s why so many entrepreneurs use eCommerce platforms to build their business website and online store.
With so many options for eCommerce platforms out there, it can be overwhelming to wade through all the features and pricing plans to figure out which one is best for you. That’s why we’ve created this comprehensive guide to the 11 best eCommerce platforms for small businesses. We’ll also dive deep into what features each platform offers and how their pricing plans measure up.
What are the benefits of eCommerce platforms?
If you’re a new business owner, you may not be aware of why it’s worthwhile to invest in an eCommerce platform to create your website and online store. Here are some of the many reasons that you need an eCommerce store for your small business.
Gain control over your audience
When you’re starting a business and building your brand online, it can be risky to rely only on third-party marketplaces or social media accounts to reach and communicate with customers. Your account could be shut down, meaning you would lose access to the community you put so much time and effort into building.
Most eCommerce platforms include CRM (Customer Relationship Management) capabilities to help you communicate with your audience and collect or manage contact information on a single platform. Even if you sell on a third-party site, make sure you direct customers back to your website so you can always stay connected.
Build brand recognition and loyalty
Creating your own website is a great step towards providing more value to your community and encouraging repeat customers by emphasizing customer satisfaction. When customers sign up for your email list, you’ll have a direct line of communication so that you can create stronger relationships and encourage organic word-of-mouth marketing and customer referrals.
Reduce commission and listing fees
One of the main reasons some small business owners opt to sell on a third-party platform is because of the price tag associated with creating your own website. While you will need to pay more upfront, having your own eCommerce website also means you won’t have to deal with larger listing and transaction fees that cut into your profits as you scale your business.
SEO tools to help you reach new customers
Building your website using an eCommerce platform will give you the ability to apply SEO to your business website in a way that isn’t possible with third-party platforms. Drive customers to your site using keywords throughout your product descriptions and written content. Many platforms will walk you through the process of optimizing your website for search engines like Google and include built-in tools to make SEO easier, so you don’t have to worry about learning advanced SEO techniques in order to set yourself up for success.
Learn more about local SEO tips for your company.
What are the most important eCommerce features for a business?
Now that you know why you need an eCommerce platform for your business, let’s talk about some of the features that you should look for.
Low or nonexistent transaction fees
Starting your own business isn’t cheap, so the last thing you want is additional fees taken off the profits from your online sales. With third-party marketplaces, they may charge you product listing fees and transaction fees on every sale. Ecommerce platforms charge a monthly or yearly fee, after which there are no hidden fees or commissions taken from your sales.
Read more about what are the start-up costs of a business?
Email marketing is a great way to connect with customers, build relationships, and promote your products and services. You can send a regular newsletter with updates, special offers and promotions, and exclusive access to new collections.
Consumers are more likely to trust your business if you have your own business branded domain name (like https://mycompany.com). Using a custom domain for your website helps your business get found online and improves name recognition, reputation, and credibility. In addition to using a custom URL, you can also get a custom email address connected to your domain name. This can help to communicate your professionalism and keep your business and personal email accounts separate.
If you’re only targeting Canadian customers, you might want to consider a .CA domain for your online store (like https://mycompany.ca). Country-specific domains can have local SEO benefits for the country you’re targeting and can be perceived better by Canadian shoppers that might want to support local and avoid import duties from US or international online stores.
Since every website builder functions a little differently, it’s important for you to be able to give the platform a thorough try before you commit to a monthly or yearly fee. This way, you can get your website set up and test out the available features to make sure that it’s the right fit for you and your business.
24/7 customer service
As a new business owner, it can get overwhelming, which is why you need to feel supported if problems arise. Look for an eCommerce platform with 24/7 customer service so that you can get issues resolved quickly and avoid losing out on potential sales while you wait on hold.
Search Engine Optimization
SEO or Search Engine Optimization is a process through which you can improve your website ranking on search engines like Google. Search engines automatically rank websites based on factors like relevance to search terms, page load speed, title tags, internal linking, backlinks, image alt tags and more. SEO improves your website’s ability to pull in organic traffic without having to rely solely on paid traffic. So when a potential customer searches for products or services related to your business, your website will come up earlier in the search results. Better search visibility means you’re more likely to get website visitors, email subscribers, and ultimately, paying customers for your business.
Advanced marketing features
Some eCommerce platforms offer plans that include advanced features like automatically triggered email campaigns to recover abandoned carts or upsell related products. Other features that could help your business include the ability of customers to leave ratings and reviews on your products. People trust unbiased customer reviews over a business quoting a review they can’t verify. Having public customers leave reviews you can respond to can improve your brand’s credibility and overall image in the eyes of consumers.
How do you choose the best eCommerce platform for your business?
Keep your eyes out for these features when choosing which eCommerce platform to build your business website.
Since so many people use their phones or tablets to access websites these days, it’s more important than ever to ensure that whatever platform you choose uses mobile optimization. A website that’s optimized for mobile devices will load quickly without sacrificing image quality. That way, your content looks its best no matter what screen it’s seen on. By having a mobile-optimized eCommerce shop, you avoid the risk of losing customers due to a poor online experience with your business.
Ease of use
The whole point of creating your website with an eCommerce platform is you can easily get your shop up and running and customized to your specifications. That’s why the website builder you choose needs to have a quick learning curve so that you can get comfortable with your site functions and become an expert in no time.
Depending on your preferences, you may prefer to use website templates and simply plug your information in, or you may want more control over your site layout. In this case, you might want to look for drag-and-drop functionality (sometimes referred to as “no-code” platforms). It’s always a good idea to use an eCommerce platform that offers a free trial, so that you can build your website and make sure the design options, functionality, and overall experience is suited to your business before you pay.
When just starting your new business and you haven’t even made your first sale yet, worrying about scaling your business is probably the last thing on your mind. It may not seem important right now, but if your business blows up and becomes successful, you’ll probably wish that you had chosen an eCommerce platform designed for scalability.
It’s amazing when your business starts receiving tons of orders. When that happens, you don’t want to be limited by your platform in terms of how many products you can list and the number of sales you can make. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep scalability in mind when choosing your website builder, so you don’t have to switch platforms later in order to accommodate an increase in website traffic and purchases.
Different website and online store pricing plans may put a cap on how many products you can list and have other limitations that impact your business’s ability to conduct a high volume of sales. Look for eCommerce platforms that offer unlimited products. Even if you start out at a lower-level pricing plan, you can always upgrade if your needs suddenly increase, so check out your platform’s higher-level plans as well.
Extensions and apps
You should choose a eCommerce platform that offers everything you need. But even if the platform doesn’t have a particular feature built in, you can add additional functions by using third-party apps and extensions that are approved by your platform. For example, you might want to integrate commonly used business tools like Mailchimp for marketing or Quickbooks to help keep track of all of your small business income, expenses, and tax information.
There are a ton of other third-party apps that you could use relating to a variety of categories like accounting, wholesale, customer relations management, payment options, marketing tools, advanced analytics, and so much more. Check to see what kinds of third-party extensions and apps your eCommerce platform offers in addition to its built-in features.
Consumers have different preferences when it comes to paying for products and services online, especially if it’s their first time purchasing from your company and you haven’t earned their complete trust just yet. When you offer multiple payment methods, you’ll avoid potentially losing out on a customer’s business because you didn’t have a payment option that they were comfortable with.
Having multiple payment options is even more important for businesses that sell to customers internationally, since this may mean even more variation in how your customers can make payments online. Here are some of the most commonly used payment options.
Many of the most popular eCommerce platforms offer Paypal as a payment method. However, something to keep in mind is that when you use Paypal for business, as the seller, you’ll be charged a small processing fee on each sale you make.
Another common payment option that your website should offer is Amazon Pay. It works well on mobile devices and allows customers with Amazon accounts to check out securely without having to provide you with their personal payment information. Amazon Pay charges a small fee on each payment.
Google Pay is an online payment method where consumers can save their credit card information on their Google account. It is free to use for both customers and businesses.
Apple Pay is a popular choice for mobile users. It uses touch identification to keep their information secure.
Make sure that you can accept all different kinds of credit cards, including American Express.
Cryptocurrency is becoming a more popular form of payment. It offers a number of benefits when it comes to payments for both customers and business owners, such as lower fees and irreversible transactions (so you don’t need to worry about false chargeback claims).
11 best eCommerce platforms for small businesses
You already know what to look for when choosing your eCommerce platform, so it’s time to look at our 11 top picks for the best eCommerce software for small online businesses. We’ll cover everything from templates to pricing plans to features and more, so that you can make an educated decision when choosing the right eCommerce platform for your company.
With over one million businesses using it worldwide, Shopify is one of the most popular options for hosting professional websites and eCommerce stores. Basic Shopify allows you to sell your products and ship and process payments all around the world.
Their 14-day free trial (with no credit card required) will give you the opportunity to set up your website and online shop. This platform provides all the eCommerce and point of sale (POS) features you could possibly need, no matter your area of business. If you prefer to get personalized help from a professional, you can opt to hire a Shopify expert to set up your website for you, based on your vision and specifications.
With Shopify, you’ll be able to sell your products and services both online and in-person. When you use the mobile Shopify POS app in connection with a mobile card reader, you can take payments as well as perform returns and exchanges.
Shopify’s built-in marketing tools help you create and analyze your digital marketing campaigns to discover what methods are successful and what areas you still need to work on.. The all-in-one dashboard lets business owners manage orders, shipping, and payments on one convenient page, as well as get a detailed overview and insights about your shop’s performance.
All Shopify pricing plans include an online store with unlimited products, a blog, and several other features. Here are the different pricing plans that Shopify offers.
Shopify pricing for small businesses
Basic pricing: $29 USD/month, you can have a basic eCommerce store with two staff accounts and up to 45 per cent shipping discounts.
Shopify pricing: $79 USD/month, you’ll get all the features of a Basic Shopify plan as well as five staff accounts, higher shipping discounts, and lower credit card rates.
Advanced pricing: $299 USD/month, you can have up to 15 staff accounts and access to more advanced reporting on insights.
2. Shopify Plus
Shopify Plus is an eCommerce platform designed for high-volume merchants and other large-scale businesses. They offer advanced features like built-in augmented reality, 3D, and product videos in order to blur the line between the online and offline world.
Their eCommerce automation helps to streamline the online experience for both your customers and your team, so you can put your focus where it matters. With personalized checkout, custom discounts, and the ability to make product recommendations, Shopify Plus is ideal if you are scaling your business quickly. You can even build your own custom business apps, or use those provided by specialized service partners and certified app partners.
In addition to these features, Shopify Plus offers tailored educational content, online courses, and expert eCommerce guides so that you can learn everything you need to fast-track your business.
Shopify Plus pricing for small businesses
Plus pricing: Starts at $2,000 USD/month, after which the fee varies depending on the volume of your business.
With extensive design tools, BigCommerce enables you to create a beautiful customized online store that reflects your brand aesthetic. This entirely secure, easy-to-use platform gives you confidence that both you and your customers will be taken care of. Integrate third-party apps and customize the flexible feature integrations to make it your own.
BigCommerce also has tools that help you scale your business, like powerful analytics that provide insight into valuable customer data. Your website will be easy to create and edit with it’s drag-and-drop functions and fully customizable themes. You’ll also get access to expert support from market-leading services and BigCommerce partners. If you’re a B2B business, BigCommerce has settings for bulk pricing, purchase orders, and quote management.
You can even integrate your BigCommerce eCommerce shop with popular online marketplaces like eBay and Amazon, as well as connect to social media channels like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram to reach even more customers.
Start with their 15 day free trial, then choose from the following pricing plans.
BigCommerce pricing for small businesses
Standard plan: $29.95/month with no transaction fees, you’ll get unlimited staff accounts, the ability to collect customer product ratings and reviews, and more.
Plus plan: $79.95/month you get everything in the standard plan as well as improved credit rates via Paypal, abandoned cart saver, customer groupings, and stored credit cards.
Pro plan: $299.95/month, you’ll get even lower credit card rates, product filtering, and custom SSL.
Enterprise plan: This is BigCommerce’s full service plan, and you’ll need to contact them directly for pricing information. It includes increased functions like price lists, unlimited API calls, and priority customer support.
Adobe Commerce powered by Magento is a next generation technology designed to create memorable shopping experiences through global partnerships and a diverse extensions marketplace. Their easy-to-use interface will make creating content and promotions a breeze. You can personalize all of your content and even target different customer groups with different content.
With their unique website templates, you can boost customer conversion for your business by personalizing your website with business branding. You can choose to display your products by price, colour, or date, or you can arrange them manually to have more control over your customer’s experience. Their POS system provides options for online and in-person purchases, and delivery and in-store pickup.
Whether your business is B2C, B2B, or both, you can serve all of your customers on Magento’s platform thanks to their easily integrated back-end systems, custom catalogs and price lists, and convenient purchasing options. Their robust business insights define metrics and create powerful visualizations so you can get an overview of key business performance metrics like your average order value (AOV) and customer lifetime value.
Magento pricing for small businesses
Custom pricing: Magento is specifically designed for merchants who are experiencing spikes in their website traffic and purchases or who expect to significantly increase their online growth. You’ll need to request a free demo to see if it’s the right fit and get access to their pricing information.
Squarespace is known for its industry-leading website templates, designer fonts, and colour palettes that inspire outstanding designs and are customizable based on your unique style and needs. They have templates for all different website pages, including portfolios, blogs, online stores, and resumes. It’s also easy to customize their templates to create endless design options.
You get to choose what features to add, like online scheduling or third-party extensions. With Squarespace, you can create branded email campaigns and use their social media tools to keep your content consistent across all different channels. You can also use their online logo maker to create a free logo, plus access tons of stock photos to use on your website. You’ll even get a free custom domain name for the first year of any annual Squarespace plan.
Here are the different pricing plans available from Squarespace, based on an annual subscription.
Personal plan: $12 USD/month gives you unlimited bandwidth and storage, SEO features to improve your site visibility, and several other features.
Business plan: $18 USD/month, in addition to the Personal features, you’ll get access to premium integrations, professional email address, and a fully integrated eCommerce store.
Basic Commerce plan: $26 USD/month, no transaction fees, plus offer customer accounts and checkout on your domain.
Advanced Commerce plan: $40 USD/month, get access to abandoned cart recovery, gift cards, and subscription plans.
6. Big Cartel
Created for creative businesses with artists and makers in mind, Big Cartel offers affordable plans with no commission fees when you make a sale. Over a million creators have sold with Big Cartel since 2005. There are three pricing plans available from Big Cartel.
Big Cartel pricing for small businesses
Gold plan: This free plan allows you to list your first five products at no charge, as well as access features like customizable website themes, real-time statistics, and the ability to offer discounts and run promotions.
Platinum plan: $9.99 USD/month, list up to 50 products for no additional fee with five images per product. You’ll also get access to Google Analytics and bulk editing capabilities.
Diamond plan: $19.99 USD/month, has up to 500 products and all the Platinum features.
Weebly is a free website builder with customizable page designs and useful tools to help you build and grow your business. They offer step-by-step guidance in the form of expert guides and planning, and their powerful eCommerce tools help you take care of order management, shipping, and payments with no added stress. You can also create automated email campaigns and use integrated marketing tools like Facebook Ads.
Weebly pricing for small businesses
Free plan: Access to an eCommerce store with unlimited items, search engine optimization features, and more.
Personal plan: $7 CAD/month billed annually connects your online shop to a custom domain and gives you access to Weebly’s shipping calculator.
Professional plan: $15 CAD/month gives you more customization options, unlimited storage, advanced statistics, and a free custom domain.
Performance plan: f$30 CAD/month, includes even more features to help with business growth and operations management. You’ll also get abandoned cart emails, shipping labels, advanced eCommerce insights, and priority customer support.
With eBay, it’s easy to sell your products with their built-in inventory and order management systems, sales tracking, and marketing tools. You can benefit from the community of worldwide sellers by taking part in meetups, community forums, and special eBay seller events.
Setting up an eBay account for your store is easy. Simply create a business account with your bank account or credit card information, your business tax information, and your government ID. Once you set up the relevant policies, you can start uploading your inventory and selling instantly. eBay even does research on your competitors and provides insights to help you learn how to improve your product listings based on proven techniques.
eBay pricing for small businesses
Starter plan: $4.95 CAD/month when you pay annually is suitable for occasional sellers.
Basic plan: $21.95 CAD/month gives you reduced fees and access to additional tools to improve your eCommerce store.
Premium plan: $59.95 CAD/month, gives you more free listings and is suitable for larger businesses looking to take things to the next level.
Anchor plan: $299.95 CAD/month gives you even more free listings, credits for promoted listings, and dedicated customer support for high-volume businesses.
Enterprise plan: $2,999.95 CAD/month provides all the previous benefits plus eBay’s lowest fees and highest discounts.
With Etsy, you won’t need to pay a monthly fee. It’s completely free to set up your profile, and you pay for each product listing that you create. You can list your first item for only $0.25, and you’ll only pay the additional transaction, payment processing, and offsite advertising fees once you make a sale.
Etsy has tools and services like their Seller Handbook to help you manage, promote, and grow your online shop into a successful business. You’ll also get discounted postage rates, a custom website, and access to their marketing tools.
It’s a great platform for entrepreneurs looking to sell handmade goods, crafts and art online.
Etsy pricing for small businesses
Every time you add a new product listing, you’ll be charged a listing fee, and that product will be active for four months or until it sells. Once it sells, you’ll also be charged a 5 per cent transaction fee, a 3 to 4 per cent commission fee, and $0.25 CAD for payment processing. In addition, if your sale comes from one of Etsy’s paid off-site ads, you’ll be charged a 15 per cent fee for that. If you want to avoid this fee, keep in mind most sellers can opt out of offside ads.
Volusion offers responsive website themes and a comprehensive site builder that lets you create a unique custom store in minutes with no coding needed. They offer eCommerce features such as inventory management, payment collection, and unlimited product options, as well as advanced functions with third-party apps and integrations. You’ll also get built-in SEO management, newsletters, and a customer relationship management system. If you need help, their team of web designers, marketing specialists, and general support are available 24/7.
Volusion pricing for small businesses
Personal plan: $29 USD/month when you pay yearly, you’ll get 0 per cent transaction fees, 100 product listings, and unlimited bandwidth for businesses that gross up to $50,000 yearly.
Professional plan: $79 USD/month for businesses making up to $100,000 yearly. Includes five staff accounts, up to 5000 products, newsletters, and ratings and reviews.
Business plan: $299 USD/month for businesses making up to $500,000 yearly gives you15 staff accounts and unlimited product listings.
Prime plan: This plan is designed for any business with a yearly Gross Merchandise Volume (GMV) of more than $500,000. You’ll get unlimited staff accounts, unlimited products, and VIP customer support. Your account fee will be based on your GMV.
With Wix, you can create a high quality, fully customized website from scratch, or get a free website designed for you when you answer a few quick questions about your business. They offer advanced features like online bookings and blogs and a personalized SEO plan to get your business discovered. Wix has over 500 customizable templates with features like video backgrounds, scroll effects, and animation. There’s even a built-in professional business suite with email marketing, Facebook Ads, landing pages, and other customer management tools. Here are the different eCommerce plans available from Wix.
Wix pricing for small businesses
Business Basic plan: $20 USD/month gives you 20GB of online storage, unlimited bandwidth, and $300 in ad vouchers.
Business Unlimited plan: $26 USD/month gives you 35GB of storage, the ability to accept multiple currencies, and advanced shipping tools.
Business VIP plan: $37 USD/month gives you 50GB of storage, unlimited hours of video, and customized reports with valuable business insights.
Now you know why you need an ecommerce platform to build your website, what features to look for, and an overview of the top 11 website builders. All that’s left is to choose one, and you’ll be well on your way to creating a professional website that helps your business stand out from the competition.
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