Do you plan on launching an online store anytime soon, or updating your existing one?
This guide explores eCommerce platforms for small business - solutions that get your sites up and running within minutes, without all the hassle of messing with complicated coding and advanced SEO.
With most of the platforms we talk about below, you’ll find clean, responsive templates, beautiful dashboards, analytics, marketing tools and more: everything you need to create a fantastic eCommerce website.
Lightspeed has remarkable themes, all of which are responsive and modern. The app store is sure to help when you’re trying to scale up, but they cut out the need for touching any source code. View sales and inventory from the dashboard, which is clean and suitable for beginners who don’t want to feel intimidated by too many buttons.
Quality of Support
Along with several social media outlets and blogs, the Lightspeed company provides quite a few webinars for guiding you through some eCommerce tactics. A full knowledge base is provided, and it’s actually one of the best we’ve seen, considering it has lots of clean icons and titles for navigation. Finally, live chat is available, and you can send in a ticket request for a quick response. The phone lines are open during local hours, but they provide support in places like the UK, Montreal, London and Belgium.
The pricing starts at £33 per month, which is somewhat high compared to some of the other solutions on the list. However, you gain access to 250 products, import tools and omnichannel selling. The middle pricing range sits at £59 per month, while the highest is at £111.
- Import and export products
- Fully automated return process
- Marketing tools for free product giveaways, temporary discounts and free shipping
- Automated tax calculations
Quality of Support
Shopify has a blog, documentation and forums for chatting with other people who are using the system. 24/7 support is provided through email, phone and live chat, and they even have partners you can talk to and pay if you’re looking for freelance workers. This may not apply to everyone, but the more experienced developers gain access to API documentation, allowing for the ultimate customisation atmosphere.
The pricing starts at $9 per month for a plan called Shopify Lite. This sounds low, but we don’t necessarily recommend it to many people, since it doesn’t actually give you a full online store. Instead, you get Shopify Buy buttons, which work like PayPal buttons. It’s not a bad plan for very small stores, but you won’t get your own checkout. The real magic happens with the $29 per month plan, and you can also go with a few other advanced plans for $79 or $299. The highest one was just changed recently, and we reckon it’s a rip-off. We recommend opting for the $29 per month plan or the $79 per month plan if you’re looking for lower credit card rates, gift cards, professional reports and abandoned cart recovery.
- Discount codes
- Some of the best themes on the market
- Real-time carrier shipping
- Selling on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook
- An amazing app store
WooCommerce is a WordPress plugin, so it’s the easiest way to make an online shop if you’re currently comfortable with the WordPress interface. The plugin installs within seconds, and you can get your products displayed and selling after connecting a payment processor. The WooCommerce tab is on the right hand side of the dashboard. Keep in mind that it’s best to find a WooCommerce theme to make things work smoothly.
Quality of Support
WooCommerce has a help desk and a contact form, but I wouldn’t rely much on the idea of calling in or getting a response from an actual person. Since the plugin is free you can find lots of documentation online. Therefore, it’s best for people who are happy figuring things out themselves.
The plugin is completely free, but some extensions are offered for a price.
- A large extension store
- Integrates with any WordPress site
- It’s mobile friendly
- You own your own data
- It’s possible to scale up rather well
Lots of themes are offered through British eCommerce platform BluePark. However, the frontend user interfaces can seem a bit complex. The backend is no problem at all, with tabs for orders, products, blogs, forums and more. A quick analytics chart is provided on the dashboard as well, allowing you to adjust goals and understand how well your site is doing.
Quality of Support
A blog is available for checking in on software updates, while the forum is great for discussing problems with current users. You gain access to a phone number and email, and you don’t even need to be a paying customer. Live chat is missing, but it seems like the phone support team is pretty good.
The lowest plan is £24.99 per month, making it a little cheaper than Lightspeed. 500 products are available, and it’s recommended for startups. Other than that, the higher plans are pretty affordable, at £39.99 and £59.99 per month.
- Multi-channel selling through places like eBay
- Quickbooks compatibility
- A live chat client is provided
- Gift vouchers and credit notes
Regardless of which eCommerce platform you choose, we recommend starting your research with these four solutions. They have track records to show that you won’t have any problems along the way, and each of the support teams are rather impressive.
Catalin runs the Ecommerce Platforms blog. His other major passion is green matcha tea.