So, you’ve got an idea for an online business, and you’re ready to start your side hustle! The first thing you need is to build a website and give yourself the ability to sell your products to customers. The good news is, some eCommerce platforms make it super easy to set up a website and start selling items within hours. There are a variety of eCommerce platforms out there, and they all cater to different types of individuals and businesses with different objectives. Read about some of the most popular ones here, and find out which one might best fit your needs!
Table of Contents
- What is an eCommerce Platform?
- Big Cartel
What is an eCommerce Platform?
First thing first: let’s begin with the definitions. An eCommerce platform, at its most basic level, is a platform that enables you to sell products online. Some platforms offer different services and are built for different types of business models. For instance, Shopify is designed for sellers who want control of their own website and order management. Many online brands that you come across on a daily basis are powered by Shopify, and small business owners use the platform every day to spin up killer websites where they can sell their products. Platforms like eBay, on the other hand, are considered marketplaces where businesses or individuals can sell products without having to design their own websites from scratch.
If you’re looking for the right eCommerce platform for your business, we’ve listed nine of the most popular ones below, along with a short description of each.
In our opinion, the holy grail of eCommerce platforms is Shopify. The ease of setting up your store is unmatched, their live chat support is top-tier, and they offer the best design themes of all the options out there. You also get 60 minutes of free design time when you sign up for one of their paid plans! That means you can (virtually) work with a design professional on Shopify’s end of things. Think of it like a personal interior designer for your online store. On top of adding unlimited SKUs and hosting a custom domain for your storefront, you can also access multi-carrier discounts with Shopify Shipping when it’s time to send out your sold products. Or, you can integrate with the shipping software platform of your choice to get access to the cheapest shipping rates out there.
Learn more about choosing the best shipping software platform.
One of the other main leaders in online storefronts is BigCommerce. The amazing thing about BigCommerce is how simple their in-house store builder is. It’s even easier than Shopify’s; you can just drag and drop elements into your mockup for your website, which seems like the most intuitive way to do it (for content, Shopify doesn’t work this way). It’s also a bit easier to navigate the backend than Shopify, like when you’re setting up abandoned cart flows and running promotions for a set amount of time. BigCommerce users also get access to these features. Still, all in all, Shopify has the best design themes of any platform out there, which makes them come up just slightly more on top than BigCommerce, in our opinion.
For the entrepreneur who wants control, WooCommerce is the premier eCommerce platform for customization. Unlike Shopify or BigCommerce, everything is literally in your hands, from designing your website to managing your products and fulfilling your orders. The only drawback is that you have to really know what you’re doing on the backend of things, and you’ll need at least some proficiency in WordPress (since WooCommerce is just a WordPress plug-in, at the end of the day). If you’re not one with the computer, you could also always pay a developer to help you get set up…but that’s another step that will require a bit of extra capital. In that regard, WooCommerce is somewhat the opposite of Shopify, where you can just set up and sell right away.
Simple, simple, simple—that’s the golden ticket when it comes to Wix. To be candid, setting up a website will never be easier than it is on Wix. That said, the platform is extremely limiting in terms of plug-ins, add-ons, and integrations. It’s really best for the novice website builder who wants to start a blog, or just publish content without creating other “complex” schemes like a sales flow and a shopping cart. If you’re looking to sell physical products or set up a dropshipping operation, there are plenty of other options to help you do so.
In our experience, Squarespace is also another platform with extremely easy website design capability, especially if you’re not a tech-head. Other platforms like Shopify and BigCommerce take some getting used to once you create an account, but Squarespace makes designing a site super visual and seamless from the get-go. Due to its ease of design, a lot of content creators use Squarespace to power their web presence. However, like Wix, Squarespace doesn’t have the same level of plug-in capabilities as other platforms, and you won’t see a lot of merchants choosing to set up their online stores on the platform.
You may know Square as the disruptive point-of-sale technology that popped up in chic coffee shops from New York to San Francisco over the past several years. However, this “fin-tech” juggernaut has quietly transformed into so much more. While the company started off by providing hardware to allow small business owners to make sales with their cell phones, Jack Dorsey’s second company (before Square, he started another small outfit called Twitter) evolved into powering online storefronts for eCommerce entrepreneurs. While the platform is functional, Square is still playing catch up to the major players like Shopify in terms of easily setting up an online operation. However, Square does everything that its competitors do…and even provides financing for business owners who qualify for one of their loans.
The premier platform in hand-made trinkets and just about every type of item under the sun, Etsy is a fantastic platform if you’re looking to benefit from being a part of a large marketplace. The only problem is, because of its marketplace nature, you won’t be able to create a custom storefront with your own domain on Etsy. Etsy also comes with its fair share of fees and additional charges; the platform imposes a listing fee for each product, a 5% fee on all transactions, as well as a payment processing fee of 3% plus $0.25. Those fees can add up if you’re selling a lot of products, which is ultimately the price you pay to include your goods on the Internet’s newest leading marketplace.
If you’re looking to unload some secondhand items, eBay is the longstanding “flea market” of the Internet. Similar to Etsy, you won’t be able to design your own storefront or anything…so, eBay is really best for individuals looking to offload a few items here and there. If you’re not able to find local buyers for your stuff, it’s a perfectly fine option, tried and true. In fact, a lot of trading card merchants take to eBay to sell their products, and you can find pretty much any item ever made if you search for it. However, eBay is such a big company now that you’re unlikely to ever receive any sort of customer support, and the platform is in need of serious updating when compared to other options like Shopify or BigCommerce.
For all the artists out there, Big Cartel is an amazing platform that allows you to display your art and sell it as part of a massive online community. Whether you’re a photographer or a painter, you’d be in good company with millions of modern artists who have set up shop with BigCartel’s help. BigCartel also exclusively partners with a lot of print-on-demand operations that you can integrate with, so you don’t have to keep any of your art in physical inventory. You just upload your designs, and the third-party partner will print and ship your product each time an order comes in. For those creative types who only want to devote focus to their art, it doesn’t get much better than that.
Have Any More Questions?
We did our best to cover the most popular eCommerce platforms, but there are several outliers out there that we didn’t include. If you didn’t find what you were looking for in this guide, leave us a comment and we’ll get back to you!